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    Supermarkets, Clerks Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

    LOS ANGELES - The United Food and Commercial Workers and Albertsons, Kroger Co. and Safeway settled on a tentative contract Thursday, after 16 straight days of negotiations.

    LOS ANGELES - The United Food and Commercial Workers and Albertsons, Kroger Co. and Safeway settled on a tentative contract Thursday, after 16 straight days of negotiations. Now Southern California grocery clerks will vote whether to end the longest supermarket strike in U.S. history and send 70,000 employees back to work.

    Union leaders are expected to brief the clerks on the proposed deal beginning Saturday morning, according to The Associated Press. If a majority of the employees ratify the tentative contract, many could be back at work by midweek.

    Details of the contract were not being released until union members vote. But in a statement, the United Food and Commercial Workers said the deal "preserves affordable health care, maintains pensions and achieves job security."

    In a statement late Thursday, the companies said "the tentative agreement squarely addresses the challenging health care costs and competitive issues we face."

    Federal mediator Peter Hurtgen called the talks "one of the most difficult negotiations of my career," according to the AP.

    The strike-lockout, which has lasted four and a half months, inconvenienced millions of shoppers in Southern California and led to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for the three grocery chains, which had taken a stand against rising employee health costs.

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