Balancing Act


This year’s supermarket contract negotiations in California are expected to be difficult and contentious, with many of our challenges beyond the control of unions or employers.

 This is a big year for UFCW 8 and for all Retail Food workers in California.

The contract that determined the wages, benefits and working conditions of supermarket workers in Southern California — including UFCW 8 members in Mono, Inyo and Kern Counties — expired on March 6 and a new agreement is being negotiated to replace it. In the meantime, those members will continue working under the terms of their old contract as long as an extension agreement with the employers remains in place.

All Local Unions who were party to the previous collective bargaining agreement in Southern California — including UFCW 8 — have agreed to bargain as a multi-Union bargaining unit.

Later this year, UFCW 8 and other Local Unions in Northern California will sit down with the supermarket companies to negotiate new agreements for the rest of the state.

Our Union has negotiated scores of contracts over the years, but it is becoming evident that the negotiations of 20ll will be among the most challenging in our history.

Several factors are contributing to the difficulties that are complicating super market negotiations around the country. These factors include:
  • Spiraling health care costs;
  • Changes imposed by health care reform legislation on medical plans;
  • The significant increases in pension contributions required to offset losses incurred during the economic downturn of 2008;
  • Encroachment by non-Union employers on the market share of Union companies;
  • Current unemployment rates
All of these factors present enormous challenges to reaching satisfactory agreements in this year’s negotiations.

Our bargaining teams will be working tirelessly to find solutions to these challenges, many of which are the result of reckless behavior by Wall Street bankers and the extraordinary injustices that played out in the aftermath of the economic collapse.

Our government awarded bailouts to the very individuals who caused the problems and, adding insult to injury, it turned its back on ordinary working people, leaving them to languish.

The effect on suffering working families who do not have unions fighting for their interests is devastating.

Our Union has been working with the employers to man age our pension funds correctly. We constantly create new ways to maintain the best health care plans in the country while being responsible about maintaining their costs.

We now have health care reform that adds to the costs of Union-negotiated plans, as well as pension regulations that increase the strain on Union employers. Meanwhile, the employers’ non-Union competitors are still thumbing their noses at the retirement needs of working people.

As a result, Unions and employers are left to wrangle in contentious negotiations over problems that, in many cases, are no fault of either the Unions or the companies.

This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time that we face difficult challenges, but I am certain of one thing: If we remain united and work together to protect the sanctity of our collective bargaining agreements, we will achieve a balance between our nation’s economic uncertainty, our members’ needs, the employers’ demands and government’s regulations.

And remember, Solidarity does work!