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    Twin Cities Grocers, Workers Reach Agreement

    MINNEAPOLIS - Grocery workers have ratified a new three-year contract with three major area supermarket chains that allows modest salary increases and doesn't require union members to pay health care premiums, according to the Associated Press.

    MINNEAPOLIS - Grocery workers have ratified a new three-year contract with three major area supermarket chains that allows modest salary increases and doesn't require union members to pay health care premiums, according to the Associated Press.

    In return, Cub Foods, Lund Foods Holdings, and Rainbow Foods can open on certain holidays and have vendors deliver products directly to store shelves, say union documents obtained by the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

    On Sunday, leaders of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 653, representing 13,000 workers, presented the agreement to employees, who ratified it the same day. Union and company officials had been in talks since mid-January in hopes of coming to an agreement before the old contract expired Sunday.

    The speed and low profile of the talks stand in stark contrast to contentious industry negotiations in other locations, notably the four-and-a-half-month Southern California strike against Safeway's Vons, Albertson's, and Kroger's Ralphs, which ended earlier this week when workers approved a contract. There have also been labor disputes in St. Louis and West Virginia.

    Union documents say that wages will be frozen during the first year of the contract, with subsequent pay increases going only to workers with the most seniority.

    Full-time employees who have worked for at least five years will have their salaries go from $20.73 an hour in 2004 to $21.53 in 2006, a total increase of 3.9 percent. Part-time employees who have worked at least 5,200 hours will get an increase of 3.2 percent, from $12.40 an hour in 2004 to $12.80 in 2006.

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