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As reported in yesterday's MNB, negotiators representing Southern California's top three supermarket chains and 70,000 striking members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union returned to the bargaining table Monday with a federal mediator - the first time that they have met since the strike/lockout began more than four weeks ago.

The goal, according to reports, was to "map out ways to end the impasse." Further details were not provided by either side, as a news blackout was imposed on the talks.

The face-off is over the union's desire to preserve or improve current wage and benefit packages, while the chains are looking for a wage freeze, cuts to health and pension benefits for current employees and a substantially lower wage and benefit package for new hires.

As often is the case in these disputes, much of the conflict is being driven by the arrival of new Wal-Mart Supercenters, which are non-unionized and therefore boast lower cost structures, and therefore lower prices.
KC's View:
Stay tuned…we remain unconvinced that either side is willing to make the quantum leap necessary for the kind of real change in management-labor relations necessary for both sides to win. Right now, it's more like two unsympathetic bullies wrestling in the mud, and it is increasingly hard to care who gets bloodier.