February 1, 2008 Volume 109 Number 3

Eugene/Springfield grocery workers ratify new pacts

Following more than 12 months of bargaining, grocery clerks, meatcutters and central checkout employees finally have new contract with area grocers in Eugene-Springfield.

About 1,100 workers — members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 — ratified new four-year contracts Jan. 17 by margins of 90 to 100 percent. The contracts run retroactive to when they expired in February 2007. The union workers are employed at Safeway stores, Supervalu (which now owns Albertsons), and Kroger (parent company of Fred Meyer).

Some of the key provisions in the deal include hard-money wage increases (not bonuses in lieu of wages, as employers initially tried to get). Wages will increase $1.30 an hour over the life of the agreement, retroactive to February 2007. There will be no health reimbursement accounts (which would have resulted in large increases in deductibles), and employees may volunteer to work Christmas Day, but can’t be scheduled to work.

Union officials said grocers came to the table with more than 40 takeaway items.

“This (settlement) happened not because the employers felt generous, but because our Bargaining Committee was firm in what they wanted, and the community and membership in the Eugene/Springfield area stood strong,” said Local 555 Secretary-Treasurer Jeff McDonald.

UFCW knew going in that negotiations would be difficult, so they began preparing a year in advance of the expiration date. Meetings were held monthly to inform members on important bargaining issues, such as how pensions work, how the health and welfare trust operates, and the importance of language in the contract.

“These meetings gave the membership the knowledge and ability to understand and talk with the management negotiators,” McDonald said. It also didn’t go unnoticed that during negotiations members held several community rallies to show their solidarity. They also voted to authorize a strike by an overwhelming margin.

UFCW now turns its attention to bargaining grocery, meat and central checkout contracts at Safeway, Albertsons and Fred Meyer stores in Vancouver, Wash., Salem, Corvallis, Medford, Roseburg, Coos Bay and Brookings.

Contracts in The Dalles and Hood River expire May 31. Contracts expire in Portland, Bend, and Newport July 26.


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