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LOS ANGELES – Cooler heads have prevailed here, as grocery workers in Southern California represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) ratified a contract agreement yesterday with three of the country's largest supermarket chains: Kroger's Ralph's division, Safeway's Von's and Pavilion's divisions, and Supervalu’s Albertsons division.
The new contract, covering approximately 65,000 workers in Southern California, was ratified by a margin exceeding 87 percent, with extremely high membership attendance at the meetings throughout Southern California. All seven UFCW Local Unions recommended that grocery workers ratify the contract. It expires on March 6, 2011.
Grocer who had faced the prospect of major labor strife were workers approved of the settlement.
"I applaud the UFCW International Union, the seven Southern California UFCW locals and our employer bargaining partners for coming to agreement on a contract that benefits our employees, customers and company," said Safeway chairman, president and c.e.o. Steve Burd. "This new agreement provides employees with the best wages, benefits and working conditions in the Southern California retail market, while making certain Vons has the tools to thrive in a highly competitive environment."
Dave Hirz, president of Ralphs Grocery Co., concurred: "We appreciate the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in helping us reach an agreement that continues to provide quality jobs for our associates and a great shopping experience for our customers," he said. "This agreement provides wage increases and affordable quality healthcare benefits for our associates and their families and keeps Ralphs competitive in the marketplace.”
The new four-year contract includes:
- Elimination of the "two-tier" wage and benefit structure;
- Wage increases ranging between $1.65 and $6 over the life of the contract, with all wage increases retroactive to previous contract expiration in March;
- Increased contributions to secure pension benefits;
- Improvements to all health care plans; and
- Funding for health care guaranteed through the contract.
"This contract is a major step forward for grocery workers," said Pat O'Neill, UFCW international e.v.p. and director of collective bargaining.