By a vote of 1,641 to ”accept” to 662 to ”reject” (70%), members of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655 approved a new three-year agreement with Dierbergs, Schnucks, and Shop ‘n Save, Local 655 President David Cook announced this evening at a press conference at the Family Arena in St. Charles following a contract ratification meeting of employees from the three companies.
The new agreement expires on May 8, 2016. Talks, aided by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, have been underway for more than a year before a compromise agreement was reached.
“We were able to address a number of our members’ key concerns that will protect jobs as well as maintain our health and welfare and pension programs. Our negotiating committee, composed of rank-and-file members and officers, unanimously recommended the agreement and I’m pleased that our members accepted it,” Cook said.
“This is truly a compromise agreement that, at its core, is designed to meet the needs our members told us were most important to them. These have been the most difficult negotiations since I’ve been with our union. Our union and industry faced the perfect storm: a slow economic recovery, an accelerating number of competitors and new laws impacting pension and health care all coming to an apex at the same time.”
(See full coverage in next week's Labor Tribune print edition on June 19.)
Highlights of the agreement include:
• Three-year contract expiring May, 2016
• Wages: a total of 60 cents an hour over the life of the contract:
– Immediately: 15 cents an hour retro to May 1, 2014
– Nov. 1, 2014 – 15 cents an hour increase.
– Nov. 1, 2015 – 30 cents an hour increase.
• Health & Welfare:
– No overall reduction in benefits.
– All part-timers, spouses and dependents continue to participate in the Union’s plan instead of being forced to move to the government exchanges as suggested by the companies.
– New benefit: members will have the option of choosing their own benefit plan from among three plans that will have varying levels of benefits and co-pays.
– Maintained the 40-and-out benefit.
– Implemented a new Social Security Equalization Program (SSEP) option that will supplement and enhance an early retiree’s pension payout until they are eligible for Social Security.
– The SSEP creates a new opportunity for members to take early retirement.
• Modifications to contract language to allow the companies to remain competitive in face of the onslaught of food sales through non-traditional outlets.
“We feel the changes made in the contract will allow our stores to continue to compete with the growing number of companies adding food to their mix of products in order to steal market share of the food business. Unlike with these big box stores, Schnucks, Dierbergs and Shop ‘n Save provide the finest quality foods at extremely competitive prices while ensuring their employees can earn a decent living and provide health care for their families,” Cook stressed.
Cook praised the efforts of federal mediator Barbara Rumph for her efforts at facilitating the more than 50 negotiating sessions.
The new contract covers more than 9,000 Local 655 members working at 104 supermarkets and pharmacies throughout the St. Louis area. Covered are checkers, baggers, stockers, and department managers as well as workers in a wide variety of other departments including bakery, produce, pharmacy, dairy and frozen foods.
Local 655 represents more than 10,500 members working in the 46 counties throughout the eastern half of Missouri. Local 655's members are employed in food stores (its largest single division), shoe manufacturing, packinghouses, distribution centers and a number of miscellaneous plants.
The companies’ stores in Southern Illinois are not covered by this contract. They are represented by UFCW Local 881 based in Chicago.