Arizona grocery workers OK new contract

Union workers at Fry's, Safeway and Smith's stores in Arizona have voted to approve a new contract with employers.

The four-year deal, ratified in separate votes over three days, succeeds a contract that expired on Oct. 29, according to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99, which represents the workers. The union said the agreement includes wage increases and health and welfare contributions that would strengthen its health fund. It improves workplace protections and also reduces the gap between veterans and new hires, creating a more level playing field.

The Safeway stores are owned by Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos.; Smith's and Fry's stores are operated by Kroger, Cincinnati.

In a news release announcing the Fry's agreement, Kroger cited "thoughtful and productive work" by company and union representatives. The contract covers more than 20,000 Fry's associates working at 122 stores in Arizona.

"We are pleased to reach an agreement that is good for our associates. This new contract provides wage increases, affordable health care and ongoing investment in our associates' pension fund to support their retirement," Steve McKinney, president of Fry's, said. "This agreement comes after thoughtful and productive work by both the company and union representatives. I appreciate our associates for supporting the agreement and for the excellent service they provide our customers every day."

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