Today members at Zenith Logistics, commonly referred to as Kroger Warehouse, met at Teamsters Local 89 for contract explanation meetings and afterwards voted to ratify a new six-year agreement by an overwhelming 94%.
“It’s one of the best contracts we’ve ever won,” said Trey McCutcheon, a member of the union negotiating committee. “I’m really proud of all the gains we were able to make for everyone at the warehouse.”
The six-year contract provided some of the strongest wage increases ever seen at the warehouse, totaling $5.31 over the life of the agreement.
Among other notable improvements was a change to discourage the Company from adding unnecessary forced shifts. In the past, it has become unfortunately common for Zenith to schedule a 6th or even 7th day for members only to have them arrive and be sent home after only a few hours, or sometimes even immediately. This frustrating behavior resulted in many proposals during negotiations and culminated in an agreement that any worker forced to come in for an extra shift who is sent home before working at least 9 hours will receive a $45-dollar Kroger gift card in addition to whatever pay they earned for hours worked that day. This will both reward workers who are sent home from forced shifts early with something for their troubles, as well as discourage the Company from forcing workers in unless they are absolutely needed.
Leading up to negotiations the two most significant issues our members made proposals for were healthcare and pension security.
Regarding healthcare, Local 89’s committee was able to keep the status quo as proposed by our members, meaning there will be no changes to the healthcare plan and it will continue to be 100% funded by the Company with no worker contributions.
When it came time to discuss pensions Local 89 was already aware that Zenith Logistics would be determined to pay their withdrawal liability to the Central States Pension Fund (CSPF) and exit the plan. Zenith is a third-party to Kroger, who already left the CSPF via their National Master Agreement just a few short years ago. As expected, Zenith did indeed seek to exit CSPF and enter the multi-employer plan Kroger and many of its other third-party companies had already joined.
Although Local 89 remains a staunch advocate for restoring and funding the CSPF, we also have a responsibility to do the best we can to fight for the interests of our members. As our members were highly interested in Zenith’s proposal, we ultimately agreed to negotiate over this subject.
President Fred Zuckerman brought in Ed Gleason, a highly respected Washington D.C. area attorney who specializes in union pension funds, to look over Zenith’s proposal and ensure that our members would be taken care of in the event they chose to move to this plan. After reviewing all the details, Gleason was able to assure our committee that the new plan was healthy and nearly identical to the pension benefits our members at Zenith already received in the CSPF. As a result, our rank-and-file negotiating committee tentatively agreed to the pension change. After thorough explanations by Gleason at today’s meetings, the membership at large voted to approve the change as well.
“We knew the pension plan was one of our members greatest concerns going into negotiations,” said Business Agent Rick Curtis. “Our job as a committee is to do our best to protect our members futures, and we believe we have accomplished that.”
President Zuckerman, the Officers, Agents, and Staff of Teamsters Local 89 wish to thank Business Agent Rick Curtis as well as Trey McCutcheon, Jim Beam, Kenny Offutt, Jose Gonzalez, Wes Odle, Scott Hamrlik, Chris Scott and Frank Selent of the rank-and-file negotiating committee for their hard work in these negotiations.