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The San Francisco Chronicle notes that while all the attention is being focused on the contract talks being conducted in Southern California between the major three retail companies there – Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons – and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), this is just the first round.

The Southern California contract expired on March 5, and talks have continued as both sides try to avoid the 140-day lockout/strike that roiled the business three years ago.

However, the labor contract in the San Francisco Bay Area expired on December 1…and the negotiations are expected to be equally intense, with health care coverage a main topic of discussion.

"As far as we are concerned, the window of opportunity for concessions is closed,'' Ron Lind, the president of UFCW Local 5 in the Bay Area, tells the Chronicle. "We made adjustments on health care in 2004. We do not intend to go backward.''

In addition, the UFCW contract in the Sacramento Valley, covering about 12,000 workers, expires Oct. 6; the contract in Washington's Puget Sound area, covering 17,000 workers, expires May 5.
KC's View:
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. This is where we find out if Steve Burd’s prescription for healthcare reform has any legs, and if he’ll be able to get the same kinds of changes with unionized workers that he’s gotten with non-unionized employees.

In our view, neither side should be thinking in terms of “going backward” or “making concessions.” That’s old world thinking. Instead, they need to be working together to develop a new template for healthcare that 1) emphasizes personal responsibility, 2) increases coverage, and 3) reduces costs.

Anything less will just put off the inevitable.