SAN RAMON, Calif. -- Safeway, Lucky Stores and Save Mart reached a tentative labor contract agreement here with the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, thus ending a strike that affected 32,000 northern California clerks and butchers and more than 400 stores.
The pact, announced earlier this month, halted a nine-day walkout by union workers that began on April 6.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, pending ratification by the union membership. However, labor representatives said the new document extends the workers' old contract for three years with little or no changes in pay or benefits.
"The employer demand for concessions and [givebacks] -- which is what this strike and lockout were all about -- has been totally defeated," said Jack Loveall, regional spokesman for UFCW, in a recorded telephone message to union members. "All of the elements of your current contract that you fought and sacrificed to maintain have been preserved."
According to Wong & Murray Public Relations, a Walnut Creek, Calif.-based firm representing the companies, the new contract "met the companies' earlier stated objective to achieve a cost-neutral agreement."
As reported, about 16,000 UFCW workers at 208 Safeways in northern California walked off the job on April 6 over proposed changes in their health care benefits that the union said would make many of them ineligible for coverage. Safeway maintained that it needed to reduce labor costs because of high health care premiums for employees and competition from discounters.
Safeway, Lucky and Save Mart all had the same basic collective bargaining agreement with UFCW, which expired March 4. In a show of solidarity with Safeway, Lucky and Save Mart locked out about 16,000 UFCW employees at 180 and 17 northern California locations, respectively.
Numerous bargaining sessions with an independent mediator had been unsuccessful, prompting strong rhetoric from both sides. Indeed, the day before the settlement was announced, the companies said that they had reached an agreement with UFCW, which the union quickly denied.