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Byline: Janet Adamy
Oct. 14--Striking Southern California grocery workers are giving struggling Safeway Inc. its greatest challenge yet to cost cuts that are the linchpin of a new labor strategy.
And they could be providing Northern California supermarket employees a glimpse of what's to come when their branch of the same union negotiates a new contract next year.
Massive strikes have hurt Safeway's profits in the past. But industry observers say the grocer would prefer to take short-term sales losses caused by picketing than back down on its drive to spend less money on health care for workers.
About 23,000 Safeway members of the United Food and Commercial Workers walked off the job on Saturday. Albertsons Inc. and Kroger Co., competitors that team with Safeway to draw-up union contracts, …