Rift grows between Acme, Union

June 24, 2009 8:41:48 PM PDT
The rift between Acme markets and its union employees got a little wider tonight. Union members voted overwhelmingly to reject the last, best contract offer from the grocery store chain. Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers 4,500 of its members staff 41 acme stores in and around Philadelphia.

Tonight, those members poured into the Spectrum to vote on Acme's last best offer for a new contract. Longtime workers gathered at impromptu tailgates; they claim Acme's new owner wants to strip away benefits.

They want to turn us into Wal-Mart; they want to take everything away and keep the money and run off with it," 34-year employee Dave Burst said.

Acme says under its proposal, employees would continue to have the highest overall compensation among area grocery workers and, while for the first time, the union workers would have to pay between $5 and $15 a week for health insurance. Acme says their plan remains one of the best in the country.

Union leaders, however, charge under Acme's plan, it could shift health money to fund pensions and scuttle the workers health care program.

"It has the possibility of completely eliminating health care for all workers," Union leader Wendell Young said.

Union leader Young says the proposal would also allow for acme to lease out entire departments to non union vendors.

"They also have provisions that they've proposed that would allow outsourcing of a lot of the jobs, they would be able to lease out huge sections of the store to outside contractors," Young said.

Acme said tonight it is disappointed by the union's rejection. The old contract runs out July 10. Acme has signaled it might impose the rejected offer then; if that's the case, the union has signaled that could trigger a walkout.

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