Union ratifies new contract for Puget Sound-area grocery workers

SEATTLE After five months of negotiations, union and management announced Tuesday that a contract agreement had been reached for grocery workers in Puget Sound-area Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer and Albertsons stores, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

Workers ratified with 92 percent approval a 3-year deal, which covers more than 20,000 people, including cashiers, clerks and meat department employees.

"This is a great contract for grocery workers," said Jackie O’Ryan, a spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21. "They set very strong, clear goals from the beginning that they wanted strong wage increases and health care to be more affordable, and they met those goals and more."

Highlights of the deal include fully covered in-network preventive care, insurance coverage beginning the fourth month of employment rather than the tenth, a prescription plan that includes $5 copays on generics, and wage increases over the next three years of $1.30 per hour.

The deal also features an employer-funded health reimbursement account at $500 per member or $1,000 per family and same-sex partner benefits.

"It’s rather remarkable," O’Ryan told the Post-Intelligencer, "when most of corporate America is focused on growing profits by cutting health care benefits," The negotiations stand in contrast to those earlier this year between Safeway and workers in Southern California, which almost resulted in a strike when there was no agreement three months after the old contract expired.