Strikes at food stores averted by 3-year deal

KINGMAN - A possible worker strike at three local grocery stores was over before it started Friday.

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union Local 99 reached an agreement on a tentative 3-year contract with the Safeway, Smith's and Fry's grocery chains, mere hours before workers were set to go on strike at 6 p.m. Friday.

According to Safeway spokeswoman Cathy Kloos, the agreement was struck late Thursday evening. The union will now submit the tentative contract to its members for a collective vote on whether or not to adopt it. In the meantime, she said, there will be no work stoppage at either of Kingman's two Safeway stores or its Smith's store.

Details of the union contract are being withheld from the public until union members have had the chance to review and vote on it.

The deal comes after 13 months of negotiations over wages, benefits and healthcare. A statement on the union's Web site praised the agreement, noting that the last year had been a tense and difficult time for employees and their families, many of whom had been torn between going on strike and being paid $100 a week just as the holiday season began, or choosing to cross the picket line.

"As the holiday season begins, we can all be grateful for the opportunity to work under a union contract that provides fair wages and benefits and dignity on the job," the statement concluded.