A tentative agreement was reached Monday morning between negotiators for 62,000 grocery workers in Southern California and the corporations that own Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons after around-the-clock negotiations.
The agreement must still be approved by union members before it can go into effect, said Mike Shimpock, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, the union representing Los Angeles-area grocery workers. Details of the tentative agreement were not made public.
“We have reached a tentative agreement at the bargaining table, and will present it to our members for approval later this week,” Rick Icaza, president of the grocery workers union Local 770, said in a statement. “We would like to thank the federal mediator, Scot Beckenbaugh, as well as all our customers for their patience and support through this difficult process.”
The grocery companies said in a joint statement: "We are pleased to have reached a tentative settlement agreement with the union that continues to preserve good wages, secure pensions and access to quality, affordable health care—while allowing us to be competitive in the marketplace. We appreciate the hard work, support and patience that many different people have shown during the past eight months, and particularly the past few weeks."
Workers at Kroger Co.'s Ralphs, Safeway Inc.'s Vons and Albertsons grocery store gave 72-hour notice Thursday of their cancellation of the contract extension, paving the way for a strike if a deal could not be reached by 7:10 p.m. Sunday. Negotiators, however, made progress and talks continued throughout the night until the tentative deal was struck Monday morning.
Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons grocery store workers in Southern California went on strike for 141 days in 2003-04 after contract negotiations stalled primarly over health care issues.
Health care benefits again have been the sticking point between negotiators. Union officials said the health care proposal by the supermarket chains would bankrupt benefits by the end of 2012, potentially eliminating all health care benefits for grocery workers.
Vons in a statement released Sunday said about half of its employees make no weekly contribution to their health benefits and the others pay $7 a month for individual coverage and $15 for full family coverage. The company has proposed that all employees pay $9 for individual and $24 for family coverage, the Vons statement said.
Both sides in June announced a tentative agreement on pension benefits and employers' contributions that fund those benefits. Grocery wrokers have been working under the terms of a contract that was extended after it expired in March.
Editors' Note: Updated at 12:25 p.m. to add additional comments and background.