Grocery chain proposal angers union workers

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— Two of Colorado's leading grocery chains have made a proposal to the food workers union aimed at solving a looming health-insurance crisis for the companies' retirees.

The proposal from Safeway and King Soopers-City Market was swiftly condemned by union leader Ernest Duran Jr., who said it includes a provision that demonstrates ''corporate greed in its ugliest form.''

Duran heads Local 7 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents about 19,000 grocery workers in Colorado and Wyoming.

For more than five months, company and union officials wrangled over a formula that would prevent the insolvency of a healthcare fund that covers about 2,000 food-industry retirees.

Union members who are active employees of the grocery chains voted last year to allow diversion of as much as $20 million from their pension fund to shore up the retiree health fund, and company officials agreed Friday to a $20 million diversion over 10 months.

But the grocery chains linked their agreement to a provision that would relieve them of the responsibility of making their contractually obligated monthly contribution into the retiree health plan for every active worker in the union, Duran said.

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