(Jan. 15) Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif., and the United Food and Commercial Workers union have reached a tentative agreement that could end the two-tier wage scale and improve health benefits reduced three years ago for thousands of grocery workers.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a number of supermarket chains in Southern California are in individual talks with the union about new worker contracts.

In addition to Stater Bros., grocers negotiating include the Vons, Ralphs Grocery and Albertsons chains in the region.

For 14,000 Stater Bros. employees, voting on the contract will end the evening of Jan. 17.

A deadlock in negotiations three years ago resulted in a bitter, 4 ½-month strike and lockout involving various Southern California supermarket operators and unionized employees.