El Super employees want fair wages, sick leave and respect

Tynan said the focus should be not just on creating high-tech and other well-paying jobs, but elevating the working poor with living wages and decent benefits.

"If you have to rely on rich people buying yachts, that's not going to pull the economy up," she said.

When I asked Flora Castaneda why she's stayed with El Super so long, given her dissatisfaction, she said she's the single mother of three and has so much to juggle, there is no time to look for other work. Even when she is sick, she works.

"Everybody comes to work sick," she said. "That's eight hours you miss out of your paycheck if you stay home, so that's why everybody comes in, and we're coughing and sneezing right in front of the customers."

But her days at El Super may be numbered. Castaneda said her oldest son is working and contributing, and she's going to school to become a medical technician.

El Super's community relations manager, Frank Aguirre Jr., had no comment on the contract negotiations that are under way.

Instead, he sent a brief statement: "El Super is working diligently to reach agreement with the union." It went on to say the company is negotiating "a fair contract for our represented employees."

I wonder if that means the company has no intention of meeting one of the union's requests — that the non-union stores become unionized.

"El Super is committed to have a positive impact in the communities we serve," says the company website.

It could start by taking better care of its employees.

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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