Update:9/26, 10 a.m. On Sunday night, workers voted and approved a new contract, ending an eight-month dispute with Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons. According to insiders, workers will pay $7 a week for health insurance, or $15 per week for a family. The health insurance clause had been the most debated item in the contract.

Union leaders and three major Southern California grocery stores have reached a deal to avoid a potential employee walkout. Union members need to vote on the deal first, though, before the agreement becomes official.

Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons released this statement:

We are pleased to have reached a tentative settlement agreement with the union that continues to preserve good wages, secure pensions and access to quality, affordable health care – while allowing us to be competitive in the marketplace. We appreciate the hard work, support and patience that many different people have shown during the past eight months, and particularly the past few weeks.

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 had threatened to strike after they failed to reach an agreement before last night's deadline. Union workers' permanent contract expired in March.

The most crucial point of conflict in settling a new contract was crafting a solid health care policy. An early proposal from the stores had workers paying $90 a month for family plans.

Before reaching this deal, some stores reportedly went as far as taking applications for replacement workers in case of a strike. Ralph's threatened to close its stores if they couldn't reach a deal.

The union's membership spans from Santa Barbara to the CA-Mexico border.

LA Weekly