Story by Chris Lawrence, MetroNews

RICHMOND, Va. — Although the bargaining team of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union doesn’t like the offer, Kroger is defending their proposed contract now before nearly 3,000 West Virginia employees.

Loria Raya

“Our strong position is this is a great offer,” Kroger Mid-Atlantic President Lori Raya told MetroNews Tuesday. “We’re encouraging our associates to insure they understand our last, best, and final offer we have presented to the UFCW Local 400 and really understand how that affects them as individual associates.”

The workers will vote on the measure Wednesday and Thursday and the votes will be tallied on Friday. A spokesperson for the union told MetroNews earlier this week they are urging their rank and file members to reject the contract offer saying the wage offering in the deal comes to about a 12 percent pay raise with the inflation rate at 18 percent. But, Raya disagreed and said it was actually the best wage improvement ever offered to their West Virginia employees.

“We’re giving bigger paychecks to everyone in the bargaining unit. The offer benefits every associate in the collective bargaining agreement making their paychecks grow by 26 percent. That’s what our offer is worth,” Raya said.

She also defended the offer they have made on health insurance as a strong offering.

“This offer maintains industry leading healthcare at 72 percent less than the average cost for West Virginia families. For a Kroger associate they would be paying $134 versus the West Virginia average of $486 and we’re holding that level despite the growing healthcare costs,” she explained.

The union also blasted the Kroger’s offer of $25 BILLION to buy rival grocery store chain Albertsons. Raya noted those two things have nothing to do with each other and have no bearing on the proposals in the tentative contract agreement.

Raya added they are willing to talk to any associate to explain the contract offer and how it will benefit them. She hoped each of their employees in Local 400 would take time to consider all the contract offer holds before they vote on Wednesday or Thursday.

“From a wage, healthcare, and vacation prospective, we’re strongly urging our associates to ratify this contract,” she said.

The agreement covers around 3,000 workers at 38 Kroger stores. Most of the stores are in West Virginia, with a handful in neighboring Kentucky and Oho.