Negotiations between the grocery workers union and three Southern California grocery store chains will resume Monday with the help of a federal mediator in hopes of avoiding a strike or lockout.
On Aug. 20, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 announced that its members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. This is the second time the union has authorized a strike this year; however, negotiations are ongoing.
Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons—all of which have Redondo Beach locations—released a joint statement last week downplaying the strike-authorization vote, calling it a "common tactic in negotiations."
"Our employees want to keep working and our stores are ready to serve customers," the stores wrote.
Nevertheless, some of the stores are accepting applications for fill-in workers just in case a strike is called.
So far, the biggest sticking point has been a health-care trust fund for workers. Under the most recent offer, workers would pay about $36 per month for individual health insurance or $92 per month for family coverage. The union wants the supermarket chains to increase the stores' contributions to the health-care fund, otherwise it may go bankrupt within 16 months, according to union spokesman Mike Shimpock.
Payments from the chains to the trust fund have decreased over the past decade, Shimpock said.
No tentative agreement on wages has been reached; however, the two sides did agree on a pension plan earlier this summer.
A nearly 5-month strike in 2003-2004 cost a stores an estimated $1.5 billion and many workers lost their life savings. Many customers also changed their shopping habits and began patronizing independent grocers and specialty outlets like and .
City News Service contributed to this report.