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A strike that may occur the week before Thanksgiving could have a devastating effect on thousands of holiday shoppers in southern New Jersey — and the approximately 30 Acme stores they go to.
In a meeting this week at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, N.J., members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1360, which represents 2,300 Acme workers at Acme, voted 580 to 43 to back the UFCW’s call for a strike if a new labor contract isn’t agreed on with the Malvern, Pa.-based division of Supervalu. The last contract expired last April.
Before the vote, Local 1360 president Sam Ferraino accused the company of not bargaining in good faith with the union. “Acme Markets has been stalling these talks for months,” charged Ferraino. “These are the same tactics that the company used with another UFCW local union in the area, stalling for months and then holding a gun to the head of the members. We are not going to go down that same road.”
According to Ferraino, in response to Acme’s concerns regarding skyrocketing health benefits costs, the union worked to devise a solution that would maintain benefit levels for employees but still save the company over $2.4 million, but the grocer turned down the proposal, insisting instead that the existing benefit fund stay in place and “[forcing] members to pay more out of pocket.”
Continued Ferraino: “[W]e are in a fight to protect our health benefits, and when we develop a solution that achieves that goal and saves the company millions and caps health care costs in the process, and the company still refuses to agree, then we may have no alternative but to strike.”
In a statement, Acme described the vote to authorize a strike “unfortunate,” adding that it felt such an action wasn’t “in the best interests of employees or our ongoing negotiations.” The company emphasized, however, that it was still “committed to working together with the union at the bargaining table, and we have every reason to believe we can achieve a mutually beneficial contract without a labor dispute.”
Earlier this year, Acme was embroiled in a labor dispute with Local 1776 over a new four-year contract covering about 4,000 workers in 40 stores in the Philadelphia area. After haggling over such issues as salaries, health care benefits and pensions, both sides finally came to an agreement in July.
Local 1360 represents 10,000 members in the retail food, local governments, health care and service industries in southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania’s lower Bucks County.