Grocery store workers OK new Bay area contract

SAN FRANCISCO - A labor contract covering more than 20,000 supermarket workers in the San Francisco Bay area has been officially approved, union officials said Friday.


More than 60 percent of the affected workers approved a three-year contract that establishes the wages and benefits for clerks and butchers in Bay Area stores owned by the nation's three largest grocers - Kroger Co., Albertson's Inc. and Safeway Inc.


Sixty-four percent of the food clerks favored the deal and 62 percent of the meat cutters approved, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union.


The union and supermarkets reached the agreement nearly three weeks ago to end months of discord that echoed the antagonism leading up to a costly 41Ú2-month strike that disrupted Southern California during late 2003 and early 2004.


Averting a similar showdown in Northern California required concessions by both the workers and the supermarkets.


The workers agreed to pay for bigger portion of their current and future health care. The supermarkets didn't lower future payroll expenses as dramatically they did in Southern California.


The deal approved Friday is expected to provide the template for new contracts with several other Bay Area grocers, including Raley's, Nob Hill, Andronico's and Save Mart.

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