TOLEDO, Ohio — United Food and Commercial Workers Local 911 filed unfair labor practice charges this week against Kroger Co., Cincinnati, saying that the retailer presented a contract offer to workers directly without going through union channels, according to Jefferson Stephens, president and chief executive officer of the local. Despite the setback, the two sides are close to an agreement on a new contract, he said, and are scheduled to meet this Friday with a federal mediator. The contract, covering workers at 28 stores, had expired on April 7. The union on June 9 gave Kroger one week’s notice that it would cancel the contract extension — meaning it could call a strike or take other action beginning this Saturday if an agreement is not reached by then. Sticking points include funding of health care coverage — the Toledo union was one of the last Kroger bargaining units to have its health care fully funded by the company, but that is expected to change with the new contract, Stephens said. Kroger could not be reached for comment.
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