Bargaining begins


At the end of 2021, we held a series of opening contract meetings for our Schnucks and Dierbergs partners. These meetings were held before the end of the year because our intention has always been to start bargaining much earlier in 2022 than we have in years past. Many of our partners have voiced a desire to see bargaining begin earlier and we heard those voices loud and clear.

During those meetings, I told all of you that my intention was to get to the negotiating table as early as possible in 2022. I am happy to announce that by the time many of you read this, we’ll be about a week away from our first negotiation meeting with our two largest employers.

After our opening contract meetings I asked all our partners at Schnucks and Dierbergs to take a thorough contract survey. Your input in the survey is vital because it provides us with solid information on what your concerns are, and where we should focus our efforts. I am pleased to say that almost one-in-five of our Schnucks and Dierbergs partners took this survey, which is a massive sample size for polling purposes.

In this survey there were clear and obvious trends, but one of the clearest was that our partners wanted us to continue the practice of having a bargaining committee that consists of rank-and-file union partners. This means that employees working for these companies right now in grocery stores will sit right alongside myself and select members of my staff to help us negotiate this contract.

Not all unions, and certainly not all UFCW locals, use rank-and-file partners in their bargaining committees. The simple fact is that it does slow the process down. However, when weighed against the benefits of having workers directly involved in negotiating their contract, the benefits far outweigh the downsides, and it was clear that Local 655 partners agreed.

After thoroughly examining the results of the survey, we began assembling our bargaining committee. This is always a challenge because it is a major task. We ask a lot of our committee members and understandably not everyone has the time or the desire to participate. I am thankful to those who have agreed to serve as committee members for stepping up to serve, and I’m happy that we have a diverse set of partners.

We strive to make sure our bargaining committee represents different types of employees: full-time and part-time, long-term employees and short-term ones, younger and older, different departments from different parts of our region.

This ensures we will have multiple valuable perspectives as we sit across the table from our employers and try to hammer out a good union contract.

We begin bargaining next week and we have scheduled dates for the next several weeks as we prepare to do the necessary work of securing a good union contract.

We also enter these negotiations pleased that Schnucks and Dierbergs have both expressed a similar interest to complete bargaining earlier than ever before. Their eagerness to join us at the table and their willingness to schedule dates far ahead of time is a good sign that these negotiations will be conducted in good faith.

The most important thing we can do now is work for our partners to win a contract we can all be proud of. You spoke loud and clear during our meetings and on the survey: wages are critical and they must go up, both for new hires and for our long-term partners. You also made it clear that reductions in our benefits would be unacceptable. We have also reviewed your comments to identify trends on non-economic items to see if we can find creative solutions to improving your workplace.

Negotiations will be challenging, as they always are. This year they will be even more significantly challenging because of the economic conditions we are all living under. As inflation rises we also have a workforce that is refusing to be bullied into taking sub-par wages and benefits. Workers are galvanized at least in part due to the COVID pandemic and across the country and we have seen them flex their muscles in the form of organizing and worker job actions.

While strikes are sometimes necessary, they are always something we seek to avoid until we have exhausted every other means of securing a good contract. I am hopeful that we will bargain a contract that we are proud to present to our partners.

What we ask for now is your patience and your faith. We will take the time that is necessary to bargain a contract that you can be proud of, and we will be diligent and thoughtful to cover all of our bases. Your fellow union partners working in the store will be there alongside us as we navigate the process and your union staff will work hard to make sure we are representing your interests as we move forward.

I am excited and humbled to negotiate another contract on your behalf. Let the work begin!

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