(June 27) Southern California grocery workers have authorized union leaders to call a strike, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a work stoppage is imminent.

Mike Shimpock, spokesman for the Southern California Grocery Workers Union, said negotiations with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons were scheduled to resume June 27 — six days after the union’s deadline for a new labor agreement and three days after workers at Ralphs and Vons voted to authorize a strike. Albertsons employees authorized a strike in March, sparking a temporary break down in negotiations.

Brad Chase, a spokesman for the retailers, said the June 24 strike vote marked the fourth time the union had walked away from the bargaining table. He said the union had mischaracterized the grocers’ offers to its members and forced workers to vote on incomplete proposals.

The retailers and union leaders have been negotiating health care issues and wages for more than six months. The current contract, agreed to in 2004 after a 141-day strike, was set to expire March 5 but was extended twice.

The Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., which owns Ralphs, also is dealing with labor negotiations in Toledo, Ohio, where workers also have authorized a strike. Kroger; Vons’ parent company, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway Inc.; and Albertsons’ parent company, Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu Inc., also are in labor negotiations with workers in Oregon and Washington.

Kroger agreed to a three-year contract on June 25 with workers in Dallas and Houston. The United Food and Commercial Workers union said in a news release that the new deal would improve wages, vacations, health care and pension plans.

“I hope that’s a sign they’re coming to their senses and are going to get the contracts negotiated,” Shimpock said. “We find that encouraging. We hope the same thing happens here.”