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Tentative Settlement Reached in Bay Area Grocery Negotiations

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A tentative settlement was reached Sunday between the United Food Commercial Workers Bay Area Coalition and grocers Safeway, Albertsons, and Kroger, according to the union. Details of the settlement were discussed at a press conference held here yesterday.

After almost five months of heated negotiations, the settlement came just one day short of the deadline the unions imposed on the companies to make progress in the negotiations or face the possibility of a labor dispute.

According to Ron Lind, spokesman of the UFCW Bay Area Coalition, "Some difficult decisions had to be made in order to avoid a dispute, but with marathon bargaining sessions over the past week we were able to preserve important components of our contract."

Lind said the unions were successful in turning back such proposals as employee health care premium co-pays, permanent two-tiered wages, and a company-controlled health care plan.

The general framework of the settlement follows that of the contract recently approved by grocery workers in Sacramento. The union noted that the Sacramento settlement set the pattern that it was able to build on.

Lind thanked all of the supporters who volunteered their time and energies during the contract negotiations, as well as the 80,000 Safeway and Albertsons customers who signed cards pledging support of grocery workers.

The UFCW also said yesterday that it wanted to join forces with the retailers to address the current health care crisis by advocating for health care reform.

"We encourage the companies to join with us to find solutions to the healthcare crisis," said Lind. "The meteoric rise in health care costs is a crisis that must be tackled by all stakeholders, not just working families."

Implementation of the agreement is pending membership votes in each of the eight Bay Area locals. A vote on the settlement is slated to occur within three weeks.

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