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The Times 100: The Best Performing Companies in California

Safeway : No. 1 on Employer 100

May 07, 1996|GEORGE WHITE

Safeway is high on several Times 100 charts, and it has led the employment chart for several years. It operates 1,057 stores in the United States and Canada.

But the prospects for future employment growth for the Oakland-based grocery company dimmed when a union representing 18,000 clerks, baggers and butchers launched a strike against the company's California Safeway stores in April 1995.

A prolonged strike could have put a far-reaching financial strain on Safeway.

Fortunately, the strike was settled after nine days, allowing the company to proceed with remodeling and store-expansion plans that will create enough jobs for Safeway to retain its status as the state's largest employer.

The supermarket giant's California operations--228 stores in the northern areas of the state, operating under the Safeway and Pak 'n Save names--currently employ more than 25,000.

The union representing Safeway's California employees cited the strong earnings of the company's North American operations when it unsuccessfully sought higher wages.

Labor peace is especially important to the labor-intensive supermarket industry. And the quality of service Safeway's employees provide has been one key to the company's success, industry analysts say. Watchers on Wall Street say Safeway has boosted sales by providing quicker checkout-lane service and cleaner, better-stocked stores.

Sales for the company's first quarter, the 12-week period ended March 23, rose an average of 5.2% at stores open at least 12 months. Net income for the period jumped to $96.4 million, up from $62 million for the year-ago quarter.

As sales and income rose during the most recent quarter, Safeway was building three stores in California. In all, Safeway will have at least five new state stores by the end of 1996. The company also plans to remodel about 30 of its stores in California.

The company is expected to expand its state employee base slightly to fill positions at new and remodeled stores.

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