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Grocery Workers Continue Talks

Negotiations between the union representing Southland grocery workers and the owners of Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons will resume today with the help of a federal mediator in hopes of averting a strike.

On Aug. 19-20, an overwhelming majority of Southern California’s 62,000 grocery workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union voted to authorized a strike. It was the second time the union membership had taken a strike-authorization vote, with the most recent action taken in response to the latest health-care proposal offered by the grocery chains.

The grocery chains released a statement calling the strike-authorization vote a “common tactic in negotiations’ that does not necessarily mean a strike will be called.

“Our employees want to keep working and our stores are ready to serve customers,’ according to the stores.

Some of the stores have been accepting applications for fill-in workers in case the grocery workers do walk off the job.

Members of the UFCW union employed at stores from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border have been working without a contract since March 6.

Under the most recent industry offer, workers would pay about $36 per month for individual health insurance, or $92 per month for family coverage. But the union says the insurance fund would not be financially viable and wants the supermarkets to contribute more to prevent it from running out of money within 16 months.

No tentative agreement on wages has been reached.

A 141-day strike in 2003-04, which cost the stores an estimated $1.5 billion, led some customers to make long-term changes to their shopping habits by going to independent grocers and specialty outlets. Both sides agreed that they were hurt by the last strike.

Copyright © 2011 City News Service

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