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Results of strike authorization vote by California grocery workers due Thursday

New York City -- More than 60,000 Southern California grocery workers cast their votes on Wednesday whether to authorize a strike if contract talks with three of the nation's largest supermarket chains break down. A two-thirds majority vote was needed for passage.

The talks are with The Vons Cos.; Ralphs Grocery Co., a subsidiary of The Kroger Co.; and Albertsons, owned by Supervalu.

The last contract expired on March 6, and employees continue working under its provisions on a day-to-day basis. However, the union contends that company negotiators have failed to provide a comprehensive proposal regarding pay and health benefits.

"Management's unwillingness to negotiate in good faith, and instead play chicken with the well-being of their employees and employees' families is wrong," Local 770 President Rick Icaza said in a statement.

The companies said the strike-authorization vote is premature.

"Ralphs is committed to the negotiations process, and while we have difficult issues to work through, the best thing to do is work together on solutions and reach an agreement," Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra M. Doyel said in a statement.