Grocery workers reject contract

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Western Slope Safeway workers voting in Grand Junction on Wednesday rejected a contract offer from the company and are seeking to join in bargaining with Front Range workers.

Dave Minshall, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, said City Market workers did not have time to vote on the offer.

About 140 local grocery workers split between the Steamboat Safeway and City Market stores are among 1,200 workers at 16 Western Slope stores who are affected by Wednesday's vote. However, Minshall did not say how many Steamboat workers made the trip to Grand Junction to take part in discussions.

Grocery contract negotiations on the Front Range are on hold while the national union reviews the offer from the companies. Western Slope workers are under a different contract from the Front Range, but their fates are linked, according to a company spokesman.

Minshall said the opening offer to Western Slope workers wasn't comparable to the opening contract for Front Range workers.

"The offers from the corporations to their Western Slope workers are even worse than the corporations gave to their Front Range workers," he said. He added that corporate executives told 75 workers in Grand Junction on Wednesday that the offer was lower because competitive pressures on the Western Slope are greater, and the cost of living is less than elsewhere in Colorado.

The contract dispute revolves around the grocery chains' assertion that they need employees to begin paying for a portion of their health insurance premiums for them to remain competitive with giant discounters such as Wal-Mart. The workers are resisting the pressure to accept monthly payroll deductions to help pay for health insurance. The workers also are resisting lower pay scales for new hires, fearing that veteran workers will see their hours reduced as a result.

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