business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Sacramento Bee reports that the 33-month tentative contract agreement reached between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), representing some 19,000 supermarket employees in Northern California, and Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger, could result in higher medical costs for workers.

While the proposed deal has been described as a win for the union, the Bee writes that it has obtained union documents showing “that the new contract proposal with Safeway requires union workers to pay annual medical deductibles of up to $600 per person or $1,800 per family, depending on the insurance plan. Proposed agreements with the other chains were not available for review, but union officials said they were similar to Safeway's.”

While analysts have said that the agreement could lay the groundwork for a similar deal that would cover thousands more chain employees in the San Francisco Bay area, this new report could throw a wrinkle into the ratification process. And reports are that there seems to be some discontent with the tentative deal among the rank and file.

Interestingly, the vote by workers is scheduled to be tallied on January 7, but union leaders haven’t scheduled any formal informational meetings with the rank-and-file until January 13.

The agreement came after 10 months of negotiations, and was described by union organizers as protecting the wages and benefits of unionized employees. Exact terms of the deal, however, were not disclosed pending ratification of the contract. However, the union had said that the deal does not have a two-tier wage structure, nor does it force employees to pay their own insurance premiums – two components of a Southern California contract agreement that was reached after a four-month long strike/lockout.

The contract covers stores from Modesto north to the Oregon border.
KC's View:
Would it surprise anyone to find out that certain union officials are perfectly capable of shooting themselves in the foot? It’s one of the reasons that management-labor relations are so fractious…while management often doesn’t understand the issues faced by labor, union officials often seem to have no understanding of the overall competitive climate.

Hard to make progress under such conditions, because people keep fighting old battles.