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Strike averted at Puget Sound-area grocery stores

United Food and Commercial Worker union employees assemble picket signs at a local headquarters Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, in Seattle. Union leaders for about 21,000 workers at four major grocery store chains in the Puget Sound area are threatening a strike at 7 p.m. Monday unless they reach an agreement on a labor contract with employers. A strike by the UFCW could affect QFC, Safeway, Albertsons and Fred Meyer stores in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston and Mason counties. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE (AP) -- A tentative agreement has been reached in contract negotiations that brought 21,000 Puget Sound-area grocery store workers to the brink of a strike against four major chains, spokesmen for both sides said Monday evening.

The news averted a walkout that had been threatened for 7 p.m. Monday at QFC, Albertsons, Fred Meyer and Safeway stores in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, Mason and Thurston counties.

The team bargaining on behalf of three union locals unanimously recommended that workers approve the agreement, said Tom Geiger, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.

The grocery stores negotiated through the Allied Employers group.

"We are pleased to announce that we have reached a tentative settlement agreement with the unions that continues to preserve good wages, secure pensions and access to quality, affordable health care for our employees," Scott Powers, Allied Employers vice president, said in an email.

Both sides said details of the proposal would not be released until workers had a chance to review and vote on it. No dates were immediately announced for that vote.

Union locals involved include UFCW 21 and 367 and Teamsters Local 38.

Issues that had been unresolved after the unions issued a 72-hour strike notice Friday evening included wages, holiday pay and proposed cuts to health care benefits. The two sides have been in talks for more than six months, Geiger has said.

Powers has said the employers wanted a solid pay and benefits package for workers that would allow the companies to be competitive.

In downtown Seattle, a makeshift clock had been counting down the number of hours until a possible strike.