Hours ahead of a strike deadline, union-represented grocery workers and their employers in Southern California reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.
The parties declined to immediately discuss terms of the agreement, which will be separately voted on by membership of the seven locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers union representing 46,000 workers at Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Stater Bros. stores.
“They heard us loud and clear. And we were successful in getting a deal that will make our lives better,” said John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770, in a message to members. Grant later described the tentative contract as “a step forward toward our vision of what grocery jobs should be in the future.”
A new deal, if approved, would replace a contract that expired in March but with terms that had continued as the sides bargained through the summer. Reaching agreement required more than 40 bargain sessions, union sources said.
Unions had authorized their leaders to call a strike earlier in the summer and more recently took to demonstrations at stores. Workers said they would vote to strike Sept. 9 if they were still dissatisfied with contract offers from employers, but both sides announced late Sept. 8 that negotiators had reached a tentative agreement.
The parties were assisted in negotiations by Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Unions had signaled that wages were a major issue in negotiations.
Ralphs indicated that an Aug. 25 proposal offered $1.10 raises over the life of a three-year contract—a raise that was higher than the previous agreement between the sides. (Reports since have said that offer was raised to $1.20.) Ralphs also said it would renew a minimum wage agreement that would provide minimum wage workers an increase above the minimum when new wage laws are passed.
It was not immediately clear whether those terms were agreed to by UFCW negotiators.
As labor peace in Southern California appears close, negotiations elsewhere remain tense. In Portland, Ore., Kroger is reportedly advertising for replacement workers in the event its Fred Meyer workers walk off the job as threatened.