As expected, about 80,000 clerks and meat cutters at 800 Southern California supermarkets overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract, according to results of rank-and-file balloting released Wednesday.
The package received 88.2% approval from retail clerks, who made up about 90% of the affected workers, and 94.4% backing from meat cutters. Balloting was conducted over four days, ending late Tuesday night, at 10 locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
Union leaders, who had threatened a strike for two weeks, recommended approval of the package last Thursday after down-to-the-wire negotiations with representatives of the Albertson's, Alpha Beta, Lucky, Ralphs, Stater Bros. and Vons chains. Two other chains, Hughes and Boys, previously signed agreements with the UFCW, promising to abide by whatever terms were reached in negotiations.
The settlement includes raises of $1.65 an hour over three years for journeymen employees, about 18% more than the markets had offered before the final day of negotiations. That will mean wages for the market employees will rise by slightly more than 4% each year.
Under the old contract, clerks earned from $4.25 to $13.05 an hour. Meat cutters earned from $9.31 to $14.33 an hour.
The final settlement gave the markets authority to limit some medical benefits in order to save money. It also:
Assures part-time employees at least 20 hours of work per week, rather than 16 hours.
Commits the markets to keep a constant number of full-time jobs in an industry that has been shifting to part-time work.
Establishes a committee to clarify restrictions on the markets' use of non-union vendors.