Unionized workers for Giant Food and Safeway in the Baltimore-Washington region ratified new labor contracts Wednesday.

The three-year contract reached by Giant and the United Food and Commercial Workers covers nearly 17,000 employees, Giant Food said in a statement. About 5,200 of them belong to UFCW Local 27, which covers the Baltimore area. UFCW's Local 400 covers workers elsewhere in Maryland and in Northern Virginia and Washington.

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"Throughout negotiations, our goal was to reach an agreement that ensures our associates continue to be among the highest compensated grocery workers in the Baltimore-Washington area, while also positioning Giant Food to remain competitive in a challenging marketplace," Giant Food President Gordon Reid said in an announcement Wednesday.

Safeway workers, represented by the same two UFCW locals, also agreed to a three-year contract, said Stacey Brown, vice president of human resources and labor relations for Safeway's Eastern Division. Safeway has 11,000 unionized workers in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Washington. The contract takes effect immediately, she said.

"We addressed a lot of things like wages and health care and retirement pensions, and one of the things we took a good look at during these negotiations was how to come up with wages that accurately and fairly represent the hard work our employees do," Brown said.

She said Safeway increased its minimum wages across all its contracts, with wages now starting at over $9 an hour. The company also agreed to maintain the current health care plans through the duration of the contract.

"In the end, we were able to settle on what we believe is a fair agreement," the Local 27 website said about an agreement reached with Giant. "We successfully prevented takebacks."

Union leaders could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Workers for each grocer belonging to Local 27 voted at separate meetings Wednesday in Timonium and Easton.

The current contract extension expires Friday. Before the meetings, Local 27 said on its website before that it had reached a tentative agreement with Giant after negotiations it described as marathon and lasting through the night. It had reached a similar tentative agreement with Safeway last week.

On Sunday, the union had begun making preparations for Giant workers to strike after a month of negotiations, saying the company's proposal undermined retirement security, removed or capped Sunday premium pay and made Sunday part of the regular work week.

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