The Grocery Store Employees Union has signed a temporary pay rise agreement

A union representing 47,000 Southern California grocers has signed a new three-year contract with Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions, in addition to the strike they approved last week.

The deal will be voted on next week by a ranking of local members of seven United Food and Business workers representing employees at 540 stores from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.

The union delayed releasing details of the deal until members approved it. But it praised the decision, which said it would include higher wages and improved benefits for essential workers who worked in difficult conditions during the two-year epidemic. Ninety-five percent of UFCW members voted to go on strike if supermarkets refused to raise their wages significantly.

Rachel Fornier, Los Angeles Ralphs store cashier and bargaining board member, said in a statement issued by UFCW 770 that “this is a great deal that will help us turn around grocery work and make positive improvements in our lives.” Represents 18,000 workers in the Los Angeles area.

Tyson Chem, left and Andrea Garcia are helping to create signs of a strike on March 21 at UFCW Local 770 headquarters in Los Angeles.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Another bargaining team member, Manny Estrada, a pharmacy clerk at Vance in Grover Beach, said: “It’s great. The grocery store staff have served our customers during the most difficult moments of our lives. We expect it to be approved soon.

A spokesman for Albertsons, which owns the Vones and Pavilions, confirmed that a tentative agreement had been reached.

Robert Brandon, Ralphs ‘executive vice president of operations, said in a statement: “This agreement allows us to pay more for our partners’ salaries and we are pleased to protect health and retirement plans.”

Top layer The pay rise will also apply to workers at Food 4 Lace, which merged its contract with Ralphs to reach an earlier settlement. Both chains are owned by Groger, one of the largest grocery companies in the country.

The deal was struck at 6pm on Monday after a 30-hour bargaining session at a hotel. Negotiators allegedly dragged patio furniture to the bargaining area to catch sleep. For the first time, bargaining involves not only union officials but also clerks working in the grocery store – a strategy that allows members to gain first-hand experience during negotiations.

The UFCW’s bargaining hand was strengthened by labor shortages, which helped shift jobs across California and the United States as they expect higher wages amid inflation.

Since the catastrophic strike of the 2003-2004 strike provoked companies to cut wages and benefits, militancy between rankings and files has been fueled by anger over their eroding wages. In the last negotiations in 2019, UFCW workers approved the strike, but two months later an agreement was reached, which avoids the strike.

In interviews, several grocery workers pointed to Groger’s CEO Rodney McMullen’s compensation of $ 22.4 million by 2020, which was unprecedented, and Groger’s operating profit doubled to $ 4.3 billion from 2019 to 2021. .

Union activities are on the rise across the country, partly triggered by the epidemic, with nurses and teachers striking over work conditions, and employees of companies such as Amazon and Starbucks seeking to unionize.

In the Los Angeles area, local 770 alone reported that 7,709 grocers had contracted Govt-19 disease in two years, according to data provided by the store to the union. Although white-collar employees were able to do their work as if they were at home, those working in grocery stores had to work in stores or lose their positions. Cashiers and clerks say they were abused when some customers were reminded to wear masks or to stay away from each other socially.

Bargaining for the new deal began in January but was halted in early March. Preparations for the strike soon began on both sides, with unions mobilizing their members and Ralphs advertising temporary workers to cross the border.

The Teamsters Union had sent an email to its non-union staff asking which of them had a truck driver’s license, in anticipation of refusing to drive across the lines for delivery.

Raymond Smith, 35, works at Ralphs in Sunland, California.  He earns $ 18.25 an hour, and he can not afford an apartment.

Raymond Smith, 35, works at Ralphs in Sunland, California. He earns $ 18.25 an hour, and he says he can’t afford an apartment.

(Margot Roosevelt / Los Angeles Times)

Negotiations resumed a week ago, but made little progress at first. On Saturday, a deal was not immediately apparent. The UFCW 770 posted a statement on its website stating that the companies were “disrespectful to the bargaining table and did not change their offer in the slightest.”

The union, which has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, said “both companies continue to play at the negotiating table when it comes to violating your legal rights as a worker.”

“UFCW locals collected $ 23 million in membership arrears from Ralphs Associates, but if their members wished to walk out, the union’s strike pay would be $ 15 an hour,” Ralphs said in a statement issued Sunday.

“Any action by the union in the coming days is nothing more than a mere UFCW campaign to negotiate an opportunity to put more money in the pockets of our allies,” Brendan said in a statement.

UFCW has proposed that high-paying long-term workers – food clerks, including cashiers and shelf stockers – receive a $ 5-hour increase at the end of a new three-year contract. They are currently earning $ 22.50 an hour after five to seven years. The companies offered $ 1.80.

One-third of the staff are in the food clerk category.

The union sought to close the gap between those highest paid employees and one-third of grocery workers – public business clerks, including tele-food makers and non-food stalkers – who now earn a maximum of $ 17.02 an hour. The union proposed raising $ 8 an hour in the third year of the contract, saying they were working like high-paying food clerks. The companies offered $ 2.

One-third of low-wage workers, bakers and clerks’ assistants earn slightly more than the state’s $ 15-an-hour minimum wage, which UFCW has proposed to increase.

The union demanded a minimum of one hour for part-time workers, in addition to substantial wage restrictions. In recent years, supermarkets have relocated more than two-thirds of their staff to part-time jobs, making it harder for employees to make ends meet.

Store-level health and safety committees were also at the bargaining table to address concerns related to the epidemic.

“I’m 35 years old and I can not buy my own apartment,” said Raymond Smith, who executes online grocery orders and delivers them to customers’ cars at Ralphs in Sunland. He earns $ 18.25 an hour after four years, and he wants to live with his sister and brother-in-law, he said.

“During the epidemic, we were able to see that we were all just numbers on one side. We knew the company was not worried. Honestly, we did not ask so much. We want to live and be happy. Our families should not be broken because our work life is so hard.

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