Wages are falling 

Supermarket workers accept new contract, abandon strike threat

After nine months of bitter wrangling between the major Front Range supermarket chains and their workers' union, the suits upstairs can claim victory.

In early March, unionized workers at King Soopers voted to accept a new four-year contract with cuts to benefits and salaries. Safeway workers followed suit, signing a nearly identical contract on March 26.

"Fear won," said Dave Minshall, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7.

Those worries included the possibility of months on picket lines without pay and the likelihood that it would be impossible to negotiate a better contract after King Soopers employees accepted the deal.

Only workers at Albertsons have yet to accept. At issue are union demands that Albertsons raise salaries and benefits at its Max Foods and Grocery Warehouse stores to the same level as those offered at regular Albertsons stores.

As for the deal, "it stinks," Minshall said. It will mean a 25 percent cut overall to benefits and wages, he said, and newly hired workers will be hardest hit.

"We're pleased with the vote," said Safeway spokeswoman Kris Staaf. "It allows us to be competitive" against nonunion rivals such as Wal-Mart.

Some workers disagreed with the corporate logic.

"I voted against it because basically they're screwing us over," said Eva Paquelet, a worker at the Wahsatch Avenue Safeway in Colorado Springs. She said she doesn't buy the company's argument about slashing benefits to compete. "I think they're just using that as an excuse," she said. "What they're doing is Wal-Mart-izing all the stores."

-- Dan Wilcock


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