April 2, 2014
Dear UFCW Local 1996 Member:
Our goal throughout bargaining has been to protect wages and provide affordable health care for members of Local 1996. Unfortunately, due to the troubled economy and changes in the laws governing health care, negotiations required our bargaining team to make some very difficult choices to reach a contract that would be positive for as many members of UFCW Local 1996 as possible.
One of the choices that we had to make was to either discontinue spousal coverage or discontinue healthcare coverage for anyone working under thirty (30) hours per week. We also faced the possibility of having to increase co-pays to astronomical amounts, or drastically scale back healthcare coverage for all.
That is why, through the advice of our plan professionals, and upon mutual agreement with the company, we made the hard choice of discontinuing spousal coverage. It allowed us to maintain affordable weekly contributions for all Kroger workers, including part time workers who work as few as 12 hours per week. Members may continue to cover their dependents, as well as purchase additional dental and vision coverage for their spouses at $2.00 per week. We were able to keep affordable part time coverage, despite the trend of other major employers like, Target, Home Depot, Trader Joes and Walmart dropping part time coverage.
UFCW Local 1996 members are insured through Taft-Hartley health plans. Unfortunately, the new health care law does not treat Taft Hartley plans in the same way as it treats insurance companies. Specifically, the new health care law does not allow our union to open up the plan to everyone so that people could choose to use Affordable Care Act tax credits to buy union-sponsored plans. This makes it more expensive for our plan to continue covering spouses. In addition, Kroger said they found it difficult to justify spending thousands of dollars per month on spousal health care when the Affordable Care Act means that spouses can utilize tax credits and subsidies to find comparable coverage through an exchange.
The proposed contract would maintain spousal coverage through the end of 2014. At the end of the year, spouses of Kroger workers would need to secure health care through their own employer or a public exchange. We believe that spouses will have access to affordable, quality coverage through these other sources, and may also have access to subsidy money through the Affordable Care Act.
It is this bargaining committee’s responsibility to negotiate the best possible deal for all of our members and we went back to the table and this is the company’s final offer. A no vote would mean a strike vote. The committee recommends that you vote yes for this agreement.
President & International Vice President