Thousands of Southland grocery workers are breathing a lot easier this week.
A tentative agreement was reached Tuesday on a new contract between a grocery workers’ union and three grocery store chains – Vons, Albertsons, and Ralph’s.
Last month, the grocery workers voted to approve a strike if an agreement wasn’t reached between both sides.
Union reps and store management have been negotiating for 6 months.
The existing contract expired March 5, but was automatically renewed daily during negotiations.
“Everybody’s a little bit more relaxed,” says Bill Duer, a 33-year veteran of the grocery industry. “We don’t know the details yet. We just know, the union said it’s a good contract.”
Duer along with 65,000 Southland grocery workers would have looked at a work stoppage that would keep them from a paycheck until a deal was reached.
“I think there was just a lot of fear, a lot of insecurity,” says one grocery worker who was anticipating a lengthy lockout like the one in 2003.
In that strike, workers demanded better wages, benefits, and a better retirement plan.
Southland grocery stores lost a combined $1.5 billion dollars during that lockout, and thousands of workers went without paychecks for 5 months.
“It was horrible. It was not good at all,” another grocery worker recalls.
The deal will go to a vote to the full union Sunday. Terms of the new deal is expected to be announced Monday.