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Union says it offers new proposals to supermarkets

Grocery workers meet with representatives of the chains a second day.

June 29, 2007|Ronald D. White | Times Staff Writer

Contract negotiations between representatives of Southern California's three largest supermarket chains and 65,000 union workers continued at a secret location Thursday. But as the give-and-take continued for a second day, there was no word of any breakthrough.

New proposals had been delivered to the Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons chains, United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Mike Shimpock said, but he offered no details. The spokesman for the stores, Brad Chase, said discussions with the union were ongoing and set to continue today.

The three chains are subsidiaries of much larger companies. Vons and its Pavilions stores are owned by Safeway Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif. Albertsons is owned by Supervalu Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn., and Ralphs is a division of Kroger Co. of Cincinnati.

Kroger Chief Executive David B. Dillon told reporters outside the company's annual shareholder meeting Thursday that he was hopeful an agreement could be reached that would avert a repeat of the 141-day Southern California strike and lockout in 2003 and 2004. That fight cost the three chains an estimated $1.5 billion and left many grocery clerks deep in debt.

"We've made some progress, but it's just difficult," Dillon said.

The grocery workers' contract has been extended twice since its March 5 expiration date. Talks were interrupted briefly June 21 after the chains refused to meet a union deadline for a comprehensive contract offer. The UFCW then voted Sunday to give union leaders the right to call a walkout if negotiations failed.

Negotiators returned to the bargaining table Wednesday.

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ron.white@latimes.com

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report

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