October 5, 2005: The negotiations covering approximately 8,000 members in the Southern California grocery industry have concluded. The five-year agreement contains wage increases of 50 cents, 45 cents, 50 cents, 45 cents and 50 cent; pension contribution increases of 10 cents, 0, 10 cents, 0 and 10 cents: and maintenance of benefits over the life of the agreement.
Even though members overwhelmingly ratified the offer, many were disappointed by the paltry pension increases and by the leadership’s inability to negotiate improvements in other areas.
Huge issues face workers in the grocery industry: Unreasonable production standards, harsh attendance policies, disregard for seniority and parity.
“I work for the largest company and we have the worst contract. While the industry standard is 7 to 1 for part-time ratios we have a 2 to 1 ratio. We make 33 cents less an hour than the average for the industry. We don’t have Sunday Premium, averaged vacation pay or the overtime optional provision”, says Frank Halstead, member of Local 572 employed by Ralphs Grocery (Kroger).
With the big employers still recovering from the UFCW strike/lockout, the opportunity existed to resolve some of these issues. Instead of patting themselves on the back and saying “It’s the best contract in the Southern California grocery industry ever; the biggest and the largest that’s ever been bargained” as Paul Kenny, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 630 and Co-Chairman of the negotiating committee put it, our leaders should have used the leverage we had to make the improvements members have requested for years. The Chairman, J.C. 42 President Jim Santangelo said “we’re very happy with this deal, because the employers were generous.” But this “generosity” is going to result in less buying power, lower pensions and fighting the same old issues for five years.