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California Congressman Challenges Safeway

December 4, 2003 Updated: August 24, 2020

Congressman Tom Lantos (CA-12) has challenged Safeway’s claims that the company is only seeking modest changes in employee health benefits in the Southern California supermarket strike.

In a letter to Safeway CEO, Steve Burd, the California congressman went straight to the heart of the matter:

“”I have reviewed Safeway’s benefit funding proposal for new hires…on your company’s web site. Your proposal will not provide any substantial benefits for new employees…it is obvious your intent is to eliminate health benefits in the future.””

Safeway and two supermarket operators have waged a misinformation campaign designed to convince workers and the public that the grocery giants were only asking that current employees make a modest co-payment of $5 to $15 a week for comprehensive health benefits. The Lantos letter stripped away the facade from the companies campaign:

“”You conveniently ignore the impact of segregating new hires from current employees (a key component of the companies’ proposals is to eliminate any meaningful benefits for new employees)…As employees are replaced, the funding base will shrink until benefits ( for current employees) have to be cut or co-pays increased well beyond $5 to $15 a week.””

Both new and current employees would ultimately wind up with excessive co-pays, scaled back benefits and finally the effective elimination of benefits. Lantos directly challenged the veracity of company statements on the impact of Safeway’s proposal, “”Mr. Burd, it appears your company is lying to workers, consumers and the public.””

“”The bottom line,”” according to the Congressman,””is that 70,000 jobs that now come with affordable family health coverage will not come with that coverage in the future.””

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) released today the letter dated November 21, 2003. Click here to read the full text of the letter.