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Stores May Close Their Doors If Grocery Workers Strike

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — At least two Southern California supermarket chains are threatening to close some or all of their stores if union workers walk out this weekend.

"I would wait as long as I could and then I'll try to do my best to come back and support them," Sue Delaney, a customer, told Juan Fernandez, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9.

Nearly 62,000 union workers, who work for Ralphs, Albertons and Vons, don't want to walk off the job either. At issue, health care benefits.

Eight months into contract negotiations, the supermarkets are apparently not willing to compromise on health care contributions.

"I devoted my life to this company," Rozanne Gonzales, a Vons cashier, said. "I appreciated them and I thought they appreciated me back."

"For 35 years, I've been a loyal employee. We're not asking for much. We're asking for a fair contract," Jackie Gilmed, A Ralphs cashier, said.

While some customers are at odds, others are seeing this time as an opportunity to apply for replacement jobs in case there is a strike.

"In the end, I still need a job. I have my family to support," an applicant said.

"It makes me sad that I'm going to be out there fighting for what I believe is my right and these people are going to come in and take my job away," Gilmed added.

If there is a strike, Ralphs is ready – saying they will initially close all stores while they regroup.

In a statement, they said:

"During a strike, it is difficult to create a good shopping experience for our customers and a good working environment for our employees. We will evaluate the situation as it progresses."

Albertsons also issued a statement, saying:

"We believe up to 100 stores could close for some or all of the strike. Any decision to reopen closed stores will be based on the business conditions at the end of a strike."

The deadline is set for Sunday night. Both sides are expected to return to the bargaining table this weekend.

In 2003, during the lockout and strike, grocery stores had a loss of about $2 billion.

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