Southland grocery contract talks resume as potential strike/lockout looms

Vons sign
Vons sign Thomas Hawk/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Negotiations between the parent companies of Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons supermarkets and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union resumed Monday.

About 60,000 grocery store employees from Santa Maria to San Diego have worked almost half a year under an expired contract.

They’ve voted twice to authorize a strike if union leaders decide it’s necessary. The second vote happened last weekend, along with an overwhelming rejection of the latest proposal from the supermarket chains on health care coverage.

That’s the main sticking point in the stalled contract talks. The supermarket chains want workers to pay more for their health care benefits; the union says the chains should pay more, and if they don’t, the fund that covers health care benefits will go bankrupt.

The union hopes that its latest vote will generate some momentum at the bargaining table, and that negotiators and the federal mediator will stay there until they reach a deal. If not, either side must give 72 hours notice to call a strike or a lockout.

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