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In a bid to get Giant-Landover and Safeway to “share the fruits of our labor,” United Food and Commercial Workers Local (UFCW) 400 stewards and activists are mobilizing for the start of negotiations set to begin Jan. 11 on a new contract affecting 17,000 emloyees in the Washington area. The current contract expires on March 31.
Calling the occasion “a pivotal moment for each and every one of us,” Local 400 President Tom McNutt told members: “Our hard work over the past 30 years has built Giant and Safeway into the industry leaders in the Mid-Atlantic. Throughout these three decades, we sacrificed at the bargaining table to make them competitive -- and we succeeded.” Landover, Md.-based Giant, an Ahold USA division, and Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway are the No. 1 and No. 2 supermarket operators in the Washington market, respectively.
Continued McNutt: “They have the ability to pay. “We don’t have the ability to make concessions. Our families are suffering. Theirs aren’t. … So we will work 24/7 to improve our contract … or they may find their fruit rotting and unsold.”
Despite the incendiary tone, he stressed that the union would seek “to find win-win solutions -- to create the double bottom-line.” The reason for this, according to McNutt is “at the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat. We want Giant and Safeway to keep growing and thriving -- and they should want to maintain the most productive, value-adding workforce in the retail food industry.”
Noting that the issue was “whether these two companies choose their long-term self-interest over short-term greed,” McNutt added, in the terminology of the 'Occupy' demonstrations that have sprung up around the country: “It’s about whether retail jobs will be middle-class jobs. It’s about whether we, the 99 percent, start getting our fair share of the prosperity that right now flows only to the top 1 percent.”
The union’s newly developed strategic campaign will use thousands of members to reach out to community allies, tell customers and the general public about the issues at stake in the talks, and launch a website. Members were also advised to prepare in case of a strike.
UFCW Local 400 represents 40,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.