Food store union to protest cost of retirees' insurance

More than 4,000 retired food store employees covered by a union-employers benefit fund saw their health insurance premiums double this month, and their union plans to protest the increases by picketing supermarket offices today.

Retirees will picket the Baltimore offices of the Giant and Super Fresh chains and the Landover offices of Safeway, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union.


The supermarket retirees found that their insurance co-payments jumped from $80 a month to $171.95 in January.

"The co-payments were increased by the [plan] board of trustees based on utilization in 1990, but the union wants other alternatives rather than socking it to the retirees," said Joseph Kerhart, a spokesman for Local 27, UFCW, in Baltimore. He said the union hoped the picketing would convince the supermarkets to find a way to roll back the retirees' increases.


Trustees from the union advocated using financial reserves of the plan to fund most of the increase, he said, while employer trustees proposed cutting benefits to hold down co-payments.

The fund had to borrow $3 million from reserves last year to cover a shortfall in revenues, Mr. Kerhart noted, but he said the fund still has ample reserves.

Most retirees covered by the multi-employer fund worked for the Giant, Super Fresh (formerly A&P;) and Safeway chains in Baltimore and Washington areas. They were represented by UFCW Local 27 in Baltimore and Local 400 in Washington.

The fund also provides benefits for retirees of food chains no longer operating in this area, such as Pantry Pride and Grand Union.