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Oct
2013
3

Wegman’s “Best and Final” Contract Offer Would Boot 900 Teamsters from Retirement Fund

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The ongoing battle between Rochester-based grocery chain Wegman’s and Teamsters Local 118 got uglier this past Sunday after an airplane flew over Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park with a banner that said “Wegman’s wants Buffalo to lose.”  A social media uproar ensued and Wegman’s responded that the banner was paid for by the Teamsters.  

The dispute revolves around a new contract being proposed by Wegman’s which would force nearly 900 truckers off of their New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund.

On Monday night, the Teamsters voted to reject the final offer from Wegman’s.  The margin of the union vote was not made public and union officials have yet to say if they plan to strike.

Wegman’s PR team issued the following release:

In response to the Teamsters Union recent leafleting at our stores and skywriting today over the Buffalo Bills game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Wegmans wants to set out the straight facts about its contract proposals for the distribution employees in Rochester.

The union claims that we are destroying Rochester jobs, which is untrue.  We are proud of the 885 jobs for the employees in this bargaining unit. That’s up from 800 jobs just 8 years ago in spite of the economic conditions and southern distribution center expansion at Wegmans.

The union also claims we’re eliminating pensions for our workers.  Again, this is simply, not true.  Our employees are currently enrolled in the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund (the Fund), a plan that is grossly underfunded.  For each dollar of retirement benefits promised by the Fund it has only $.46 in assets, and they project it to decline over time to $.34.  We propose to move our people out of this failing fund, into the same secure plan we have for all our other employees and pay $136 million dollars to the Fund in withdrawal liability to preserve the pension benefits our people have earned to date.

We believe our last, best and FINAL OFFER provides the most secure future for our people and their families.

The Teamsters, who have been working under an expired contract for five months, disagree.  They argue that claims by management are disingenuous.  Since the best and final offer, a war of words has broken out between the two sides.  According to the Rochester Business-Journal:

In a Sept. 25 statement describing the supermarket chain’s “last and best” final offer, Mike Cullen, Wegmans vice president of distribution, said the company would give Local 118 members lump-sum payments of $1,000 for full-time workers and $500 for part-timers plus an 18 percent pay raise over the life of the six-year contract, and “depending on age and years of service, a generous package of retirement assistance options valued at over $10 million.”

Not true, countered Local 118 business agent Kevin McIntosh in a statement on Friday calling Cullen’s portrayal of Wegmans’ position as “disingenuous at best.”

“The company plans to take away our $4.82 pension contribution—money we set aside from our wages to go into the pension fund—and tell us it’s giving us a $1.74 wage increase. No matter how you look at it, that’s a loss, not a pay increase. And it puts our members’ retirement security in serious jeopardy,” McIntosh said.

Wegman’s Vice President of Distribution Mike Cullen told the Democrat and Chronicle that it had plans to move forward if the Teamsters Local 118 decided to strike.

“We welcome all of the employees in this bargaining unit to come to work every day, even during a labor dispute. But, we are also prepared to do whatever it takes, in the event of a strike, to offer the same incredible service our customers have come to expect from Wegmans and its employees.”

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