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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The settlement reached late last month between the UFCW Bay Area Coalition of eight union locals and Safeway, Albertson's, and Kroger was officially approved late last week by over 20,000 grocery workers throughout the Bay Area.
Clerks approved the contract, which expires Dec. 1, 2007, by a 64 percent margin, and 62 percent of meat department employees voted in favor of the settlement.
The approval of the contract comes after almost five months of arduous negotiations, during which time a strike was narrowly avoided. The chief sticking point in the negotiations was health care.
In a statement, Albertsons said: "Albertsons is pleased that it was able to reach a recommended settlement with the unions which continues to provide our associates some of the best retail wages and benefits in the country, while enabling the company to contain skyrocketing health care costs and better address the increasing presence of nonunion retailers in this marketplace." About 8,000 Albertsons employees in 116 stores are covered by the contract.
Safeway's statement said, in part: "The approval of this agreement by Bay Area UFCW members is good news for everyone involved -- our company, our employees and our customers. We said from the outset of these negotiations that we needed a contract that would help us control future costs and make us better (able) to succeed in a changing competitive marketplace. The new contact does that." About 19,000 workers at 182 Safeway stores are affected by the contract.
Kroger, which had about 1,100 Ralphs and Cala/Bell associates involved in the negotiations and voting, also acknowledged the settlement in a statement.
UFCW spokesman Ron Lind expressed thanks to all of the supporters who volunteered their time and energies during the contract campaign. "Most of all, we would like to thank the 80,000 customers that signed cards pledging support of grocery workers," he added.
The UFCW is currently scheduling negotiation dates with other unionized food retailers in the Bay area, including Save Mart, Raley's/Nob Hill, and Andronico's.