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Southern California Grocery Workers Vote On Contract Offer

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Union leaders should know soon whether they have the authorization to strike at the region's three largest grocery store chains. San Diego workers cast ballots Friday.

— The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 135 is asking members to reject the latest contract offer from negotiators representing Vons, Ralph's and Albertsons. Union leaders say the health care proposal in that offer isn't good enough. Union members are coming to grip with the idea that there may be a strike.

"I don't think anyone is really ever ready to hear the word strike," said grocery clerk Camilla Fulton. "Especially in these difficult economic times. But I'm really hopeful that the employer will come up with a comprehensive plan that will insure that I can keep holding on to my benefits for my children."

Union leaders said the latest contract offer doesn't fully fund the health care benefits in the proposal. They told members the money for health care coverage would run out 18 months into the contract. That was not the news Debbie Williams wanted to hear.

"I've been with the company 30 plus years, I'm still part time. The majority of us are part time," said Williams. "When we were hired we were promised our benefits and they keep stripping them away, stripping them away. If I have to spend more for health care, it's a wage cut."

Votes will be cast all day today in San Diego and Los Angeles. Some Los Angeles and Riverside workers will vote Saturday. Results should be made public this weekend. Both sides have agreed to meet for one more bargaining session after the vote.

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