Employees of online grocer FreshDirect have formed a union after voting “overwhelmingly” to ratify a collective bargaining agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers, UFCW Local 342 reported.
Also yesterday, seven UFCW locals in Southern and Central California ratified a new three-year contract with The Kroger Co.’s Ralphs Grocery and Albertsons Cos.’ Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions supermarket chains. In addition, six of those same union locals recently ratified a new contract with Southern California grocer Stater Bros. Markets.
The new labor pact with New York-based FreshDirect, part of Ahold Delhaize USA, brings about 1,800 grocery workers — including butchers, fish cutters, deli slicers and online order pickers, among others — under the representation of UFCW Local 342, which has offices in Mineola, Bohemia and Staten Island, N.Y. These new members, the union said, work at three New York City locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Acquired by Ahold Delhaize USA in January 2021, FreshDirect operates as an independent subsidiary of the company from a 400,000-square-foot automated fulfillment center and campus in the Bronx. The pure-play online grocer delivers directly to customers in selected markets in seven states, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Its key metropolitan markets include New York City, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.
“Local 342 is proud to announce that we have gained approximately 1,800 members from a very long organizing campaign. This campaign finally led to union recognition, and we have successfully negotiated and ratified a contract,” UFCW Local 342 said in a statement.
“[UFCW 342] President Deana Abondolo and the Local 342 organizing department have been involved in this ongoing campaign for over 15 years,” the union added. “We are proud to say that on Thursday, April 14, 2022, the members of FreshDirect overwhelmingly ratified their contract. Welcome Fresh Direct members.”
Meanwhile, in California, UFCW Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428 and 1442 on Thursday approved their contract with Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions after reaching a tentative deal on April 4. The initial accord averted a strike, which had been authorized a week earlier. More than 47,000 workers are covered under the new agreement.
“This contract is the beginning of the transformation of the grocery industry. Members stood up in solidarity not only on the shop floor and at rallies outside the stores but also at the bargaining table,” John Grant, president of Los Angeles-based UFCW Local 770, said in a statement. “Workers spoke up and the companies listened. This is transformational, and the transformation will continue.”
UFCW 770 said wage increases include $4.25 per hour over the three-year contract for most workers, with some classifications receiving higher pay raises. Wage hikes for 2022 and 2023 also will apply to about 7,000 Food 4 Less workers according to last year’s agreement negotiated with Kroger.
For Ralphs and Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions workers, the new contract also raises the minimum weekly hours of work for eligible part-time employees from 24 to 28 hours and reduces the time required to move up the wage scale, making them eligible to receive benefits sooner as well. UFCW 770 noted that the improvement means “significant increases” in take-home pay, as much as $3,000 per year for some workers.
“We made history. This was the first time members were part of the negotiations, and I believe it made a difference having us there,” commented bargaining team member Erika Bentzen, a food clerk at the Ralphs store in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “This is the best contract in the country, and I am excited about the great progress we’ve made, including our medical coverage.”
UFCW 770 added that the new agreement improves dental and vision plans, protects pension benefits and includes provisions to form health and safety committees at all stores.
“This new contract feels like we are finally taking a step in the right direction towards making grocery jobs a viable career option,” according to bargaining committee membe Kim Sisson, a front-end supervisor at the Vons supermarket in La Crescenta, Calif. “This contract not only gives everyone more money but also begins to address wage inequalities in the stores and provides us a way to have a say and address new safety concerns as they arise at work, which has become so important over the last few years.”
UFCW Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167 and 1428 ratified the contract with Stater Bros. on April 9 after reaching a tentative deal on April 1. According to UFCW 770, the new agreement goes into effect immediately, retroactive to the contract’s March 7 start date, for more than 13,000 grocery workers in about 170 Stater Bros. locations in Central and Southern California.
“Today, by ratifying this contract, Stater Bros. workers have secured life-changing raises, better health care and protected pensions over the next three years. After more than two years of risking their lives to serve California’s communities as essential workers, the members of UFCW stood together for their families and each other and secured one of the most historic contracts in California labor history,” the six UFCW locals said in a joint statement. “This contract is a concrete and direct result of their tireless work. The pandemic and its deadly impact on our communities may not be over, but the essential workers who keep Stater Bros.’ stores running have proven it is possible to secure a fair deal when co-workers have each other’s backs. Together, our members are fighting for a better, more promising future, and this contract will help achieve it.”
Overall, UFCW Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428 and 1442 represent over 60,000 employees under a master food agreement with Ralphs, Vons/Albertsons/Pavilions, Stater Bros., Gelson’s Markets and Super A Foods. The latter three chains have negotiated separately and can approve the tentative master pact as it stands or bargain for additional details to be included in the agreement. UFCW 770 reported that it expects an offer from Gelson’s in the next round of negotiations on April 22.