Supermarket union members at Stop & Shop and King Kullen Wednesday gave their leaders the power to call a strike as the expiration of their contract nears on Saturday.

Officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 have been in negotiations with those stores and Pathmark since early May, and the companies have said they still are working toward an agreement.

Patrick Purcell, spokesman for Local 1500, said the supermarkets late Tuesday offered $400 bonuses to full-timers, and $200 bonuses to part-timers in lieu of wage hikes. However, last night, he said, 1,100 Stop & Shop and 900 King Kullen workers voted unanimously to reject the offer and authorize a strike. Strike authorization gives union negotiators more leverage in talks. Authorization was given by voice vote in various locations, Purcell said. Pathmark employees are due to meet Friday.

Local 1500 has stepped up pressure in the last week with radio spots notifying consumers about a possible strike during the July Fourth weekend.

The union, which represents members on Long Island and in the New York City area, says core issues are company demands to freeze wages, cut pension benefits and have employees pay more for health carethrough paycheck deductions, increased co-pay fees and higher deductibles.

King Kullen officials have said the company is facing the pressures of double-digit increases in pension and health care costs as well as growing competition from nonunion retailers.

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