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Grocery Contract Negotiations On-Going

The two sides in the new round of contract talks between the union for 65,000 Southern California grocery workers and the Big Three grocery chains don't even agree on the importance of the end of the

The two sides in the new round of contract talks between the union for 65,000 Southern California grocery workers and the Big Three grocery chains don't even agree on the importance of the end of the current contract. 

United Food and Commercial Workers President Mickey Kasperian tells KPBS' These Days program that, if there had been any progress in negotiations, the March 5th contract expiration wouldn't be so important.

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<b> Kasperian: </b> But when you're not making any progress at all, if you're not having any discussions at all, then what would be the difference if that date was April 5 <sup> th </sup> or May 5 <sup> th </sup> ? Is that going to change the progress or the meetings? So I think it is a key date and we need to have substantial dialogue before that date occurs.

But Adena Tessler, who represents Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs, says there's nothing special about next Monday.

<b> Tessler: </b> The truth is March 5 <sup> th </sup> is not a magical date. It is the date that the current contract expires. But it's extremely common for contract negotiations to continue on past the date of expiration of the current contract. In fact if you look at the last 20 UFCW contracts that have been negotiated, 19 of the 20 went average of seven months over the expiration.

Wages and health care are important issues, and the union says it wants an end to the two tier employee system that helped end the last strike.