In a nearly unanimous vote yesterday, East Metro grocery workers rejected a hastily crafted “final offer” from their employers.
About 3,700 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189 began contract negotiations in late February with several St. Paul-area retail grocers, including Cub Foods, Rainbow, Jerry’s Foods, Lunds & Byerlys, Kowalski’s Markets, Festival Foods, Knowlan’s and County Market.
But after the two sides failed to reach an agreement in bargaining June 6, the employers issued their “final offer” – a power play that forced yesterday’s up-or-down vote.
More than 96 percent of voting members followed their 27-member negotiating committee’s recommendation to reject the employers’ proposal, citing its inadequate wage increases, insufficient funding for workers’ health insurance plan and failure to address “outside agents” doing union members’ work.
“Our folks in the stores have earned the right to receive a good wage increase,” Local 1189 Secretary-Treasurer Jennifer Christensen said. “They deserve to have the comfort of knowing their health care plan will have enough money to pay their medical bills. And they believe the notion of staffing the stores with enough actual store employees to get the work done and meet the needs of their customers is only common sense.”
All parties, Christensen added, would have been better off staying at the table.
“Our members voted ‘no’ because they care about their customers and their co-workers,” she said. “It is time now for the union employers to get back to the table and give their workers the offer they deserve.”
Most of the contracts covered in the talks expired around April 1, but employers have agreed to operate under an extension of the previous agreement.