Grocery Strike Talks Continue Into Morning

Vons and Albertsons employees plan candlelight vigil as a strike looms closer

By Scott Weber and Lauren Steussy
|  Monday, Sep 19, 2011  |  Updated 9:35 AM PDT
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Ralphs and Albertson announced Friday that they would close their doors completely if workers walked off the job to prevent customers from having to cross picket lines.

Ralphs and Albertson announced Friday that they would close their doors completely if workers walked off the job to prevent customers from having to cross picket lines.

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Strike's Effect on Workers, Shoppers

A few temporary grocery workers remember a tough time during the 2003 as some consumers reflect on the shopping headache it may cause them to go somewhere else if a deal between the unions and stores isn't reached by Sunday's 7 p.m. deadline.
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A strike deadline has now passed for Southern California grocery workers, but no one is walking off the job just yet.

As of Monday morning, negotiations continued between union leaders and grocery store owners. Leaders talked through the night, but came to agreement, according to Mickey Kasperian, spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers local 135.

UFCW Local 770 spokesman Mike Shimpock told the Associated Press after the deadline that union representatives will remain at the bargaining table as long as they feel progress is being made.

"Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons are still at the table with the union," according to a statement from Albertsons.

"Progress is being made, but we do not yet have an agreement. Even though the 72-hour notice period has expired, nothing has changed. The terms of our most recent contract -- including wages and benefits -- remain in place, and our stores are open to serve customers as they usually are. We are still hopeful that a contract will be reached soon."

Some 62,000 grocery employees have been working without a contract since March, while in discussions with negotiators for grocery chains Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons.

There are 10,000 union workers in San Diego county.

Negotiating sessions have been running 12 to 16 hours since the unions issued the 72-hour notice of intent to cancel their current contract on Thursday, said Kendra Doyel, spokeswoman for Ralph's.

Sources say that if little progress is being made toward settling disagreements over health benefits, negotiators will tell their rank and file to walk off the job.

Shoppers would be left with non-union stores such as Trader Joe's, Fresh & Easy, Hows, Smart & Final, Whole Foods, and Henry's. Many San Diego shoppers say they will still probably still cross the picket lines if the workers decide to strike.

On Thursday, the grocery workers' union issued a notice of intent to cancel the current contract extension, clearing the way for a strike.

"We're ready to fight to preserve good jobs," UFCW union leaders said in a statement. "We understand this is a tough economy, but we're willing to stand up for workers everywhere being taken advantage of by profitable corporations."

Ralphs and Albertsons announced Friday they would close their doors completely if workers walked off the job to prevent customers from having to cross picket lines.

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