• UFCW Local 1529 members ratified a 29-month contract with Kroger Co. covering approximately 9,000 clerks and meat, seafood, and deli workers at 80 stores in western Tennessee, Mississippi, eastern Arkansas, and Murray, Kentucky. Under the contract, Kroger will increase its health and welfare contribution by 6% each year and will provide signing bonuses ranging from $400 to $600, length of service bonuses from $400 to $750, and wage increases based on job classification and length of service. Employees’ monthly pension benefit remains the same and Kroger’s contributions will ensure that the plan is fully funded for the next 10 years due to Kroger’s commitment of $650 million.
  • CWA District 3 and AT&T reached a three-year tentative agreement covering 22,000 wireline, utility, advertising, publishing, and billing employees in nine states throughout the Southeast. If approved, most workers would receive annual wage increases totaling 8% and a pension multiplier of 3% over the term of the contract. Employees’ health care contributions would also increase. This is the second tentative agreement between the parties, as workers rejected the previous agreement in August 2012. Negotiations continue over contracts for approximately 21,000 AT&T West and AT&T East workers.
  • Ending a one-month strike, the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 639 members in Wichita, Kansas ratified a five-year contract with Bombardier Learjet covering 825 employees. The contract, reached with the help of federal mediators, reduces employees’ share of health care premiums to 20% from 30% and provides a 1% wage increase in years two to five, along with lump sum payments of $2,500 and $1,000 in years one and two, respectively. During the strike, members received strike benefits totaling $350 per week.
  • AFA-CWA members ratified a six-year agreement with Pinnacle Airlines covering 1,500 flight attendants that will take effect when contracts covering other airline workers are finalized as Pinnacle attempts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The contract freezes pay for one year and imposes a modified pay scale though 2015, as well as reduces premium pay from 200% to 150% and eliminates holiday and training pay. Health insurance copayments will also be increased.
  • Hyatt Hotels and UNITE HERE have agreed to participate in negotiations, thus allowing development of a Hyatt hotel at the Portland, Oregon convention center to proceed. Hyatt’s development proposal was selected by Portland’s Metro Council on the condition that Hyatt and UNITE HERE agreed to work together. Whether negotiations will be productive is an open question as the parties are currently at odds, particularly in Chicago, over contracts and working conditions.
  • United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 5, 8, and 648 reached a tentative agreement with Safeway Inc. and Vons covering 22,000 workers at 320 stores in northern and central California. The three locals have engaged in joint negotiations against Safeway, Save Mart and Raley’s since those contracts expired in October 2011. In related negotiations, UFCW Locals 5 and 8 also reached a tentative agreement with Raley’s covering 7,000 supermarket workers in northern and central California and members returned to work after a nine-day strike. UFCW did not provide specifics of the agreement, but did say that Safeway agreed to retain and fund a health and welfare fund and benefits fund.
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport screeners represented by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) ratified a three-year agreement, their first, covering 44,000 employees at 450 airports. Under the contract, employees’ pay will now be based on job performance, rather than the results of skills tests. Because AFGE is not permitted to bargain directly over pay with TSA, contract negotiations focused on non-economic issues such as improvements to the vacation and shift bidding processes and improvements to uniforms.
  • After two-and-a-half years of negotiations following the merger of United and Continental airlines, the Airline Pilots Association’s Master Executive Council voted to accept a tentative agreement between the union and United Continental Holdings Inc. The agreement would cover 12,000 pilots and result in full integration of the United and Continental seniority lists and harmonization of benefits and terms and conditions of employment for all pilots. While details of the tentative agreement were not released, United’s pilots have demanded parity with other carriers after accepting deep wage and pension cuts during a long period of bankruptcy.
  • United Steel Workers (USW) Locals 4950, 4974, and 6860 ratified a three-year agreement with Cliffs Natural Resources covering 2,400 workers at four iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota. The contract provides a 2% wage increase in year two and a 2.5% increase in year three, as well as lump sum payments of $3,000, $750, and $500 in years one, three, and four, respectively. The contract also retains current health benefits and continues to provide health coverage for retirees and surviving spouses. Cliffs also agreed to make capital expenditures totaling more than $147 million at the four mines during the contract term.
  • Members of the CWA-affiliated Newspaper Guild of NY Local 31003 ratified a five-year contract with the New York Times covering 1,100 employees after 21-months of negotiations. Employees will receive lump sum bonus payments equal to 3% of salary in year one of the contract and 2% wage increases in years two through four. Active and retired employees will continue to receive health benefits through a trust to which the Times will contribute $750,000 in 2013 and $1.5 million each year thereafter. The contract also freezes the defined pension plan at the end of 2012 and replaces it with a hybrid adjustable plan, subject to IRS approval, to which the Times will contribute $7 million in 2013 and a similar amount in subsequent years.
  • BNA reported that settlements reached through November 2012 provided an average first-year wage increase of 1.6%, compared to 1.3% for the same period a year ago. (Inclusion of lump-sum payments increases the averages to 2% and 1.7% for 2012 and 2011, respectively.) Excluding construction and government agreements, the average increase of all contracts was 2.3%, up from 1.9% in 2011. Manufacturing only contracts had an average increase of 2.2%, compared to 1.7% for 2011, whereas non-manufacturing increases, excluding construction, were 2.3% (vs. 1.9% in 2011).
  • BNA also reported that the average wage increase deferred to 2013 is 2.1%, the same as was reported for 2012. By industry, the highest average increased to be applied in 2012 is airlines (3.8%) and construction (3.1%). The lowest deferred increases were found in the printing (.9%) and rubber (1.6%). One of the largest issues impacting agreements in 2013 is health and welfare benefits. A review of 149 contracts reporting itemized changes to health-welfare plans show that 90% contain cost-control measures. Preliminary data for 2014 shows that deferred wage increases will average 2.4%.