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The Washington Post reports this morning that there is a "serious possibility" that ongoing negotiations between Giant Food and Safeway with some 18,000 unionized employees in the Washington, DC, area could break down over health care and pension benefits issues.

The contract expires March 27.

The union has characterized the chains' position as "extreme." The chains reportedly have signed a deal that will have one locking out its employees if the union strikes the other.

Complicating the issue is the fact that both chains are absorbed in other issues. Ahold-owned Giant Food is dealing with the parent company's billion-dollar accounting fraud and its resultant pressures, its own management shakeup, and the prospect of having all of its control shifted to Ahold's Stop & Shop headquarters in Massachusetts. (Stop & Shop is facing its own strike threat up in New England.) And Safeway, of course, is dealing with a four-month old grocery strike in Southern California.
KC's View:
Sound familiar?

We think that potentially the biggest problem for Giant could be the fact that it is on the same side as Safeway, which is "public enemy 1A" for the unions these days. (Wal-Mart remains in the top position, but maybe only barely.)