* Workers plan vote on new strike authorization next week
* Union says talks have stalled
LOS ANGELES Aug 9 Roughly 62,000 grocery
workers in Southern California are ready to vote on giving
their unions the go-ahead for a strike if Ralphs, Vons and
Albertsons supermarkets do not put an acceptable contract offer
on the table by next week, a union spokesman told Reuters on
The Southern California employees have been without a
contract since it expired in March. While the union workers
previously voted to authorize a strike, changes to offers now
being negotiated require another vote, said Mike Shimpock, a
spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local
Grocery workers are holding picket captain meetings and
plan to vote on a strike authorization next week, he said.
"Either they vote to authorize a contract or they vote to
authorize a strike," said Shimpock, who added that labor talks
are stalling and that unions would prefer to vote on a deal.
Ralphs owner Kroger Co (KR.N), Vons owner Safeway Inc
SWY.N and Albertsons owner Supervalu (SVU.N) are negotiating
as a group. A representative for the supermarket operators was
not immediately available for comment.
Grocery employees are members of seven union locals. The
biggest is United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770.
The two sides have a tentative agreement on pensions but
still have to come to agreement on wage and workplace rules as
well as healthcare coverage -- the biggest point of contention
in the talks.
Southern California, a supermarket union stronghold, is one
of the most competitive grocery markets in the United States.
In 2003, the region played host to the longest work
stoppage in the history of the U.S. grocery industry. That
bitter, four-and-a-half-month standoff shifted more than $1
billion in sales, and the loyalty of some shoppers, to
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Dave Zimmerman)