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Safeway Inc. is being pushed by California State Controller Steve Westly to end the grocery workers' strike that has affected Southern California for more than three months.

Westly said in a letter to Safeway board that the company was risking its brand and financial standings. "Safeway claims that health benefit cuts are required to compete with large retailers, such as Wal-Mart, which provide nominal health care benefits," he wrote. "The lowest common denominator should not be the standard for an established member of the corporate community, and I'm surprised Safeway, given its strong reputation with millions of California consumers, would treat its employees in this manner."

Similar urgings have come from organizations such as Calpers, the California Public Employees' Retirement System, which has a $77 million investment in Safeway and has called on the company to settle the strike.

The strike/lockout over compensation and health benefits issues has affected more than 70,000 grocery workers at Southern California's three biggest chains - Safeway's Vons, Kroger's Ralphs, and Albertsons. Talks have been infrequent and unsuccessful.
KC's View:
The thing is, if they did this right, nobody would have to settle and everybody could win.

"Settling" suggests compromises on old issues, and nobody is coming at this thing from a new angle. The union ought to be willing to have its members be responsible for small co-pays, for example, and the chains ought to create a system through which workers can see benefits at the end of a year that is more profitable because of concessions made on the health care side.

That way, everybody wins.

By the way, maybe the situation will be helped by a "pray-in" scheduled to be held by a bunch of civic and religious leaders at the entrance to the gated community where Safeway CEO Steve Burd lives.

Though we doubt it. And the somehow the "gated community" part of it seems metaphorical in a way that makes people like us salivate.