Contacts: Lori Willis and Michael Kaemmerer,
Council Spokespersons, (314) 994-4602
October 8, 2003
OF WORK STOPPAGE
ST. LOUIS -- Store hours have been reduced, services have been scaled back and employers are operating their businesses with a significantly reduced crew.
Council Spokesperson Michael Kaemmerer said, "We are into day two of the work stoppage, and we are doing it. We are keeping the stores open and serving customers. Every day, it should get a little bit better."
Kaemmerer says sales are somewhat slow in some locations, but other stores are doing a normal flow of business despite pickets on every lot. "The real test will be the weekend, but with hiring and training efforts in full swing, thanks, in part, to these tough economic times, we believe we will be in pretty good shape come Saturday," he said.
The additional stock of groceries brought in before the work stoppage is holding up well. Deliveries from each of the company's supply facilities have continued since the work stoppage thanks to help from outside partners and the companies' own auxiliary units.
Adjustments, however, are being made at store level. Kaemmerer explained, "Customers will notice that we have scaled back non-essential in-store services and some departments have been converted to self-service. Most product offerings are still in place," he added. "Fresh meat is still being cut daily in the stores by supervisors and management personnel, and provisions are being made to bring in pre-packaged meat. You do what you have to get through this sort of thing."
"Necessity is, after all, `the mother of invention,'" Kaemmerer said. "There will no doubt be efficiencies discovered through the hands-on work managers are now doing. We might even come up with more proficient ways of operating that will help make us more competitive in the long run."
Food Employers Report More Than 4,000 Workers Hired -- More Needed
Some Hiring Sites Overflowing with Applicants
The hiring of temporary strike replacement workers continues, but more than 4,000 workers have been hired to fill in for striking and locked out workers at Dierbergs, Schnucks and Shop `n Save.
According to Linda Ryan, vice president of human resources at Dierbergs, all three companies were flooded with applicants on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with the most dramatic increases coming after the strike was announced. "The combination of hourly wages set at $12.50 (full-time) and $10 (part-time) and a sense of urgency resulting from media coverage has helped to draw in more people," said Ryan.
Over the weekend, the food employers stepped up efforts by adding a HOTLINE
(314-692-6130) and more interactive application processes on websites. As of Tuesday, Oct. 7, the process was even further streamlined. Applicants are now being told to apply at their neighborhood Dierbergs, Schnucks and Shop `n Save. Interviews are being conducted at the stores as well as a number of auxiliary locations promoted over the HOTLINE.
The same pharmacists you've trusted to fill your prescriptions at Dierbergs, Schnucks and Shop `n Save for years are filling your prescriptions right now.
According to Food Employers Council representatives, in-store pharmacy operations remain largely unaffected by the Local 655 strike launched Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003. Jodi Sheahan, director of pharmacy at Shop `n Save, said, "Pharmacists are professional, medically trained, non-union personnel. They are all in the stores now, filling prescriptions."
The grocery operators emphasize that pharmacy drive-thrus in some stores (Schnucks and Shop `n Save) and delivery services in others (Schnucks) are in place for customers who wish to avoid picket lines. (In addition, Schnucks offers Internet-based Home Shopping for grocery customers as well.)
If customers at stores in any of the three companies have any questions about prescriptions, Sheahan said, "Just talk to your pharmacist, and he or she will be glad to help you."
"We (grocers) have the same security measures in place now as we did before the strike and lockouts." Kaemmerer explained. "No store associate, temporary or otherwise, has access to any customer's Social Security number, which would be key to identity theft."
"Customers swipe their own credit and debit cards, and only the last four digits of the number appear on the register receipt. Checks are approved by the MICR system, which electronically reads the MICR number and approves or denies the transaction," said Kaemmerer.
"In this technological age, we have a very secure system and customers need not be concerned." The same goes, he said, for food safety and security.
Dianna Pasley, director of food safety for Schnucks, explained, "You will notice that the companies have closed off all service areas, including deli/seafood and service meat counters. No replacement workers will be assigned to those areas, so Hepatitis A shots are not required at this point." She added, "If the work stoppage drags on and we decide to open those areas up then, of course, we would simply have those workers vaccinated within 30 days of putting them to work as required by law."
In fact, Kaemmerer said safety and security measures across all three chains have been increased as a precautionary measure. "On the whole, everyone has been respectful of this situation, but we are partnering with local law enforcement officials to give customers and replacement workers an extra sense of security," he said.
The Greater St. Louis Food Employers Council was established in early 2003 for the purpose of bargaining as a unit. This is the first time all three employers have bargained jointly on a Local 655 contract. In early September, the Council and the Union reached a tentative agreement, and Union President Bob Kelley recommended acceptance of the proposal to the more than 11,000 union associates. The work stoppage affects 21 Shop `n Save stores, 55 Schnucks stores and 19 Dierbergs in the St. Louis, Metro Missouri area.
Michael Kaemmerer, appointed spokesperson for the group, is experienced in labor negotiations. He is a partner with St. Louis-based McCarthy, Leonard, Kaemmerer, Owen & McGovern, L.C.
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