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Grocery Store Workers In The Puget Sound Region Approve New Contracts

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Employees in the Puget Sound area working for grocery chains such as QFC, Safeway and Fred Meyer have approved new contracts that protect their health coverage and improve wages, according to a statement from their unions, Locals 21 and 367 of the United Food and Commercial Workers and Teamsters 38. The contracts cover about 30,000 workers in the region.

This was the first time in 15 years that the workers and the big grocery chains reached a tentative agreement before their contracts expired, the unions said. The smooth negotiation and approval contrast sharply with the last round of negotiations in 2013, when workers came within hours of going out on strike partly because they were unhappy about proposed cuts to their health insurance.

UFCW 21 spokesman Tom Geiger said in an interview earlier this week that the deal approved in late 2013 was a “pretty good contract,” and that workers kept up their activism in the workplace after that to maintain pressure on the employers. He said that paved the way for reaching this year’s agreement, which he said was unanimously recommended by the bargaining committee.

The new contracts include increased funding for the health and pension plans, the unions said. The labor groups said they're also working to pass a statewide initiative phasing in a $13.50 minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave.

Scott Powers, a labor negotiator for the grocery stores, declined to comment.

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