CALIFORNIA LOCALS ACCEPT REJECTED CONTRACT

SAN FRANCISCO -- More than 28,000 supermarket employees represented by eight local chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union last week voted to accept the "last and final offer" from Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., and Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, after weeks of negotiations and a strike vote.Now that the locals have accepted the offer, the 10 largest outstanding union contracts that expired

SAN FRANCISCO -- More than 28,000 supermarket employees represented by eight local chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union last week voted to accept the "last and final offer" from Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., and Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, after weeks of negotiations and a strike vote.

Now that the locals have accepted the offer, the 10 largest outstanding union contracts that expired in 2001 have all been settled.

The workers, employed at more than 300 stores in northern California, voted against a strike earlier this month after working without a contract for several weeks.

Ron Lind, union spokesman, said, "The workers voted against a strike. Without that ultimate weapon, there's not much else we were able to do."

Lind told SN that the union will prepare to fight for a better contract when the current contract expires in three years.

"There will be a big, pent-up demand for better wages in three years. This contract does not meet the economic realities of the Bay area, and we will work with our members to build up and prepare for next time," Lind said.

Lind added, "If it were not for the tragic events of Sept. 11, I am confident that these workers would be on strike right now."

Stacia Levenfeld, spokeswoman for Albertson's and Safeway, told SN, "We are pleased the unions agreed to accept our offer, and we are happy to be able to continue serving our customers at the same level of service."

Lind said that the UFCW hasn't determined what it plans to do with the charges it brought against the retailers claiming the companies strong-armed employees to vote against the strike and to accept the contract offer.

"The dust hasn't settled," Lind said.

The retailers also brought up federal charges against the union for voting irregularities, and Safeway brought up a charge with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the union threatened employees.

Levenfeld also said that Albertson's never actually joined the federal charge and the issue was "moot," since the contract was ratified. A spokeswoman from Safeway could not be reached for comment.