The union representing 65,000 Southern California grocery workers turned up the heat Thursday on three major supermarket chains, the Los Angeles Times.

United Food and Commercial Workers leaders will ask their members Sunday to reject what they said was a flawed and incomplete contract proposal and to authorize a strike against Ralphs and Vons. If the workers agree, they would join Albertsons workers who voted in March to authorize a strike.

That was just the kind of news that shoppers throughout Southern California didn't want to hear. Many are hoping that the union and the supermarkets that employ them will avoid a repeat of the bitter 141-day strike and lockout of 2003 and 2004 that cost the stores an estimated $1.5 billion, left many workers in a deep financial hole and disrupted customers' routines.

"I didn't appreciate the inconvenience last time around. Why can't they find some common ground?" said Cassandra McKie, a 24-year-old video game programmer who was loading groceries into her car at a Ralphs on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. "They are just adding stress to the rest of our lives."

McKie said she probably would avoid a picket line unless there was an item she really needed.

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