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Health Benefits a Major Issue in Grocery, Union Contract Talks

Contract talks between supermarket chains and the union representing some 65,000 Southern California workers are underway. Health care benefits are emerging as a major issue. KPBS Reporter Kenny Goldb

Health Benefits a Major Issue in Grocery, Union Contract Talks

Contract talks between supermarket chains and the union representing some 65,000 Southern California workers are underway. Health care benefits are emerging as a major issue. KPBS Reporter Kenny Goldberg has the story.

The current contract was hammered out after a four-and-a-half month strike and lockout. Veteran employees currently receive low-cost medical and dental coverage. New hires have to wait as long as 18 months to get health benefits. George Whalen is president of the San Marcos-based Retail Management Consultants. He says union workers may not get a better deal in today's environment.    

Whalen: The fourth largest retailer in the world is about to start opening up stores in Southern California, Tesco. And they're a non-union house, and you continue to add these food retailers that are significant players to the market, it's not going to get any easier.

Today, only about half of unionized grocery workers in the region get health coverage from their employer.

Kenny Goldberg, KPBS News