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The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Southern California’s three major grocery chains – Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons – have returned to the negotiating table and that both sides are “urging harmony.”

The original three-year contract expired March 5, but has been extended several times as the two sides look for a way to avoid the strike/lockout that roiled the industry and marketplace just over three years ago. Negotiations broke down on April 4 after the three chains signed an agreement to share any financial pain imposed by a labor action, which was it self a reaction to UFCW members authorizing a strike at Albertsons, though they did not set a target date.

Still, even as the two sides were trying to find a solution, the Times reports that “UFCW members were speaking in eight U.S. cities Monday to show support for the contract talks. The UFCW said workers were speaking outside of stores and handing out fliers at supermarkets in Oregon, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago and Philadelphia.

“The UFCW, which represents nearly 1 million industry workers, said more than 400,000 UFCW members were negotiating new contracts this year. A contract between 30,000 workers in Seattle and the three major grocers expires May 5.”

The battleground is potentially a lot larger than Southern California, since Albertsons is owned by Supervalu, Ralphs is owned by Kroger, and Vons is owned by Safeway.
KC's View:
The clock is ticking. While we’d like to think that the two sides will be able to come to an agreement without coming to blows, we’re not sure that they’ll be able to find accord on tiered wage scales and health benefits without some sort of brief yet disruptive event. And with every passing day, we’d guess that the likelihood of something happening grows.