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Grocery union members approve new labor contract

Workers at Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons grocery stores ratify a contract that includes some wage increases. Negotiations had lasted months.

September 25, 2011|By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times
  • A Ralphs grocery story in Burbank. Members of Southern California's grocery union have ratified a new contract with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons.
A Ralphs grocery story in Burbank. Members of Southern California's… (Reuters )

Members of Southern California's grocery union have ratified a new contract with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons, bringing an end to labor negotiations that dragged on for more than eight months and brought tens of thousands of workers to the verge of a strike.

The contract, which union members voted in favor of this weekend, will help ensure that workers at the big three grocery chains will stay on the job and prevent a potentially devastating blow to the state's already shaky economy.

The results were released late Saturday, just days after officials from the region's United Food and Commercial Workers union struck a tentative deal with the three big supermarket chains.

"This deal protects our members' healthcare and pension and provides modest increases in wages," Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Kendra Doyel, a spokeswoman for Ralphs, said, "Ralphs is glad the contract has been ratified, and we look forward to doing what our great people do best: serving our customers."

A sticking point in the talks had been healthcare funding: how much each side would have to pay to ensure that a healthcare trust fund covering workers would be economically viable for the long term.

The vote tallies were not immediately disclosed. But officials of two of the seven UFCW locals said turnout and support of the deal were high.

The contract covers an estimated 62,000 checkers, baggers, meat cutters and other grocery workers, including employees of Ralphs, which is owned by Kroger Co. of Cincinnati; Vons and Pavilions, owned by Safeway Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.; and Albertsons, which is owned by SuperValu Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com

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