Schnuck Markets associates represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 88 have authorized a possible strike.
UFCW Local 88 said its members “overwhelmingly voted to reject the company’s contract offer" on Thursday and have cleared union leadership to call for a strike "should it become necessary.” The union local represents 1,242 Schnucks employees, or roughly 11% of the St. Louis-based supermarket chain's workforce.
A Schnuck Markets spokesperson said the company was disappointed that the contract proposal was not approved by the union. "We remain committed to continuing discussions at the bargaining table and are hopeful that we’ll reach a new agreement soon," the company said. "In the meantime, we will discuss the next steps with the union while focusing on reaching a positive outcome for our UFCW Local 88 teammates and for our company as a whole."
Overall, the grocer operates 115 supermarkets in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin and employs about 12,000 people.
According to UFCW Local 88, the contract offered by Schnucks fails to provide competitive wages and would jeopardize members’ healthcare plan.
“Dissolving our healthcare fund is not an option, and the wage package should reflect the true definition of fair pay,” UFCW Local 88 President Dan Telle said in a statement.
Contract negotiations between Schnucks and UFCW Local 88 began in January, and the original items under consideration were largely non-economic, Telle said in a video posted on the union’s YouTube channel on June 21. Telle’s speech emphasized the importance of “fair pay” for its members, noting that “pay is more than just wages” and entails items like sick days and extra pay for working on holidays.
Members of UFCW Local 88 are also paid less than UFCW Local 655 employees doing the same work, Telle reported. “The meat, deli and seafood clerks full-time today, which is the biggest bulk of this local, you are $3.05 an hour behind a [Local] 655 person doing the same work,” he said.
UFCW Local 88 has reached an impasse on health and welfare coverage, Telle noted. He said the union's health and welfare coverage is a self-insured fund that covers 11 employers with about 2,000 participants. At the end of the fiscal year, the fund had 10.2 months of reserves.
"Health care costs are increasing at an estimated rate of 7.5% per year. The company has put forth to you a zero contribution increase for the next three years, which will put the fund’s reserves dangerously low at 4.42 months at the end of this contract,” Telle explained.
He added that the fund faces two “unexpected, very high-dollar cases” that could deplete its reserves by close to three months. “If that happens, the fund will be at 1.42 months of reserves at the end of this contract, and we will be forced to dissolve the fund,” he said.
The most recent meeting between Schnucks and UFCW Local 88 representatives, on June 8, resulted in a 3-3 deadlocked vote to increase the company’s contribution to the fund, according to Telle.