Agreement Reached in Grocery Strike Talks

The union representing 62,000 grocery store clerks and representatives from three store chains reached a tentative agreement to avoid a strike.

"We are pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement that protects your healthcare," United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 said in a statement to its membership Monday morning.

Union locals from Santa Maria to the Mexican border served notice at 7:10 p.m. Thursday that workers would walk off their jobs Sunday night if they did not see movement from the national chains. The deadline was allowed to lapse as negotiations continued.

“We have reached a tentative agreement at the bargaining table, and will present it to our members for approval later this week,” said Rick Icaza, President of the grocery workers union Local 770.

The union declined to provide any specific details but said they worked through the night without sleep and were in the completion stages of the deal.

In a joint statement from Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons, the companies said they were "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."

Health insurance benefits were the major point of contention between the two sides. Under the original offer, workers would have paid about $36 per month for individual health insurance, or $92 per month for family coverage.

The agreement must still be approved by union members before it can go into effect.

The two sides have been down this road in the past. During a 141-day lockout in 2003-04, stores hired temporary workers, and some chains were fined for rehiring regular employees under aliases. The replacement workers all lost their jobs when a new contract was signed, and the lockout cost the stores an estimated $1.5 billion.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised both sides for reaching a tentative deal.

"The next step is for the union to present the proposed contract to its members and give them an opportunity to vote on whether or not to ratify," the mayor said. "This democratic process must be respected, and I await the outcome of this vote."

"I hope they vote the right way," one shopper told NBCLA.  "If they don't vote to pass it, then they're back to square one."

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