Friday, October 08, 1999

Kroger, union resume talks today

Contract expires Saturday night

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Negotiators for Kroger Co. and the union representing workers at 66 Tristate stores will return to the bargaining table today in an attempt to work out a labor agreement replacing the contract expiring at midnight Saturday.

        Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1099, which represents more than 8,000 em ployees, voted Wednesday to reject the company's latest contract offer and authorize a strike.

        The union did not release the vote count. Officials said 99 percent of the members voting rejected the company's proposed five-year agreement and authorized a strike, if necessary. About 56 percent of the 6,000 union members eligible voted, union spokesman John Marrone said.

        Steve Jagers, spokesman for local Kroger stores, said the union vote was part of the collective bargaining process.

        “We believe that an agree ment can be worked out before the deadline,” he said.

        Mr. Marrone said whether the union goes on strike Saturday night depends on bargaining progress.

        “If there's progress in the right direction, the union officers will have no problem holding off (a strike),” he said.

        Local Kroger store workers last went on strike for about three weeks in 1971.

        Mr. Marrone said the union was seeking higher wages for all workers but especially department heads and assistants who carry a lot of responsibility for store performance.

        The rejected proposal called for pay increases of $1.50 an hour for department heads, $1.20 for assistants and $1 for most other workers over the five-year life of the agreement, Mr. Marrone said.

        The union is seeking a four-year agreement with total pay boosts of $2.40 an hour for department heads, $2.20 for assistants and $2 for most other workers, he said.

        “People know this company is doing very well,” he said. “It's bigger than it has ever been, and it's time that workers have their chance to do better, too.”


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