Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Union Calls Supermarket Clerks' New Contract 'Best Ever'

As we recently reported in our December 30, 2007 piece about the United Food & Commercial Workers Union and its plans to organize Fresh & Easy store-level workers, the union and California's major supermarket chains have just inked a new four year contract.

This piece in today's San Francisco Chronicle talks about the new contract. It quotes union representatives as saying they believe it is "the best" retail grocery contract to date in the U.S. It also discusses how the supermarket chains were willing to give union employees even stronger health packages than they currently had, along with a considerable hourly raise in salary, spaced over the four-year term of the contract agreement.

Our sources tell us that among the discussions during these contract negotiations were the growing number of major non-union grocery chains in the state. These grocers include Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, Inc. and Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

The union supermarket chains--Safeway Stores, Supervalu (Albertsons), Save Mart, Raley's, Stater Bros. and numerous others in California, including independents--expect the UFCW to organize these non-union chains. It's not something written, or much talked about--but rather is a given that all sides understand.

In fact, the UFCW is under a certain amount of pressure, since these non-union grocers tend to be among the most popular and fastest-growing food retailers in California.

For example, the more market share union food retailers lose to non-union grocers, the more difficult it will be for the union and the employees they represent to get wage increases and health benefit enhancements when it comes time to negotiate a new contract in three years. (Negotiations usually begin one year before a new contract ends.)

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