Smith’s union says store dawdling on contract renewal
The union representing employees of Smith’s Food & Drug said the company is ignoring requests to negotiate a contract to replace one that expired in June.
Company representatives have met five times with union representatives for 1½ hours at most, the last time on May 31, said Greg Frazier, president of United Food and Commercial Workers of New Mexico.
The four-year contract with the food and commercial workers expired June 9. It was extended to July 24 and day by day after that, he said. The union represents all of Smith’s employees in New Mexico, about 3,000 in 25 stores, except for those in the store pharmacies and those represented by the bakers’ union, he said.
“We’re concerned and we’ve begun preparing for lobbying and protesting,” Frazier said. “Members were in the union office all last week making signs.”
The union headquarters is in Albuquerque. Smith’s, a subsidiary of the Kroger grocery chain, did not respond to messages left Monday seeking comment.
The chain has two stores in Santa Fe and one each in Taos, Los Alamos and White Rock, according to its website. It has about a dozen locations in Albuquerque.
“We want an agreement that’s beneficial to everyone,” Frazier said. “It’s hard to do that if we’re not bargaining.”
He said the two sides have exchanged proposals but sessions have been brief and unsubstantial. The company has not responded to certified letters, phone calls and emails seeking further meetings, he said.
The union is seeking institution of sick pay and holidays off, as well as holiday pay and restructuring of the pay scale. Although the minimum wage in Santa Fe, $11.40 per hour, is higher than the state minimum, a high number of incremental step raises separates the bottom from the top of the wage scale, Frazier said.
“Getting a 10 cent raise after you work 1,040 hours is not much justice,” he said.
The next step for the union is a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, Frazier said.