Lengthy, Difficult Bargaining Ends in Strong Agreement that Raises Wages, Protects Health & Retirement Security
OXON HILL, Md., March 5, 2020 — After more than six months of contentious bargaining, Giant employees in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. — members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 — today ratified a strong new contract that protects their health and retirement security and provides fair wage increases.
Addressing the most difficult challenge, the four-year agreement ensures that Giant will guarantee full pension benefits for retirees and current employees. It also provides wage scales that keep workers ahead of the region’s minimum wage increases, expands access to health benefits through maximization of hours for part-time employees, and maintains health care coverage with minimal premium increases.
“This collective bargaining agreement was only reached because of our members’ activism and solidarity,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “They marched and held rallies in front of their stores, got petitions signed, talked with customers and the community, and engaged in extensive and difficult strike preparations. It was only when Giant management knew with certainty that the only alternative to a fair contract was a strike that we achieved the breakthrough that led to this contract.
“I also want to thank all four U.S. Senators from Maryland and Virginia, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and scores of other elected officials for letting Giant know they expected the company to reach a strong agreement with us,” Federici said. “And I thank our UFCW sisters and brothers in New England whose strike last spring against Giant’s sister chain, Stop & Shop, made the company understand that a walkout would extract a painful price.”
“This was the toughest round of bargaining I’ve ever been through,” said Beverly McFarland, a Bargaining Committee member and Local 400 Vice President who works at Giant #135. “But it was worth it because we kept Giant from breaking its pension promises, increased our wages and kept our health benefits. Everyone stood strong and stood together and we all came out ahead.”
“The higher minimum wages Local 400 helped win in Maryland and Washington, D.C. gave us a floor, but we were able to rise above it further in this contract,” said David Payne, a 40-year employee in Centreville, Va. “And I’m especially pleased that my fellow Virginia Giant workers will receive the same wages even though our state hasn’t yet raised its minimum wage. This is a good, fair agreement that lifts everyone up.”
“All we asked for was an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, to provide for our families, and to receive our pensions when we retire,” said Jeff Reid, who works at Giant in Silver Spring, Md. “But being reasonable isn’t always enough. It also takes collective action. That’s what we achieved and I’m very proud of it.”
“I’ve put 37 years of hard work into this company,” said Bill Osborn, who works at Giant in La Plata, Md. “It took six months of hard work to secure the pension we’ve earned. That’s the power of our union when we all act together.”
The collective bargaining agreement takes effect retroactively on October 27, 2019 and it expires October 28, 2023. Its key provisions include:
- Preserving and stabilizing pensions for a generation to come and protecting retiree benefits.
- Wage scales that exceed the minimum wage and continue to progress.
- Wages in Virginia that are comparable with Maryland, despite its lower minimum wage.
- Minimal weekly premium increase while maintaining health benefits.
- Reducing or eliminating costs on many specialty drugs.
- Increasing the availability health benefits through maximization of hours for part-time workers.
Members at the ratification meeting expressed support and gratitude for the agreement with Giant.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.