Union workers at area Schnucks, Dierbergs, and Shop'n Save ratified a three-year contract with the supermarkets late Wednesday night. Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 voted 1,641 to 662 to approve the contract at the Family Arena in St. Charles following a meeting of employees from the three companies.
The contract, which covers roughly 9,000 members working at 104 stores and pharmacies in the area, allows for a $0.60 wage increase over the life of the contract and includes no overall reduction in benefits.
"The money wasn't what our members wanted, to be honest with you,” said local 655 President David Cook. “However, [members] were very pleased with what we were able to do with healthcare and the retirement benefits."
Cook said the contract is one of the best in the country for retail workers.
“Our workers, for $12 a week, have an 80/20 plan that has a $300 deductible. It is what you would call a ‘Cadillac’ plan,” he said.
“When you look at retail workers here in St. Louis as a whole, I think this is an anomaly,” said Cook. “There aren’t retail workers other than at unionized grocery stores that have benefits of this style as a rule.”
Cook said the most distasteful part of the contract was agreeing to allow the employers to be open for business on Easter and Thanksgiving.
“The thought we had here is: if we don’t open on those holidays, we know there’re shoppers shopping on those holidays and we’re forcing them to our employers’ competition and once they go in another store they may not come back,” Cook said.
According to Cook, the stores would only open if enough employees volunteer to work on the holidays, but they will still remain closed on Christmas.
A representative for Schnucks released this statement on behalf of the Greater St. Louis Food Employer’s Council:
"These were some of the more challenging negotiations in recent years as both sides of the bargaining unit attempted to gain a better understanding of the pressing issues facing today’s retail grocers. We are pleased to finally put these months of negotiations behind us and channel that energy into better serving our customers."
The new contract expires May 8, 2016 and does not apply to company employees working in Illinois.
Requests for comment from Dierbergs and Shop 'n Save were not immediately returned.