Grocery contract has small gains, no major take-aways
A union summary says the proposal maintains health benefits for both current employees and new hires, with no increases in weekly premiums or deductibles, and secures workers’ pension plans. The results of the vote on the contract are due Thursday.
Seattle Times business reporter
A tentative contract deal between local unions and four large grocery chains appears to pose no major losses for workers, but no major gains either.
Unionized grocery workers began voting Tuesday on a new three-year contract at local Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway stores.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 21 is to announce the results Thursday, after an additional round of voting Wednesday.
“We didn’t gain a whole lot, but it’s fair,” said Redmond QFC worker Jason Omlin, who voted for the proposal at a Bellevue hotel Tuesday morning. “With the way the economy is, it turned out OK.”
Just two hours before a strike deadline Oct. 21, union negotiators said they had reached a tentative deal with the four chains and unanimously recommended it to some 21,000 members in King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Mason counties.
Neither side released details of the proposed contract, and workers did not have a chance to review the terms before coming to one of the voting venues Tuesday.
Vote meetings also were held in downtown Seattle, Tacoma, Everett and Bremerton.
A union summary of the proposal says it maintains health benefits for both current employees and new hires, with no increases in weekly premiums or deductibles, and secures workers’ pension plans.
“The big national chains came into the 2013 contract negotiations determined to cut our pay and benefits,” the summary said. “Together, we turned the tide and stood up to corporate power.”
The 12-page document goes on to say that it improves wages for all workers and protects pay premiums for holiday, evening and overnight shifts.
Entry-level workers will continue to start at 10 cents above Washington state’s hourly minimum rate, which will rise to $9.32 from $9.19 on Jan. 1 due to an inflation adjustment.
Grocery clerks at the journeyperson level will stay at a current hourly rate of $19.20 until May 4, when their pay will rise 1.3 percent to $19.45, followed by another 1.3 percent increase to $19.70 on May 3, 2015.
The deal also includes a ratification bonus of 10 to 25 cents for each hour worked in the previous 12 months, depending on job classification.
A full-time journeyperson clerk with 2,080 hours logged — the equivalent of 52 40-hour work weeks — would receive a lump-sum payment of $520, before taxes.
Allied Employers, which represented the grocery chains throughout the negotiations, said in a statement last week that the agreement “continues to preserve good wages, secure pensions and access to quality, affordable health care for our employees.” The company said Tuesday it would not provide additional comment this week.
Union spokesman Tom Geiger also declined to comment Tuesday, citing a desire to delay answering media questions until all workers have a chance to vote.
Wendy Kellams, who works at a Safeway store in Issaquah, said she voted “Yes” on the contract proposal.
“We got a great deal — the benefits, the wages,” she said. “The cost of health-care benefits didn’t go up. That’s huge.”
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @amyemartinez