Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Safeway Workers Plan Strike During Contract Negotiations

Dozens of union workers from Safeway and Giant grocery stores rallied in front of a Safeway store in Southwest Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19 and announced a potential strike. 

The demonstrators announced a strike vote meeting for March 5, following four months of contract negotiations in which workers have fought against benefit cuts and frozen wage rates. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents the unionized workers as well as more than 25,000 Safeway and Giant Food workers in the DMV area, according to their website. 

The UFCW Local 400 announced a tentative agreement on a new contract with Giant after the Feb. 19 rally, according to a UFCW Local 400 news release. Negotiations with Safeway reached a stalemate.

VALENTINA SALINAS FOR THE HOYA | The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents local workers at the Wisconsin Avenue Safeway location, will vote on whether to commence full-time strikes at its March 5 meeting.

Safeway will not exclude a three-year minimum wage freeze for new workers from the contract. The company is also seeking to impose an hour limit for part-time workers that would prevent them from receiving benefits, according to the release. Additionally, union workers are concerned about proposed cuts to healthcare and pension benefits.

Representatives of Giant workers are expected to agree to the terms, but further negotiations with Safeway may be necessary, according to Jonathan Williams, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 400. 

“Our expectations are that our members will vote to accept the offer that we are going to table. But Safeway is another story,” Williams said in an interview with The Hoya.

Mark Federici, the president of the UFCW Local 400, announced at the end of the rally that Safeway unionized workers will review the contract and vote whether to accept the companies’ proposals. If the workers deem the proposals unacceptable in a two-thirds vote, the union will authorize a strike, according to Williams.

“We announced today our intent to take a strike vote on Thursday, March 5th if we don’t have a fair contract by then.” Williams said. “If we were to vote on a strike at Safeway it would require a two-thirds majority vote by our members and we think this it’s doable.” 

If a strike is authorized, it would affect 115 Safeway stores around the DMV area, significantly disrupting their operations should all 10,000 Safeway members choose to strike, according to Williams. 

“We have had signs at every single Safeway location that you can see if you drive by, signed by workers at their stores saying they are willing to go on strike,” Williams said. 

The companies’ move to cap wages and limit benefits is worrisome, according to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a Feb. 18 letter to Ira Kress, the interim president of Giant Foods.

“I am proud to stand with workers in the District and to support policies that ensure they have access to a living wage and health benefits,” Bowser wrote. “I am deeply concerned by the recent news that indicates a new contract would make cuts to healthcare and retirement benefits and stagnate the salaries of new workers at a minimum wage for three years.”

Strikes are not unprecedented in The District. In December, Metro transit bus operators striked to prevent the Metro from privatizing, which shut down some bus services. The union representing the workers, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, set up a fund to financially support workers during the strike. 

Although other recent strikes have shut down services, Safeway will continue operation in the event of a strike while negotiating with workers, according to Beth Goldberg, a senior public affairs manager at Safeway. 

“Safeway is committed to remaining at the bargaining table to work through our challenges and reach an agreement that rewards our employees,” Goldberg wrote in an email to The Hoya. “In the event of a strike, our stores will continue operating and serving our customers.”

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  • J

    JwmFeb 29, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    Safeway is a second rate company and can’t compare to Giant…They have dark and dingy stores with employees with bad attitudes..