FARMINGTON — The National Labor Relations Board has agreed to hear a complaint filed by a union against a supermarket chain alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act.
The hearing is the latest step in the ongoing negotiations between Smith's Food and Drug Centers Inc. and the union representing some of the company's employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1564.
A Complaint and Notice of Hearing was issued by the board on Aug. 29 to the involved parties. The notice presumes there is a basis for the compliant filed by the union in June alleging that the grocery store chain has engaged in "bad faith bargaining" and violated the National Labor Relations Act.
Greg Frazier, Local 1564 president, said the notice confirms the union's allegations.
"The NLRB's investigation confirmed the Union's allegations of Bad Faith Bargaining by Smith's and the NLRB has issued a complaint in order to prosecute Smith's for these violations of federal law," a union press release stated.
Voicemail messages seeking comment from Smith's and their parent, Kroger Company, had not been returned as of Wednesday evening.
The two parties have been in collective-bargaining negotiations for several months trying to negotiate a new agreement. The last one expired in June and Fraizer said the parties are currently under a "self-executing agreement" that renews on a weekly basis.
The union represents nearly 100 workers at the Farmington Smith's and more than 2,000 Smith's workers statewide.
The findings of the board, Frazier said, give specific advantages to the union employees since the alleged violations fall under the Labor Act, which offers protections for workers if they decide to strike.
Firstly, the union could strike in front of the building as opposed to the side of the building. Secondly, the grocery store chain couldn't hire permanent workers to replace the striking workers.
Frazier said the union workers are growing more frustrated as negotiations continue, but the union still wants to negotiate a new contract with the company.
Frazier said that since June, negotiations have been mostly at a standstill.
The union says it is asking for wage increases for employees working on holidays, for health insurance, and for the company to address scheduling issues because the company has posted large earnings in recent months.
Now, Smith's union employees get extra compensation for working Thanksgiving, but they are paid regular wages for all other holidays. Union workers don't have health insurance offered by their employer, and schedules have some employees working six days a week for a few hours each day, denying them a full-time schedule.
"The employees are getting frustrated," Frazier said, adding that Smith's has been doing well financially.
In June, Kroger reported in a press release that the company had first-quarter net earnings of $501 million dollars. The next quarterly report is scheduled to be released later this month.
The hearing is scheduled for January and Frazier hopes that the negotiations will be completed before then.
"Our hope is that we will have everything resolved by January. We want Smith's to get serious with the negotiations," he said.Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.