Union grocery store workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington will soon enjoy the benefits of their new three-year labor contract, which is applicable to all employers and was officially ratified as of Friday night with a “sizable majority,” United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 555 announced.
“The agreement comes after 16 months of often tense employer negotiations, tempered by enormous community support on behalf of union members,” the union’s news release stated. It continues in full below:
Highlights of the new contract include:
a 20-hour weekly guarantee, ensuring more consistent scheduling for financial stability as well as consistent benefit eligibility.
wage increases for all workers (see below for more details).
an agreement to apply contract provisions (specifically wages) retroactive to expiration dates for those contracts which have expired (more details below).
changing the “non-foods” contract rate to be the equivalent of Schedule B rates – causing a one-time bump in pay of between 10 cents and one dollar, depending on location.
no reduction in Health & Welfare benefits with no increase in member premiums.
Health & Welfare additions, such as pediatric sedation for dental procedures, improved vision benefits, and hearing aid benefits.
stability in pension benefits across the board.
improved vacation request language, protection language regarding new technology, a more compassionate bereavement-leave policy, and a process to allow Nutrition Center employees to transition into higher-paying positions.
The contract carries a universal 3-year term in all contract and all areas within Local 555’s jurisdiction. Expired contracts are retroactively applied back to relative expiration dates; otherwise, this contract begins the day after the current contract expires. Some contracts in the jurisdiction expired in the summer of 2018; some have not yet expired at the time of this release.
The agreement makes significant progress in achieving gender equity through higher wages for workers in the female-dominated, lower-paying departments, as well as a formalized path for opportunities to enter into higher-paying departments. This language will allow long-term members an equal opportunity to advance from Schedule B positions to the higher-paid Schedule A positions based on skills and qualifications, rather than on arbitrary management decisions.
“Finally having a fair process to change departments not only gives me financial freedom [due to resulting wage increases], but emotional freedom because I feel more respected at work,” said Ann Poff, a 22 year deli member at Safeway.
Wage increases for Schedule A journeypersons are more than twice what previous contracts provided, with Schedule B journeypersons seeing 3 ½ times more.
Apprentice scale wages ensure that most scales’ position relative to minimum wage will remain consistent, even as the minimum wage continues to increase over the next two years, with an end result being up to a $2/hour increase over the course of the contract.
These new rights and benefits secured in the contract, as well as inroads towards gender equity in addition to higher wages for all (regardless of gender), will collectively provide a significant and positive impact on the lives of Local 555 workers.
“In standing together and demonstrating our solidarity and determination, we won this historic contract by being Union Strong. And we couldn’t have done it without our communities coming together to stand with us: from shoppers to elected officials to workers’ rights activists who demonstrated their support. Local 555 members: we are all the union, and we together make the difference,” said Dan Clay, Local 555 president.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555 represents nearly 25,000 workers in Oregon and SW Washington and has grown to be the largest private sector labor union in Oregon. Local 555 members are a diverse group of workers in retail, manufacturing, and health care, among other industries.