LOS ANGELES — Southern California labor negotiations are stuck on how to fund a proposed health care plan for members of seven locals of United Food and Commercial Workers Union here, union and employer spokesmen told SN last week.
The proposal on the table would make workers and their families eligible for health care coverage in six months — compared with 12-18 months under the current contract — and also covers several preventive health concerns; the sticking point is how to fund it.
Adena Tessler, a spokeswoman for the three major chains involved, said the employers want to supplement their contributions to the health care fund with the $500 million surplus in the fund. “Collectively, the employers contribute $30 million a month to the fund, and with the surplus that's there, the chains believe that's sufficient to pay for employee coverage,” she explained.
Michael Shimpock, the UFCW spokesman, said that this approach would bankrupt the fund in the third year of the contract, “and because we're forbidden by law to let the fund go down to nothing, the payments would have to come from the members in terms of reduced benefits or increased premiums.”
Under the union's funding proposal, the chains would pay as much as they did previously, with the union contributing half of its $480 million safety reserve to the fund, he said.
The contract between Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons and 65,000 retail clerks expired March 5 but is being extended indefinitely.