President Barack Obama hit a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md., on Tuesday, where he reminisced about the grocery chain at an event to announce fuel efficiency standards.
President Barack Obama speaks at a distribution center for Safeway stores in Upper Marlboro, Md., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. The president said having a more fuel-efficient truck fleet will boost the economy and help combat climate change. (AP/Charles Dharapak)
“I have a little soft spot for Safeway in my heart because, some of you know, I went to high school in Hawaii and I was living with my grandparents, and our main grocery store was Safeway,” Obama said. “It was right down the way. And so my grandmother would send me out to go shopping at Safeway, and everybody there always treated me very well. So I very much appreciate the good work you guys do.”
But more recently, the workers of Safeway rejected the Obamacare exchanges in their contract negotiations.
“The contract allows current employees and some future employees to keep their current health benefits rather than being shifted onto health care exchanges — an outcome that union leaders said resulted from member activism during bargaining that was complicated by additional costs imposed by the Affordable Care Act,” the Baltimore Sun reported on Dec. 17, 2013.
The contract was agreed to by two grocery chains, Giant and Safeway, with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 and Local 400 covering about 28,000 employees in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.
The Republican National Committee pounced on the irony, issuing a press release declaring: “Obamacare wasn't the safe choice for Safeway workers.”
Speaking in Maryland against a background of trucks, Obama pledged to direct the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department to double fuel efficiency standards by 2025.
He noted that big commercial delivery trucks make up just 4 percent of vehicles on the road, but account for 20 percent of pollution from vehicles.
“So that’s why we’re investing in research to get more fuel economy gains,” Obama said. “Thanks to a partnership between industry and my administration, the truck behind me was able to achieve a 75 percent improvement in fuel economy over the last year -- 75 percent. That’s why we call this super truck. It’s impressive, this one right here, as well. I mean, these are -- first of all, they’re really big. But you can see how they’ve redesigned the truck in order for us to save fuel economy.”
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