Monday, September 26, 2011

A Sigh Of Relief

It's official: grocery workers have approved the negotiated contract with the big three market chains in Southern California. There will be no strike, no store closings. That's a relief for me personally and for the economy in this region. I won't have to rely on friends or public transportation to do my shopping at those stores unaffected by a strike. More than 50,000 workers will not be out of work for a potentially extended period of time (the last strike lasted 141 days), and in a state with an unemployment rate of 12%, that's a big deal. This weekend the union voted and the results were celebrated immediately.

The Los Angeles Times still hasn't posted the terms of the contract, but it does indicate the main sticking point:

A sticking point dealt with healthcare funding: how much each side would have to pay to ensure that a healthcare trust fund covering workers would be economically viable for the long term.

Under the complicated deal, according to people familiar with the negotiations, workers will pay $7 a week for individual coverage and $15 a week for a family starting next April. The grocers had said these premiums were necessary to help offset rising medical costs.

Yes, the workers got a modest raise, but the healthcare coverage was the problem. The figures quoted above (and I am assuming they are accurate) probably appear modest to most people, but it's a big deal in an industry where most workers don't work 40 hour weeks. And that's just the "insurance premium" part. There will no doubt still be copays and deductibles. At least access to healthcare is there.

A lot of drama could have been avoided if this country had a viable public health plan, but, hey, that would be too socialistic.

So we are left with the uncertainties with every contract renewal. Fortunately, the grocery workers had a union which pushed to protect them on this issue and the issues of pay and pensions, workplace safety, and fair treatment. For that the grocery workers at unionized stores should be grateful, and so should we.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home