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Save Mart Workers Re-Vote on Contract

MODESTO, Calif. — Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5 who work at Save Mart Supermarkets here and its Lucky Stores subsidiary are voting this week on the same contract offer they rejected last month by 64%.

If the offer is accepted by 34% or more, the new agreement will take effect, Ron Lind, president of Local 5, said in a recorded message to members; if it is rejected by 67% or more, the union will call a strike within 72 hours, he added.

Two Northern California locals also met with Raley's after a stalemate of nearly two months, but those talks were unproductive, a Raley's spokesman told SN, and no further meetings are scheduled.

Read more: Raley's Shuts Two More Stores

The decision by Local 5 to allow its members to re-vote followed an announcement by Save Mart that it planned to implement some of the cost-savings terms of the agreement already in force — the contract that has been extended since it expired last October — and to begin reducing the number of senior clerks to 44% of its workforce rather than the 65% level in the rejected contract offer.

According to Lind, the UFCW International gave Local 5 two choices: either give members the opportunity to re-vote or allow the local's management to approve the offer on the members' behalf. "To be blunt, this situation sucks," Lind said in the recording. With the general economy, escalating health care costs, the growth of non-union competition and declining sales, "this is the most difficult bargaining in my 33 years as a negotiator," he added.

Read more: UFCW Hopes to Meet With Save Mart

Though the proposed contract would expire in mid-October 2013, it includes a temporary stabilization agreement that would expire in two years — without the possibility of renewal unless the members vote to do so, Lind emphasized — that grants certain concessions to Save Mart based on its financial conditions.

Lind said the union had been given complete access to Save Mart's financial records, which he said showed it is the Lucky stores in the Bay Area that are unprofitable. He also said the UFCW gave Save Mart certain concessions in 2006 to encourage the chain to acquire those former Albertsons stores, thereby saving union jobs, rather than seeing the stores sold to non-union operators.

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