Negotiations continue to avert strike at Smith’s Food & Drug; unfair labor practice complaint filed | Local News
The union representing Smith’s Food & Drug employees in New Mexico filed a complaint Friday with the National Labor Relations Board against Smith’s, alleging unfair labor practices related to contract negotiations.
The 3.5-year contract between United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1564 of New Mexico and Smith’s parent company, Kroger, expires on Saturday but has been extended through February 6 as negotiations for a new contract last week did not result in an agreement, union president Greg Frazier mentioned.
Frazier said the labor complaint alleges that supervisors at Smith’s stores questioned union members about their intentions to strike and that Smith “proposed and insisted on an illegal proposal waiving employees’ rights under the Workplace Act.” New Mexico’s Healthy Workplaces”.
The negotiators intend to meet again on Tuesday and Wednesday. If an agreement is not reached, Frazier intends to hold a vote of the 2,500 union members at New Mexico Smith stores to determine whether to strike.
The union has about 300 members at the two Smith’s stores in Santa Fe.
The union is asking for increases of $2 an hour over each of the next four years, with the first increase taking effect Sunday and the next $2 increases enacted in late January 2023, 2024 and 2025 to $18.25 per hour. hour for the lowest paid employees.
“It’s a starting point,” Frazier said. “We think $2 is fair, especially in the first year, because what workers have been doing during COVID is extremely risky and extremely dangerous. Are we expecting $2 every year? Probably not.”
Frazier said the union based the proposed $2 increase on the hourly “hero’s pay” Kroger paid employees at the start of the pandemic, from March 29 to May 17, 2020.
The company offers 45-cent hourly raises each year, Frazier said, while the current contract called for three 30-cent raises in Santa Fe.
Smith’s provided a fact sheet showing that the average hourly wage for its employees in New Mexico is $14.30.
“We’re pretty far apart on salaries,” Frazier said.
“Kroger had two record years with profits, and employees were left behind and forgotten,” he added. “They gave the CEO a $22.4 million bonus last year. Here’s a company that wants concessions from its employees.
Smith’s spokeswoman, Aubriana Martindale, did not respond to questions about the contract negotiations or the complaint, but provided a statement.
“Smith’s looks forward to continuing to negotiate in good faith a contract that puts more money in the pockets of our associates, keeps health care at the forefront of the industry, and a retirement for the future of our associates,” wrote Martindale. “We will continue to balance our desire to invest in our associates, while keeping groceries affordable for our customers and maintaining a sustainable business for the future.”
Frazier cited other sticking points: the union is asking for a four-year contract, while Kroger is offering a three-year contract, and the company is seeking an end to holiday week overtime pay and a eliminate accumulated vacation hours at the end of each year.
Vacation days are piling up, Frazier said, with many workers unable to take time off due to a staff shortage.
“They help their employers and get their vacation taken away,” Frazier said. “If vacation days are not taken [during the year]they are removed.
He also said that Kroger wants meat employees to work in the grocery area sometimes and grocery store employees to work in the meat section. The union has separate contracts for meat and grocery workers.
“We hope Kroger will do the right thing and take care of its workers,” Frazier said.