Seward Community Co-op in Minneapolis now leads the wage race among unionized Twin Cities supermarkets and co-ops.

On Wednesday, members of the Seward Co-op United Food & Commercial Workers Local 663 ratified their contract for $15 an hour wages.

Seward became the first unionized supermarket in the Twin Cities to guarantee the $15 an hour wage to supermarket employees. Target, whose workers are not unionized, raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in July.

Supermarkets are feeling pressure to raise wages from their workers and unions, because of additional pressures caused by being on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly all supermarkets raised wages up to $2 an hour for hazard pay due to the pandemic, but among unionized supermarkets only Kowalski's is still adding that bump. Kowalski's hazard pay is in effect through Oct. 2.

More than half of current Seward employees will receive a pay raise of $1.50 an hour, and about 20% of current employees will receive a pay raise of $1 an hour or more, according to the union. Increases will be 8% in year one, 6% in year two and 5% in the third year.

Local 663 members also gain three additional days of paid time off (PTO). On Jan. 4, 2021, sick and safe time (SST) will accrue separately from PTO.

SST accrual will be capped at 80 hours and excess accrued SST will be transferred to PTO accrual. All PTO will be carried over year to year with a cap at 320 hours, the union said.

"I applaud our union members at Seward that served on the union bargaining committee and Seward management for arriving at the $15 an hour starting wage two years ahead of becoming the law in Minneapolis," Matthew Utecht, president of Local 663 said in a statement.

Union contract negotiations at supermarkets such as Lunds & Byerlys, Jerry's Foods and Kowalski's will begin early next year for their 7,000 members.

Seward's new three-year contract is only its second. The union was formed at the co-op in 2017.