Latest Kroger contract offer rejected

STEUBENVILLE — Members of the union representing 11 Kroger Co. stores in the Upper Ohio Valley on Saturday rejected the latest contract offer by a vote of 3-1.

Tony Helfer, a union division director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776KS, said the membership has authorized a strike vote. He said the workers will not go on strike yet, opting to continue negotiations through the latest contract extension ending on Friday.

“Our goal is to negotiate and not go on strike,” Helfer said, adding there is no reason to break the contract extension agreement. “We have to determine if the company is willing to extend the extension.”

Helfer previously stated wages and health benefits are sticking points in the negotiations.

“People are not happy with their wages and expect more money,” he said “The health-care increases are substantial to some. It is bleeding the workers.”

“The union has not informed us of the results of the ratification vote, and we do not comment on rumor or speculation,” said Amy McCormick, Kroger corporate affairs manager, on Saturday evening.

Helfer said Kroger is a $130 billion company with record profits and a stock price which is increasing. He said the company negotiates in regions and admitted there are stores in the Upper Ohio Valley operating in the red. But, he said, the oil and gas boom is coming to fruition here in the valley, and the membership wants to know when they will get their share.

The union represents about 1,200 workers at the 11 stores in Steubenville, Wintersville, Weirton, Wellsburg, Martins Ferry, Bellaire, St. Clairsville, Wheeling and Moundsville. The contract between the company and the union expired on Aug. 4, with both sides agreeing to extensions.

Membership voted on Saturday in Steubenville and at Wheeling Island.