Union grocery workers agree to strike

August 22, 2011

The union representing 62,000 grocery workers from Paso Robles to San Diego has voted to call a strike if an acceptable contract deal cannot be reached with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons supermarkets. [Reuters]

After working without a contract for six months, over 90 percent of workers voted on Friday and Saturday to authorize a strike, far in excess of the two-thirds vote required.

Health care costs have been the main point of contention. The latest employer option would charge workers about $36 a month for single or $92 a month for family coverage.

The stores say it’s a fair deal while union workers say it could eat up as much as half of their take-home pay, Reuters said.

During a previous strike in 2003, both sides held their ground during a four month standoff that cost the stores more than $1 million in revenue.


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LittleAcorn

I found the following statement from the union president. His interests are obviously biased, but I assume the statement is fairly accurate.


“Their offer just begins with premiums. The corporations don’t offer enough money to fund the benefits themselves – and the plan will run out of money within 16 months, eliminating ALL benefits and health care coverage for 62,000 grocery workers.”


I have not been able to find any information from the employers about the contract. Obviously in today’s economic conditions, any agreement will be less generous than past agreements.


But I do encourage you not to respond to media attempts to sensationalize the issue. Strikes and lockouts hurt both sides, so it is unlikely that either side would endorse such actions for trivial reasons.


Myself

I fail to see what good the union is to most of the employees, the part timers, who not by choice only work part time under a set amount of hours, this so that the employer doesn’t have to pay the benifits, many of the employees are on this program so what good is the union if it allows or has made concessions to let this happen, part time should be decided by the employee if thats all they want but when people want a job they want a job, and regular hours also as one poster has already said no one knows what they are going to be able to do till they get their schedule for the week, the union allows this I don’t understand switching time of work all the time, yet the union manages to get their money all the time, on time.


mrcyberdoc

Although state workers have been “unionized” for many years at Cal Poly it wasn’t until ~15 years ago or thereabouts that it became manditory. Before that we had the option of paying union dues or not. As soon as belonging to the union became manditory it was divide and conquer time. The different unions all fought for a piece of the pie and all suffered. Having worked at Cal Poly for over 35 years, we were treated fairly by the state and chancellors office WITHOUT union representation. As soon as the unions came into the picture, benefits, salaries, etc. all took a dive as all the contentious union reps wanted to do was raise hell with the “enemy”.


rogerfreberg

HMMMM… let me state that I am a supporter of the UFCW, the union most know as ‘the Retail Clerks.” However, calling a ‘strike’ is not in the long term interest of either the union nor the members.


This is a time when the retailers need to open their books and show what compensation they are giving their managers and an accurate picture of the health of the industry. If managers are not sharing the pain and the stores are vibrant fiscally, then they need to ante up. However, if times look tough … then everyone needs to survive and everyone needs to feel the pinch.


tj

One of the “take aways” from a labor relations class I took a loooong time ago was that the power a union has is when they are at the bargaining table.


A strike represents the “nuclear option” and it it a lose-lose situation once it goes that far.


brook

As someone who was on the negotiation team for a large local, my experience was that the members of the union were often the stumbling block. Very few will stand up when push comes to shove. That and they always wanted that 10 cents an hour – instead of something of lasting value like better pensions and health care. People seem not to have changed much. Still love to work against their own self-interest.


Ugluk

Er…it might have something to do with the fact that they need the money the job will give them right now, vs. striking for what a union negotiator thinks is “of lasting value”, which they might not get anyway if the strike is broken. “A bird in the hand, etc.”


brook

Times are hardly tough for the CEO of Albertsons whose total compensation for 2010 is reported to have been $2,848,076.00. Of course that doesn’t include his exercisable stock options which are valued at $20,639,450.00


If y’all want to be mad at someone who is paid more than you, please pick on one whose income is hundreds x yours per year and not workers who are being driven out of the dwindling middle class – many of them after years of loyal service.


Typoqueen

@brook, thanks, that’s the answer to a question that I asked earlier (regarding income of head honchos). I wonder if that CEO’s income/benefits went up or down in 2010. Just wondering if his benefits decreased along with the employees, although these days it’s hard to believe that any large corp CEO’s pay would be going down, they just keep getting richer while we work to fill thier pockets. I agree with you, most of us are on a sinking ship and it’s called the SS Middle Class.


moe

I spoke with some employees at Albertsons about this topic last night. We had a real discussion about how striking works for them, and their role in the strike.


It is not 90% of employees voting on this. It is 90% of the representatives, and I believe it is ONE per store. Yes, this union covers all 3 stores but only one will go on strike. The other two stores will be locked out when the strike begins. Locked out by the employer-not the union. The last strike was Vons, with Albertsons and Ralphs employees being forced out of the store- this time it is looking like Ralphs will strike. The employees I spoke to do not want to strike and cannot afford to strike. HOWEVER, if they break the union line and return to work before the strike ends, they will not be able to work there after the strike ends.


After the last strike, many employees who were on higher pay scales took cuts to pay/benefits. I wonder how it will work out this time. As mentioned already, many of these employees work less than 30 hours (NOT by choice) and once you factor in union dues, taxes, health insurance there isn’t much money left.


I am not pro union. But I am for the working class American who happens to be in a union who will need our support. Take an employee making close to minimum wage and tell them they cannot work for 4 months, how will they support themselves? How will they pay their bills?


mrcyberdoc

The Cookie Crock in Morro Bay has gread, fresh, locally grown produce. I don’t think their employees have bought into the union. If you really feel you can’t cross the picket lines, this or Food for Less might be an option (I have no affiliation with either store), just passing along my thoughts.


moe

Spencers is a GREAT option too!


LittleAcorn

I know some grocery clerks. If you are a part-time worker (and most workers are part-time now) they can schedule you as little as 24 hours a week, or up to 48 hours a week as they wish. They can schedule you literally anytime of the night or day, as long as there are 10 hours between shifts. My grocery clerk friends often have no idea when we can get together until after they get their schedule for that week.


The industry used to have good pay, but current workers are much more likely to be between minimum wage and $11/hr. Combining the modest pay with unpredictable hours and schedules makes it a tougher job than it appears.Some of the workers actually qualify for food stamps because of their low income. The benefits and retirement act as an incentive for putting up with the unattractive parts of the job.


They don’t get “free” healthcare. The coverage isn’t 100%. The employees and the employer pay for the coverage, Yes, the cost to the employee is quite a bit cheaper than you can buy individually.


Companies also keep trying to reduce their contributions (a specific amount for each hour an employee works) to the retirement fund which has thousands of retirees. Like our Social Security system, the fund depends on contributions from those who are working.


By the way, I’ve worked at several non-union shops who treated their employees well specifically to discourage their employees from wanting to join a union. So unions aren’t all bad.


Typoqueen

I agree with your post. Yeah, some unions get carried away but the unions are the people. The employees elect the union members, just like politicians if they don’t’ like them and what they’re doing then get rid of them. They also remind me of when I’ve lived in homes that had HOAs. Sometimes the board members were horrible and did a terrible job but someone has to do the job to keep things together. The unions serve an important role in keeping the work place safe and making sure that everyone gets paid their fair share.


I would like to know what the profits were last year regarding these particular markets. Have their profits gone down? What are the executives making, are they make more or less, have their perks gone down? I understand that insurance rates have risen but if the profits have risen then they shouldn’t be raising their insurance bennies.


Typoqueen

Worded the last sentence wrong but you get my drift.


Disgusted

For $56/mth. they strike? I hope it’s worth it. That can’t amount to 1/2 the take-home. Jobs are hard to come by these days, especially with that kind of benefits. It will be hard to honor this strike based on what I’ve read here. Anyone care to enlighten us more…..surely there’s more!?


my2cents

Really? $36-$92/month? What are they crying about? I pay $300/month out of pocket for my two kids and I! I would take that deal any day! Let’s just cry about it why dont we!! I guess I need to go on strike, right, is that what I have to do?


racket

Here is another reason to support your local independent grocery.


LittleAcorn

Supporting a local independent grocer isn’t a bad idea.


eradicate ignorance

$36 or $92 per month could eat up half of their take home pay? Something doesn’t add up. I would take that deal anytime. I pay over $400 per month for my family and that is just 50% of the premium. My employer pays the other 50% percent. I thought I was getting a good deal. I wonder if I can get a part time job at a grocery store just for the health insurance?


LittleAcorn

Some clerks are getting $10/hr for 24 hours a week. That a gross pay of $240 a week. Does that really sound so cushy to you? Is there any doubt why they offer benefits? They wouldn’t be able to keep employees if they didn’t have some sort of carrot.


eradicate ignorance

Doesn’t sound “cushy” to me, sounds like a part-time job.


LittleAcorn

Sorry, I was flippant with that comment. Sometime the stores refuse to give you a steady schedule, making it nearly impossible to hold a second part time job. They want you to be 100% available, but they don’t want to pay for it.


About half of the stores are pretty good at helping employees schedule for a second job. A few of them make it downright impossible.


sloweb

How did providing free healthcare become a job benefit? Why not free housing, free food or free cable TV? I am self employed, I wish I could get health insurance for $36/mo or even 10 times that. Unions inhibit the free market system.


jimmy_me

Free housing? Great idea, but it only happens to people on the top of the food chain. Look no further than the president of Cal Poly… I seem to recall that the guy gets free housing and a car allowance. All this to the person who can best afford to pay for these things from his base salary. I would be surprised if perks for the grocery store execs are not equally as generous. I think they refer to this as capitalism.