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The Los Angeles Times reports that members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in Southern California have voted to ratify a new contract that was negotiated by the union with Albertsons, Kroger-owned Ralphs and Safeway-owned Vons. Support for the deal was described by the union as “high.”

The deal was reached after eight months of negotiations, which had taken on a down-to-the-wire tone when more than 50,000 employees at the three chains seemed poised to walk out. The chains were trying to balance their desire for the best deal possible with a need to avoid the 141-day strike/lockout of six years ago, which cost the chains an estimated $2 billion; in addition, Strategic Resource Group says that the previous labor action cost the chains market share - they had a combined 60 percent of the market then, and now share a total of 23 percent of the market.

According to the story, “One key sticking point was healthcare funding: A key question, for the UFCW and the three employers, was how much each side would have to pay to ensure that a healthcare trust fund covering workers would be economically viable for the long term.

“Among the issues resolved in the complicated deal, according to sources familiar with the negotiations, is that grocery workers would pay $7 a week for individual coverage and $15 a week for a family starting next April. (The grocers have previously said these premiums were necessary to help offset rising medical costs.)”
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