Now that union members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, if necessary, a federal mediator is bringing both sides back to the bargaining table next Monday. The three big chains - Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons - have been negotiating with the United Food and Commercial Workers on a new contract since March, with little sign of a breakthrough (health care coverage is a key sticking point). From the Union-Tribune:
"We are pleased to get back to the bargaining table," said [Mickey Kasparian, president of the Local 135 in San Diego and Imperial counties]. "Certainly, we will move forward to get a deal. But make no mistake about it: We will not have any more delay tactics by management. If we don't get a deal done in an expedited amount of time, there will be a labor dispute."
Given the struggling economy and an increasing number of shopping alternatives, a work stoppage seems like an economic non-starter. That may explain why union officials have held off for so many months.