Grocery strike avoided | SierraSun.com

Grocery strike avoided

George Boardman

Negotiators reached an agreement late Sunday that could avert a supermarket strike in Truckee and throughout central California.Local 588 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Roseville threatened to call a strike if it didn’t have a new contract with Safeway, Albertsons and Ralphs by midnight Sunday.But representatives of both sides announced Monday they have reached a tentative agreement that will be voted on by more than 10,000 workers at the three chains from the Oregon border to Modesto.Neither side would discuss details of the settlement until it is presented to union members later this week, but Local 588 President Jack L. Loveall sounded victorious.”Our challenge from the start was to protect the superior wages and benefits of members,” he said in a prepared statement. “I am pleased to announce we’ve succeeded in that challenge.”The tentative agreement ensures employees won’t pay health premiums and the supermarkets won’t have two tiers of wages for employees, said Loveall.Brian Dowling, a spokesman for Safeway, would say only the chain was “pleased” to have a tentative agreement.Representatives of the supermarket chains have said they need concessions on pay and health benefits to remain competitive with nonunion stores like Wal-Mart.Similar demands triggered a 20-week strike in Southern California that cost supermarket chains an estimated $1.5 billion in revenue. In the end, union workers accepted a two-tier pay system and reduced medical benefits.The store clerks have been working without a contract since July 18, and the union announced last week that negotiations had gone on long enough.The union also announced a new contract Friday with Raley’s, which has more than 30 percent of the grocery market in the greater Sacramento area. That meant Safeway, Albertsons and Ralphs faced a large loss of the customers if their workers walked out.The tentative settlement is separate from contract talks currently taking place in the Bay Area.