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CINCINNATI --The labor union representing some 10,000 Kroger Co. employees here is recommending that its members reject proposals the chain is offering in ongoing negotiations, and instead authorize a strike vote.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1099 - which represents workers in most of western and all of southwestern Ohio, all of northern Kentucky south to Lexington, and part of southeast Indiana -- said that its bargaining committee is in negotiations with the grocery chain, and workers are meeting through today to consider Kroger's latest proposals.
On its Web site, the union said Kroger's current offer fails to meet the needs of workers. "Their proposal raises the cost of our insurance every week, increases insurance deductibles, does not solve the drug card problems, and puts the future of our pension plan in jeopardy," the union said.
"The union's bargaining committee cannot recommend a contract that raises the cost of our insurance and cuts benefits, and at the same time, gives us less in wage increases than any other contract in Ohio," the union said.
"There's no excuse for Kroger's behavior," said Lennie Wyatt, UFCW local 1099 president. "This year, tens of thousands of Kroger employees have been pushed to the brink by their company and forced to vote to strike before Kroger gets serious at the bargaining table. These hardball tactics are an insult to Kroger employees and customers."
For its part, Kroger issued a statement saying it thought its offer was fair, and stressing that the dialogue continues.
"We are continuing to negotiate and have on the table today a proposal that includes strong wage increases and the best health care plan with the lowest cost for employees for retailers like us in this region," the company was quoted as saying in press reports.
Added Wyatt: "Kroger can't have it both ways. CEO David Dillon crows to investors and the public that when Wal-Mart expands its operations, Kroger gains market share, increases sales and boosts profits. There's no excuse, then, to claim that competition from the low-wage, no-benefit Wal-Mart should require workers to strike in order to save affordable health care."
Across the country, Wyatt said Kroger workers have reached agreements without a strike that provide for preventative health care benefits, affordable premiums, and quality care for workers and their families.
While a "no" vote today by Local 1099 members clears the way for a possible strike, union officials said they expect to meet with management next week, though no new talks have been scheduled.