Chandler-based grocery giant Bashas’ closed a supermarket in Oro Valley and added a couple of self-checkout lanes in a Yuma store, angering union leaders who say they weren’t consulted about the changes.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99 said Tuesday that the National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a May 1 hearing on those issues and a nearly year-old complaint about changes in Bashas’ health care plan.
Although Bashas’ is not unionized, the food workers group won the right to dispute pay or benefits changes for nine stores when the company bought those locations from defunct chains that were unionized, such as ABCO and AJ’s former parent Arizona Supermarkets, said Katy Giglio, UFCW Local 99 spokeswoman.
Those store purchases happened more than a decade ago. But the agreement is binding, and it means the National Labor Relations Board can force Bashas’ into compliance, Giglio said.
Bashas’ sees it differently.
“The board has not found that Bashas’ violated any federal labor laws,” said Mike Gantt, the grocery chain’s senior vice president of human resources. “The union has pursued these charges after not seeking any negotiations, or asserting any representation rights, on behalf of these employees for at least four years. The union abandoned these employees years ago. Bashas’ has been looking out for employees’ interests over the last several years, while they were being completely ignored by the union.”
Bashas’ is still “determining its response,” to the union’s new charges and definitely plans to show up at the May 1 hearing, spokeswoman Kristy Nied said.
The health care plan changes, which were rolled out in June, added company-wide options for free but limited health care benefits or enhanced benefits for a monthly premium.
“Bashas’ made an economic decision to request a small contribution from employees for health care insurance premiums,” Gantt said. “The union itself requires such contributions from its own employees who are on its insurance plans. Bashas’ health care benefits meet, and in most cases exceed, union and industry standards.”
Still, the union hopes the federal regulators will make Bashas’ roll back health care plan changes for employees of those nine stores and make Bashas’ negotiate with the union before closing any more stores or manned checkouts, Giglio said.