Labor Update: Smith’s Food 4 Less; Raley’s, Save Mart

Kroger associates at Smith’s Food and Drug and Food 4 Less in Las Vegas have ratified a new labor agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 711. The contract covers 3,657 Smith’s associates and 801 Food 4 Less associates, and includes 32 Smith’s stores and 14 Food 4 Less stores operating in the area.

According to Mark Tuffin, president of Smith’s, the deal “provides our associates more money, high-quality affordable health care and a company-funded pension at retirement.”

Cinncinati-based Kroger, the nation’s largest traditional grocery retailer, employs more than 339,000 associates in 2,435 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names, including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s. The company also operates 791 convenience stores, 348 fine jewelry stores, 1,090 supermarket fuel centers and 39 food processing plants in the United States.

Meanwhile, according to UFCW Local 5 and UFCW 8-Golden State, West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s has denied a contract extension with the union, leading to a cessation of negotiations. As a result, the unions will schedule meetings to discuss and vote on the company’s last, best and final offer, as well as to authorize a strike.

“It is regrettable, after months and months of seeking concessions, [that] Raley’s is unable to justify its claims and requests for cutbacks,” said Local 5 and Local 8 union presidents Ron Lind and Jacques Loveall. “This reckless game of chicken may very well lead to a labor dispute.”

Additionally, this week Modesto-Calif.-based Save Mart said it intended to terminate the contract effective midnight May 9. Union members at stores owned by Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway are still covered by an ongoing extension of the previous contract. Either side may cancel the arrangement after giving notice seven days in advance.

The Solidarity Alliance partners, UFCW Locals 5, 8 and 648, have been negotiating a new contract with Raley’s/Nob Hill, Safeway/Vons and Save Mart/Lucky since last summer. The locals said that all of the supermarket operators are pushing for cutbacks in employee health benefits, elimination of health care for retirees, reductions in take-home pay and other takeaways. UFCW Local 648 doesn’t have any Raley’s stores in its jurisdiction.

The previous contract for 60,000 union supermarket workers in northern and central California expired last October, but the workers have been covered by a series of extension agreements since that time.

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