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The Denver Post reports that the international head of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union has decided to suspend the local voting there on a new labor contract offered by Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger’s King Soopers, and asked that the two sides return to the bargaining table.

Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International, said that he could not permit the locals to vote on a contract that offered "substandard unilaterally controlled" health- care, not to mention a contract that has a provision requiring that new stores to open as nonunion stores.

Spokespeople for both Safeway and Kroger said that while they would return to the talks if asked to by a federal mediator, nobody should mistake a willingness to talk for a willingness to budge. An Albertsons spokesman said that the company would return to the negotiating table, but would not comment on whether or not the company would be willing to raise its offer.

One immediate effect of the call by the UFCW is that any threat of a Thanksgiving grocery strike or lockout apparently has been eliminated. However, there remains confusion about why the UFCW international leadership waited so long to step in, and conventional wisdom seems to be that the chains remain in the power position at the negotiating table.
KC's View:
The chains are playing hardball. It sounds to us like the UFCW already has lost in Denver, but just doesn’t know it yet.