This story has been updated from a previously published version.
Citing five months of fruitless negotiations, union-represented workers at Giant Food and Safeway stores in the Mid-Atlantic region are beginning preparations for a possible strike.
United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 400 and 27, which represent about 26,000 associates at Giant and Safeway stores in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, issued a list of strike-preparation recommendations for workers and have been distributing “strike” cards for worker signatures since last week. The sides have been negotiating a deal to replace a contract that was to have expired on Oct. 26 of last year but has been mutually extended by the parties. Either side can opt out of the extension on 72 hours notice, workers said. A spokesman for UFCW Local 400 emphasized the cards did not represent a vote authorizing union negotiators the right to call a strike.
Giant & Safeway workers are signing #strike signs at every store in the DMV area. Next week, we'll deliver them to both companies.— UFCW Local 400 (@UFCW400) February 10, 2020
While we are continuing negotiations with both companies, we're getting ready to strike if that's what it takes to get a fair contract. pic.twitter.com/PtZ1cMOCWD
According to the unions, Giant, a division of Ahold Delhaize, and Safeway, a division of Albertsons, have thus far presented “insulting proposals” that would set starting wage rates below minimum-wage thresholds in Washington, D.C., and Maryland and freeze pay at minimum wages for three years; would cap available hours for part-time associates; and cut healthcare and pension funding.
A federal mediator has been overseeing bargaining sessions between the unions and employers since late last year.
Among the top underlying issues challenging the parties is a multi-employer pension fund liability. According to reports, that fund could be insolvent a year from now.