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Union ratifies new contract for Puget Sound-area grocery workers

BY Adam Kraemer

SEATTLE After five months of negotiations, union and management announced Tuesday that a contract agreement had been reached for grocery workers in Puget Sound-area Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer and Albertsons stores, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

Workers ratified with 92 percent approval a 3-year deal, which covers more than 20,000 people, including cashiers, clerks and meat department employees.

“This is a great contract for grocery workers,” said Jackie O’Ryan, a spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21. “They set very strong, clear goals from the beginning that they wanted strong wage increases and health care to be more affordable, and they met those goals and more.”

Highlights of the deal include fully covered in-network preventive care, insurance coverage beginning the fourth month of employment rather than the tenth, a prescription plan that includes $5 copays on generics, and wage increases over the next three years of $1.30 per hour.

The deal also features an employer-funded health reimbursement account at $500 per member or $1,000 per family and same-sex partner benefits.

“It’s rather remarkable,” O’Ryan told the Post-Intelligencer, “when most of corporate America is focused on growing profits by cutting health care benefits,” The negotiations stand in contrast to those earlier this year between Safeway and workers in Southern California, which almost resulted in a strike when there was no agreement three months after the old contract expired.

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Fred’s names Efird new president

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s earlier this week named Bruce Efird president, who will join the company Sept. 22.

Efird will succeed John Reier, who will continue at Fred’s as vice chairman.

“We are excited to welcome Bruce Efird to the Fred’s executive team following an intensive, nine-month search,” stated Michael Hayes, Fred’s chief executive officer. “Bruce brings extensive merchandising, marketing and management experience from various retail venues. Fred’s has focused on addressing infrastructure changes and merchandising upgrades in 2007 to be in a position to drive growth over the next five years. We believe Bruce possesses the leadership and strategic skill sets to maximize Fred’s long-term potential. We also commend John Reier for the dedication he has shown to our company for the past eight years, and we are delighted to know that we will retain his seasoned merchandising insight and experience on our board following this transition.”

To ensure an orderly transition in leadership, Reier will work closely with Efird during the remainder of the current fiscal year.

Efird most recently served as executive vice president, merchandising, for Meijer where he was responsible for all merchandising functions, including softlines, home furnishings, drug store, general merchandise, groceries and perishables.

Fred’s, Inc. operates 701 discount general merchandise stores mainly in the southeastern United States, including 24 franchised Fred’s stores.

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A&P inks deal with Starbucks

BY Antoinette Alexander

MONTVALE, N.J. A&P has inked a licensing deal with Starbucks to operate Starbucks stores in select A&P locations in the Northeast. The locations are expected to begin opening in November.

The agreement calls for Starbucks to be established in select A&P Fresh and Gourmet/Fine Foods stores under the A&P banner in the Northeast. Initial locations will be in New Jersey.

The stores will offer a full beverage menu, as well as Starbucks cookies, pastries and other baked selections. Available merchandise will include mugs, CDs and other gift items, while Wi-Fi will be available at some locations.

A&P operates 337 stores in eight states and the District of Columbia under the following trade names: A&P, Waldbaum’s, The Food Emporium, Super Foodmart, Super Fresh, Sav-A-Center and Food Basics.

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