LOS ANGELES -- Representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union here said last week they have asked management negotiators for a "last, best and final" offer by Oct. 6 at midnight, when their Southern California contracts with Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons expire.
Union membership meetings have already been set for next week to ratify the offer or to vote to authorize a strike, the union reps told SN.
Among the major points of contention in the negotiations are changes in the health and welfare packages being offered to the unions, which would ask them to share the costs of health insurance premiums as well as medical and prescription costs, and whether employers will maintain the same levels of contributions to the union's pension plan.
"Unfortunately, at this point it appears there will be little of merit to recommend in the employers' package," Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770, largest of the seven union locals in Southern California, wrote on his union's Web site.
Speaking for the other side, Ralphs' Web site had a message to employees that said, in part, "The negotiations process is complex and lengthy, and we are still hopeful that a full and fair settlement can be reached by the ... contract expiration. But given the union's tone at the bargaining table and the many proposals still unresolved ... the company has begun to take steps to ensure the protection of [its] future business."
The contracts cover approximately 70,000 retail clerks and meatcutters working at more than 850 stores in Albertsons, Kroger-owned Ralphs and Safeway-owned Vons, which are negotiating as a single bargaining unit with Local 770 and, separately, with six other locals. The last work stoppage here was in 1978.