Some ten days ago, the 62,000 members of the Local 8 union voted to authorize a strike with Vons and other grocery stores here and in Southern California. Some called this vote a bargaining chip in ongoing wage and benefit talks. Now, reports say that with very little progress, a federal mediator will meet with both sides.
Reports say that contract talks have dragged on for many weeks. Neither side will say anything about who called in the mediator. Some workers have said that management is not willing to contribute enough money to maintain the current benefit plan. Sources said that the big grocery chains want to increase insurance premium costs and deductibles to workers and to reduce contributions to pension plans.
Grocery representatives had called the strike vote a “common tactic” in negotiations which does not necessarily mean a strike will be called. Some analysts said the strike vote could jump-start talks. Others said that the bad economy will make a strike very unlikely. The continued high unemployment rate, say some, could make it easy to get workers to cross the picket line.
Negotiators are trying to replace a four-year contract that was set to expire March 6 but has been extended day to day. The contract covers supermarket checkers, baggers, meat cutters and other unionized workers of Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons.