Giant Food workers in Maryland and the MidAtlantic ratified a new contract with the grocer Thursday, the same day the union that represents them and Safeway workers said it reached a tentative labor deal with Safeway to avert a potential strike at its stores.
The United Food and Commercial Workers plan to present Safeways contract offer to members at 1 p.m. Thursday at a previously scheduled meeting time when employeeswere expected to take a strike vote. Workers will be asked to vote on the contract at the meeting at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center in Oxon Hill.
The UFCW, which represents 10,000 Safeway workers, is recommending members ratify the contract, which it said boosts wages and pension contributions.
Union representatives and Safeway reached the tentative agreement at 2 a.m. Thursday, after six months of negotiations.
Activists hold signs during a United Food and Commercial Workers rally at the Safeway store, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Washington. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 has been in negotiations on a new contract that would cover employees at hundreds of stores in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon/AP)
These negotiations were long and unusually complex due to the difficult pension issues we needed to resolve, but I am pleased to say we were able to reach a tentative agreement with Safeway that preserves retirement security for our members, said Mark Federici, president of UFCW Local 400, in a statement.
The proposal includes an increase in company pension contributions by $18.6 million per year, or $74.4 million over the four-year life of the contract. And it would boost wages by $49.5 million overall over the four-year life of the contract. Wages would increase in steps, by $4 million the first year, by $8.8 million the second year, by $15.3 million the third year and by $21.4 million the final year.
The union also announced Thursday that 114,100 Giant Food workers in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, also represented by locals 400 and 27, ratified a contract with that company after more than six months of bargaining. About 2,600 of those employees work at Giant stores in the Baltimore area.
Union officials said the Giant contract guarantees full pension benefits for retirees and current employees, keeps workers wages ahead of minimum wage increases and expands access to health benefits for part-time workers.
The union had recommended on Feb. 19 that workers reject an offer from Safeway for a new contract that would cover 116 Safeway stores and fuel centers in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. The union had said the grocer was refusing to fully fund pensions.
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But the company had said it was offering to fulfill pension obligations. The grocer said it would cover the portion of pension benefits that would not be guaranteed by the governments Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. if the plan goes insolvent. About 50,000 retirees and employees draw or plan to draw benefits from the pension fund.