LOS ANGELES — The Southern California labor contract covering employees at Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons here passed by an 87% margin and will serve as a model for future negotiations, union representatives said. The agreement eliminates the two-tier wage system launched here three years ago in the prior agreement; gives employees their first wage increases since 2002 — $1.65 an hour for journeyman food clerks and $1.80 for journeyman general merchandise and meat clerks; reduces the waiting period for health care coverage for workers and their families; and supplements employer contributions to the health plan out of the union's trust fund at lower levels than the employers had sought. The contract, retroactive to March 5, when the prior contract expired, runs for four years, rather than the more traditional three — guaranteeing an extra year of labor peace — and includes a plan that sets up health reimbursement accounts for individual workers that encourage preventive care and wellness programs. The agreements cover 65,000 members of seven United Food and Commercial Workers locals in Southern California. “This is a win/win for both sides, not a lose/lose like three years ago,” Greg Conger, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, told SN — a reference to the 141-day strike-lockout that ended in early 2004. “We got most of what we were looking for going into the talks, and the employers, with our help, will be able to make improvements in health coverage without it costing them anything.” Stater Bros. Markets and Gelson's Markets both negotiated three-year agreements before the previous contracts expired March 5. The union said it could reopen negotiations with those chains to add a fourth year of coverage or simply negotiate one-year agreements in 2010 so all area contracts expire at the same time in 2011.
Read More of Today's Headlines