Layoffs and what you need to know…

Recently, members have been faced with layoffs, reductions to lower classifications and full-time employees getting cut to part-time in our food and drug stores. Ralphs has reduced or laid off more than 150 meat cutters in Southern California, Albertsons and Vons are on their second round of layoffs in less than a year, and CVS is laying off employees on a store-by-store basis.

Several of our other union employers have announced a reduction in hours to deal with sluggish sales.

There has always been an old saying in the food industry:”People have to eat, so our jobs will always be secure.” Maybe it is true that people have to eat, but that is no guarantee that they will spend their money at union shops. With the bad economy, there are fewer dollars to spend and buying habits have changed. People are looking for the greatest deal regardless of where they have to go.

Such circumstances have brought home the realization that our livelihoods are affected by where our family, friends and neighbors shop. Perhaps the old saying, “shop union” will carry more importance in these delicate times.

It is imperative that you know your

rights and how to exercise them

Food stores: When there are layoffs or reductions in a store, the contract prohibits the use of general merchandise clerks crossing over to work as a food clerk (Article 5U). The stores are still allowed to use a clerks helper to work as a combo clerk, but they are limited to 15% of the total clerks helper schedule for the week (Article 6J). A senior employee may exercise the right to claim a schedule of a less senior employee. There are some restrictions that apply which include availability, skills and ability. These limits are discussed in detail in your contract (Article 4d).

Reduced meat cutters should not perform any of the functions that are reserved for the meat cutter classification. If asked or directed to cut meat you are entitled to eight hours at the experienced (journeyman) rate of pay.

We will also seek pay for the most senior meat cutter that has been reduced or laid off.

Drug stores: CVS: More senior, part-time employees shall not be scheduled fewer hours in a store than less senior, part-time employees. (Article 6 F3).

There are strict time limits in both the food and CVS drug contracts. Please read and familiarize yourself with these sections.

As always, should you have any questions, need advice on contract language or the proper way to exercise your seniority, you should call your union representative or the Rep on Duty. If you believe that you were laid off improperly, reduced to part-time out of seniority or you observe any violations of the contract, contact your representative or the office and file a grievance immediately.

File for unemployment benefits immediately if you are laid off. You may also be entitled to partial unemployment benefits if you are reduced in classification or from full-time status. You may apply on line at or by calling 1-800-300-5616. We recommend that you apply on line because the telephone system has been swamped with calls.