UFCW 655 negotiates first-in-nation ‘flex’ pact with Schnucks

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‘Win-win’ creates new gig worker hours for members, others seeking part-time flexible work hours

By ED FINKELSTEIN
Publisher Emeritus

SCHNUCKS HAS INTRODUCED a “Schnucks Flexforce” option negotiated with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 that lets associates select both their shifts and preferred store locations. – RetailWire photo

Gig economy workers will be getting their first taste of what it means to be a union member thanks to the innovative, and first-in-the-nation, “flex workers” contract negotiated by UFCW Local 655 President David Cook with Schnucks Markets.

It’s a unique concept designed to benefit both Local 655 partners and meet Schnucks’ need for additional workers in this tough hiring economy.

It is also the first contract of its kind in the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union and will undoubtedly set a pattern for other locals across the nation. This new addition to the contract has also been agreed to in Local 655’s agreement with Dierbergs Markets.

‘FLEX WORKERS’
Under the newly negotiated “Flex Workers” agreement:

  • Schnucks can hire workers that want the flexibility of picking their own work schedules and stores thus meeting Schnucks’ need for more workers when demand arises.
  • Local 655 partners who want to earn extra money will be able to pick hours from store locations that fit their available time after their normal work schedules. They will not be restricted to the store where they are currently employed but can work at any Schnucks store in the chain and any hours they want.

These new flex workers, unlike uber drivers and other gig workers, will have a major advantage no other gig workers have: a union contract that will give them the opportunity to “access our industry-leading health benefits, personal days off, vacation pay, pensions benefits and a grievance and arbitration process,” Cook wrote in a memo to his partners published in the Labor Tribune.

SENIORITY RULES
Eligibility for flex worker union benefits will be based on their hours worked as it is for all part-time workers covered under the agreement.

However, they will be on the lowest seniority level for claiming availability of the extra hours: full time employers are first in line followed by regular part-timers and then flex workers.

“This has been carefully crafted to ensure our current partners – full and part-time – today, and in the future, have priority in claiming hours in this innovative program,” Cook stressed.

WIN-WIN FOR ALL
“This unprecedented contract language is the product of lengthy negotiations and countless weeks of discussion and rewrites,” Cook said in an interview with the Labor Tribune. He complimented both the staff and the rank-and-file Negotiating Committee for their invaluable insights that were essential for crafting the final language.

“Ultimately, this unique addition to our contract aims to serve a goal that benefits everyone: Schnucks has more flexibility to hire and schedule workers, and our partners can maximize their earning potential with additional hours and work times that fit their individual and family circumstances.”

PATIENCE
Schnucks has created a new website to allow this process to be used effectively online.

“I am excited to see how this program develops, and even more excited that our union has helped our hard-working partners maximize their hours (and pay checks) and streamline their schedules while also providing so-called gig workers – for the first time ever – the chance to have access to great union benefits,” Cook added.

He cautioned Local 655 partners to be patient, that the program is new and that there will be “hiccups along the way” but both the union and Schnucks are committed to make it work effectively and flawlessly.

REPRESENTS THE FUTURE
Cook proudly noted that “Our new program is one-of-a-kind, to my knowledge the first of its kind in the nation and definitely the first of its kind in the UFCW. It may very well represent the future of our industry, and I am excited to see how it develops.

“This language is the very first step, but not the last, into a future where we constantly strive to meet the varied needs of our partners and at the same time, ensure our industry has the ability to grow and prosper.”

Kudos to UFCW 655’s rank-and-file Negotiating Committee

Members of UFCW Local 655’s Negotiating Committee who played an invaluable role with the union’s staff in crafting the final language in the first-of-its-kind “flex workers” addendum to its existing contract with Schnucks included:

Diane Hemphill: Schnucks Lindell, Cashier, one year of employment.

Tim Humphrey: Dierbergs 79 Crossing, Produce, 34 years (four years with National. Previously at Dierbergs Clock Tower, Marketplace, Brentwood, Bogey Hills, and Heritage).

Prudence Laferney: Schnucks Festus, Ass’t. Front End Manager, 27 years; (previously at DeSoto, Richardson Road and Schnucks Festus on Truman Blvd).

David Krzyzanowski: Schnucks Charbonie, Center Store, 23 years (previously at Shop N’ Save Ellisville, Shop N’ Save Kirkwood, Shop N’ Save Bamberger, Shop N’ Save Chippewa).

Mike Koeller: Schnucks Butler Hill, Center Store, 26 years (previously at Schnucks Grand & Iron, Brentwood, Old Des Peres, Richmond Center, Woodsmill and Twin Oaks).

Laura Huang: Dierbergs Marketplace, Scan Coordinator, 17 years (previously at Dierbergs Four Seasons and Dierbergs Florissant).

“Not everyone initially was in agreement with this approach, but after weeks of candid discussions on pros and cons, and listening to everyone’s concerns, we were able to hammer out language that everyone agreed was a positive new benefit for our partners,” said Local 655 President David Cook, complimenting the committee members for their commitment to their fellow workers and ensuring that this unique approach could work for everyone.


 

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