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MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. - Approximately 8,500 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, Local 876 -- working at 86 Michigan Kroger stores -- are now covered by a grocery contract in the Midwest.
"We are very pleased with the outcome of these negotiations," said Ance Johnson, Local 876's president and chief union negotiator for the talks, in a press release. "To come away from the table with a contract that preserves quality health insurance with no co-pays, raises top wage rates, and protects members' job security at a time when the economy is weak, health insurance rates are rapidly increasing, and grocers with lower labor costs are expanding their Michigan operations is a tribute to the strength of the bargaining committee and the Kroger membership.
"During negotiations, the bargaining committee rejected company proposals that would have continued Kroger's pattern of implementing weekly employee contributions for health coverage. Our top goal for these negotiations was preserving quality health insurance with no weekly employee co-payment. Local 876 members realize that accepting a co-payment for benefits is equivalent to accepting a wage cut, and that is unacceptable to them. Achieving this goal is not only a great victory for Local 876 members, but our success in Michigan will help thousands of Kroger workers across the country whose contracts are expiring over the next year."
Upon ratification, the majority of members earning the top wage rate for their classification will receive an immediate increase. Over the term of the contract, top rates for these classifications will increase 5 percent plus 25 cents.
The new contract also maintains current wage premiums, making Local 876 members the last unionized retail food workers in Michigan to enjoy a premium of up to time and one-half for work performed on Sundays. Local 876 members currently working at Kroger will continue to enjoy the same paid time off and pension levels under the terms of their new contract, which also protects job security by preventing the unlimited use of vendor stocking sought by the company.
The new contract further protects members' jobs by requiring 500 new full-time jobs be created over the life of the contract. Local 876 members turned out at four voting locations, with a majority casting their ballots in favor of the new contract."I think one of the reasons this contract was so well received by the membership is because of what it protects: quality health insurance with no co-payments, solid wage increases, job security, and full-time positions," Johnson said.