NEW YORK - Supermarket chains Pathmark, Stop & Shop and King Kullen called for federal mediation in contract talks last week while the union representing their workers here voted to OK a strike in at least two of the chains if a new deal cannot be completed by June 24.
"This looks like it will be one of the most challenging contract negotiations in the metropolitan area since a strike in New Jersey more than a decade ago," Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director, Strategic Resource Group, New York, told SN, referencing a 22-day strike at three chains in 1994.
Last week 1,500 unionized employees at 55 Pathmark stores and 850 workers at 47 Stop & Shop stores represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 voted to authorize a strike, the union said. Workers at 48 King Kullen stores also represented by the union were scheduled to vote on whether to authorize a strike late last week. The local represents workers at stores on Long Island and in New York City, and nearby counties in New York.
The votes give union leaders the right to call a strike if necessary any time after 11:59 p.m. on June 24, when the union's current contract expires. Sunday premium pay for new hires, as well as health care costs, are the main issues in the dispute, the union said in a statement.
Employers requested a federal mediator in the talks last week, the union said.
Chains are bracing for a "tsunami" of nontraditional competition and need to control costs, Flickinger said.