Federici also noted the primary challenge that all UFCW Locals face when bargaining for new contracts.
“Like virtually all negotiations taking place around the country today, the number one obstacle to reaching agreement is the impact of the Affordable Care Act on multi-employer Taft-Hartley funds, like the one that provides health coverage to our members at Giant and Safeway,” said the president of the country’s largest UFCW local, who added, “between this and the pervasiveness of corporate greed, virtually all bargaining in our industry across the country has resulted in lengthy delays and extensions. I am deeply grateful for our members’ patience and solidarity. They should rest assured that we will work tenaciously to secure a new collective bargaining agreement that provides them with the security, respect and dignity they have more than earned.”
Specific to the “Obamacare” challenge, the UFCW claims that large retailers, who are part of a Taft-Hartley health plan, are trying to steer their members away from those plans by encouraging them to join state healthcare exchanges, which would presumably cost the chains less. However, it is still unclear what those costs would be to the workers as each individual’s costs could widely vary.
What’s ironic is that the UFCW, which initially embraced “Obamacare,” now finds itself in the unenviable situation of seeing its members being potentially adversely affected by the national healthcare reform plan.
From Giant’s and Safeway’s perspective, both sides are optimistic new agreements can be reach by the December 20 deadline.
“While it is unfortunate Local 400 conducted an authorization vote, the vote does not necessarily mean the union will initiate a work stoppage after the current December 20 expiration,” said Jamie Miller, Giant’s manager of public and community relations. “Giant has a long history of working together with unions to reach collective bargaining agreements that are fair and reasonable for all parties. We are encouraged by the progress we are making with the UFCW local unions at the bargaining table, and we are hopeful that we will reach an agreement with the unions that provides competitive wages and benefits for our associates and reflects our market realities.”
At Safeway, Greg Ten Eyck, the company’s director of public affairs and government relations for its eastern division noted that the negotiations have been “productive.” “The bargaining teams are dealing with very complex issues, and Safeway is committed to attempting to address the concerns of the unions. But the company must also mitigate the cost advantage of non-union retailers, who in recent years have entered the region and taken market share from traditional grocers like Safeway.”