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Even as negotiators representing Southern California's top three supermarket chains and 70,000 striking members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union returned to the bargaining table, lawyers for Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against one of the Southern California union locals.

The chains allege that United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 has been threatening employees who were considering crossing picket lines to return to work.

The union characterized the complaint as "desperate measures."

As the legal wrangling continues, Safeway has begun running ads on Northern California radio stations to battle a series of ads being run by the UFCW urging shoppers not to patronize Safeway's stores there. The UFCW is asking residents of both San Francisco and Sacramento to boycott Safeway stores - believing that this move could increase pressure on the chain to capitulate to union demands.

The Safeway ad stresses that nobody is on strike in Northern California, and that the package being offered to its workers in Southern California is one of the most generous in the nation.

Last month the UCFW launched a strike against Safeway Inc.'s Vons and Pavilions stores in Southern and Central California. The next day Kroger Co.'s Ralphs and Albertsons locked out their union workers in a show of solidarity.
In all, about 70,000 workers at 859 stores are affected by the strike and lockout.

The current negotiations represent the first time that they have met since the strike/lockout began more than four weeks ago.

The face-off is over the union's desire to preserve or improve current wage and benefit packages, while the chains are looking for a wage freeze, cuts to health and pension benefits for current employees and a substantially lower wage and benefit package for new hires.

As often is the case in these disputes, much of the conflict is being driven by the arrival of new Wal-Mart Supercenters, which are non-unionized and therefore boast lower cost structures, and therefore lower prices.
KC's View:
It sounds like both sides are living lives of not-so-quiet desperation…as the hole they dig for themselves gets deeper and deeper with every passing day.