LOCAL 38 ACHIEVES A NEW GROCERY INDUSTRY AGREEMENT AFTER TOUGH MULTI-UNION NEGOTIATIONS WITH ALLIED EMPLOYERS
The 2010 Holiday Season will be an especially cheerful one for Grocery Industry employees in Teamsters Local 38. The Everett, Washington-based Local has just successfully concluded complex, often tense multi-union regional negotiations with the employers represented by Allied Employers. Most importantly in these tough Recessionary times, a Strike was averted, and a recommended Contract has been ratified. Local 38′s voting members approved their new Contract by an overwhelming 97% majority Ratification Vote on Wednesday, December 1, 2010. The new Contract is for three years, expiring August 3, 2013.
This Agreement took a lot of hard work over a lengthy period of time by Local 38′s supportive and steadfast Grocery bargaining unit members, and the Local’s elected leaders and staff. The story of the Grocery negotiations is an interesting one.
Teamsters Local 38 and United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 21 representing Grocery workers, and Local 81 representing Meatcutters, initially met in October 2009 to discuss the then-upcoming Allied Employers Retail Grocery Contract negotiations. The Allied Corporate Group included Albertsons (SuperValu), QFC (Quality Food Centers), Fred Meyer, and Safeway Stores. The bargaining formally opened in March 2010.
THE BARGAINING ROAD WAS A ROUGH ONE
“These negotiations,” Local 38 Secretary-Treasurer Steven Chandler said, “have essentially taken ten months. They have been not only the most challenging Grocery negotiations in the recent history of Local 38, but also included more Employer proposed takeaways than we have seen in the Grocery Industry before in this area.”
After more than nine months and 38 sessions of difficult negotiations between the Union and the Employers, a Tentative Labor Agreement was reached early Sunday morning, November 21, 2010. “The path to this Tentative Agreement was hard-fought and not without pitfalls along the way,” Chandler emphasized.
Allied Employers — as noted representing Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway — did not put their full proposal on the table until June 2010, and offered little change or compromise to that original proposal until the last three days of negotiations.
Chandler said, “The Employer’s initial proposal was full of takeaways, including loss of Sunday & Holiday premium pay, a ten cent per hour decrease in wages for courtesy clerks, Health & Welfare employee cost increases (including monthly premium, co-pays, out of pocket & waiting period to become eligible), reductions of both Wages and Hours, and Pension takeaways as well.”
“The Employers’ proposal was outrageous,” he added. “It was an obvious signal that their intent was to play on the Economic Recession as the perfect storm to achieve their goals of severely trimming their labor costs. This bogus negative approach was followed, even though Financial Audit records showed the Allied stores have actually been making record profits in these difficult economic times.”
The Employers claimed that the Discount Box stores such as Walmart were cutting into their profits and necessitating the takeaways. CEO bonuses markedly rose in the Allied stores. The four Allied Companies were not so “broke” that they couldn’t channel large political donations to those running the campaigns for odious anti-worker Initiatives like I-1082 (attempting to privatize the State of Washington’s Workers’ Compensation System), and I-1100 and I-1105 (attempting to privatize the State-run Liquor Business).
With this as a background to the bargaining, Chandler noted, the Teamsters and the UFCW Unions more than had their work cut out for them in this fight for their regional Grocery Industry members. “By the way,” he added, “thanks to a strong Teamster phone bank strategy, Initiatives 1082, 1100 and 1105 were convincingly defeated by the voting public in the November 2 General Election.
GREAT EFFORT DURING BARGAINING
Many Local 38 staff and general Grocery Bargaining Unit members performed above and beyond the call of duty. The Negotiations Committee from Teamsters Local 38 included Secretary-Treasurer Chandler, Business Agent Tammi Brady, and Union Grocery Industry members Beth Colleran (Albertsons) and Michael Irving (QFC).
Remembering the great efforts put forth during the extensive and lengthy negotiations, Local 38 S-T and Teamsters Negotiations Committee Chair Chandler stated: “I am proud to say that Tammi, Beth and Michael were exceptional in their devotion and perseverance in working for the our Grocery members’ rights. Tammi became the Retail Negotiations Coordinator for Local 38 during these negotiations, and was an especially vital link between those at the negotiations table and the membership in the stores. Our Grocery members were equally passionate and committed to winning a fair working Contract and to holding on to the benefits so important to a normal life, such as Health Care and Pension.”
94% STRIKE AUTHORIZATION VOTE
After nine months of contentious negotiations with virtually no compromise or progress with the Employers, Teamsters Local 38 and UFCW Locals 21 and 81 each took Strike Authorization Votes from their Grocery members.
Teamsters Local 38′s 2,600 Grocery members voted in Solidarity along with the almost 20,000 UFCW Grocery and Meatcutter members to authorize a Strike with a 94% majority. This sent a loud and clear message to Allied Employers that the membership had strongly and clearly vowed to fight to the end for fair living wages and benefits. After the conclusive two-Union Strike Authorization Votes, there was also an outstanding degree of public support and empathy for the Grocery workers. Another key pledge of Solidarity came from the leadership of Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28, all of the Local Unions in Joint Council 28, and their members.
Allied Employers finally agreed to meet with Teamsters Local 38 and UFCW Locals 21 & 81 on November 18, 19 and 20, 2010 for further negotiations. In the early hours of Sunday morning, November 21st at 12:30 a.m., the Tentative Agreement between the Unions and Allied Employers was accomplished. After ten months of deliberations, progress had finally been made.
Beth Colleran, as mentioned earlier a Teamsters Local 38 member, Albertson’s employee and Grocery Negotiations Committee member stated: “I was honored to be given the chance to represent my fellow members in these negotiations, and can assert that Teamsters Local 38 played a huge part in achieving our ultimate successful regional Labor Agreement. I’m immensely proud to be a member of Local 38, and grateful that we have their representation.”
Beth also commented: “These negotiations were extremely stressful and at times very negative and yet, our Teamster representatives never backed down and continued at all times to insist that nothing less than fair wages and benefits would be acceptable. I also am very thankful that we have such a strong team of elected leaders and staff members at Local 38 watching out for us.”
As Debbie Gath, a Teamsters Local 38 member, Albertson’s employee, and a working mother who was very active during the negotiations process, reiterated: “None of us in the Grocery Industry is here to get rich, but we are trying to earn a fair living wage and benefits for our families while, at the same time, working to make our stores a success. But when the Employer offers nothing else but take, take, take to us it becomes very discouraging and makes us wonder why we’re even in this occupation.”
97% CONTRACT RATIFICATION VOTE
The long-awaited Final Offer Ratification Vote for the Tentative Grocery Labor Agreement took place on December 1, 2010 with four different, standing room only, meetings at the Holiday Inn in Everett, Washington for the Teamster members, one of which is pictured here. The result of the vote was as noted earlier, a 97% approval to ratify the offer.
Commenting on the outcome of the hard fought negotiations, Local 38 S-T Chandler stated: “I am very proud of our membership for sticking together during our campaign. We achieved this Settlement because of all of us taking action and standing up together. I am also impressed by the Solidarity between Teamsters Local 38 and UFCW Locals 21 and 81. Together we became stronger and more unified than ever in accomplishing the highest degree of representation for our Union Brothers and Sisters within our respective Local Unions. In light of the economic difficulties the United States is experiencing, we are all hopeful that we have helped our members to hold on to the rights and issues they have fought so hard for, for so long.”
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