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Unionized Safeway workers in the Washington, D.C., area held protests in front of three pop-up storefront hiring halls set up next to the chain’s stores to recruit and train replacement workers in the event of a work stoppage. The picketing employees, members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, accused the Pleasanton, Calif.-based grocer of trying to limit their collective-bargaining rights and lower their standard of living. The current labor agreement expires March 31.
“Safeway is earning record profits and sitting on a pile of $180.5 billion in cash, yet rather than share the fruits of our labor with the workers who made their success possible, the company is trying to drive down our members’ economic standing -- in many cases, even below the poverty level,” said Tom McNutt, president of Landover, Md.-based Local 400. McNutt further accused the chain of intimidation in its placement of “scab” hiring halls right next to stores.
The protesting workers handed out flyers urging customers to express their support for the employees to store managers, and also spoke with job seekers about joining Local 400 to prevent what they called Safeway’s “divide-and-conquer strategy” to keep employees’ wages low.
Local 400 represents 40,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Washington, D.C.; Maryland, Virginia; West Virginia; Ohio; Kentucky; and Tennessee.