What happens next after grocery workers contract vote?

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Update, December 17, 3:21 p.m.: King Soopers has issued an official response to the contract ratification; still nothing from Safeway. Look below for the latest.

On Tuesday, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 announced a surprising split vote over the latest contract offers for area grocery employees: King Soopers staffers accepted the deal, while their peers at Safeway rejected it.

In the twenty hours since then, representatives of the companies have offered no comments on this development. Why not? Simple, says King Soopers rep Diane Mulligan: "The union hasn't contacted us yet with official results -- and the same thing is going on at Safeway. The only way we know the results right now is through what's being reported in the media."

An odd delay, but one that presumably can't go on for much longer. We'll update this item when King Soopers and Safeway belatedly weigh in.

Update, 3:21 p.m. December 17: Moments ago, King Soopers sent out the press release below -- but there's no mention of a possible lockout should a strike be called against Safeway, whose workers rejected pretty much the same deal.

Right now, UFCW Local 7's Crisanta Duran says no Safeway strike is in the offing, because fewer than two-thirds of the firm's employees sanctioned such an action. And if that changes down the line? Doesn't matter to King Soopers, Mulligan says. According to her, "Once our side of the agreement is done, the lockout agreement in relation to this contract is no longer in existence."

Here's that release:

A MAJORITY OF KING SOOPERS, CITY MARKET ASSOCIATES IN COLORADO RATIFY NEW LABOR AGREEMENT

DENVER, Colorado December 17, 2009 -- The majority of contracts covering associates with King Soopers and City Market in Colorado who are represented by United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 7 have been ratified, the companies said today. King Soopers and City Market are divisions of The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR).

The new agreement covers more than 9,000 associates who work in King Soopers stores and City Market stores throughout Colorado. The new contract increases compensation, helps stabilize the pension fund and expands health care services at no additional cost to associates.

"We are pleased that a majority of our associates recognize the value of our offer and voted to accept it and ratify a new contract," said Russ Dispense, President of King Soopers. "Our goal is to continue to provide our associates one of the best total compensation packages in our industry and region. This agreement does that."

Mr. Dispense said he appreciated the efforts of all King Soopers associates during the negotiations process. "Our team continues to stay focused on serving customers and we thank them for their dedication and commitment," Mr. Dispense said.

Kroger, the nation's largest traditional grocery retailer, employs more than 326,000 associates who serve customers in 2,469 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's. The Company also operates 773 convenience stores, 392 fine jewelry stores, 850 supermarket fuel centers and 40 food processing plants in the U.S. Kroger, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, focuses its charitable efforts on supporting hunger relief, health and wellness initiatives, and local organizations in the communities it serves. For more information about Kroger, please visit www.kroger.com.

About King Soopers: King Soopers, Colorado's own full-service retail grocery chain, opened the doors of its first store in June of 1947 as the embodiment of the dream of its founder, Lloyd King. Today the company employs over 19,000 people and has 141 stores. The company is committed to being a good corporate citizen with a special focus on four major categories: feeding the hungry, helping children, supporting women's health issues, participating in important civic/community events. King Soopers' mission is to be a leader in the distribution and merchandising of food, health, personal care, and related consumable products and services. By achieving this objective, the company satisfies its responsibilities to shareowners, associates, customers, suppliers, and the communities we serve.

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