WinCo

A rendering of a WinCo Foods store proposed in Bozeman.

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WinCo and the owners of the proposed grocery store location paid union members $15,000 to settle a lawsuit against the city of Bozeman, according to court documents.

While the lawsuit was between the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 4 and the city of Bozeman, the city did not pay any money in the settlement.

The $15,000 was paid by WinCo Foods and Gallatin TR LP, the owners of the property where WinCo is proposing to build. It was split into three $5,000 payments for the three union members who filed the lawsuit: Samara Yanny, John Robert McGowen Jr. and Joel Dunbar. Bozeman officials released the settlement documents at the Chronicle’s request.

The settlement comes at the end of a long battle for the Boise-based grocery store chain. WinCo originally applied to build in Bozeman in 2016 but dropped those plans after the city asked for more intuitive design. It applied again in 2017, and its plans to build near the Target off North 19th Avenue were approved by the city in September 2018.

In January 2019, UFCW Local 4 filed a lawsuit against the city of Bozeman for approving the grocery store. The lawsuit alleged that the store would harm several union members’ jobs at other area grocery stores and negatively impact traffic in the area.

The lawsuit also said that the plaintiffs had their constitutional rights regarding public comment violated because they did not expect the application to be approved, so they did not comment.

Judge Holly Brown dismissed the lawsuit in October of that year. The judge said the plaintiffs did not live in the area and wouldn’t be affected by traffic changes more than anyone else and that the city does not protect businesses from competition.

In December, the group appealed Brown’s decision to the Montana Supreme Court. Because of the settlement, the court has dismissed the case.

While WinCo was previously granted a building permit in Bozeman, the company has not released any further plans for the proposed grocery store. A corporate spokesman has not returned numerous recent phone calls left by the Chronicle.

This isn’t the first time UFCW has fought against a new WinCo store. In 2015, the union appealed a WinCo location in Albany, Oregon, for similar reasons the local UFCW did: The chain wasn’t compatible in the city, and road conditions hadn’t been evaluated.

A year later, the union fought against another WinCo in Grant County, Washington, for the same reasons. And in 2001, the UFCW sued a WinCo in Sacramento, California, for allegedly selling out-of-date food, according to the Sacramento Business Journal.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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