Next Bargaining Session March 15
This round of bargaining began with discussion over the company rescinding Covid protections for staff effective at the beginning of January, which have been the primary focus of the ongoing pickets at NSM stores. At the close of the last bargaining session, NSLU’s Bargaining Team made a proposal for the reinstatement of these benefits. You can read that proposal below.
New Seasons Market opened with remarks in response to the union’s proposal from Daniel Blocker, Senior Director of Governance, Risk & Compliance for NSM, who sits on the company’s Covid task force, composed primarily of senior HR and executive leadership, in ongoing conversation with store managers. Mr. Blocker outlined the task force’s overall response to the pandemic, commending company leadership on action taken throughout the pandemic to curb the spread of Covid with things like masking, cleanliness and other precautionary measures. Moving forward though, the company’s bargaining team made clear that NSM believes the pandemic has moved into the endemic phase and that Covid may now be treated like other illnesses.
NSLU returned with some questions and perspective: Why weren’t provisional protections for employees implemented before being completely wiped out? Why is New Seasons no longer interested in maintaining its place as an industry and community leader in Covid protocols, a status the company has prided itself on throughout the pandemic? What data sources was the company looking at? We understand that to some extent it is up to the individual worker to judge whether or not they should go to work, but we are still grappling with a historic public health crisis. The union feels that a more suitable response that would live up to NSMs values (and DEI lens) would at the very least excuse all Covid-related absences. Many members have not only had their PTO banks completely drained, but are also racking up attendance violations with some staff coming extremely close to being terminated for doing the responsible thing and staying home to recover when they get Covid.
In response to these questions, Mr Blocker responded that all Covid precautions were of a provisional nature, and that the company could have rescinded all protections back even earlier in September of 2022, which was apparently being considered by executives. NSM currently refers to the New York Times coronavirus map for its data.
After this response, the company told us that they reject in full our proposal to reinstate Covid protections. The bargaining team reiterated the fact that getting Covid is still a reality for workers in our industry, and without any protections, some of us may have to choose between recovering or being able to provide for ourselves and our families. Furthermore, the CDC still recommends 5 days of isolation after the onset of symptoms, if one has been symptom free for at least 24 hours. We believe that company leadership’s attitude towards the pandemic now is at odds with the initiatives and values previously championed.
Following discussions on the Covid proposal, we presented the five following proposals :
- Union Security Clause - This clause requires the company to have employees become union members after being hired. This is important because it gives our union the strength needed to enforce our future contract.
- Employee Definition - We are drawing the line between full time and part time employment at 20 hours, and trying to get the insurance threshold pushed back to 16 hours. 20 hours was previously the threshold to be considered full-time, but it was bumped up to 24 hours a few years ago.
- Nondiscrimination and Harassment Policy - We are asking for contract language stronger than what the law requires on non-discrimination and harassment, including protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, housing status, political beliefs, gender identity, and class. Our proposal also defines misgendering and deadnaming as harassment.
- Lactating Caregivers Proposal - Refrigeration for lactating caregivers and comfortable rooms to express breastmilk.
- Rights of Union Stewards - Contract language building upon the legal rights of union members to have a steward present in meetings with management, and allows stewards to request an investigation before any discipline is taken.
These proposals can be found in full below these updates.
Following an understandably long caucus, management returned in the last portion of the bargaining session, and presented a counter-proposal on the Union Security clause with some edits made. At that point the bargaining session ended, but the feeling is that both parties are in tentative agreement on the Union Security clause.
NSLU COVID-19 PTO Proposal
Staff who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 less than 24 hours before their shift should call their store’s operations department and report those symptoms.
Symptoms of COVID-19 as defined by the CDC include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Staff experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 will be asked to stay home from work until they are symptom-free for 24 hours. Any shifts missed due to COVID-19 symptoms will be excused, and will not cause an employee to accrue attendance points. Additionally, shifts missed due to COVID-19 symptoms do not require employees to apply PTO.
In the event that an employee is in close contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19, either at work or outside of work, the company will provide a COVID-19 antigen test for the employee to take if they wish. The employee should continue to monitor their symptoms, and if symptoms develop, follow the procedure outlined above.
In the event that an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they will immediately be required to quarantine for a minimum of 7 days. If symptoms continue after the 7-day period, the employee should remain quarantined from work until they are 24 hours symptom free. Supplemental paid time off (PTO) will be paid at the employee’s regular hourly rate for all shifts missed during this quarantine period, up to a maximum of 14 days from the date of their positive test result. The employee’s regularly accrued PTO will not be used to cover shifts missed due to COVID-19 infection. Additionally, all absences due to a COVID-19 infection will be excused, and will not cause an employee to accrue attendance points.
Employee Definitions Proposal
1.1 FULL-TIME EMPLOYEE:
An employee who is employed to work a schedule of twenty (20) hours or more in a payroll week.
1.2 PART-TIME EMPLOYEE:
An employee who is employed to work a schedule of fewer than twenty (20) hours or less in a payroll week.
1.3 TEMPORARY EMPLOYEES:
A temporary employee is not part of the bargaining unit and has no rights under the collective bargaining agreement. A temporary employee is one who has no set, permanent work schedule, is hired during the holidays or other periods where regular employees are not sufficient and who is employed to work on a temporary basis of not more than 60 days. No temporary employee shall be given hours if regular employees are available for work during the same period. The Employer shall schedule regular employees before scheduling temporary employees.
1.4 BAH Assessment
Each three months, the hours compensated for each employee will be reviewed, and a weekly average will be established. These weekly average hours are referred to as the Benefit Average Hours (BAH). The Employer will review the status of part-time employees every three months.
(a) The Employer will notify an employee when their BAH drops below coded hours to give them the opportunity to restore the BAH in the subsequent calculation period. The Employer may downcode employees whose BAH is below their coded hours for more than two (2) calculation periods in any rolling two-year period.
1.5 Benefit Eligibility
Employees coded sixteen hours or more, or who through the Employer’s calculation have been working a weekly average of sixteen hours or more for the previous calculation period, shall be eligible for benefits as outlined in this agreement, subject to any waiting period specified in individual Articles.
Paid time off for accrued benefits will be prorated for part-time employees based on compensable hours. Health and Welfare Benefits may require employees to share in premium costs as described in Article ___.
Union Security Proposal
1.0 Union Dues; Union Security.
1.1 It shall be a condition of employment that all employees of the Employer covered by this Agreement, who are members of the Union in good standing and those who are not members on the effective date of this Agreement, shall within thirty-one (31) days following the effective date of this Agreement, become and remain members in good standing in the Union or as a condition of continued employment shall pay a fee in the amount equal to the periodic dues and initiation fees uniformly required as a condition or acquiring and retaining membership. It shall also be a condition of employment that all employees covered by this Agreement and hired on or after its effective date, shall within thirty-one (31) days following the beginning of such employment become and remain members in good standing in the Union through regular payment of initiation fees and dues to the Union or as a condition of continued employment shall pay a fee in the amount equal to the periodic dues and initiation fees uniformly required as a condition of acquiring and retaining membership. For the purpose of this Paragraph, the execution date of this Agreement shall be considered as its effective date.
1.2 Upon failure of any employee to comply with the provision of Article 2, Paragraph 2.1 of this Agreement, the Union may then notify the Employer in writing of such failure, and hereupon the employee shall neither be continued in employment thereafter, nor rehired, until such employee is in good standing in the Union as defined by the National Labor Relations Act, as amended.
1.3 The Employer agrees to deliver to each new employee a statement to be furnished by the Union outlining the Union Security provisions of this Agreement. No less than once a month, the Employer shall provide the Union’s designated Representative with a list of the name, address, telephone number, work location, manager, job title, hourly wage rate, coded hours, pay step, and employee number of newly hired employees or employees changing jobs. The Employer shall also provide the Union with names of employees terminating employment and employee changes in classification and status.
1.4 The Employer shall deduct from each employee’s wages that amount of Union dues, as specified by the Union, of all employees covered by this Agreement who have voluntarily provided the Employer with a written assignment authorizing such deductions. Once signed, the authorization cannot be canceled for a period of one (1) year from the date appearing on such written assignment or within a fifteen (15) day period prior to the termination date of the current collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the Union, whichever occurs sooner.
2.0 Probationary Period.
There shall be a probationary period of sixty (60) calendar days during which a new employee may be discharged without right of protest if the Employer determines the employee is not qualified to perform the work required. The Employer may extend the probationary period for the employee, in lieu of termination, for a period not to exceed an additional sixty (60) calendar days. Extension of an employee’s probationary period will be in writing, signed by the supervisor and employee, with a copy sent to the Union.
Non-discrimination and Harassment Proposal
It is the intent of the Employer and Union that all employees work in an environment where the dignity of each individual is respected. Harassment and discrimination because of an individual’s race, color, class, religion, national origin, political belief, sex, age, Union activity, marital status, citizenship, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other status protected under applicable local, state, or federal civil rights laws and regulations is unacceptable.
Neither the Employer or the Union will engage in discrimination or harassment based on race, color, class, housing status, religion, ethnicity, genetic information, native language, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, marital status, mental or physical disability, veteran or military status, age or any other status protected under all applicable federal, state or municipal equal opportunity laws. Both the Employer and Union will comply with all equal employment opportunity laws. The Employer and the Union will work to the best of their abilities to jointly prevent and effectively address allegations of discrimination and/or harassment in the workplace.
The Employer and the Union will accommodate the religious needs, observances and practices of employees.
Harassment consists of unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct that is based on another person’s race, ethnicity, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity or expression, ancestry, pregnancy, or any other characteristic protected by law. It may include, but is not limited to, actions such as the use of epithets, slurs, negative stereotyping, jokes, or threatening, intimidating or hostile acts that relate to sex, race, ethnicity, age, disability or other protected categories. Harassment also may include written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility toward an individual or group based on protected characteristics, whether that material is sent by email, placed on walls, bulletin boards, computer screens or other devices, or elsewhere on the premises; or circulated in the workplace.
The Employer and the Union will not misgender or use dead names in any verbal or written communications. This is also considered harassment.
Sexual harassment can involve unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can involve conduct by a person of any gender toward a person of any gender.
The Employer will not retaliate, nor allow retaliation, against any staff member or applicant who raises an issue of discrimination or harassment, or who assists in an investigation of possible discrimination or harassment.
The Employer will provide victims of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, or stalking with reasonable safety accommodations upon request, consistent with applicable law.
The Employer will promptly and thoroughly investigate any complaints of discrimination or harassment reported by employees. The employer will take all possible steps to ensure that the complainant is no longer subject to the discrimination or harassment. (Investigation details will be provided in a separate proposal.)
In the event an employee refers any discrimination and/or harassment complaint to a union steward, the union steward must inform the employee that notifying the union does not constitute providing notice to the employer, and the employee should refer the employee complaint to management.
Allegations of discrimination and harassment to which federal, state or other local laws are applicable may be submitted to the Agreement’s grievance process (Grievance process details will be in another proposal).
Lactating Caregiver Proposal
NSLU is pleased to present this bargaining proposal regarding support for lactating caregivers (LC). LC requires a private, clean, and secure space to express breast milk during their shifts. Furthermore, they need adequate break time to do so. Therefore, we propose to implement the following provisions in the contract to support lactating parents in the workplace:
Article ___ - Rights and Protections for Lactating Caregivers (“LC”)
The Employer shall provide a designated lactation room equipped with a comfortable chair, table, and electrical outlet for a breast pump. The room shall be cleaned regularly.
The Employer shall provide adequate break time for employees to express breast milk.
The Employer shall provide a flexible schedule that accommodates the needs of LC, such as the ability to take shorter or more frequent breaks.
Lactation room must be physically accessible to all employees. In addition staff may request additional accommodations as needed.
The Employer shall provide necessary supplies, such as paper towels and hand sanitizer, keeps the lactation room clean and hygienic.
Employer shall provide a cooler or mini fridge to store expressed milk and ensure adequate space in the lactation room to accommodate the employer’s cooler or mini fridge.
Rationale: Some of the key reasons for maintaining clean and hygienic lactation room for LC include the following:
Health and Safety: Breast milk can be contaminated by bacteria or viruses if the lactation room is not kept clean and hygienic. This can pose a risk to the health of both the LC and their baby.
Comfort: A clean and hygienic lactation room will help create a more comfortable and supportive environment for LC. This can help alleviate stress and increase the likelihood of successful caregiving.
Employee Retention: Providing a clean and hygienic lactation room can increase employee satisfaction and retention. LC who can breastfeed their babies while at work are more likely to stay with the company, reducing turnover costs.
Legal Obligations: Companies must provide a clean and hygienic workplace for all employees, including lactation rooms. This includes giving appropriate supplies and equipment and regular cleaning and maintaining the lactation room.
These provisions will not only support the health and well-being of LC but also promote a positive and inclusive work environment for all employees. By implementing these measures, New Seasons Market will demonstrate a commitment to the health and well-being of its employees and their families.
Rights of Union Stewards Proposal
Stewards have equal status with management, the right to solicit grievances and the right to active participation in a Weingarten setting.
The Employer recognizes the right of NSLU to designate Stewards and representatives.
Stewards function as an insurance that a member’s rights are not infringed upon. Stewards are support for union members who may or may not feel trapped, bullied, harassed or intimidated by their superiors or supervisors. Stewards can help members understand and make decisions in line with the contract or in the member’s best interest. The Employer and supervisors benefit from the presence of Stewards in meetings to act as a third party witness to help eliminate false claims of misconduct or retaliation. The Employer recognizes the importance of the role of the Steward in resolving disputes between Employer and bargaining unit members.
Stewards duties and activities include but are not limited to:
a. Representation of members at investigatory meetings, meetings to discuss material changes in working conditions, disciplinary meetings, grievance meetings.
b. Investigation and presentation of grievances in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.
c. The collection of dues when authorized by the NSLU secretary.
d. Transmission of messages and/or information related to any union business when authorized (authorization defined in Union bylaws).
e. Attendance at labor management committee meetings.
a. Union members who request representation by a Steward (Union) will not be denied representation by the Employer in any investigation or meeting in which the union member has reason to believe they are facing discipline or is under suspicion or investigation that could lead to discipline.
b. Any meeting with a closed door and at least one member and at least one supervisor or administrator with the authority to potentially discipline the employee qualifies for a Steward present when requested by the member or the Steward (Union).
c. Union members will not be denied or discouraged a Steward’s presence or representation when requested if the member is faced with change in working conditions, status or shift change, or with removal.
d. Stewards as well as members have the right to caucus privately with the member and reserve the right to end the meeting at any time without discipline. Stewards have the right to refer to another Steward for assistance in any part of the grievance process. In a case in which a member or Steward has ended a meeting, the meeting will be rescheduled within a reasonable time frame and agreed upon by the member, the Steward and the Employer.
e. Pay for Attending Meetings. Union members who are called into a meeting outside of a shift will be paid their regular hourly rate for all time spent in the meeting(s), even if the meeting occurs virtually or telephonically.
f. Waiver of Union Representation. If a union member does not want a representative at a qualified meeting, under this article, the union member will sign a waiver. This waiver will be copied and given to NSLU via the designated store level representative within 2 days of the member signing such waiver
I (stated name and store) am waiving my right to union representation. I am signing this on my own accord. I am aware that my rights include a representative of my choice from the union wide pool of qualified Stewards and union representatives, including from other stores, and I have access to a list of available representatives. I am aware these meetings are confidential and protected with the collective bargaining agreement. (article X in the contract)
a. Union members or the Steward (Union) have the right to request investigation if the Employer is poised to discipline the union member or change other working conditions.
b. The aforementioned investigation may include (but not limited to) information regarding policy, settled contract interpretations based on precedence, individual statements in cases the incident in question had multiple parties involved, CCTV footage, any recorded video from company devices, witness statements, personnel file of union member or any material the Employer is using as evidence.
c. Stewards and representatives will be allowed reasonable time to investigate, present and process grievances on company property without the interruption of the Employer’s operations.
d. The member will be permitted to finish their shift except in cases of accusations of cardinal infractions (defined in Article ___) in which case, the member will be put on a paid leave/suspension during the time as defined in this contract. The employee will be paid for the hours they are already scheduled or at the guaranteed hours rate (defined in Article ___), whichever is greater.
Steward Compensation and Availability.
a. No member will be denied representation because a Steward is not available; if necessary the meeting will be postponed for 24 hours in order for a Steward to be available.
b. Meetings, either with or without a Steward present, will be time logged by the
Employer, signed by all participants in the meeting and copied for NSLU records. Those copies will be either hand delivered to the designated store level representative or emailed to NSLU directly within 24 hours of the meeting’s start time.
c. Stewards will be paid for their time logged in meetings without delay at their
regular hourly rate on their regular paycheck by or on behalf of New Seasons Market.
d. No Steward will be asked to represent anyone while off the clock with the
exception of Stewards who opt in for an “on call list”.
e. Stewards may be on call and will make every reasonable effort to come to any meeting to represent a member. That Steward will clock in or log their time with New Seasons Market and be paid for their time by New Seasons Market on their regular check within the current pay period.
f. Failure for the Employer to compensate the Steward will result in a grievance. If the grievance is arbitrated, and the arbitrator rules in favor of the Steward, those logged hours will be paid in full within 48 hours of the ruling at a rate of 1.5 times the Steward’s regular hourly wage.