Kmart workers vote down proposed contract

BAZETTA – For the second time since they started negotiating for a new contract, workers at the Kmart Distribution Center have voted down a proposed labor agreement.

Sixty-one percent of the more than 200 workers represented by United Auto Workers Local 1112 who voted Sunday opposed the new contract offer from Kmart parent company Sears Holdings.

The union has about 220 members who work at the center at 541 Perkins Jones Road NE in Bazetta.

The current contract expired Sept. 2, with workers remaining on the job and working under terms of the old three-year contract on a day-to-day basis as talks continue. On Sept. 4, United Auto Workers Local 1112 members voted to give negotiators authorization to call a strike if necessary.

UAW Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson said Monday, when voting results were announced, the strike authorization remains in effect. However, he said it was not clear whether workers would move in that direction or continue to work under terms of their extended contract.

“Right now everyone’s in a cooling off period, which is typical right after a contract vote,” Johnson said. “Right now everyone’s looking to regroup. We’re just waiting to hear from the international and from (Sears) to see how they plan to proceed, whether they are looking to move forward with talks.”

The union has not said why workers voted against the proposed contract, nor has it revealed what issues are on the table.

On Monday, Howard Riefs, corporate communications director for Sears, said they company is continuing its discussions with the union “to resolve the matter.”

Talks between the two sides have been ongoing the past two months.

Previously, Johnson said about 98 percent of the workers who voted did so in favor of authorizing a strike if needed. He had said negotiations are ongoing and the strike authorization does not mean workers plan to strike, but will be used as a tool should contract talks stall.

In late August, union members voted down a new contract proposal, with more than 150 opposing the proposed pact.