CalPERS Asks Money Manager To Urge Safeway To Negotiate To End Strike
CalPERS has asked Alliance Bernstein, one of the fund's major money managers, to "exert pressure" on Safeway to continue negotiations to end a three-month grocery strike affecting 70,000 unionized employees and nearly 860 stores in Southern California, fund Chair Rob Feckner said Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reports. CalPERS, the nation's largest public pension fund, owns nearly $180 million worth of Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway stock, the three grocery store chains involved in the strike (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 1/23). The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the grocery workers, has made two unsuccessful attempts to restart negotiations with the three companies. The grocery stores have sought a two-year wage freeze; a requirement that workers pay $780 in annual premiums for family health insurance; a cap on employer contributions to health benefits for workers, which would most likely lead to a decrease in coverage; and a second tier of wages and health benefits for new hires in which employer contributions to health benefits would total about $1,800 per worker per year, compared with about $5,000 per worker per year for current workers under the past contract. The union and the grocery store chains have tried resolving their differences through negotiations with a federal mediator, and an attempt at secret negotiations without a mediator failed earlier this month (California Healthline, 1/21). UFCW officials in November requested that CalPERS help resolve the dispute and determine whether the strike had an impact on shareholders of the three companies. Last month, CalPERS sent a letter to the CEOs and chairs of Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway that asked them to reach an agreement with the union (California Healthline, 12/18/03). Feckner said Thursday that Alliance needs to "get involved" in the matter because CalPERS is a "big holder" in Safeway. He said the strike has cost the companies "a lot of money," adding, "Every day we delay (a strike settlement it) costs shareholders money." CalPERS will explore other tactics to resolve the dispute, including recruiting other major shareholders, Feckner said (Sacramento Bee, 1/23).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.