Strike vote looms

City Market decision may affect workers at Safeway

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Results of a vote by some grocery workers could have an effect on Craig's Safeway employees.

City Market and King Soopers employees are expected to vote by March 5 on whether to accept a settlement or go on strike, a move that could affect contract talks with Safeway and Albertsons workers, said Virginia Watson, a spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.

Craig's City Market is nonunion, but Safeway has 45 union workers.

Watson said about 17 Safeway workers who showed up for a union meeting Wednesday night were divided about whether they would vote for a strike if given the opportunity.

Authorizing a strike doesn't mean work would stop, but it may mean union leaders could try to get a better deal, union officials have said.

Local 7 President Ernie Duran has advised union members to deny the settlement and vote to strike, urging other union members to communicate that idea to City Market workers, according to a message on the Local 7's web site.

"As you know, if this offer is accepted, it will set the pattern for all corporations," he said.

The union, which represents about 17,000 workers in Colorado, has been involved in labor talks with grocers since late last summer.

The union represents employees from King Soopers, City Market, Albertsons and Safeway. Officials and employees from City Market and King Soopers agreed to have a federal mediator help develop a contract.

But employees from Safeway and Albertsons voted against using a third-party negotiator.

Watson said that if City Market and King Soopers employees vote for a settlement, the terms probably will stick for other grocery workers, such as Safeway's and Albertsons' unionized employees.

The latest offer is better than previous offers, local officials say, but it still is fraught with health-care concerns.

Under the settlement, a worker would pay $5 a week for health insurance for the employee and spouse and $15 per week for a family. Unionized grocery workers currently don't pay for health insurance.

Still, workers are receiving mixed signals from local and international leaders, who call the latest settlement an improvement.

Safeway worker Clem Mascarenas said he simply wanted a "fair contract."

Being single, Mascarenas said having to pay for health-care benefits didn't seem too much of a burden.

Watson said that because Craig's City Market workers aren't unionized, employees there already are paying higher insurance rates.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craidailypress.com.

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