September 24, 2013
By Stephanie West
Westbury, NY – With the expiration date of collective bargaining agreements covering over 10,000 grocery workers days away, Union negotiators for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1500, are reporting no progress with negotiators for Stop and Shop and King Kullen Supermarkets. The major obstacle the UFCW is facing during these negotiations is the new monster that is looming large in many labor negotiations nationwide: The Affordable Care Act.
UFCW Local 1500, New York State's largest grocery workers Union with 23,000 members, has Union contracts with Stop and Shop and King Kullen Supermarkets that are set to expire at midnight on September 28th. These contracts cover employees working in Long Island, New York City and Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.
"The Affordable Care Act is presenting tremendous and unprecedented challenges to these negotiations," said Bruce W. Both, President of UFCW Local 1500. "The complexity of this 22,000 page law, combined with confusing interpretations of the law by various federal agencies, such as the Department of Labor, IRS and Treasury Department, has left Union negotiators with no choice but to proceed slowly and cautiously as we negotiate the legally required changes. The one factor that has not changed during these negotiations, compared to previous ones, is our Union's commitment to provide the members of UFCW Local 1500 comprehensive healthcare," Both stated.
For decades the healthcare plans, mutually agreed to between UFCW Local 1500's union members and participating employers, has provided health insurance to thousands of New Yorkers. UFCW Local 1500's healthcare plan has been a model for other labor organizations with savings in healthcare cost freeing up money to negotiate fair wages and secure pensions. The Affordable Care Act has greatly complicated this respected and successful labor bargaining model.
"It is very difficult to negotiate an entire contract with the fair wages and comprehensive benefits our 23,000 truly deserve with so much time being spent consulting with healthcare consultants on the ACA and bracing for additionally confusing regulations from Washington D.C.," Both continued. "All our members wanted was what Congress promised them, when this bill was passed: a law that would not require them to change their coverage or their doctors. They did not get that from this law. Regardless of what takes place in Washington D.C., the leadership of UFCW Local 1500 is going to fight any effort by anyone to undermine the excellent Union contracts our members have fought for and earned over these many years," Both concluded.