June 14, 2008

Grocers Unions Ponder Deal

By Patrick Garmoe, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn.

Jun. 14--The Area Retail Grocers Alliance and United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1116, which represents 1,800 full- and part-time grocery store workers from the Twin Ports and Iron Range, reached a tentative contract Thursday.

Workers in the Twin Ports will vote on whether to accept the contract on June 25, while workers on the Iron Range will vote on June 26.

If ratified, the three-year contract would apply retroactively to April 27, when the previous one expired. Details of the proposed contract were not disclosed.

Under the old contract, full-time workers hired after April 28, 2007, earned $12.50 an hour, while part-time workers earned $8.36.

Companies involved in the negotiations include area Super One stores owned by Miner's Inc.; Mount Royal Fine Foods in Duluth; Ogle's Family Foods and Miner's Cub Foods in Grand Rapids; and SuperValu stores. Cub Foods in Duluth negotiates its contract separately, beginning next week.

Bargaining lasted more than three months.

"We went exceptionally long. We had a lot of difficult issues," said Steve Gilbertson of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1116. He said normally a deal is reached within two months.

But the final agreement received full support from the union's committee.

Gilbertson said because this was the first contract since Miner's purchased seven Jubilee Foods and Festival Foods stores in 2006 from Plaza Holding Co., there were issues that needed to be resolved. He declined to discuss what those issues were.

"Generally, I believe my membership will be OK with the new agreement, if not really good about it," Gilbertson said.

Boyd Hanson, director of human resources for Miner's, said this contract was particularly cumbersome for a variety of reasons he didn't want to elaborate on.

About 1,100 of their employees are part of the union, Hanson said.

Steve Schadewald, store manger at Mount Royal Fine Foods, which has about 85 employees in the union, said he thought the negotiations went fairly smoothly.

"I think it was a little give-and-take on both sides, but overall, I don't think there was any rancor between the two parties," he said. As usual, wages and health benefits were the biggest issues, he said.

PATRICK GARMOE can be reached at (218) 723-5229 or [email protected]


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