Letter to the Editor: UFCW 1564 Members Vote This Week On Tentative Agreement With Smith’s

By THOMAS J. KING JR.
Los Alamos

Our Los Alamos citizens and their families should be aware that the hundreds of local folks employed at the ‘new’ Smith’s Grocery Store that recently opened on Trinity will shortly be voting on a ‘new’ union contract offer from Smith Foods.

Their old contract expired in July. Based on my talks with several longtime Smith’s food workers who have worked at Smith’s for 20, 30 or more years, we should be aware that even this new, ‘better’ contract offer keeps in place a system of employee classification that is grossly unfair and union-unfriendly.

In short, workers who work 40 hours a week are classified as “Permanent Part-Time” workers even though they are meeting the federal definition of Full Time Workers. In one case, a lady worker told me she worked 40 hours one week but her paycheck showed only 39 hours. And the ‘new’ workers have to wait a full year before they qualify for any kind of medical benefits. And the medical benefits for existing longterm workers have been steadily reduced over the years by the Utah owners of Smith’s.

Also, the mid-level managers who ‘made’ the old Smith’s store such a friendly place to visit and shop were all replaced by Utah managers. Since Utah is a state known for being unfriendly to unions, and to workers in general, I urge everyone who shops at this local grocery store to tell local store managers that “our local Smith’s workers deserve better treatment and respect” for the hard work they have put in.

Also, Smith’s should reclassify everyone who works 35 hours or more a week as “Permanent Full Time” employees. Stop trying to dodge the basic federal benefit rules that apply to full time workers! And stop refusing to credit returning workers with their prior years of service when they quit, then reapply due to financial need! Most of all, I hope the United Food and Commercial Workers union will stand up for their longtime union members at our local grocery store and insist on the conversion of dozens of de facto full workers into “Permanent Full Time” wage classification by Smith’s!

Editor’s note: Smith’s issued the following response to the above letter:

Smith’s and the union that represents our associates in New Mexico, UFCW 1564, have reached a tentative agreement. The agreement that is to be voted by members this week has the full recommendation of the union.
It is a good agreement. It provides Smith’s associates with pay increases, affordable health care and continued financial support for our associates’ pension for their retirement.

We would like to offer a few other points :

  • The Affordable Care Act has brought many new benefits, requirements and qualifications. Every company has had to make changes to conform to the new law. Our contract actually exceeds the requirements of the ACA.
  • We hired over 200 new associates from the community in this new store opening.
  • Whether from New Mexico or Utah, our associates have the opportunity to advance anywhere in our company. Any associate can apply for open positions at any of our Smith’s locations throughout New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho or Montana.
  • We pay associates for every hour they work.

We value and are proud of all our Smith’s associates – including our New Mexico associates.

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