Four Southern California grocery companies and the United
Food and Commercial Workers will resume negotiations Dec. 19 on how to end a
strike by roughly 70,000 workers, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation
Service said in a statement.
The labor dispute, which centers
on health care benefits, started Oct. 21 and covers more than 800 Southern
California stores operated by Vons, Ralph's, Pavilions and Albertsons. Those
stores make up roughly 60 percent of all groceries in the southern half of the
The California labor action soon
spread, with grocery workers in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky going on strike
soon after. While those strikes were under way, labor disputes started
to flare up in other parts of the nation. Federal mediators were able to either
end or avoid strikes in several locations, and the action in West Virginia,
Ohio and Kentucky ended a week ago when workers and Kroger, the operator of the
44 stores targeted by that action, reached an agreement.
However, the California strike
has continued with little sign of progress.
Hurtgen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, will
act as mediator when negotiations resume, the service announced. The parties
were last at the bargaining table on December 7.
in the mediation process is to build understanding and to move the parties
toward an agreement," he said in a statement. "In this case, we are
dealing with particularly difficult issues."
as the date for new negotiations neared, organized labor was moving to step up
its efforts in the dispute.
The Los Angeles Daily News reported recently that labor
officials, in the wake of a summit of union advocates and leaders held
in the area, were likely to announce a expansion of the supermarket picket
lines nationwide. The summit was being held to raise funds to support the union
local leading the grocery strike, the newspaper said.
across North America, are going to hold the line for health care, and we're
going to start to put into place a nationwide strategy to do that," Greg
Denier, a spokesman for the UFCW, told the newspaper. "Picket lines will
be erected in several locations throughout the country."
The grocery chains have also taken action to bolster their
position. Kroger Co., owner of the Ralph’s stores in the strike zone, is
importing up to 60 non-union workers from the Atlanta area, a continent away,
to keep the West Coast stores open, The
Atlanta Journal Constitution reported recently.
union covers workers in Atlanta and Southern California, the newspaper
reported, and the movement of assistant managers and other non-union employees
from one area to another is a sticking point with the union.