The union representing 30,000 northern California grocery workers announced Monday that it reached a contract settlement with three large grocery chains.
After nearly five months of negotiations, union representatives said both sides agreed to a contract that does not include a two-tiered system that divides new and existing employees, one of the principal concerns for the union.
According to Matthew Hardy, a spokesperson for the eight locals involved in the contract negotiations, the stores, which include Safeway, Albertsons’, and Kroger, had originally proposed a contract where new workers started with lower wages and would never have the opportunity to earn the top salaries that current employees do. Under the new contract, employees will be able to reach the top of the pay scale, but will have to work more hours to do so.
Hardy said the union agreed to a similar health care proposal. New employees will not start with a health care plan as good as the one given to current employees, but will eventually acquire the same benefits if they continue to work at the stores.
“The companies tried to change this into a permanent two-tier system,” said Hardy. “But we were able to fight that back.”
Hardy said the union also stopped the store from using what is referred to as the “step-up” system where lower classified employees are asked to do the jobs of more senior employees. Additionally, they prevented the stores from using vendors to stock their shelves. Both agreements, according to Hardy, help protect jobs.
The union is scheduled to hold meetings with all employees to inform them about the details of the contract. The workers are then expected to vote on the contract within the next three weeks.