09 June 2011

healthcare for grocery workers: up to 50% of take home pay?

(excerpt from the LA Times emphasis added.)

Strike could be near for Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons workers, union warns
President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 says the two sides are primarily battling over health coverage. The supermarkets' employees have already approved a walkout.

By Sharon Bernstein and P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times
June 9, 2011

Holding signs that said, "L.A. isn't Wisconsin," representatives of 62,000 unionized grocery store workers said that they could be close to going out on strike against Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons supermarkets.

Rick Icaza, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, said at a news conference that the two sides were primarily battling over health coverage.

"We're so far apart, if something doesn't happen soon, we will have a strike," Icaza said.

The supermarket companies would not comment on what kind of changes they are seeking with regard to employee healthcare. But the union said the chains want employees to pay more for premiums, deductibles and co-pays. The new payments could be as high as 50% of some workers' take-home pay, the union said.

The union's contract expired in March, and members have authorized a strike. Negotiations are being conducted under the supervision of a federal mediator.

The three grocery chains are owned by larger corporations. Ralphs is owned by Kroger Co. of Cincinnati; Vons and Pavilions by Safeway Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.; and Albertsons by SuperValu Inc., of Eden Prairie, Minn.

"We are still actively negotiating, and any talk of a strike is unnecessary," the three chains said in a joint statement. "The only place where we can reach an agreement is at the bargaining table, and we believe our focus should be there, reaching a fair and reasonable contract."

Also present at the news conference, which took place at the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, were unions representing truck drivers, firefighters, teachers, actors and others who pledged their support if a strike occurred.

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