83% approve pact with major boosts for full, part-time workers
By ED FINKELSTEIN
“It’s the best contract I’ve seen in my 19 years here.”
That comment by Patricia Ivy-Holmes, a veteran member of UFCW Local 655 working at Schnucks Bridgeton, reflected the overall sentiment of Local 655 members voting Sept. 4 that resulted in an 83 percent margin to accept a new three-year contract with Schnucks Markets.
And her sentiments were reflected by others attending the meeting, which accounts for the overwhelming positive vote:
“Our wages are up, our benefits are up. Compared to previous contracts here and other places, this is just great!” said Claudia Davis (Shackleford Rd. – Florissant)
“Best one we’ve ever had. I’m very happy with it,” added Darryl Miller (Maryland Heights)
“It’s a great contract. We didn’t lose anything, got good raises for everyone and great health and welfare,” a happy Frank Enreich (Water Tower – Arnold) added.
“Best contract I’ve seen in a long time. The teams did an excellent job. Two thumbs up,” Martha Hagen (Dorsett Rd. – Maryland Heights) added.
“It’s a lot better than our last contract. While it has a few bad points, the good points far outweigh them. It’s a good contract,” said Rita Kothe (Lake St. Louis).
President David Cook called the new agreement the best he’s ever negotiated in his 32 years of bargaining with the food industry, making the point that this is a “clear demonstration of the value of belonging to a union,” adding, “When a good union employer and a strong union family can bargain a good contract, it’s the best thing for everyone.”
This agreement will set the pattern for upcoming talks with the two other major food chains represented by Local 655, Dierbergs and Straubs. Local 655 represents checkers, baggers, stockers, department managers and workers in bakery, produce, pharmacy, dairy and frozen foods.
REACHED OUT TO MEMBERS
The new unprecedented pact covers some 5,500 Local 655 members at Schnucks. It is the result of a comprehensive member-involvement program initiated by Local 655 to ensure their members’ voices and issues were heard before talks began, a program that included a comprehensive membership poll last January followed by several telephone Town Hall meetings and a number of Facebook Live meetings during which viewers could participate and provide feedback on negotiations from the comfort of their own homes.
NEW PACT BENEFITS
The new agreement calls for:
- Wage increases of 25, 35 and 45 cents an hour for full-time and part-time employees in addition to guaranteed hours-based wage increases.
- Bonuses ranging from $250 to $500 for both full and part-time employees.
- Expansion of health and welfare benefits, the number one concern of employees during polling.
- Increased funding into the pension plan to make it secure well into the future.
- An additional 25 full-time jobs available for members by seniority.
- Extended funeral leave.
- More personal days off.
- Substantial new wages and benefits for part-time workers.
While the contract is effective Jan. 1, 2020, bonuses for all eligible workers will be paid now.
“Our partners, especially part-timers, are getting real wage increases, they are maintaining their healthcare benefits which are critical to our partners, and their pension is strong,” Cook said proudly in announcing the vote results, adding, “This is the difference a good union makes. This contract is an example of why good union jobs are so important to local communities.”
SHOP ’N SAVE BENEFITS
And former Shop ’n Save workers, now Schnucks employees after Schnucks bought the company, agreed:
“I like the fact that Shop ’n Save workers who came over to Schnucks who are mostly part-timers, got more money and benefits; that’s important to a lot of people. I really like this contract,” said Chandra Mondaine (Grandview).
“It’s a good contract, the best I’ve seen in a long while. Glad to see Shop ’n Save workers are getting more money and benefits,” added Michele Tumlin (Crosskeys).
SCHNUCKS WELCOMES PACT
The agreement received a positive response from Schnucks Chairman and CEO Todd Schnuck:
“This agreement is a win for our teammates and our company, and we’re pleased that our teammates voted to approve it. We’re proud that we were able to work with the bargaining committee and union leadership to find solutions that support teammates, while also giving Schnucks the flexibility to compete. With negotiations behind us, we look forward to continuing to provide our customers with the best shopping experience possible and with the best fresh products at competitive prices.”
“I want to thank Schnucks for engaging in straightforward bargaining,” Cook said. “We may disagree at times, but we never see each other as enemies. The true enemies are the non-union employers that don’t pay their employees decent wages or provide decent benefits. We want Schnucks and the other employers we work with to be successful, and we want the men and women in those stores to reap some of the rewards of that success. I’m happy we were able to reach an agreement with a good local employer like Schnucks.”
MORE $$ FOR WORKERS
“While there is no such thing as a perfect contract, in the 32 years I’ve been conducting negotiations, and yes there are a few issues in this contract that I’m not totally happy about, but this is a fair contract that will put more money in your pockets,” Cook said in introducing the proposal to the more than a thousand members attending the meeting held at the St. Charles Family Arena.
Director of Collective Bargaining Robert Spence spent an hour reviewing the proposal in detail. Members were provided a full copy of the proposal with changes highlighted.
Cook pointed out that the average hourly rate, taking into account wages and benefits is $20 an hour and will go to $23 an hour over the three years. “No one is paying these rates and our three major local food chains deserve the public’s support.”
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was involved in the talks from the beginning.
Local 655 is the largest private-sector local union in Missouri. They represent more than 9,500 members in the central and eastern portions of the state, primarily in the grocery industry, as well as in food processing, food service, and manufacturing.