LOS ANGELES -- Negotiators for striking and locked-out union members and three supermarket chains were meeting here last week under the auspices of a federal mediator -- the first sustained negotiations in the course of the 19-week-old Southern California labor dispute.
en off in two or three days. However, talks that commenced Feb. 11 were still ongoing late last week.
The labor dispute began Oct. 11, 2003, when members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union struck Safeway-owned Vons and Pavilions stores to protest proposed cuts in health care coverage; a day later, Albertsons and Kroger-owned Ralphs stores locked UFCW members out.
The strike-lockout has affected 59,000 clerks. A possible widening of the dispute to encompass 5,700 employees at Kroger's 101 Food 4 Less stores in Southern California was averted last week when the union agreed to extend its contract through April 4. The contract had been set to expire on Feb. 28.
Despite the negotiations, elected community leaders and religious leaders were set to conduct rallies at four Vons and Pavilions stores last Thursday. The rallies were scheduled to include acts of civil disobedience by Delores Huerta of the United Farm Workers, Al Ybarra of the Orange County Labor Council, Joe Gatlin of the San Pedro Neighborhood Council, and Madeline Janis-Aparicio of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.