Labor Issues The Same, Resolutions Differ
By George Anderson
Grocery store operators across the country are united in their concern about the cost of wages and medical benefits paid to unionized employees compared to the compensation paid
by non-union competitors such as Wal-Mart, Target and others.
In Southern California, the stalemate on these issues led to a strike/lockout of 70,000 employees at stores operated by Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons. Although there have been
reports of movement in the negotiations; pickets are taking up their places for the fifth consecutive month.
In New England, 40,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and Stop & Shop faced a similar situation but were able to negotiate a settlement.
The company, owned by Ahold, agreed to continue picking up 100 percent of health insurance premiums and provide raises.
The union, for its part, agreed to extend the eligibility period required before store employees would begin receiving health benefits.
By March 27, two of the grocers involved in the other negotiations, Ahold, with its Giant Foods division, and Safeway, will sit down to try and hammer out a deal with the UFCW
on a new labor agreement covering workers in the Washington, D.C. area.
Moderator’s Comment: Will Giant and Safeway be able to agree on a common stand in the
upcoming negotiations with the UFCW in the nation’s capital region? What do you expect to see happen?
Giant, considering Ahold’s debt situation, will need to wrap a new deal up soon.
Safeway and its vilified chief executive, Steve Burd, will want to hold to the negotiating line established in California. –
Anderson – Moderator