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Negotiations still ongoing for Southern California grocery workers

Southern California grocery workers are still in negotiations with grocery chains Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs. The unions and the employers have been in contract negotiations for the last seven months. In August, grocery employees voted to strike if necessary, but have continued to try to work out a deal around the bargaining table for now.

The grocery unions and employers are working with a federal mediator in the bargaining process. After voting for a labor strike, they were required to sit down with the federal mediator and the employer representatives one more time before striking. The federal mediator was called away from the process by a family emergency, so the talks were suspended for 48 hours. The negotiations are scheduled to resume on Thursday.

The main sticking point in the contract negotiations is over employer contributions to employees' health benefits. The union workers say that their employers would not be contributing enough to their health care plans in the proposed new labor contracts. Union representatives have said that a proposed plan called for employees to contribute as much as half of some employees' paychecks.

The grocery stores have been advertising for job applicants to take positions at the store to temporarily replace striking workers in case of a walk-out. The grocery chains have said that they would like to negotiate a deal, however, and avoid a strike. A strike in 2003 lasted for four and a half months and cost the grocery chains $1 billion, which went to competitors.

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune, "Grocery worker negotiations on hold," Tanya Mannes, Sept. 13, 2011