Steamboat grocery stores not affected by Front Range strike threats

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— Steamboat Springs grocery shoppers won't have to worry about a potential employee strike affecting the local Safeway and City Market stores - at least not yet.

Managers at both local supermarkets said today that their employees are part of separate bargaining units than the union threatening a strike on the Front Range this weekend. Contract negotiations for local Safeway and City Market employees will begin in the next couple weeks, those managers said.

Meanwhile, thousands of unionized grocery workers at Safeway are voting this weekend on whether to authorize a strike as contract talks continue, a decision that could potentially affect workers at the rival King Soopers.

Contracts expire tonight for workers represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7. The union says the sides still disagree on wages and pension benefits.

UFCW Local 7 represents about 17,000 King Soopers, Safeway and Albertsons workers whose contracts are expiring.

King Soopers and Safeway have agreed that one chain can lock out its employees if workers at the other chain go on strike. The two chains also have accepted applications for temporary workers, if their employees walk out.

All parties say they hope to reach contracts without a strike.

King Soopers and Safeway have offered workers similar deals that include some raises and an increase in pension contributions, but the union says most workers will see no raise and cuts in pension benefits.

Workers for King Soopers have proposed extending their contract while negotiations continue.

Even without a strike, talks have been contentious, with the union filing complaints against all three grocers with the National Labor Relations Board. The board is reviewing the complaints, but that process could take weeks.

Gov. Bill Ritter issued a statement Friday urging the sides to redouble their efforts in contract talks, saying he was concerned about what impact a strike or lockout could have on grocery workers and shoppers.

In 1996, King Soopers workers voted to strike, prompting Safeway to lock out its workers.

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