A strike by 47,000 Southern California grocery workers may have been averted Thursday as their unions reached a tentative contract with three supermarket chains.
Employees were scheduled to vote Monday on whether to approve the deal with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons. That was the deadline set for reaching an agreement when workers voted in June to authorize a strike.
"For all intents and purposes, it's over," Rick Icaza, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770, told the Los Angeles Times .
The contracts will cover employees at about 350 stores in Southern California.
Details weren't released but both sides said they were happy with the proposal, which was reached after a week of round-the-clock negotiations.
"We are able to give our associates pay increases, keep their health care very affordable, and a stable pension," Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel told the Orange County Register .
The previous contract expired in March.
A four-month grocery store strike and lockout in 2003-2004 cost supermarkets an estimated $1.5 billion and a share of the local market. Strikers also lost wages.
Union officials said in the recent negotiations, the supermarkets first offered pay raises of 10 cents per hour over three years but wouldn't fund health care coverage beyond current levels, which would have required employees to pay more or sacrifice coverage. The markets also wanted to reduce future pension contributions and raise the retirement age from 60 to 65.
Both sides compromised in the tentative contract, Icaza said.
"We are satisfied with the wages and benefits," he told the Times.