Union will give five days notice before it begins picketing; will urge Schnucks to renew negotiations for a better contract
Members of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655, in a secret ballot vote this evening at the St. Charles Family Arena, overwhelmingly rejected a proposed contract from Schnuck Markets and authorized only the second strike in the union’s history against a food chain. The vote was 250 to accept the contract and 1,934 to reject and strike (89%), Local 655 President David Cook announced. Two-thirds was necessary to strike.
The recommendation from the union’s leadership and its rank-and-file Bargaining Committee was to reject the offer and authorize a strike. It is the first time that UFCW Local 655 has unanimously recommended rejecting a contract proposal from Schnucks Markets.
The union’s current three-year contract expired May 8 but has been extended on a day-to-day basis while negotiations continued.
The union will urge Schnucks to come back to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair and reasonable contract to avoid a strike.
While Local 655 is currently conducting negotiations with Schnucks, the other two largest employers of the Union, Shop ‘n Save and Dierbergs, have already stated that they will sign the same economic package that Schnucks and Local 655 agree to, effectively making the Schnucks contract the standard by which other contracts will be set. Straubs, whose contract ended last week (Sept. 24), is not in negotiations
“We hope this overwhelming rejection sends a clear message to Todd Schnuck that the substantial sacrifices made by his employees over the past three contracts that has allowed his company to be extremely profitable is not acceptable at this time when Schnucks has posted record sales in recent years,” said UFCW Local 655 President David Cook.
Cook pointed out that over the past 9 years (the last three contracts) Schnucks’ employees have agreed to almost cost neutral contracts in reduced wages and benefits and work rule changes to keep the company competitive. The rejected contract proposal would require significant cuts in health benefits, reduce the number of full-time jobs, and provides no meaningful increase in wages.
“The employees deserve to be recognized for their sacrifices with a fair contract,” Cook said. “Schnucks has been incredibly competitive for years, and this contract asks for their employees to make even deeper concessions.”
In contrast, Cook noted that in 2016, Forbes Magazine lists Schnucks as the 168th largest private company with $2.7 billion in revenue, a position that has been improving over the years: in 2009 they were listed as the 191st largest private company; in 2010 as the 174th largest private company.
“We are ready to re-enter negotiations with the expectation that Schnucks will re-consider their approach and be willing to bargain a fair agreement, instead of asking more than 4,500 hard-working employees to take continued cuts to their health care benefits and reduce their standard of living,” Cook stressed.
“Schnucks has never said they couldn’t afford the contract we are proposing,” he added. “They have simply claimed doing so would make them less competitive, a position that is simply not supported by the facts.”
Members employed at Schnucks, Dierbergs, and Shop ‘n Save will report to work on their normal schedules tomorrow.
“A strike is a last resort for our members. It is not a first option, and it certainly isn’t something anyone seeks out unless all other options have been exhausted. Our members made it clear by their votes: the current offer is not only unacceptable, it’s outrageous,” Cook said. “We are ready to get back to the bargaining table to work toward attaining a fair offer and avoid a strike.”