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The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that when representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and Southern California's three major supermarket chains met yesterday, it was the seventh straight day of talking and the "longest stretch of bargaining since the regional grocery strike began more than four months ago."

Federal mediator Peter J. Hurtgen termed the continued discussions as "promising" but provided no further comment. However, both sides continue to say they are far apart on issues of compensation and health care benefits.

The labor strife in Southern California began last October when the UFCW began a strike against Safeway's Vons division, which was followed up quickly by a lockout of workers by Albertsons and Kroger's Ralphs division.

Some 70,000 employees and more than 800 stores have been affected by the labor strife, and the dispute reportedly has cost the chains a total of more than one billion dollars.
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