Benefit Losses Among Grocery Workers Mean More Costs for Others
The proportion of unionized grocery workers in Southern California who have health coverage has dropped from 94% to 54% since a March 2004 contract took effect for three grocery store chains, according to a study released Wednesday by the UC-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union negotiated the contract with Safeway-owned Vons and Pavilions, Kroger-owned Ralphs and Albertsons following a 4.5 month strike and lockout that ended in February 2004.
Ken Jacobs, co-author of the study and chair of the labor center, said the study found that lengthy waiting periods of up to 18 months for individuals and 30 months for families have left a large percentage of the work force without insurance options.
The study also found:
- 22,000 workers, or 50% of those hired since the current contract took effect, do not have health insurance; and
- About 29% of these new workers qualified for employer-based coverage, but only 7% had enrolled as of September 2006.
Jacobs said that the low insurance rate among grocery workers raises health care expenses for employers that do provide health benefits because it increases the number of dependents covered under health plans. According to Jacobs, costs for public health insurance programs also increase.
UFCW Local 770 -- which represents 17,000 Los Angeles-area grocery workers -- is scheduled to meet with Ralphs on Monday to discuss a new contract. The current contract is set to expire March 5.
Executives of Albtersons and Vons grocery stores plan to attend the meeting.
Local 770 President Rick Icaza said that health benefits are the focus of his agenda (Hirsch, Los Angeles Times, 1/31).
The study examined union actuarial data and union membership rolls and surveyed 755 active union members. Data from September 2006 was compared with September 2003 data (Scott, Los Angeles Daily News, 1/30). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.