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SoCal Grocers to Appeal Ruling in Profit-Sharing Trial

LOS ANGELES -- Albertsons, Safeway and Kroger plan to appeal a court ruling that cleared the way for an antitrust trial over the retailers' profit-sharing agreement during a strike in California.

The supermarkets last week filed notices that they would appeal the ruling to a federal appeals court in San Francisco, according to published reports. There is no timetable for filing it, Jeffrey Le Vee, a lawyer for Albertsons, said Wednesday.

Judge George King of federal court in Los Angeles said last month that the state can pursue claims that the profit-sharing agreement was illegal. (See

Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued the supermarkets last year, saying the agreement violated antitrust law and led to higher grocery prices. The Attorney General's Office is weighing its response to the notices of appeal, spokesman Tom Dresslar said.

The 141-day strike and lockout began Oct. 11, 2003, at Safeway's 289 Vons and Pavilions stores. Albertsons and Kroger's Ralphs locked out union members at their 571 stores in Southern California. The dispute was mainly over proposals requiring workers to share health-care costs and establishing a two-tier pay system.

Courts have granted companies immunity from antitrust laws for certain agreements related to labor disputes. King said in his May 25 ruling that the profit-sharing agreement "is not sufficiently connected" to the collective-bargaining process and wasn't exempt from antitrust scrutiny, reports said.
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