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Strike averted? Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons reach tentative deal with union

Union official said solidarity helped push deal with grocery stores

Officials with the United Food and Commercial Workers union said Thursday that they had reached a tentative labor deal with Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons, potentially averting a repeat of the months-long contract negotiations that have occurred in years past.

The three grocery chains and representatives from the eight California UCFW locals hammered out the agreement this week after seven straight days of negotiations, said Mike Shimpock, a UFCW Local 770 spokesman.

"It was not easy," he said. "We are happy we are going to a ratification vote with our members rather than a strike vote."

Shimpock declined to disclose specifics of the agreement before the 60,000 members vote on the terms, which may happen at the end of next week. If the members OK the agreement, negotiators will then be authorized to officially sign the deal.

"We feel it's a good deal," Shimpock said. "We are recommending our members approve it."

In a statement, Ralphs said it was "pleased" to have reached a possible consensus on a new collective bargaining agreement. The grocery chain also declined to comment on the terms "pending ratification of the agreement by our employees represented by UFCW."

Albertsons declined to comment. Vons did not respond to a request for comment.

If a deal is reached, both sides would avoid the kind of drawn-out labor fight that hit Southern California in 2003. The 141-day strike and lockout, which began that fall, left many union members with big debts and reportedly cost the grocery stores an estimated $2 billion.

The grocery chains and the UFCW avoided a repeat strike in 2011 by reaching a three-year labor contract.

This time around, Shimpock said union solidarity helped all involved reach consensus.

"We started early and stood together and made it clear we were going to protect our workers," he said.

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