More than 200 union members at Hannaford’s distribution center in South Portland have rejected a contract proposal and voted to authorize a strike if additional negotiations fail.

The current three-year contract between United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 and the company that handles distribution for the Hannaford supermarket stores in Maine expired at the end of the day Friday. Union members “voted overwhelmingly” Saturday to authorize a strike, although a spokeswoman for the distribution company said Monday evening that the two groups plan to meet next week.

“We don’t want to have to strike, but if we can’t make the progress we need to ensure myself and my fellow co-workers can continue to make a decent living in our communities, then we may have to,” union member Bob LaBrecque said in a statement.

Hannaford is owned by the international food retailer Ahold Delhaize USA, but the South Portland distribution center is operated by Delhaize America Distribution LLC, a subsidiary of the parent company.

“Delhaize America Distribution, LLC, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 have agreed to mediate next Monday, Feb. 26, with respect to its South Portland, Maine, distribution center,” Christy Phillips-Brown, spokeswoman for the distribution company, said in a statement. “We have been advised there will not be a strike at this facility pending mediation.”

Hannaford was Maine’s second-largest private employer in 2017 with more than 8,000 workers statewide, according to statistics from the Maine Department of Labor. The Hannaford chain was purchased by the Belgian-based company Delhaize Group in 1999, which was then acquired by the Netherlands-based company Royal Ahold in 2016.

Hannaford operates 181 stores in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, according to the company. Ahold Delhaize USA subsidiary Delhaize America Distribution employs more than 8,500 workers at nine distribution facilities in six states.

On Monday, officials with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 union accused Ahold Delhaize of “refusing to move in areas that will improve the livelihoods of their workers in Maine.”

Ahold Delhaize is one of the world’s largest food retailers. In addition to Hannaford, the company’s U.S. division also owns Stop & Shop, Food Lion, Giant and several other supermarket chains.

In 1998, workers at the South Portland warehouse initially rejected a three-year contract from Hannaford Brothers but then failed to muster the two-thirds majority necessary to authorize a strike. The union’s executive board later voted to accept the contract offer.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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