Associates at 41 stores in The Kroger Co.'s Mid-Atlantic division have ratified a new labor agreement with UFCW Local 400, avoiding a strike, as previously reported.
The agreement covers 5,100 associates in Virginia, from Bristol east to Appomattox and from Martinsville north to Harrisonburg, as well as three stores in Kingsport/Johnson City, Tenn., and two stores in the Bluefield, W.V., area.
"This new contract provides wage increases, affordable health care and ongoing investment in our associates' pension fund to support their retirement," said Joe Fey, president of the Roanoke, Va.-based Mid-Atlantic division, who added that the pact "comes after thoughtful and productive work by both the company and the union bargaining committees. I appreciate our associates for supporting the agreement and for the excellent service they provide our customers every day."
Not all members of Local 400 are cheering, however.
"We are not satisfied with this agreement," noted a memo to union members, undersigned by the local's bargaining team. "It is not enough and it is far from what we deserve for our hard work and what we do every day to serve our customers and make Kroger successful and profitable."
Local 400 leaders vowed to build a stronger union with more clout in the future. "Right now, we believe we need to remain united, organized and mobilized to continue to build our strength for the next fight," the leaders asserted. "Our unity this time won us an agreement that contains improvements in all of the areas we fought for. It is a step in the right direction. Our recommendation is that we take these gains and this victory and continue to fight, enforce our contract and build our union. This is not over."
While specific details won’t be released until the new contract is signed, key provisions of the new agreement deal are higher starting salaries for all employees, including courtesy clerks who currently earn minimum wage, according to local reports. Four personal days have also been added to the pact for all associates, per local NBC affiliate WSLS, which said that Kroger had also planned to cut health care benefits for retirees but agreed to maintain coverage through June 2017.
“We are pleased to reach an agreement that is good for our associates,” noted Fey. “This new contract provides wage increases, affordable health care and ongoing investment in our associates’ pension fund to support their retirement.”
Kroger's Mid-Atlantic division encompasses 120 stores in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio.