Baltimore-Washington market leaders Giant/Landover and Safeway, and United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 27 (Baltimore area /Eastern Shore) and 400 (Washington area) are quickly approaching a December 20 deadline to reach agreements for new contracts.
Between the two unions, nearly 30,000 clerks and meatcutters representing 304 stores are seeking new agreements. The December 20 deadline represents the second extension agreed to by all parties after the current 18 month agreement expired on October 31.
While Locals 27 and 400 have been bargaining jointly with Giant and Safeway, the two UFCW unions broke their usual lockstep strategy when on November 13 Local 400 authorized a strike vote against Giant and Safeway if a new pact (or extension) is not agreed to by the December 20 deadline. Local 27, however, chose not to ask their members to strike if a new agreement was not reached by the current deadline.
During those meetings (Local 27’s meeting was at the Cow Palace at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, MD and Local 400’s gathering was held at the Washington Armory in Washington, DC), members originally thought they were going to attend a ratification meeting as the first extended deadline of November 15 approached. Much to the surprise of many members, that ratification meeting was never held because union leadership deemed that the parties were still too far apart to warrant a contract proposal.
Instead, members from both unions who attended heard an informational session about the status of the bargaining.
At the Local 27 meeting, president George Murphy told members that he felt the best strategy was to continue to bargain in good faith without the threat of a strike vote. However, in Washington, Local 400 president Mark Federici, while also pledging to continue to negotiate with Giant and Safeway, asked his members to authorize a strike if an agreement was not reached by the deadline. First came a vote to authorize a strike against Giant, then a separate strike authorization vote against Safeway was agreed to by Local 400 members who attended the meeting.
“Today’s vote does not mean that a strike will occur, but it sends a strong signal to Giant that members will do whatever it takes to get a fair contract,” Federici said after the Giant strike authorization vote was sanctioned at the November 13 meeting. “Today, our members put Giant on notice that it is long past time to come to the table with a proposal that provides them with the security, respect and dignity they have more than earned.”