The status of a contract vote planned for Thursday by grocery workers here was unknown Monday afternoon after union officials at the national level stepped in to put a temporary halt to a series of votes under way on Colorado's Front Range.
About 140 employees of City Market and Safeway in Steamboat Springs are tentatively scheduled to vote on whether to accept a final contract offer Thursday or possibly go on strike. Shirley Ballard, a representative of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 said last week that voting sessions would take place at 8 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Hampton Inn on U.S. Highway 40.
However, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers International has stepped in to put a halt to voting so his organization could review the contracts the grocery chains put before their workers in Colorado.
A Denver spokesman for Safeway, Pete Webb, said he is under the impression that the action by union president Joseph Hansen will void votes already taken. Webb intimated that the union halted the vote because some of the union bargaining units may be accepting the contract proposals. During negotiations this fall, disagreement about the contracts centered on the employers' demand that workers begin making monthly contributions to their health insurance premiums.
"Not only is this an unusual turn of events, but the timing of the action is suspect," Webb said. "Safeway presented a (final) offer to the union on Nov. 1, and our employees have been voting on the offer for days. We did what Local 7 requested of us, and we expected that our employees would have the opportunity to vote the offer. Today's announcement raises questions about why the International felt it necessary to step in and stop the process."
Denver union spokesman Dave Minshall said he thinks the involvement by the international union in Washington, D.C., will help Colorado grocery workers get a better contract.
"We welcome the help from the international union at the bargaining table," Minshall said. "Colorado grocery workers hope the (union) will help shed light on the shameful contract proposal that Safeway, King Soopers and Albertson's put on the table."
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