Save Mart Supermarkets' labor union has given final ratification to a new cost-saving contract with the Modesto grocery chain.
Local 5 of the United Food and Commercial Workers announced that its executive board ratified the Save Mart contract late Monday. The San Jose local was the last of the three bargaining units to fall in line.
Members of the local actually rejected the contract last week, for the second time in a month.
But the 52-48 margin wasn't enough to authorize a strike, so the board took matters into its own hands. Invoking a union rule, the board ratified the contract itself.
Local 5 officials had promised to take such action if the members didn't approve the contract. They said a strike with such a divided membership would have been fruitless as scores of workers would have crossed picket lines.
The new contract includes wage and benefit cuts but also additional work hours.
"We appreciate the support of our associates who recognized the critical competitive circumstances facing our company," said Eric Nadworny, the grocer's chief human resources officer, in a prepared statement.
In urging their members to agree to the Save Mart deal, UFCW officials said the company is unprofitable.
The deal puts pressure on Northern California's other unionized chains, Raley's and Safeway Inc., to reach agreement with the union. All three companies have been pushing for concessions for nearly a year to compete more effectively against non-union grocers such as Wal-Mart.