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April 26
1906 - Bobby Batugo, World Champion Mixologist in the 1970s, born in The Philippines [story]


Embassy Suites in Valencia will pull double duty as a hotel and polling place Friday when local grocery union members congregate there to give thumbs-up or thumbs-down to a new contract with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons.

The hotel at 28508 Westinghouse Place in the Valencia Commerce Center is one of six polling places for members of Local 770, which in turn is one of seven affiliates of the United Food and Commercial Workers union whose representatives settled their long-running dispute with the grocery chains Monday, averting a strike.

Ballot boxes will be open Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The affected UFCW locals are 8, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428 and 1442, representing approximately 62,000 workers in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Union and management representatives issued statements saying they had come to terms over wages, pensions and health care coverage. Greg Conger, president of UCFW Local 324, said with the tentative agreement, “we have attained our most important goal, which was continuing to provide comprehensive health care to the members and their families.”

Neither side disclosed the terms of the deal.

Some locals vote Friday and some are expected to vote Saturday. The agreement needs a vote of 50 percent-plus-one to pass.

Neither side wanted a strike. Ralphs, Vons/Pavilions and Albertsons never recovered from a strike and lockout in 2003-2004 that lasted 141 days and cost the companies an estimated $2 billion. The three chains previously controlled 60 percent of the Southern California grocery market; today they hold just a 23-percent market share, losing ground to non-union competitors such as Trader Joe’s, Costco, Whole Foods and local farmers markets – and to unionized independent competitors such as Stater Bros. and Gelson’s.

Food 4 Less, which like Ralphs is owned by The Kroger Co., operates under a separate UCFW contract and is unaffected by the current negotiations.

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