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Union negotiates contract for Giant workers, but Safeway workers will vote on possible strike

A labor union that represents workers at Giant and Safeway said Wednesday that it has reached a tentative contract with Giant but is recommending Safeway workers reject that company’s offer and possibly go on strike.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 said earlier Wednesday that more than 25,000 Giant and Safeway workers in Maryland and the region could go on strike over wages, health care and retirement benefits.

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The local has been negotiating new contracts that would cover employees at hundreds of stores in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, and some breakthrough occurred with Giant.

Both companies operate a couple of dozen stores in the Baltimore region.

Giant workers are being asked to review the proposed contract and vote on it March 5 at Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center in National Harbor.

But the union urged Safeway members to reject the company’s offer and authorize a strike if the grocery chain fails to improve what’s on the table.

“Enough is enough,” said Mark P. Federici, UFCW Local 400 president, in an announcement, calling some of the proposed contract’s terms “disrespectful and disgraceful. ... None of us want to strike, but if this is the only option to gain a fair contract, we’re ready.”

Union officials said Safeway’s proposal would freeze new hires in Maryland and Washington at minimum wage for the next three years, maintain a 24-hour cap on weekly hours for part-timers hired after Oct. 30, 2013, making them ineligible for benefits, offer top-of-scale increases far below those in other parts of the country, cut health care funding and cut future pension benefits.

Jason Chorpenning, president of UFCW Local 27, called grocery stores “the heart of our communities,” which should provide not only healthy food but good jobs with fair wages, affordable health care and predictable schedules.

“We know Safeway can do better because we have a better deal on the table from Giant," the union said in a statement.

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Safeway workers are being asked to vote on the proposal March 5, also at the Gaylord conference center in Prince George’s County.

UFCW members rallied at a Safeway store in Washington, where union officials announced the March 5 meetings.

A spokeswoman for Safeway said stores would continue operating in the event of a strike.

“Safeway is committed to remaining at the bargaining table to work through our challenges and reach an agreement that rewards our employees," the company said.

Giant said it reached tentative agreements with UFCW Locals 400 and 27.

“Working together with the union, we have enhanced the industry-leading compensation and benefits earned by our associates — importantly protecting health care and retirement — while at the same time ensuring the continued viability of our business and the jobs it provides to our 16,500 union associates,” said Felismina Andrade, a Giant spokeswoman.

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We “believe this agreement continues to honor our associates for their contributions to our success while reflecting the economic needs of the business and competitive realities facing the company," she said.

Giant said it has successfully negotiated more than 30 collective bargaining agreements with the UFCW over the past 20 years.

UFCW Local 400 represents 35,000 members in retail food, health care, department stores, food processing, service and other industries in six states and Washington, including Maryland.

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