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The Associated Press reports that negotiators for three Southern California supermarket chains and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union have agreed to federal mediation now that their contract talks ended without resolution, and members of the UFCW voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.

The mediation is to start on Friday, and a strike by as many as 70,000 employees at some 900 stores could begin as early as Saturday.

The supermarket chains say they are under pressure from nonunionized Wal-Mart to keep their labor costs in line
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