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QUEENS VILLAGE, N.Y. -- A storm cloud of labor strife is gathering over the New York market, as more than 850 New York-area unionized Stop & Shop Supermarket employees joined their Pathmark-employed brethren to vote for a strike.
The Step & Shop workers voted unanimously on Tuesday to authorize the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 to call a strike after June 25. On Monday, Pathmark workers also voted to authorize a strike, and the union expects that King Kullen associates will vote the same way today.
Despite union predictions on the King Kullen vote, King Kullen v.p. Thomas K. Cullen told Newsday, "Historically King Kullen and Local 1500 have enjoyed a good relationship and have always come to a settlement in their negotiations. We have every reason to believe that the same will be true this year."
Meanwhile, at the request of representatives from each of the employers, a federal mediator has been brought into the negotiations.
"While it was not the union that requested the federal mediator, we have the utmost respect for them and welcome their assistance," said UFCW Local 1500 president Bruce W. Both in a statement, adding, "We hope these two strike votes and the one that is expected Thursday night will encourage the employers to move swiftly to resolve the remaining issues."
In dispute are company proposals to lower Sunday premium pay for new hires and paycheck deductions for health insurance for current and future workers. The two sides have been meeting to try to reach a settlement before the workers' current contract expires on June 24, according to the union.
The union additionally said that starting next week, it would launch an advertising campaign to inform shoppers of the possibility of a strike or lockout.
Any work stoppage would affect a combined 16,000 workers employed by Pathmark, Stop & Shop, and King Kullen stores in New York City, on Long Island, and in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties. Local 1500, New York state's largest grocery workers' union, represents 23,000 supermarket employees in the New York metropolitan area.