The United Food and Trade Workers Union has approved a new contract that includes promotions and bonuses for 7,000 food workers at Food 4 Less and FoodsCo supermarkets in California.

A workers-led negotiating committee from UFCW locals across California ratified the deal last week after six months of negotiations with The Kroger Co., the parent company of the two supermarket chains. It covers employees in nearly 100 grocery stores across the state.

That came six months after Kroger the declared hero increased salaries and closed several area stores.

In announcing the contract on Tuesday, the UFCW announced the employment deal as “the best deal ever for food workers 4 less across the state”.

The contract includes pay increases of up to $ 1.65 per hour over the term of the three-year contract, plus an agreement to match any major increases achieved by Ralphs employees in renewing their future contract. Kroger also owns the Ralphs.

Most workers will also receive bonuses of $ 150 to $ 500, depending on status and whether they work part-time or full-time. There will be an increase in guaranteed hours for part-time employees, extra vacation time for older workers and access to a company scholarship fund.

The contract also provides for a health and safety committee in each Food 4 country to address the COVID-19 risks that have affected both workers and buyers.

A wide footprint

Foods 4 Less grocery stores can be found throughout Southern California at Anaheim, Canoga Park, Inglewood, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pico Rivera and Santa Clarita.

FoodsCo. markets are in Bakersfield, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Oakland, among other cities.

Food 4 Less’s previous contract expired in June 2020 but was extended until March 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new contract will expire on June 8, 2024.

Elena Gonzalez, who works as a cashier at a Food 4 Less in Bell Gardens, said the benefits in the new employment agreement are significant for her and her family.

“We pushed to raise the level and earn better salaries and hours, and we will continue to fight for what we deserve,” Gonzelez said in a statement.

Kroger spokeswoman Vanessa Rosales said the company is pleased there is a deal that is good for the employees.

“This new contract provides good salary increases, affordable health care and investments by the company in the pension fund of our associates to support their retirement,” she said via email.

Rosales said Kroger made a $ 115 million investment throughout the contract to maintain a high quality affordable healthcare and invested $ 34 million in employee pensions.

Store closures

The company was criticized earlier this year when it closed five weakest Ralphs and Food 4 Less supermarkets in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Kroger said the closures were accelerated by “risk wage” increases mandated by both cities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In LA, the mandated wage increase was $ 5 per hour, while Long Beach implemented a $ 4 per hour pay clash.