Top Supermarkets Face Branding Woes, New Strike Deadline

NEW YORK — A strike that analysts say could hamper the branding and marketing efforts of two of America’s largest supermarket chains was postponed for the second time this month when representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) announced Monday that current contracts with Albertson’s and Safeway had been extended to midnight Sept. 22. The contracts, involving some 30,000 workers, were set to expire Sept. 8 after having originally been extended from Sept. 1.

Albertson’s and Safeway, the Nos. 2 and 3 supermarket chains in the nation, respectively (behind Kroger), have formed a “mutual strike assistance agreement” to prepare for a possible walkout that would encompass a combined 300 west coast stores. Plans include a marketing/branding campaign and the hiring of replacement workers. Among the issues under contention are pay raises, the creation of more full-time jobs, and improved health and pension benefits.

Safeway spokesman David Bowlby said that if a strike does occur Safeway and Albertson’s both would lock out striking employees and replace them with temporary personnel. Stacia Levenfeld, a spokeswoman for Albertson’s regional office in San Leandro, Calif., said the union’s salary proposal was not “in the context of other agreements reached recently in Seattle, Salt Lake City and Sacramento.”