UFCW Stares, Chains Not Blinking

Sep 07, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 7 in Colorado unanimously rejected a two-tier wage proposal from Safeway similar to the one agreed to by
union members in last year’s labor negotiations in Southern California.

At the same time, the union has agreed to federal mediation to help overcome the deadlocked negotiations. The current contract is scheduled to expire at midnight on Saturday.

The companies involved in the labor negotiation, Albertsons, King Soopers (Kroger) and Safeway, had earlier made a request for federal mediation.

Dave Minshall, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, told the Rocky Mountain News that the union had not sought the help of federal mediators because, “We
think negotiations work best face to face, but if mediation will help bring a fair offer, that’s fine with us.”

Pete Webb, Denver spokesman for Safeway, said the union’s decision to involve mediators was “a positive sign that they are now negotiating seriously.”

Grocery workers in Colorado, interviewed by the Rocky Mountain News, seemed unwilling to make the same concessions to the chains as made by their UFCW brethren in Southern

Anna Flynn has been with Safeway for 38 years. She said of the company’s insurance and wage proposals, “I feel like they’re selling me out – and I won’t sell out the next generation.”

The supermarket companies contend that, without cost concessions, they will be unable to compete for customers with the likes of Wal-Mart and other non-union operators.

The UFCW has come under criticism for its handling of negotiations in this and other areas from supporters of organized labor.

When all was said in done in the Southern California strike/lockout, it was the chains that came out the winners.

Union supporters say the organization has lost clout, in part, because it has put so much power in the hands of the locals.

Art Pulaski, executive secretary of the California Labor Federation told CBS MarketWatch, “We need to have more nationally based contracts rather than locally based contracts.
If Safeway had been shut down nationally, it would have brought them to their knees.”

Moderator’s Comment: How much clout does the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have with the chains? Does the UFCW have any “real” choice but
to agree with the proposals put forth by the supermarket chains?

George Anderson – Moderator

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