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Giant, Safeway store workers vote to authorize strike

Wednesday - 11/13/2013, 5:24pm  ET

Vote sets Dec. 20 deadline

Kate Ryan, WTOP

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Employees of D.C. area Giant food stores could strike in the coming weeks if the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 don't reach an agreement on a new contract with the Landover, Md.-based grocer.

Union members voted to authorize a strike Wednesday by an "overwhelming" margin, according to a press release. UFCW members that work for Safeway also voted Wednesday to authorize a strike at that store's area locations.

The food workers' current contract expired Oct. 31 and was extended through Dec. 20 to provide more time for bargaining. The union emphasized that the Giant workers' vote "does not mean that a strike will occur, but sends a strong single [sic] to Giant that members will do whatever it takes to get a fair contract," said Mark Federici, Local 400 president.

Specifics of what the union is asking for in its negotiations with Giant and Safeway were not immediately available, but Federici referenced "living wages and health and retirement security" in his statement.

Grocery workers also threatened a strike during the last contract negotiation in 2012, but the move was averted when the union reached a deal with Giant and Safeway in March 2012. Back in 2012, the contract covered 17,000 workers.

Together, Giant and Safeway hold the majority of the grocery market in the Washington region, controlling a combined 36.7 percent share of the market.

We've reached out to Safeway and the union for comment and will update this post when we learn more.

Update: Giant spokesman Jamie Miller said the company is "negotiating in good faith" with the unions, including the Local 400 and the Local 27, which covers its employees in Baltimore. Below is more of his statement:

"While it is unfortunate Local 400 conducted an authorization vote, the vote does not necessarily mean the union will initiate a work stoppage after the current December 20 expiration.

“Giant has a long history of working together with unions to reach collective bargaining agreements that are fair and reasonable for all parties. We are encouraged by the progress we are making with the UFCW local unions at the bargaining table, and we are hopeful that we will reach an agreement with the unions that provides competitive wages and benefits for our associates and reflects our market realities.”

© 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc.