SoCal Unions Ask for Strike

LOS ANGELES -- Unions representing 65,000 workers at three Southern California supermarket chains asked members to authorize a strike after contract talks broke down yesterday and missed a deadline, setting the stage for the second such strike in five years.

According to published reports, union spokesman Mike Shimpock said members at Safeway Inc.'s Vons and Pavilions units and Kroger Co.'s Ralphs chain, will begin voting on Sunday. Workers at Supervalu's Albertsons stores authorized a strike in March.

Union spokesman Mike Shimpock said the chains failed to put an acceptable contract proposal on the table by a deadline the union set two weeks ago. Health care and wage increases are the main issues cited.

In a statement, the grocery chains accused the union of holding up negotiations by diverting attention away from the bargaining table. "If the unions persist with this meaningless vote before a last, best, and final offer has been made, we believe our employees should vote against granting their union leaders the authority to call a strike," the statement said.

Grocers and the union have been negotiating for six months. The original contract expired more than 100 days ago.
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