BREAKING: Grocery strike avoided with tentative health care deal

Kat Russell

Representatives from three major grocery chains and Southern California unions have reached a tentative agreement on employee health care, staving off a strike that has loomed for months, according to a recorded message from the union’s update hotline.

“We are pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement that protects (union workers’) health care,” it said. “Vote details will follow shortly.”

Few details have emerged about the deal that may avoid a strike at Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons. Representatives of the supermarket chains are still in negotiations with grocery workers’ unions, representing more than 60,000 supermarket employees.

“They’re still at the table, they’re gonna stay at the table until they feel there’s no more progress being made,” Union Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 spokesman, Mike Shimpock, told Associated Press.  “As long as we feel there is a reason to be at the bargaining table we are going to stay there.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged negotiators in a news conference Sunday to come to an agreement.

“At a time of persistently high unemployment, poverty, and foreclosures the last thing we need is a devastating strike that will make it more difficult for thousands of workers to put food on the table for their families, pay their mortgages and afford other basic necessities,” Villaraigosa said.

Officials at Ralphs said the grocery store would close its stores if a strike occurs, but Vons vowed to stay open with replacement workers and management, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Union workers held a candle light vigil outside a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills on Sunday night, according to Local 770 President Rick Icaza.

Icaza said it was a display to remind the market corporations their moral obligation to bring this conflict to a fair resolution.