So. Cal. Workers Trade Wages for Benefits

LOS ANGELES — Seven Southern California locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union approved new three-year agreements over the weekend — contracts in which the union basically compromised on wages and the employers compromised on health care coverage.

LOS ANGELES — Seven Southern California locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union approved new three-year agreements over the weekend — contracts in which the union basically compromised on wages and the employers compromised on health care coverage.

"We obviously compromised on wages, but we got the health care we wanted," Greg Conger, president of UFCW Local 324, told SN. "It was a trade-off."

The new contracts will cover 62,000 clerks and meat cutters at Supervalu [4]-owned Albertsons, Kroger [5]-owned Ralphs and Safeway [6]-owned Vons for three years, retroactive to last March 6, with an expiration date of March 3, 2014. Specific voting results were not released.

Ralphs issued a statement that said, "Ralphs is glad the contract has been ratified, and we look forward to doing what our great people do best — serve our customers."

Neither Albertsons nor Vons issued a statement.

According to Conger, the agreements enabled the UFCW to maintain its health and welfare package, though all members will now have to pay a weekly premium rather than just those who joined the union after the 2004 strike-lockout.

While the basic benefits will not change, the plan will reward members who strive to live more healthy lifestyles, he said — for example, by losing weight or giving up smoking — by eliminating the deductible for members with PPOs and making other slight changes for those with HMOs.

On wages, Conger said the union "settled" for a 25-cent hourly bonus for journeyman clerks in the first year; a 25-cent hourly wage hike in the second year; and a 30-cent hourly bonus in the third year.