Executives at the three chains said labor agreements recently had been reached elsewhere, sometimes shortly after strike authorization votes. Union workers and Kroger Co., for example, ratified a three-year contract Monday for stores in Dallas and Houston that had been hung up over health coverage issues.
In California, the contract for 65,000 workers from Bakersfield to the Mexican border has been extended twice since its March 5 expiration date.
Ralphs is a division of Kroger, which is based in Cincinnati. Vons and its Pavilions stores are owned by Safeway Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif. Albertsons is owned by Supervalu Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.
Wall Street appeared hopeful that a strike could be avoided, with the parent companies of all three chains recording stock gains Monday. Kroger's shares rose 56 cents to $29.66, Safeway's shares gained 27 cents to $35.02, and Supervalu's shares went up 58 cents to $46.48.
"They are going to try to avoid an impasse at all costs if they can," said Erin Ashley Smith, an Argus Research Corp. analyst. "After the strike vote, I think that the grocery stores will take negotiations a lot more seriously."