Union officials for local grocery workers announced Thursday afternoon that they had reached a tentative contract deal with Ralphs, Vons and Albertson’s supermarkets, likely averting a strike that could have begun next week. The deal is subject to a vote of rank-and-file union workers on Monday.

“We have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with Albertsons, Ralph’s, and Vons, pending our members’ ratification vote on Monday August 8,” a statement on the website of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 read. “We want to thank all of our community partners who came forward day in and day out to support the workers. This deal could not have happened without the strength and solidarity of our dedicated members.”

In June, about 47,000 grocery workers across Southern California voted to authorize a strike against Ralphs Grocery Co. and Albertson’s (which includes Vons and Pavilions stores) should negotiations fail to produce a deal by August 8. Among the issues that were on the table: how much in health care costs should be passed on to workers, holiday pay and a potential reduction in pension contributions.

Representatives from the grocery chains could not immediately be reached for comment.

The deal covers most grocery workers, but not pharmacy employees; according to the UFCW website, negotiations are continuing between the grocery chains and pharmacy workers.

The last major grocery worker strike in 2003 lasted nearly five months with neither side emerging with a clear victory. During the strike, shoppers flocked to Trader Joe’s, Gelsons and other chains; many of those shoppers never returned to the union chains. Also, since then, other players have entered the region, including most recently German retailer Aldi.

Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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