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Publish Date: 4/15/2005

Albertsons workers voting by mail on contract


Unionized Albertsons workers will vote by mail on whether to accept the latest labor contract offer from the corporation.

Albertsons is the last of Colorado’s “Big 3” grocers that has not yet come to terms with its union employees.

Albertsons workers, who are members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, will be voting on a contract identical to ones already approved by Local 7 workers at King Soopers and Safeway.

About 1,800 Albertsons workers in Colorado and Wyoming are affected by the vote. The Albertsons store in Longmont is unionized, as is one of the company’s two stores in Boulder.

Ballots will be mailed out next week and the votes will be counted April 30, based on a decision made Wednesday by the Albertsons negotiating team.

“They made the best they could out of a bad deal,” said Local 7 spokesman Dave Minshall. “I have not talked to one worker who said this is a good contract.”

The battle over a new contract has been going on since last fall, when negotiating teams representing union workers at the three grocery chains began negotiating separately with the corporations.

After months of on-and-off negotiations, King Soopers union workers decided earlier this year to let a federal mediator write the terms of its new contract, an unusual occurrence. In a mail-in ballot, union workers agreed to accept the terms, and Safeway workers agreed to a similar deal last month.

What held up an agreement between Albertsons workers and the corporation was the deal being offered to about 150 workers at four Grocery Warehouse and Max Foods stores in the Denver area — stores owned by Albertsons.

Minshall said workers at those two stores voted this week to hold an election separate from the other Albertsons workers. Ballots for those workers will be tallied May 7.

Union leaders also recommended those workers reject the company’s offer.

The negotiating team voted unanimously to have Albertsons workers vote on a new contract but stopped short of recommending whether the rank and file should agree to or reject the terms.

Another sticking point in the negotiations between Local 7 and the corporation was a stipulation the union had been seeking that would allow all new Albertsons stores to automatically become union shops, a concession agreed to by the corporation.

Minshall said he believed that clause would affect all future stores built in the Denver metro area.

“It wouldn’t affect existing stores that are already non-union,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Albertsons, Danielle Killpack, said Thursday that the company’s only comments regarding the negotiations are:

“We are pleased that our associates will have the opportunity to vote on our proposal,” she said. “Our economic proposals for both our Albertsons store and our Max Foods store are identical and match the proposals recently approved by King Soopers and Safeway employees.”

Albertsons is the second-largest grocery chain in the country, behind the Kroger Co., which owns King Soopers. But Albertsons is still No. 3 overall in the battle for grocery dollars, with Wal-Mart stores second only to Kroger and climbing in market share every year.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-684-5291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.

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