Safeway workers approve contract

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Safeway grocery-store employees approved a four-year contract this weekend, ending speculation that the workers would go on strike.

The contract affects more than 9,000 workers in Colorado and Wyoming. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 approved it by 65 percent of the union's voting members.

The contract mirrors one that King Soopers employees approved earlier this month. Safeway and King Soopers are owned by Kroger.

Sue Stark, courtesy clerk at Safeway in Craig, said she voted in favor of the contract.

"I didn't want a strike. I have a baby to feed," she said.

But many Safeway employees in Craig said they were not up-to-date on the negotiations. Some said they hadn't voted in the mail-in ballot.

"Around here nobody says anything about it unless a customer asks," Stark said.

Safeway management released a prepared statement about the contract. "We're pleased that our employees have ratified our contract offer," Safeway spokesperson Kris Staaf said in the statement.

"The offer maintains affordable health- care benefits, a strong pension program and good wages and promotional opportunities. At the same time, it enables us to reduce our overall operating costs to help us remain competitive," she said.

Staaf declined to discuss specifics in the contract.

The food workers' union was closed Monday in recognition of labor leader Cesar Chavez.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the contract included a tiered wage system that starts new employees with lower salaries and benefits. For the first time, union representatives said, the contract includes health-insurance premiums to be paid by workers.

Also for the first time, the Safeway contract will pay workers in western Colorado and Wyoming at the same rate as those along the Front Range.

Traditionally, Front Range workers have received better pay packages, the Associated Press reported.

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