Grocery workers ratify contract with markets

LOS ANGELES

According to a union press release, the new contract's term will extend from March 7, 2011 to March 2, 2014 and will affect about 62,000 workers from Kern, Inyo and Mono counties in the north to the Mexican border in the south and the Arizona border in the east.

The main sticking point between stores and unions has been health insurance benefits. Under a recent offer from supermarkets rejected by union members, workers would pay $9 a week for individual health insurance coverage and $23 a week for a family. For the individual, that's an increase of $2 each week.

"This package protects our members' access to affordable comprehensive health care for themselves and their families," union leaders said in a statement. "That was our top priority throughout the negotiating process.

Representatives from both sides reached an agreement on Sept. 19 to avoid what appeared to be an imminent strike. Supermarket executives had planned to close hundreds of stores if the strike occured.

A 141-day lockout in 2003-04 cost the stores an estimated $1.5 billion.

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