Workers overwhelmingly ratify Puget Sound grocery contract

The following was posted by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21:

(Nov. 1, 2013) — Grocery store workers across Snohomish, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason and Kitsap counties voted by an overwhelming majority on Tuesday and Wednesday to pass a new contract. The final proposal by the big national chains dramatically changed in the final hours of negotiations and a tentative agreement was reached less than two hours before a strike would have gone into effect on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.

“Workers, shoppers and community supporters all across the region stood together against the drastic proposals by big national chains and won a contract with increased wages for all workers, protected health benefits with no increases in costs to workers’ premiums or deductibles, and secured pensions,” said Tom Geiger, spokesperson for the union grocery store workers.

Three unions bargained jointly in the negotiations – UFCW 21, UFCW 367 and Teamsters 38. The big national chains are Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger (which operates Fred Meyer and QFC).

“I started working in the grocery business over 40 years ago. The proposals we saw this time from the employers were some of the worst I have ever seen. They tried to turn us into WalMart. They did not succeed,” said Dave Schmitz, President of UFCW 21.

Details of the Contract Campaign Include:

We pushed back and forced the companies to withdraw their take away proposals.


— We defeated their proposal to flat out eliminate health care coverage for all part time workers in an industry that is increasingly part time.

— We defeated their proposal to dramatically increase what workers would have to pay for health care and also defeated cuts to the health care benefits

2nd – PAY

— We defeated their proposal to cut holiday pay that would have forced workers on holidays to be away from their families and get paid less than last year.

— We defeated their proposal to essentially freeze the pay for grocery store workers for three years

— We defeated their proposal to cut the dime above minimum wage guarantee for the lowest paid employees

And the list of other take aways we defeated goes on and on. All totaled, these proposals would have been a giant money grab by the employers, taking tens of millions of dollars from Puget Sound grocery store workers. BUT – In this contract, there are NO concessions. That does not mean we got everything we wanted. It does mean that we defeated all their proposals that were strike issues. And all these issues remained until the end of the contract negotiations, many until just hours before a strike.

This campaign was not just about defeating proposals that would drive these jobs into Walmart type jobs. We are working to make things better, not just keep them from getting worse.

Positive Outcome of New Contract Include:

HEALTH CARE – We retained our high quality affordable health care. We got the big chains to agree to fund the health care plan so that there should be no cuts to workers health care benefits and no increases to premiums, deductibles, and out of pockets expenses. This will make the total contribution from the employers be $4.86 for each hour each worker works.

PENSION – We got the big chains to agree to pay tens of millions of dollars to secure our pensions plans – both for meat department and grocery store workers.

PAY – We got the big chains to agree to a modest wage increase for workers at the top rates of pay and more dramatically, got the big chains to agree to pay increases for workers at the lowest rates of pay who have often felt stuck. There is “hard money” – meaning actual increases in pay rates—is for the 2nd and 3rd years of the contract. And a bonus payment will be paid out in the next 30 days to all workers (25 cents for journey rates and 15 cents for apprentice rates on each of the hours that they worked over the last 12 months).

Moving Forward:

One of the key things we were not able to achieve was to expand the paid sick days to workers beyond Seattle. However, much like when we were not able to win paid sick days in the 2010 contract negotiations and then took our fight to Seattle City Hall and with great community pressure passed paid sick days here in Seattle, we will be looking to continue to push for that policy in cities across the state like the one now being considered in Tacoma with the strong support of UFCW 367.

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