Seward Co-op’s Ends guide us to sustain a healthy community that has equitable economic relationships, positive environmental impacts, and inclusive, socially responsible practices. It is in this spirit of cooperation that Seward Co-op began conversations to negotiate our third union contract with UFCW 663 this past March. The purpose of this communication is to provide transparent information to our staff and community about our current bargaining process. To read our previous statement about the bargaining process, please click here.
We want to clear up misinformation about Seward Co-op management’s willingness to negotiate with the union. A narrative shared online is that management walked out of bargaining earlier this month and is refusing to come back to the table to finish negotiations. This is untrue. What follows is a short recap of the bargaining process and timeline.
On September 7th, Seward Co-op and UFCW 663’s representatives were engaged in intense negotiations when the management bargaining team left the room to caucus, which is a normal part of the bargaining process, as emotions can run high. Caucuses give both teams an opportunity to reset and to work on contract language and financial modelling in order to keep the negotiations moving forward. Our team continued to work on our proposal. When we offered to return to joint session at the bargaining table that same day, UFCW 663 told us that they wanted to reconvene the following day.
The next day, Seward Co-op and UFCW 663’s representatives met for the first time with a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. After the Union bargaining team presented their latest compensation proposal, we went back to our caucus and continued working on a counter proposal, which we hoped to deliver that same day. However, it became clear we did not have enough time to complete that new proposal before the session closed. We offered additional dates in September for our next meeting(s), but the mediator alerted us that UFCW 663 leadership was unavailable due to other bargaining obligations and recommended reconvening in October.
We have since continued to be in communication with the mediator and the Union to identify additional bargaining dates. On September 20th, we received word from UFCW 663 that they will be available to meet on September 27. We confirmed that we will meet on September 27 at 9 a.m. at the Seward Co-op Friendship store, and we look forward to coming to an agreement that benefits us all.