Dec. 1, 2005 – Negotiators representing employees at five of the largest grocery-store chains in Ohio have a new hand to play heading into meetings with store representatives today after workers overwhelmingly pledged to strike in a Tuesday-night vote. Though union leaders stated they would prefer not to strike, the authorization, passed by more than 93 percent of those who voted, provides just that power should talks falter.
In a statement sent to The NewStandard last night, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 880 emphasized that they expect to work through the issues "peacefully." The statement echoes comments made to the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week by officials with the five stores, Tops Markets, Giant Eagle, Heinenâ€™s, F.W. Albrecht and Fishers Foods.
The two sides have been in negotiations since August and have been operating under the terms of the previous contract, which expired in September. Terms and issues involved in the discussions are under a mutually agreed-upon media blackout, but both the Plain Dealer and Associated Press report that health care, wages and pensions are at stake. The media blackout came at the suggestion of a federal mediator, Local 880 spokesperson Mark A. Rock told TNS.
Tuesdayâ€™s vote involved around 4,000 of the 13,000 unionized workers at the five chains and took place at a closed meeting. Rock said the percentages released by the union, 93.3 percent for and 6.7 percent against, represent an amalgamated count of the vote for three separate contracts.
The union has not released vote tallies but, Rock said, the counts were all within a few points of one another. Members voted after an update on the negotiations by Local 880 President Thomas H. Robertson.