Our Working Lives


Originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 61, printed February 17. Reproduced here in for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter 2020 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

In Virginia, the land of almost no unions, there’s one supermarket chain whose workers are covered by a collective bargaining contract. The chain is Kroger, and the union is United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400.

The local covers workers in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. And in Maryland and D.C., there’s been some hard contract bargaining.

The union reports that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Giant supermarket chain. A meeting is set for March 5 for union members to review the details and vote on the proposed contract.

But it’s another story over at Safeway. That company has made an offer, but the union is recommending its members reject it and authorize a strike.

As with most labor contracts, the issues include wages, health care and scheduling, but this time the main sticking point is pensions.

The union is charging that Safeway is refusing to fully fund the pension fund, even though it says the company is legally bound to do so under its contract. The last negotiating session was on Feb. 25, and the union says no progress was made.

March 5 will also be the day for Safeway union members to meet and decide to accept or reject the company’s latest offer, and whether to vote to strike.

“Given Safeway’s refusal to uphold its commitments relating to our members’ pension, we are continuing to prepare for a strike,” the union stated in a Feb. 26 press release. “We are continuing to distribute letters to neighboring businesses at shopping centers to ask for their support and to inform them that picket lines will appear in front of Safeway stores.”

The union has also held training sessions for members on how to organize the picket lines.

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