Tentative deal reached in SoCal grocery workersÆ contract talks
The union representing 65,000 Southern California grocery clerks in nearly seven months of contract negotiations with three supermarket chains announced today they have reached a tentative labor agreement.
If approved in a scheduled union member vote on Sunday, the four-year deal would prevent a repeat of a disastrous 2003-2004 strike and lockout that cost the chains billions in lost revenue and put workers on the picket lines for 141 days.
Officials from neither the United Food and Commercial Workers union nor the grocery chains released details of the tentative deal, however wage structures and benefits were known to be a major sticking point in the talks.
Both sides seemed pleased with the new deal.
“I believe we’re going to recommend ratification and we think it’s an outstanding agreement,” Rick Icaza, president of the UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles told the Associated Press.
Representatives for the chains — Safeway Inc.’s Vons and Pavilions units, Kroger Co.’s Ralphs chain, and Supervalu's Albertsons — said in a statement that they anticipated union members would approve the deal.
The union has been negotiating with the chains since January. The current contract between the chains and union workers expired in March, but had been automatically extending on a day-to-day basis while negotiations continued.
Union members had already voted to authorize a strike at anytime and the chains had agreed that if a strike was called against one of them, the others firms would lock out their workers.
Under the current contract, employees received some bonuses but no raises. Employees last received raises in 2002. In 2002, 94 percent of the workers were covered by company medical benefits. Under the current contract, that number has dropped to 54 percent according to the UFCW.
The five-month strike in late 2003 and early 2004 put nearly 70,000 grocery workers in southern and central California on the picket lines. The acrimonious strike by the union and lockout of employees by some chains centered on cuts in union member benefits and eventually cost supermarkets $2.5 billion in profits.
The 8,000 members of the California Teamster's union honored the UFCW picket lines during the 2004 strike.