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text:Unionized workers at Giant-Landover and Safeway stores in the Baltimore-Washington area voted this week by a wide margin to ratify a new four-year contract that keeps health care benefits mostly intact and provides wage increases.
Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Locals 400 and 27, representing over 23,000 workers, cast their votes in separate meetings. Among Local 400 members, the contract garnered unanimous approval from Giant workers and about 95 percent from Safeway employees. Over 93 percent of Local 27 Giant workers okayed the contract, while about 88 percent of the local's Safeway workers were in favor of it.
According to the new contract, existing employees will continue to pay nothing toward health insurance premiums, and annual deductibles will rise to $300 from $200. Additionally, new employees, who have a waiting period before they're eligible for health care, will pay $5 per week in premiums, and all workers will receive raises of $1.50 an hour over four years.
The contract also stipulates a one-time, 11.5 percent reduction in the supermarkets' projected cost for retiree health coverage. Buddy Mays, president of Local 27, told the Baltimore Sun that he thinks the union will be able to negotiate packages with health care providers to cover the shortfall.
"Both sides moved very substantially in their positions, but that's what you would expect in good bargaining," Harry Burton, lead negotiator for Giant and Safeway, told the newspaper.
"Our goal was to reach agreements with terms that will allow us to remain the leading supermarket in our marketplace," Giant-Landover said in a statement. "We believe these new contracts meet that goal and provide significantly improved wages and benefits to our store associates."
"It was the richest contract bargained in the retail food industry for a very long time," Mays was quoted by the Baltimore Sun as saying.