CHARLESTON — Barring unforeseen events, there will likely be labor harmony at Kroger stores in West Virginia for at least the next three-plus years.
A majority of United Food and Commercial Workers 400 members employed at Kroger stores throughout the region have approved a new collective bargaining agreement. Union members at more than three dozen Kroger stores voted 701-208 to approve the contract, the results of which were released midday Saturday.
Among the notable points of the new deal — which will expire Feb. 24, 2024 — are enhanced health care benefits, including a program to reduce drug costs for diabetes, and various wage increases. According to Kroger, the agreement includes a more than $20 million wage investment along with nearly $100 million going toward health care.
“Kroger is pleased our associates ratified the contract and recognized our continued investment in their success,” Paula Ginnett, president of Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic division, said in a release. “This contract provides wage increases for every associate, while keeping weekly contributions for health care benefits the same through 2021.
“This is affirmation of our commitment to providing a competitive total benefits package for our associates. I appreciate our associates for supporting this agreement and for the excellent service they provide our customers every day.”
Voting was held Thursday and Friday at stores throughout the region, with ballots tallied Saturday morning over video conference in order for members to witness the count.
Saturday’s announcement ends months of negotiations between the regional union and the national grocery chain. It also comes less than a month after the union overwhelmingly turned down a previous proposal from Kroger and authorized a strike if it didn’t receive a better offer.
But Local 400 never established a firm deadline to begin the first potential work stoppage at Kroger stores in the Mountain State since 2003 and talks continued. The company’s latest proposal was presented Nov. 13 and forwarded to Local 400’s seven-person bargaining advisory committee, which agreed to send it to the membership for a vote.
Kroger employs more than 4,200 people in West Virginia across 39 stores.
“While no contract is perfect, this agreement is a significant improvement from the last offer that was resoundingly rejected,” Local 400 said in a release. “By standing together, we were able to preserve our health care funding for the life of the contract and make other improvements that resulted in a fair deal.”