WASHINGTON -- The 35-day strike by Giant Food Inc.'s truck drivers, which had caused spot shortages of food and other products throughout the popular chain's 174 stores in the Baltimore-Washington region, ended early this morning after an intensive negotiating session that began 12 hours earlier.
The settlement was announced by Giant officials and Teamsters Local 639 at 1: 05 a.m. in a hallway in union offices in a nondescript two-story brick building in Northeast Washington.
"The Teamsters Local 639 and Giant have reached a tentative agreement which will be voted on this afternoon," John P. O'Connor, Maryland's commissioner of labor and industry, who mediated the negotiations, said last night.
O'Connor declined to release the terms of the agreement.
Officials of Teamsters Local 639 voted unanimously to accept Giant's proposed contract. Its rank-and-file truck drivers will vote this afternoon to accept or reject the contract.
The strike began Dec. 15 when 320 Teamsters stopped driving food to Giant's stores in the region, affecting the lives of thousands of other Giant workers and customers.
In the past 24 hours, the Teamsters presented what the union said was an offer that gave the company the financial concessions it wanted while maintaining the union's right to haul products to certain stores, Teamsters officials said.
Giant countered yesterday afternoon with its final offer, sources said. The mediators then began to work with both sides on a version that could be signed.
For the past several weeks, the central issue has been whether the truck drivers would continue to get the job of delivering the products from the Landover warehouse to the individual stores as the supermarket chain expands into Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The union said it wanted to "grow with the company," ensuring that new and current stores would be supplied by its members. But the supermarket maintained that it needed the freedom to operate its business efficiently in an industry with thin margins. That could mean hiring wholesale food distributors to take the products to stores, bypassing the warehouse and the Teamsters' trucks.
Three days after the strike began, Giant officials idled 2,100 workers who made bread in the company's bakery, produced milk in its dairy and kept the warehouse running -- all of them in Maryland. Giant said that, with no way to ship the products to the stores, it could not keep people at their jobs.
Those 2,100 workers went without either paychecks or unemployment checks for more than a month as they waited for Maryland officials to determine whether they were due unemployment benefits.
Pub Date: 1/19/97