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    Chains Won't Extend Bay Area Contract

    SAN FRANCISCO - Approximately 30,000 members of UFCW 588-Northern California may have voted to approve agreements with Bel Air, Raley's, Albertson's, Ralphs, and Safeway by an overwhelming 83.2 percent on Friday, but Bay Area supermarket companies and employees still remain bitterly divided on the issues.

    SAN FRANCISCO - Approximately 30,000 members of UFCW 588-Northern California
    may have voted to approve agreements with Bel Air, Raley's, Albertson's, Ralphs, and
    Safeway by an overwhelming 83.2 percent on Friday, but Bay Area supermarket
    companies and employees still remain bitterly divided on the issues.

    The same day that the Northern California settlement was announced, representatives
    from Safeway, Albertson’s, and Kroger gave the UFCW Bay Area Coalition notice that
    they would not extend their contract with the union past Jan. 15, the contract’s scheduled
    expiration date.

    "We have been at this now for four months,'' Safeway spokesman Brian Dowling told the
    Mercury News. "We've had countless bargaining sessions. This is clearly an effort on our
    part to move things along because it's time to bring this to a close.''

    For the worker’s part, Bay Area Coalition secretary-treasurer Ron Lind said in a
    statement, "Our members are willing to compromise, but it appears that the only
    solutions Safeway and the other giant food retailers are interested in finding are those that
    would leave thousands of grocery workers and their families without health care." Lind
    noted in the Mercury News that the offer currently before Bay Area employees doesn’t
    compare to the one accepted by their Northern California counterparts.

    The Sacramento Bee reported, however, that many Northern California employees who
    had voted for the agreement did so not because they were satisfied but to avoid a lengthy,
    financially ruinous strike like the one in Southern California that started in 2003 and
    lasted nearly five months.

    The Bay Area Coalition, which represents more than 30,000 grocery workers, added that
    this move by the supermarket companies would only result in an escalation of the
    coalition’s boycott pledge program. At the present time more than 75,000 Safeway
    customers have completed cards pledging to boycott the retailer if asked by the workers.

    According to Lind, "We are informing faith leaders, student groups, labor unions, and
    consumers of this unwarranted action by the grocery giants and will announce our plan
    for escalation later next week." He added, "This unnecessary move by the employers to
    attempt to create a crisis will only strengthen the resolve of our members to fight to
    protect their contract conditions, making a labor dispute more likely."

    The two sides are slated to resume talks Wednesday. Both union and company officials
    expressed hope that a settlement can be achieved.

    UFCW 588 has pledged to help the Bay Area Coalition and UFCW locals in Denver and
    Philadelphia with their ongoing negotiations.

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