St. Louis Grocers, Union Reach Tentative Deal

ST. LOUIS - A federal mediator on Wednesday proposed a settlement to end a strike and lockout involving more than 10,000 St. Louis area grocery store workers that is in its fourth week, The Associated Press reports. Members of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655 are scheduled to vote on the proposal today. A simple majority is necessary for ratification.

Details of the proposal, which covers a 47-month period, were not released. "If our members accept the settlement proposal, the strike will be over," Local 655 president Robert Kelley said in a statement. "If they reject it, the strike will continue and the picket lines will be re-established."

At the request of Gov. Bob Holden, federal mediator Roger Hendrix has been meeting in recent days with negotiators from both sides, according to the AP. Before Holden's request, management had refused to reopen talks, saying the union already had the best and final offer.

Union members authorized a strike Oct. 7. It involves 97 stores on the Missouri side of the St. Louis area. Employees at stores in Illinois and elsewhere operate under different contracts.

The union initially targeted Shop 'n Save for the walkout, but management at Schnucks and Dierbergs locked out their employees until the strike was resolved.
"I think everyone involved recognized how vital it is for the St. Louis area to reach agreement," said Peter J. Hurtgen, director of the federal mediation service.

Management and union negotiators in September reached agreement on a tentative contract, but it was rejected by union members.
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