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LOS ANGELES - A federal mediator is expected to meet today with leaders of the union representing 70,000 Southern California grocery workers and executives from three supermarket chains in their first talks since the beginning of a month-old strike and lockout, Reuters reports.
"We will go into mediation on Monday with an open mind and some level of flexibility," John Arnold, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said on Friday.
The union called a strike against Safeway Inc.'s Vons on Oct. 12. Albertsons Inc. and Kroger Co., which owns the Ralphs chain, responded by locking out union workers. The debate has centered on health care costs.
The UFCW withdrew pickets from Ralphs last week.
Meanwhile, striking Southern California grocery store workers and their union have begun bringing their message to the northern part of the state. On Friday the union debuted radio ads, asking Sacramento and San Francisco Bay area residents to boycott Safeway Inc., United Food and Commercial Workers spokeswoman Ellen Anreder said.
Labor representatives have accused Safeway Inc. of being the supermarket chain most responsible for the Southern California labor dispute.
Beginning this week, an undetermined number of strikers will conduct informational picketing at selected Safeway stores in Sacramento and the Bay Area, Anreder said.
With informational picketing, picketers stand outside stores and encourage customers to do their shopping elsewhere.