The union representing more than 65,000 Southern California grocery workers has voted to authorize a region-wide strike against the giant Vons and Ralphs supermarket chains. A few months ago the same union authorized a strike against the Albertsons chain.

The new vote comes after an impasse was reached in contract talks last week. More than 90% of members approved the possible strike action.

At central issue, no surprise, are wages and health care benefits. Only 3 1/2 years ago the union went out on a bitterly fought 142 day strike that ended in a disappointing manner. The markets were able to impose a new two-tier contract, severely cutting back wage rates and insurance benefits for newer employees.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union is currently trying to win back some of those concessions it was forced to accept. The two-tier system hasn’t met the expectations of the employers either, helping to create a less stable and less professional work force. The unions are hopeful that this time around they can gain the upper hand.

The actual walkout could begin anytime after a required 72 hour advance notice if offered.