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Union approves retailer contract

Fred Meyer workers get policy tweaks

Cashiers with Spokane’s United Food & Commercial Workers recently approved a contract with Fred Meyer, ending a two-year dispute that included negative ads asking shoppers not to shop from the retailer’s stores.

In mid-December about 225 checkers who worked for Fred Meyer’s four area stores approved a new contract, said Larry Hall, president of Local 1439 of the food and commercial workers union.

The new contract, which runs through January 2012, partially resolved the key issue that prompted the negative ads – a Fred Meyer policy of terminating checkers for a first-time money-handling error.

Hall said the company, while not adding language resolving the issue, has “procedurally” dealt with cases of mistakes by not always firing workers. That change effectively helped the checkers to approve the contract offer, he said.

The union has asked for “progressive discipline” by Fred Meyer managers when errors happen. Though that hasn’t been formally accepted by Fred Meyer, the company has shown a willingness to look at cases individually, Hall said.

“That’s a step forward because that was something that wasn’t happening before,” Hall said.

The pay hikes gained by the Fred Meyer checkers – $1.20 per hour over the four-year life of the contract – are identical to those the union already negotiated for its members with Albertsons, Safeway and Rosauers.