NORTHERN CALIF. UNION SETS DEADLINE

ROSEVILLE, Calif. -- A potential strike in Northern California could trigger union activity across the United States and Canada, Jack Loveall, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 588 here, told SN last week.Loveall announced last week that Local 588 would terminate its contract extension with the three major chains -- effective at midnight last night -- if a new labor agreement

ROSEVILLE, Calif. -- A potential strike in Northern California could trigger union activity across the United States and Canada, Jack Loveall, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 588 here, told SN last week.

Loveall announced last week that Local 588 would terminate its contract extension with the three major chains -- effective at midnight last night -- if a new labor agreement cannot be reached, after which the union may ask members for a strike authorization.

In responding to Loveall's statement threatening to terminate the talks, Safeway seemed to strike a positive note in a statement that said, "We have maintained at every stage of this process that solutions to the challenges facing the unionized grocery industry would be found through good-faith bargaining. To the extent that [the union's] announcement reflects a preparedness to engage in the kind of dialogue needed to find these solutions, we applaud it."

Negotiations between the union and Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway were scheduled to continue through the weekend.

If a strike is eventually called, Loveall said, it may not be limited to the 300 stores at which members of Local 588 work, stretching from the California-Oregon border south to Merced. "The leadership of the UFCW international agrees with me that if there's a strike here, it will not be confined to one area, as the Southern California strike was," he declared.

"If there's a strike in Northern California, we would buy ads and radio spots all over the U.S. and Canada because no local today can win against these giants. Any effort has to be broadened and intensified to put pressure on a wider scale." He did not specify what form that pressure might take.

Loveall said he is determined to negotiate a contract that does not include a two-tier wage and benefits system, or that requires employees to pay health premiums. Local 588 last week ratified a contract with Rite Aid where its stores' unionized employees do not have to make any health contributions, although the amount of co-pays for medical visits and prescriptions did increase, he said.

The supermarket contract, which expired July 17, covers 19,000 members working for the three major chains, which are directly engaged in negotiations, as well as Raley's (including its Nob Hill and Bel-Air divisions), Save Mart and other independent markets, whose contract extensions remain in place.

Separate talks between the same chains and eight UFCW locals in the San Francisco Bay Area have been extended through mid-January, subject to five days' cancellation notice by either party.