Monday, April 25, 2011

Talks Between Southern California's 'Big Three' Grocery Chains and UFCW Union Resume Tomorrow

Southern California Market Region:
Labor Negotiations Update

Negotiations between representatives of the seven United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union locals in Southern California and representatives of the region's "big three" grocery chains - Kroger Co.-owned Ralphs, Safeway's Vons, and Albertsons, which is owned by Supervalu, Inc. - are set to resume tomorrow, and run until Thursday, according to Michael Straeter, president of Local 1442.

Following the three days of negotiations this week, plans are for the talks to continue on the same Tuesday- through-Thursday schedule from May 2 -to- 9, Straeter said today.

Kroger Co., Safeway Stores, Inc. and Supervalu, Inc. are the top three supermarket chains (in order of how they're listed) in the U.S., based on annual sales.

Ralphs (number one), Vons and Albertsons are also the top-three food and grocery retailers in Southern California, followed by Stater Bros., which is fourth in market share.

Stater Bros. is normally part of the contract negotiations along with the "big three." However, CEO Jack Brown, who's been a leader in union-grocery labor relations in the Southern California market for decades, this year decided to have Stater Bros. negotiate with the UFCW locals on its own, rather than being a part of the four chain group. The negotiations with Stater Bros. are currently taking place.

The last union contract in Southern California was signed in 2007. That contract expired in March of this year. Since then, the union grocery clerks and the unionized chains in Southern California have been working on a day-to-day basis, under the terms of the old contract.

Last week, UFCW-member grocery clerks in Southern California voted to authorize a strike against the three supermarket chains.

No strike has yet been called.

Both parties have said they want to reach a deal and avoid a strike and walkout by workers. The talks starting tomorrow and continuing until May 9 are designed to achieve that objective.

But when it comes to labor contract negotiations, particularly in challenging times like at present, both God and the Devil are in the details for the negotiating parties.

As such, the Southern California union locals and the three grocery chains are prepared to travel a rough and long road before they get to the end and agree on a contract that can then be voted on (for ratification) by the UFCW-member grocery clerks.

See the two stories at the following links - April 21, 2011: Southern California Grocery Store Workers Vote to Authorize Strike Against 'Big Three' Chains; and Union Grocery Store Workers' Vote Could Authorize Strike Against Southern California's 'Big Three' Grocery Chains - for background information and details on the status of the negotiations.


Anonymous said...

The non-union grocers are probably praying for a strike. I worked in the market at the time of the last strike and it was a boom for them. There are even more non-union gocers now than then, like Target and Fresh & Easy, so I agree the stakes are higher for the chains and the union.

Anonymous said...

there are more nonunion grocers because during the last strike, the stores pleaded with the landowners for discounted rent. They did so, but that literally killed any further lease extensions. Landowners don't want to risk doing that again, despite the contract approval in 2007. So, leases expired, union stores closed down, to be replaced with nonunion shops that need not beg for rental discounts during strikes.