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SoCal Grocery Strike Likely Averted

Southern California members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with Kroger and Albertsons, likely averting what could be the worst grocery strike in more than a decade.

Members of six locals are scheduled to vote Aug. 8, the deadline originally set for reaching an agreement, on a new contract with grocery chains Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons. The two sides worked out the deal on Aug. 4. While details about the agreement aren’t yet clear, The Orange County Register reported that same day that Ralphs had proposed pay increases, a stable pension and affordable health care.

In June, union leaders voted in favor of a strike against Safeway, Pavilions, Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons if salary and benefits negotiations failed. They believed the grocers’ offer would cut pay and health care benefits dramatically, accusing the chains of trying to cut costs ahead of the state minimum hourly wage hike to $15 by 2020.

The last major grocery strike, in 2003 and 2004, involved thousands of workers for 141 days, costing Ralphs and Albertsons $1.5 billion in sales. The new strike would affect 60,000 workers and force Ralphs to close all stores and Albertsons to close up to 100.

"We will continue to provide retail employees with pay that significantly exceeds the minimum wage, along with comprehensive health, welfare and pension benefits," Carlos Illingworth, director of communications and government affairs for Albertsons' Southern California division, confirmed to PG. "The three-year agreement acknowledges the important contributions of our front-line employees, our most valuable asset, and allows our company to remain competitive," he added.

Illingworth also expressed thanks to "our customers and employees for their patience over the past few months. As we have consistently said, contracts get negotiated at the bargaining table and we are glad to have been able to reach a fair agreement through that process."

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