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The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Supervalu-owned Acme Markets “was rebuffed this week by local unionized clerks, who rejected an offer to eliminate up to 300 positions through buyouts.

“United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 sent Malvern-based Acme a letter Thursday informing the grocer that Philadelphia-area members had voted ‘no’ to the cash-saving maneuver Wednesday night, president Wendell Young IV said.

“About 100 of their South Jersey counterparts who belong to another UFCW local accepted similar voluntary buyouts and left their jobs just after Christmas.”

Supervalu, which already has decided to close five unprofitable Acme stores, is dealing with “high corporate debt obligations and declining sales” that have hurt its cash flow, the Inquirer notes.

Supervalu spokesman Steve Sylven issued the following statement: “We continue to operate in a competitive and challenging economic environment and need to make the very difficult decisions we believe are necessary to meet our ever changing business needs to reposition the company for the future. The voluntary severance program is an important part of that strategy, and we are disappointed that it appears that UFCW Local 1776 will walk away from the fair and generous plan that all of our other locals agreed was in the best interests of their members.”

According to the story, “Unionized clerks and officials in Southeastern Pennsylvania said they worried that the buyout - affecting mostly veterans - would jeopardize Local 1776's pension and health and welfare funds. Those funds also serve unionized Super Fresh and Pathmark employees, whose parent company, A&P, recently declared bankruptcy under the burden of debt and low sales.

“Because the buyout offer - lump-sum payments and some health coverage for those eligible - would go mostly to higher-earning members, it would spur a flood of early pension withdrawals and retiree health-benefit outlays.”
KC's View:
I honestly cannot comment on the specifics of this proposal, because I’m not familiar enough with all the various contractual and historical issues involved. However, in a general sense, I would only say that it seems to me that in tough times, unionized employees have to be willing to share the pain so that companies can survive ... just as in good times, management needs to be willing to share the wealth. Companies and unions end up at loggerheads when they don’t realize that they are all in it together...