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Safeway warehouse workers may strike

The Associated Press
Wednesday October 18, 2000

About 1,200 workers at a massive warehouse that supplies Safeway stores in three western states said they will walk off the job Wednesday to protest working conditions and truckdriver salaries. 

The workers planned to stop work about 11 a.m. and begin their strike, Teamsters Local 439 spokesman Danny Beagle said Tuesday. 

In addition to picketing at the warehouse in Tracy, union members also plan to distribute leaflets in front of as many as 42 Safeway stores, primarily in the San Francisco Bay area, urging consumers to boycott the chain. 

The contract between the union and Summit Logistics, which runs the giant warehouse for Safeway Corp., expired Sept. 27. Members of Local 439 voted overwhelmingly Saturday to reject a final proposal from Summit. 

The warehouse, located about 65 miles east of San Francisco, serves 245 Safeway stores in northern California, Nevada and Hawaii. 

Unsafe working conditions and low wages are the chief complaints of the union, which represents 1,000 warehouse workers and 500 truck drivers. Workers also want a say in establishing production standards. 

The union is also upset by the company’s insistence that its 500 drivers be paid per delivery and not an hourly rate. 

Workers voted on Oct. 3 to reject an offer from Summit which would have given them: an across the board 4 percent pay hike over the next five years. 

, a 10 cent-an-hour hike in pension benefits and a guarantee that health insurance costs stay level for five years. 

Summit president Martin Street said the company rejected two counteroffers from the union during the eight weeks of negotiations, including its latest for a 20 percent across-the-board wage increase. 

Street said the union also wanted production standards that would drive overall labor costs up by about 20 percent, costing the company $60 million in the first year alone. 

If a strike is called, the company says it will begin using the 1,400 replacement warehouse workers and 250 drivers it has put up in local hotels.