California

Safeway reaches tentative contract with union representing thousands of California workers

Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State, recommended that union members vote “yes” on the tentative deal with Safeway and Vons. UFCW 8 represents California workers from the Oregon border down to Kern County.
Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State, recommended that union members vote “yes” on the tentative deal with Safeway and Vons. UFCW 8 represents California workers from the Oregon border down to Kern County. rbyer@sacbee.com

Grocery union leader Jacques Loveall announced Tuesday that the bargaining team for UFCW 8-Golden State has negotiated an agreement with Safeway and Vons, and he is strongly recommending union members vote yes on the deal.

“At the bargaining table we were able to build on the key achievements of decades of union solidarity,” said Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State, in a prepared news release. “This contract is one of our best ever, a big ‘win’ for union members.”

He did not share details of the three-year agreement in the release, saying the union would not release any information until after the vote had concluded. Provisions of the tentative contract will be mailed out to union members, along with a mail-in, secret ballot.

Loveall did not immediately return a call for comment late Tuesday afternoon, and a message on the phone lines said the UFCW 8 office was closed.

According to the news release, the union continues to negotiate contract terms with other supermarket chains, including

West Sacramento-based Raley’s, which also operates stores under the Bel Air, Nob Hill and Food Source names, and Lucky California, which also runs Save Mart, FoodMaxx and Maxx Valu stores.

Ken Jacobs, the chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, said “the agreement with Safeway and Vons clearly sets a standard and puts a bit more pressure on Raley’s to come to the table on that same agreement.”

Companies typically like to have a level playing field when recruiting workers, Jacobs said, so competitors won’t want Safeway to be offering better terms than they do.

Jacobs added: “Think of this as pattern bargaining. Once you achieve a contract with one of the major chains or the major chain, then that makes it more difficult for other companies to argue that that’s not something they can do within their business model.”

Safeway’s competitors also will want to avoid a strike, Jacobs said.

“If Raley’s was to try to hold out and it leads to a strike,” he said, “customers have another place to go, and once you lose business and people start going to other stores, it’s harder to gain it back.”

UFCW 8-Golden State represents roughly 35,000 workers in supermarkets, drug stores, food-processing plants, distilleries, medical facilities and offices from the Oregon border in the north down to Kern County in Southern California. It also is assisting a sister union in Southern California with negotiations.

In 2015, the UFCW 8 negotiated a four-year deal that gave workers one year of retroactive wage increases, three years of additional wage increases and bonuses as well as protection and funding of health care and pension benefits.

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Cathie Anderson covers health care for The Bee. Growing up, her blue-collar parents paid out of pocket for care. She joined The Bee in 2002, with roles including business columnist and features editor. She previously worked at papers including the Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Austin American-Statesman.
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