The Kroger Co. has reached new labor agreements with United Food and Commercial Workers in the Kroger Central Division and with Teamsters in the Fred Meyer division.
At the Indianapolis-based Central Division, UFCW Local 536 members last week ratified tentative contract deals reached earlier in July with Kroger. The agreements for grocery and meat clerks represented by Marquette Heights, Ill.-based UFCW 536 cover more than 1,100 associates working at 13 Kroger supermarkets in Peoria, Bloomington and other cities in central Illinois.
Kroger said the Central Division will invest $11.3 million in wage increases over the course of the new three-year contracts.
“We are pleased we could reach agreements which support our central Illinois associates and our company,” Kroger Central Division President Colleen Juergensen said in a statement. “Under the terms of the new agreements, associates will receive significant pay increases, affordable and comprehensive health care, and continued investment in our associates' pension fund.
“The new contracts come after thoughtful and productive work by both the company and the union bargaining committees,” added Juergensen, who has led Kroger’s Central Division since February 2020. “We thank our associates for ratifying the agreements and for the excellent service they provide for our customers every day.”
The Kroger Central Division has more than 15,000 associates and over 130 stores, including supermarkets, pharmacies and fuel centers, in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio.
On Friday, Tukwila, Wash.-based Teamsters Local 117 said it has reached a tentative four-year agreement with Fred Meyer covering 500 warehouse workers. Plans call for Teamsters 117 members at the Fred Meyer distribution center in Puyallup, Wash., to vote on the contract deal by the end of this week.
Teamsters 117’s bargaining committee came to an accord with Fred Meyer on July 30, following a unanimous vote by the union on July 17 to authorize a strike, which would have disrupted food distribution to 180 stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, the union said. The local’s previous contract expired on July 18.
“This is a big victory for workers, and this contract meets the sacrifices these essential workers have made to carry their community throughout the pandemic,” stated John Scearcy, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters 117. “This is another strong example of why workers need and benefit from strong unions like Teamsters 117.”
A key point of contention in the negotiations was COVID-19 safety, according to Teamsters 117. The union said it asked Fred Meyer to take more aggressive steps to address COVID protection and outbreaks and added that over 100 Teamsters at the Puyallup facility believe they caught the virus in the workplace.
“From fighting the company to implement basic measures like efficient temperature checks, to our resounding strike vote, to punishing hours of bargaining, we bring this victory back to our co-workers with our head high,” commented Teamsters 117 shop steward Matt Collins, whom the union said thinks he contracted COVID-19 in the workplace last year. “We are proud to raise standards of what is a strong union contract.”
Teamsters unions OK pacts with Safeway
Teamsters Local 117’s strike authorization vote against Fred Meyer came almost the same day as the union and Teamsters Local 174 ratified new three-year contracts with Albertsons Cos.’ Safeway.
Tukwila-based Teamsters 174 said member drivers, dispatchers and recycling center workers were “on the brink of a strike” before a late-night agreement was reached with Safeway and ratified by union members on the morning of July 17. Teamsters 117 ratified its agreement with Safeway early the next morning.
Approving the new labor pacts were a group of about 175 Teamsters Local 174 members and 500 Teamsters Local 117 members, including all Safeway tractor-trailer drivers delivering groceries from Safeway’s Auburn distribution center to Safeway and Albertsons supermarkets and all warehouse workers at the Auburn, Bellevue and Kent distribution centers, as well as dispatchers and recycling center workers. Teamsters 174 said a strike by these workers would have disrupted grocery deliveries to Safeway, Albertsons and Haggen stores in western Washington as well as impacted statewide distribution of frozen and refrigerated foods — such as ice cream, dairy and soda — from the Bellevue facility.
Teamsters 174 noted that the new contract with Safeway “addresses nearly every issue identified prior to negotiations” and includes “record-setting” wage and pension increases, vacation pay, holidays and other improvements, as well as recognition of workers’ extra efforts amid the pandemic.
“Our members at Safeway have worked longer hours over the past year than ever before, earning record profits for their employer,” Teamsters Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks said in a statement. “While they were reluctant at first, Safeway management really stepped up to the plate and delivered this historic agreement that rewards our members for their hard work and sacrifices. These Teamsters have earned every dollar in this contract and every improvement to the contract language.”
Besides the wage hikes, highlights of the Safeway agreement include maintenance of “outstanding” full-family medical coverage, overtime protections, annual pension increases and a new medical plan that will slash out-of-pocket costs for retirees, Teamsters Local 117 reported.
“By now, the community is well-aware of how important these essential workers are to ensuring that food and supplies get housed and delivered to grocery stores across the Pacific Northwest,” according to Scearcy. “We appreciate Safeway’s willingness to acknowledge the indispensable contributions these workers have made for all of us.”