The UFCW and the county labor federations (LA OC SB) have been working together to have labor and community activists visit each store and speak to the manager, delivering notice that if a strike is to happen, that the community will stand with workers.
Details about these delegations are at the UFCW and federation links below.
This has brought the stores back to the negotiating table, and the UFCW site has updates about the negotiations. They are not that detailed, but presumably, they are making progress, or they'd already be on strike. This is the URL for the updates:
In the 2003-2004 lockout/strike, this "adopt a store" program didn't happen until weeks into the conflict. This time around, the community-labor organizing has happened months before (starting around June) so the management has felt the heat of public pressure differently this time.
Ralphs said that if there's a strike, they would close some stores (rather than run them with scabs). Presumably, this means that they think nobody in these communities will cross the picket lines.
The mainstream media have said that the fight is over a rise in healthcare costs. This isn't the truth. While the premium is going up a little, the deductible is ballooning. The union isn't that forthcoming with details (they are in negotiations), but it seems like the stores plan is to get rid of universal healthcare for employees, and push them toward more individualized plans that will (as always) end up more expensive.
Also, according to the UFCW website, the big three grocery stores are seeing a decline in market share. Please read that and consider the current reality.
LA County Federation of Labor, http://launionaflcio.org/grocerystrike/