ment of Labor would notify Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., of potential labor violations before starting an investigation was blasted by U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), saying it was a "sweetheart deal" that would allow the retailer to cover up violations and discourage employees from reporting them. Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, called for an investigation of the compliance agreement, which was struck in January, but was not disclosed until a recent article in the New York Times. Although the DOL said it had similar agreements with other retailers, including Sears and Foot Locker, Miller in a press release this week noted the agreement with Wal-Mart included terms more favorable to the retailer, including a longer advance notice and broader coverage of the types of labor violations of which it would be informed.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Consumer satisfaction with retail goods and services took a "dramatic downturn" during the fourth quarter, but supermarkets narrowly outperformed the index, researchers at the University of Michigan here said last week. The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) stands at 73.6, down from 74.3 in the third quarter, which was the largest drop since 1997 and could indicate trouble for the economy, researchers said. Dissatisfaction with retail customer service, traffic on e-commerce Web sites, and high gas prices contributed to the decline, they stated. Supermarkets in the ACSI fell by 1.4% overall, better than the 3.2% decline among all retail trades. Kroger, Cincinnati, showed the largest increased score, gaining 2.8% to 73. Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., gained 1.4% for a 72 score.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Clerks and meatcutters here in eight locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers union last week approved new three-year contracts by votes of 64% and 62%, respectively, to end three months of negotiations to renew agreements that expired Sept. 11. The new contracts, covering 30,000 union members in the Bay Area working at Albertsons, Kroger, Raley's, Safeway and Save-Mart Supermarkets, run through Dec. 1, 2007. According to Ron Lind, a union spokesman, the contract includes a wage increase of 25 cents an hour at the end of the agreement that will boost wages to $19.33 an hour for journeymen clerks and $19.77 an hour for journeyman meatcutters. The contract did not establish a second wage tier, Lind said, though it did extend the progression to reach journeyman status from 2,080 hours to 7,800 hours.
WASHINGTON -- Grocery sales in January increased by 0.3% from December, but exceeded the year-ago period by 4.8%, according to advance estimates by the U.S. Department of Commerce here last week. U.S. grocery stores in January did an estimated $40.7 billion in sales, up from $40.4 billion in December and $38.8 billion last January, the agency said. Overall U.S. retail sales of $347.7 billion dipped by 0.3% from December's $348.8 billion, but were up 7.2% from last January. Overall retail sales during the month reflected a 3.3% decline in automobile sales.
DENVER -- After voting to allow a mediator to propose a contract with King Soopers and City Market stores, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 here urged its members to reject the mediator's offer last week. In a message on the group's Web site, Ernie Duran, Local 7 president, said the contract drawn up by the mediator was "concessionary," and would "destroy your health and welfare provisions, and hurt current, retired and future workers." Voting for a strike, he said, would allow an additional return to the bargaining table in an effort to improve the offer. King Soopers and City Market are divisions of Kroger, Cincinnati.