Mediator Beckenbaugh to Join Calif. Talks

Contract negotiations between the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the three major employers in Southern California are scheduled to resume with the participation of a federal mediator.

LOS ANGELES — Contract negotiations between the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the three major employers in Southern California are scheduled to resume next week with the participation of a federal mediator.

Sources said the mediator will be Scott Beckenbaugh, who was called in to help with negotiations in 2007 that led to a contract settlement.

"He is already familiar with all the players and, because he was involved for more than three months with negotiations four years ago, he is familiar with the ins and outs of the local industry," one observer told SN.

Discussions were halted earlier this week once the decision was made to call for a mediator, local sources said. However, because the mediator has imposed a news blackout, it was not clear how many sessions were held this week or when talks would formally resume.

Local sources said it was the UFCW that suggested calling in a mediator when talks appeared to stall, and the employers agreed immediately. The talks involve seven UFCW locals and representatives of Supervalu [3]-owned Albertsons, Kroger [4]-owned Ralphs and Safeway [5]-owned Vons, whose four-year contract expired March 6. The contract has been extended on a day-to-day basis since March 30.

Union members voted last month to authorize their negotiators to call a strike if they deem it necessary. The last strike-lockout here — in late 2003 and early 2004 — lasted 141 days.