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WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. -- Colorado King Soopers and City Market employees have voted to approve a new four-year contract by a margin of 60 percent. The contract covers about 8,000 grocery store workers statewide. Only about half of those eligible voted, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.
"We are extremely pleased that the federal mediator's settlement option has been ratified," said Kroger president and c.e.o. Don McGeorge in a statement. "Scot Beckenbaugh, acting director of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and his staff played a critical role in the process, and we appreciate their contributions. Our associates will continue to receive good pay, promotional opportunities, affordable health benefits, and a secure pension plan, while King Soopers will improve its labor cost competitiveness and financial stability. We thank our associates and customers for their patience during the past eight months."
A report in the Denver Post claimed employees voted in favor of the contract because they wished to avoid a drawn-out labor action like that in Southern California; UFCW International's support of the contract, which president Joe Hansen deemed "a major improvement over the company's offer last year"; other grocery unions' acceptance of similar contracts; and the mail-in ballots used, which made it harder for the union to explain the contract in detail to workers.
"Fear won the election," United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Dave Minshall told Progressive Grocer yesterday, two days after the votes were counted. Minshall added that he believed many of the employees, influenced by the grocers, were eventually "worn down."
In a statement the local expressed disappointment at the new contract, which it said will cause workers to lose about 25 cents of every dollar in wages and benefits, and allow new hires to begin work at lower pay and to take a longer time to reach top scale. The contact went into effect at midnight, March 6. According to the union, workers should see their insurance premiums and family health care benefits go up by June 1. Employees voted to pay a portion of health care costs for the first time.
The King Soopers/City Market bargaining committee had recommended that workers turn down the contract in an effort to return to negotiations. Negotiating teams for Safeway and Albertsons workers had decided earlier not to vote on the proposal. Safeway, Albertsons, and Kroger, owner of the King Soopers and City Market banners, have been involved in coordinated bargaining with the UFCW. According to Minshall, Safeway has proposed a contract that is "substantially the same as the mediator's contract," while the union has not yet heard from Albertsons. No new talks have been scheduled yet, he said.