Safeway delivery drivers make history with newly ratified union contract

(Photo: Shutterstock)

A group of 90 drivers became the store’s first home grocery delivery drivers to ratify a union contract this week. The final vote came after almost a year of negotiations and a strike authorization vote, according to an International Brotherhood of Teamsters media release.

The newly ratified contract includes wage increases, with some drivers receiving double-digit percentage raises. It will also gives the drivers access to more affordable healthcare, something that was not possible before since they are considered part-time employees, according to the media release.

The drivers covered under the new contract are based in Washington state, with 60 belonging to Local 174 and 30 belonging to Local 313.

Teamsters spokesperson Jamie Fleming said the contract enacts a fair pay system for all workers, taking seniority into account. She described the old pay system as chaotic, with no real rhyme or reason behind pay rates.  

“I can’t wait to work under this new contract,” driver and Bargaining Committee member Michael Fanning said in a media release. “There are so many improvements. . .the difference in our day-to-day life on the job is going to be like night and day. I’m psyched.”

Fleming said the contract also brings major improvements to available healthcare options, allowing drivers to secure health insurance for themselves and their families.

“The healthcare is going to make a huge difference for a lot of people,” she said. “It was an emotional moment for many to realize they’ll be able to afford healthcare for their families, some for the first time ever.”

The drivers will join the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan, allowing them to build a secure retirement plan. Fleming said this is “nearly unheard of” for part-time employees. Other contract benefits include improved scheduling rules and daily guarantees.

“This contract means security. We finally have some security in our schedules, in our jobs, and in our retirement. We’ve never had that before. This is huge,” 12-year driver and Bargaining Committee member Jeff Frazier said in a media release.

Fleming said she hopes other grocery delivery drivers across the nation are inspired to unionize after hearing about this contract.

“We hope this becomes more of a trend,” she said. “When other companies see that we don’t put Safeway out of business, hopefully they’ll see that unions aren’t the boogeyman they may think.”

She said unions have the ability to improve the state of last mile delivery, an industry that has been impacted significantly by the gig economy.

“Especially with the gig economy taking off, there are a lot of people being taken advantage of,” Fleming said. “There’s so much opportunity for abuse in the gig economy, and unionizing can help get rid of some of that abuse.”

The term “gig economy” refers to the trend of short-term contract and freelance work becoming more prevalent.

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Ashley Coker, Staff Writer

Ashley is interested in the opportunities and issues that arise at the intersection of law and technology. She is the primary contributor to the news site content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.

One Comment

  1. thanks to all the non union carriers doing your warehouse work for free you should pay your drivers well,its a great "gig" that you and some other grocery companies can get carriers to come to your facility and have their drivers to work as your own common laborers,you should praise de regulation for giving you cheap labor.

  2. Nothing wrong with Unions in the Private sector when they are needed. No need for Unions in Government. They are covered with very strong Civil service laws, in fact to strong. As we found out in the VA scandal.

  3. These are grocery delivery drivers? They deliver groceries to your house? Are they using tractor trailer or are we talking a sprinter type van?

  4. I live in Washington state and use Safeway’s delivery service. These drivers are appallingly bad at their jobs. They think nothing of calling customers to pressure them into cancelling their orders, often after the order is already 4+ hours late. The general impression you get is that they just don’t want to do the delivery. And when I do go to the physical store, the delivery trucks are often blocking the front entrance while the emoloyees move at a snails pace. These people clearly need a union, otherwise they’d get fired in no time!