SoCal Union Grocery Workers See Major Pay Gains in New Contract

Both sides say the contract, which covers grocery workers at Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions, is a winner

Grocery workers alarmed by the new worry of inflation voted “yes” on a new three-year contract by 87 per cent, according to the Los Angeles Times. The contract was voted on by seven United Food and Commercial Workers locals representing employees at 540 stores.

The union had previously authorized a strike if no agreement was reached, but averted it last week with a tentative deal.

Bargaining took four months. As a result, however, Kroger, the parent company of Ralphs, and Albertsons, which owns Pavilions and Vons, agreed to raises of 19 percent to 31 percent above what most workers are currently making, reports the Times. In January, the companies had proposed a raise of just $1.80 an hour over three years for the highest-paid long-term employees, including cashiers. They ended up agreeing to $4.25, raising those wages to $26.75.

The lower tier of the workforce, meanwhile, will see 95-cent increases that will bring up their hourly wage to $16.34. In addition, part-time employees, who account for about 70 percent of the workforce, will be guaranteed 28 hours of work weekly, up from 24.

One member of the rank-and-file said that the threat of a strike, combined with a “unified” workforce, may have helped sway contract negotiations in the workers’ favor.

In fact, the benefits of a strong contract goes both ways in this instance, with a generous deal serving as protection against the ongoing worker shortage, said Burt Flickinger, managing director of retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group.

“This is the best contract for the employees in 20 years, but also for the companies,” Flickinger told the Times. “We have the most acute worker shortage since World War II. Higher wages and benefits are an investment in worker loyalty and productivity.”

This win follows on the heels of a separate contract victory earlier this month for UFCW grocery workers at Stater Bros., a chain with 15,000 Southern California employees. There, workers signed a contract that also contained major pay raises of $4.50 for the highest-paid workers, along with the 28-hour weekly minimum for part-time employees.

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