Following months of failed negotiations and the threat of a strike, Rite Aid and nearly 6,000 unionized employees at the pharmacy chain’s Southern California stores have reached a three-year labor agreement, the parties announced Monday, Sept. 24.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union has lifted its call for a boycott of the 357 Rite Aid stores as a result and is encouraging shoppers to support the pharmacies.

“We think it’s a good deal, but I can’t talk about it until our members get a chance to vote on it,” said Mike Shimpock, a spokesman with the UFCW, Local 770. “It’s the result of very difficult negotiations and we believe our members will approve it.”

Conflicting loyalties

Local 770 and other factions of the union are expected to ratify the agreement next week. Shimpock described the deal as a compromise involving conflicting loyalties.

“Sometimes companies get mixed up with their responsibility to their employees and their responsibility to Wall Street investors,” he said. “We wanted to make sure they are focused on the people on the front lines — the ones who are responsible for making their profits and interacting with customers. I would call this a fair deal for our members, and that’s what we were looking for all along.”

Rite Aid said the agreement was forged through a “spirit of cooperation.”

“Through renewed negotiations, we found common ground with the UFCW on workplace operating efficiency measures, and all our associates will still receive wage increases each year of the contract,” the company said in a statement. “And importantly, we were able to honor the UFCW’s No. 1 request by staying with the union trust fund health plan.”

Strike support

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO voted earlier this month to endorse strike support for the employees — a move that rallied the backing of 300 member unions representing about 800,000 union members and their families in Los Angeles County.

Rite Aid workers have been at odds with the retailer on a variety of issues related to wages, healthcare and full-time status.

The union additionally claimed Rite Aid’s earlier proposal would have exempted nearly 90 percent of employees from wage increases. If an employee’s wages were affected by minimum wage increases or the employee was at the top wage tier, for example, they would get nothing, the union said. That would apply to the vast majority of workers.

Shimpock would not discuss how those issues are addressed in the current labor contract but said the agreement is on track.

“This is democracy in action,” he said.

Source: Daily News