Grocery chain Food 4 Less has tentatively agreed on a new contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers union, averting a potentially crippling strike.
Food 4 Less, owned by Kroger Co., was the last grocery chain in Southern California to reach a deal on a new contract. The previous one expired June 8.
The agreement covers more than 6,000 grocery workers at 100 Food 4 Less stores in the Southland. They are scheduled to vote Sept. 2 on whether to approve the contract.
Union officials said Food 4 Less was pushing aggressively for changes that would undercut worker rights, including slashing the number of full-time jobs and pulling out of a fund that pays for healthcare expenses for grocery employees.
Mike Shimpock, a UFCW Local 770 spokesman, said Food 4 Less dropped its demands after seeing that its employees were standing strong against any changes.
Only a dozen Food 4 Less workers resigned from the union after the company urged its employees to resign so they could keep working during a strike without incurring fines or disciplinary actions by UFCW, Shimpock said.
"These workers were pretty unified," he said. Food 4 Less "realized the threat of a strike was real and these people were willing to stand up for workers' rights."
The union had already ratified contracts with Vons, Albertsons and the Kroger-owned Ralphs chain after weeks of long negotiations.
Bryan Kaltenbach, president of Food 4 Less/Foods Co., said the company was "pleased" about the deal.
It "is good for our associates, who will continue to have a solid and competitive compensation package," he said in a statement Tuesday.