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DENVER -- More than 7,000 Colorado and Wyoming Safeway workers have a new four-year contract after a weekend count of mail-in ballots revealed that 65 percent of those who voted did so in favor of settlement. About 45 percent of eligible workers voted.
The vote means that neither Safeway nor Kroger's King Soopers and City Market banners, Colorado's biggest food chains, will face strikes.
"This is a bad contract," said Anna Flynn, a 38-year Denver Safeway veteran and member of the bargaining committee, which counted the votes at United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 on Saturday. "Workers voted for it because they didn't see any other alternative." According to the union, the proposal drastically reduces wages for new hires, increases health care premiums, slashes health care benefits, and "virtually eliminates" a retiree health care plan.
The Safeway offer is almost identical to the offer King Soopers and City Market employees approved previously.
Safeway spokeswoman Kris Staaf told Progressive Grocer, "The offer maintains affordable health care benefits, a strong pension program, and good wages and promotional opportunities. At the same time, it enables us to reduce our overall operating costs to help us remain competitive."
For the first time, Safeway workers on the Western Slope area of Colorado and Wyoming will get the same deal as workers on the Front Range region of Colorado, which includes Denver. In the past the company has settled with the Western Slope and Wyoming after dealing with the Front Range.
Negotiations between unionized grocery workers in Colorado and Wyoming and Kroger's King Soopers and City Market banners, Safeway, and Albertsons began in mid-July, and a federal mediator was later called in to help advance the talks.
Only the Albertsons contract still remains to be settled.