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NoCal UFCW Sets Negotiations Deadline

SAN FRANCISCO - The United Food and Commercial Workers union has set a deadline of midnight on Sunday, Dec. 19 for contract negotiations and could vote next week on whether to strike if an agreement is not reached by then.

UFCW Local 588 said in a statement that it had terminated contract extensions after months of frequently contentious negotiations with Safeway, Inc., Albertsons, Inc., and Kroger-owned Ralphs. The contracts were scheduled to run out earlier this month but were extended until Jan. 15, 2005. Talks began in early September. Major sticking points in the negotiations have been wages and health care coverage.

In a statement, Safeway said that although it hoped talks would continue and believed some progress had been made, the retailer is prepared to keep its stores staffed and running as usual if negotiations fail to produce an agreement.

UFCW Local 588 president Jack Loveall said in a “Rap Sheet” issued by the union that workers should not have to put up with frustrating and uncalled-for delays, and that “[the] time for a decision is now, before the Christmas holiday.”

About 19,000 UFCW members are affected by the contract negotiations.

Contract extensions are still in effect with such Northern California independent retailers as Bel-Air, Nob Hill, Raley’s, and Save Mart, according to the union.

In other Northern California labor news, today unionized grocery workers will be joined by community, labor, and religious supporters in front of Safeway stores in 25 cities throughout the Bay Area, in a “day of action.” The demonstration comes in the wake of last week’s decision by the California Labor Federation to join the UFCW grocery workers in their drive to get shoppers to sign pledge cards promising not to shop at Safeway stores in the event of a union boycott.
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