It’s taken nearly 18 months, but negotiations between Acme Markets and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 Keystone State have been completed.

The labor union, representing approximately 3,300 clerks and meatcutters at 41 Acme stores in southeastern PA, was overwhelmingly ratified.

Highlights from the approved contract include: increased starting rate; lump sum/hourly wage increases; increased premiums for many positions; expanded anti-discrimination language that covers gender identity and expression; protection of benefits; and continued provisions for retirement.

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“When we started negotiations, we had a tough road ahead with some challenging decisions to make. However, throughout more than a year of bargaining, our union committee remained dedicated and unwavering as we worked to secure a good union contract. We worked tirelessly to ensure that all key matters were tackled,” said UFCW Local 1776 president Wendell Young IV. “I am proud of our team for the hard work they have put into this contract. At the end of the day, we were able to find common ground and reach an agreement that continues to provide for retirement, increases wages, protects our members’ benefits, and expands anti-discrimination language. It is a good outcome and a solid contract.”

For Acme, the long bargaining sessions provided a fruitful outcome with a union that most trade observers deem the most influential labor organization in the Philadelphia market. And while Wendell Young deserves credit for grinding through the process, so does Acme’s VP-human resources and labor relations Dan Dosenbach, who skillfully guided his company through the lengthy process.

Acme’s labor issues remain challenging. While the Malvern, PA-based division of Albertsons is not the only organized company in the Delaware Valley (ShopRite’s stores are also unionized), because of seniority and other issues, Acme’s labor costs remain the highest in the market. And as the national retail food landscape continues to evolve toward more non-union operators, Acme is similarly impacted by the imbalance. In the Delaware Valley, not only does Acme face the typical slew of non-union challengers – Walmart, Wegmans, Target – it also competes against Giant/Martin’s, the only non-union brand in the original Ahold USA stable.

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In the end though, peace in the valley is always a good thing.