**Correction: The original version of this article stated that Kroger is the parent company of Albertsons, Ralphs, Vons and Pavilions stores. Kroger is only the parent company Ralphs.**
UFCW Local 324 members at Albertsons, Ralphs, Vons and Pavilions stores from San Diego to San Luis Obispo voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year contract.
The contract promises the grocery workers in Southern California their biggest pay raises in decades after four months of bargaining. Just two weeks earlier, the 47,000 employees at 540 stores authorized a strike should the parties fail to come to an agreement.
“The companies were afraid of a strike,” Kathy Finn, secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 in Los Angeles told the Los Angeles Times. “Our members were more unified and militant than they’ve been in a long time.”
“This is the best contract for the employees in 20 years, but also for the companies,” said Burt Flickinger, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a top retail consulting firm. “We have the most acute worker shortage since World War II. Higher wages and benefits are an investment in worker loyalty and productivity.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the company proposed a $1.80 an hour raise over three years back in January for the highest-paid long-term employees including cashiers. In the end, the contract agreement calls for a $4.25 raise, bringing those workers wages up to $26.75 per hour.
Some of the lower-paid deli workers and shelf stockers will get a $5.25 boost over three years, raising their wages to $22.27 per hour. According to the Times, Workers will progress to top wage tiers at a faster rate and medical benefits will expand.
Baggers and clerk’s helpers will also receive raises to bring their wages up to $16.34 an hour.
All-in-all, the contract provides raises of 19 percent to 31 percent over current pay levels for most workers at the stores. ■