Benefits Dominate Calif. Labor Talks

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Labor talks in Northern California are continuing to drag on, with most discussions centering on health and welfare benefits, a union spokesman told SN Wednesday.

"That's the big bear in the room," Mike Henneberry, representing United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5, said.

Local 5, along with UFCW Local 8, based in Sacramento, is continuing to negotiate separately with Raley's [4], Safeway [5] and Save Mart Supermarkets [6], whose contracts expired last October. Save Mart's contract extension expired Tuesday, and the chain has declined to extend it further, Henneberry said.

"However, we're not at any sort of impasse, and they aren't rattling swords, so the lack of an extension doesn't change anything." He said he expects further negotiating sessions to be scheduled shortly.

A Save Mart spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Raley's has extended its contract through June 6, and negotiators for the chain and the union were scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday under the aegis of a federal mediator. Safeway has agreed to extend its contract on a day-to-day basis, with a seven-day cancellation notice.