Union reaches tentative agreement with Albertsons/Safeway grocery stores

The union that led workers in a strike against Denver-area King Soopers grocery stores in January has reached a tentative agreement with Safeway and Albertsons stores in Colorado and Wyoming.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 reached the agreement with the grocery chain Thursday, union president Kim Cordova said in a statement. Union members will vote on the contract next week, starting Monday for Denver and Broomfield employees.

The union represents more than 5,400 Safeway employees in Colorado and Rock Springs, Wyo. Albertsons Cos. owns Safeway.

“This agreement, which was secured without the need for a strike, ensures that workers receive paid sick leave, fair pay, a safe workplace, and access to affordable health care,” Cordova said.

Many workers will see raises of between $3 and $5 an hour and as high as $7.10 in the first year, depending on job classification and work location, Cordova said in an email. The three-year agreement includes “substantial gains” in benefits such as health care, vacation and sick leave, she said.

“We appreciate the union’s partnership in reaching this tentative agreement that includes significant benefits to our associates,” Albertsons/Safeway spokeswoman Kris Staaf said in an email

The agreement covers 51 stores along the Front Range, Colorado Springs, the Western Slope and Rock Springs.

The union started negotiations with Kroger-owned King Soopers and Safeway/Albertsons in October. Representatives from both grocery chains sat at the bargaining table with UFCW Local 7 members, but the contracts were negotiated separately.

A strike covering King Soopers stores from Boulder to Parker and more than 8,400 employees started Jan. 12 after union negotiators rejected an offer that contained $170 million in wage and benefit increases. The union said the proposal was “riddled with concessions” the company wanted from workers.

The labor dispute heated up as the union and King Soopers filed lawsuits and claims of unfair labor practices against each other.

The UFCW Local 7 and King Soopers reached a tentative agreement Jan. 21, and union members later voted to approve the contract.

Cordova credited strong community support and ongoing labor shortages that taxed King Soopers’ ability to fully staff its stores with helping end the strike. The three-year contract includes hourly pay raises of $2 to $5.99, more investment in workers’ health care plan and a faster path for part-time workers to become full time.

In 1996, a strike against King Soopers in Colorado lasted 42 days. Safeway and Albertsons stores ended up locking out their employees during the strike.

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