Grocery workers poised to strike

Grocery workers could go on strike as soon as Sunday night in response to inaction on health care benefits, the workers’ union said.

Eight months into contract negotiations, Southern California grocery workers issued a 72-hour notice Thursday night to cancel a contract extension and pave the way for a strike, said Rick Icaza, president of Grocery Workers Union Local 770.

A strike isn’t guaranteed for workers at Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons, but canceling the contract removes the final barrier to a strike.

Some local stores are already starting to prepare. The Atascadero Vons is accepting applications for coverage positions in case of a strike. The store, at 7135 El Camino Real, hung signs saying so about three weeks ago. The types or number of positions sought has not been set yet, management said.

A four-month strike and lockout in 2003 cost Ralphs and other grocery chains an estimated $2 billion.