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Peter Hurtgen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said yesterday that he will bring together representatives of Southern California's three major grocery chains and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union on Wednesday for the resumption of labor negotiations.

The meeting will be the first time the two sides have officially met since December 19, though there have been fruitless off-the-record discussions. The strike/lockout over compensation and benefits issues began back on October 11, affecting some 70,000 workers at Safeway's Vons. Kroger's Ralphs, and Albertsons. It also comes a week after the UFCW called for binding arbitration, a plea rejected almost instantly by management.

"Based on my discussions with the parties, I believe we've reached a point where there is some potential for progress on the key issues," said Hurtgen. "I'm hopeful that with this next round of talks that we can move the process forward."
KC's View:
This thing could get settled Thursday, or it could get settled in six months. Regardless of what the federal mediator says, we figure it is about even money either way.

One thing seems clear, though. This thing gets settled when the unions cave. Because there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the chains have any intention of budging.