UFCW Members Ratify Rite Aid Contract Covering Some 6,500 Workers in California

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By Alicia Biggs

Members of seven United Food and Commercial Workers locals Oct. 5 ratified new three-year collective bargaining agreements with Rite Aid Corp. covering some 6,500 workers at 200 stores in Southern California, a union spokesman told BNA Oct. 12.

The contract provides wage increases and maintains employees' contributions toward health insurance premiums, UFCW Local 135 President Mickey Kasparian told BNA. The new contracts cover two bargaining units, one of clerks and pharmacy technicians and another of pharmacists represented by UFCW locals 8, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428, and 1442 at stores between Kern County and the Mexican border.

The new contracts took effect Oct. 7 and expire Oct. 7, 2015.

“Rite Aid was pleased to hear that our associates ratified the agreement reached between Rite Aid and the Southern California UFCW locals, one that we believe positions all involved to succeed,” Ashley Flower, a Rite Aid spokeswoman, told BNA Oct. 12. “We believe this is a good and fair agreement for Rite Aid, our associates, and the unions. We look forward to working together with the union to continue to provide our customers and patients with the best service possible.”

According to Kasparian, effective Oct. 7, workers with more than six months of service, depending on their classification, received a signing bonus ranging from $200 to $500 and wage increases of between 20 cents and $1 per hour. Workers will not receive any other wage adjustments over the life of the contract.

Meanwhile, no changes were made to employees' health care benefits under the new contract. Currently, employees pay $7 per week for single coverage, $10.50 per week for couples coverage, and $15 per week for family coverage.

Pension multipliers and company contributions to the pension plan will not change.

Contract to Be Reopened in 2013
Members agreed to reopen the contracts in November 2013 only to re-evaluate wages and health care benefits based on the Affordable Care Act, the union said.

“If we can still provide an excellent level of benefits and pay less for it, I'm all for it,” Kasparian said.

In July, members of all seven UFCW locals voted to authorize a strike if negotiators for the union and drug store chain could not reach agreement on the contracts (145 DLR A-3, 7/27/12). The union said at the time Rite Aid was seeking 34 concessions under the new agreements, including out-of-pocket health care costs for employees that could equate to some $10,000 per year for each employee. The parties' previous collective bargaining agreements expired July 15. The contracts were extended through Aug. 5 and on a day-to-day basis thereafter.

“All 34 takeaways were taken off of the table,” Kasparian told BNA Oct. 12.

The union fought many of the concessions, including a reduction in full-time hours to less than 40 hours per week and part-time hours to less than 24 hours per week. The union also fought the elimination of health care benefits for retirees, a concession sought by the company but not included as a modification to the contracts.

By Alicia Biggs

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