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The Los Angeles Times reports that "more than a decade after launching the longest major supermarket strike in the nation’s history, union representatives for Southern California grocery store workers are back at the bargaining table." This time, the story notes, there is something very specific on their minds - a $15 minimum wage.

According to the story, "California’s schedule of steady increases to the wage floor, which will boost that wage to $15 an hour by 2022, is doing some of the work for the seven unions as they seek their fourth contract with the Ralphs and Albertsons chains since the epic 143-day strike that brought the region’s supermarkets to their knees in 2003-2004. 

But the two big chains, which include Safeway, Vons and Pavilions stores, are looking to offset rising pay in other ways. That is likely to be the basis for any new confrontation."

For example, the chains are likely to look for concessions such as lower holiday pay and a longer runway to higher pay grades. The unions - as much as there probably is very little appetite among their members for a new work stoppage - are not likely to want to cooperate.

The immediate deadline: "On June 20, 47,000 clerks, meatcutters, and merchandise stockers will have the chance to vote on whether to authorize a strike."
KC's View:
MNB fave Burt Flickinger tells the Times that the chains don't want a repeat of the labor strife than ended up eroding their market shares in 2003-2004 ... there are even more alternatives to traditional shopping experiences (like, say, Amazon) today than there were then, and the last thing they want to do is send shoppers into the arms of competition.

I totally agree with that. The chains have to control costs even as they wrestle with California's new minimum wage laws ... but they can't afford to do anything that hurts their images even more.