ACME AND LOCALS INK UPGRADED CONTRACT

PHILADELPHIA -- Retail clerks here ratified a new three-year contract last week with Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa., that requires the retailer to invest a minimum of $100 million locally to build new stores and upgrade existing stores during the life of the contract.Wendell Young III, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 here, said Acme has indicated it will probably spend

PHILADELPHIA -- Retail clerks here ratified a new three-year contract last week with Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa., that requires the retailer to invest a minimum of $100 million locally to build new stores and upgrade existing stores during the life of the contract.

Wendell Young III, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 here, said Acme has indicated it will probably spend three times that amount in these areas over the next three years.

Officials at American Stores Co., the Salt Lake City-based parent of Acme, could not be reached for comment last week. American has previously said it will spend $1 billion on capital improvements this year, although it has not detailed its expenses by division. According to Young, Acme had promised in its previous contract to invest a total of $250 million in areas of southern New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware represented by five different union locals, including Local 1776, "but our share of that total was the smallest of the five locals."

Young said the purpose of requiring capital investments by the employer is job security.

The new agreement was ratified March 2 by a vote of 709-51 here and 198-29 among members of Local 1776 in the Lehigh Valley. It succeeds contracts that expired Jan. 25.

The new contract merges members employed at 12 Acme stores in the Lehigh Valley into the Philadelphia-area agreement, Young said.

Among other terms in the new agreement:

Acme will contribute to the union's new Housing Trust Fund, which seeks to assist union members with retirement housing costs.

Local 1776 was given the "right of first offer" if American should decide to sell Acme, "which puts us in position to become a player, with sufficient time to get a financial package together to make a first offer," Young said.

The majority of employees will increase their pay up to $1.50 an hour over the contract's three years, with wage increases of up to 75 cents an hour spread over the three years; however, with the highest salary levels at $15.10 an hour under the old contract, no salaries under the new agreement will go over $15.35 an hour, although additional amounts up to $1.50 total may be paid in bonuses, Young pointed out.