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    L.A. Grocers and Unions Trade Barbs

    LOS ANGELES - Local chains Albertsons, Ralphs, and Vons yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to meet with the United Food and Commercial Workers beginning Monday, May 14 in an effort to negotiate a new contract-but they stressed that the unions must stop their walkouts and stay focused on the issues if they want an agreement.

    LOS ANGELES - Local chains Albertsons, Ralphs, and Vons yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to meet with the United Food and Commercial Workers beginning Monday, May 14 in an effort to negotiate a new contract-but they stressed that the unions must stop their walkouts and stay focused on the issues if they want an agreement.

    The union, meanwhile, complained that management's latest proposals were so insulting that it had to walk.

    "The unions need to stay engaged in bargaining and suspend the media stunts that upset our employees and our customers and distract attention away from the bargaining table," the retailers said in a joint statement.

    Negotiations were scheduled to continue next week until union reps abruptly walked out of talks last evening and threatened to boycott the planned meetings with management.

    According to union statements to the media, the walkout was a reaction to the employers' latest health and welfare proposal.

    The three retailers involved said they have been working to address rising health care costs while continuing to provide quality, comprehensive benefits for employees. They noted that this is an issue facing all businesses, across all industries, and the nation.

    The UFCW yesterday countered that after seven months of "unproductive negotiations with grocery employers," the reps walked out because "the latest offer by the three grocery companies was an insult to members, and left UFCW leadership with no choice but to break off negotiations."

    The union claimed that the grocers were trying to force another strike, "like the work stoppage they caused in 2003 that put 60,000 UFCW members on picket lines for nearly five months and disrupted shoppers and communities throughout the region."

    The union also said "it's time to end this drawn-out, dead-end negotiations process. With the support of the public, UFCW members can and will win a fair contract -- even if means a long, difficult battle."

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