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Rite Aid labor deal will keep Poca warehouse open longer

By Paul J. Nyden

Employees at Rite Aid’s distribution center in Poca on Sunday approved a new labor agreement, which will keep the company’s warehouse open until November 2017 — about 18 months longer than previously announced.

Earlier this year, Rite Aid announced it would close its Poca distribution center in two years. Since then, Rite Aid also announced plans to close two nonunion facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The company said it was planning a huge warehouse that would serve its stores in areas currently stocked by those three warehouses.

Teamsters Local 175, based in South Charleston, has been representing Rite Aid workers in talks with the company since October 2013.

Sunday’s agreement was approved by 94 percent of the workers at the warehouse, according to the union.

The longer agreement will allow several employees to get in enough time to reach retirement age.

After an initial layoff, Rite-Aid will guarantee all remaining employees they will be able to work 40 hours a week for the life of the contract, according to the union. Several more employees will be able to reach retirement age before the warehouse closes.

The agreement reached Sunday also includes wage raises and maintains the employees’ current health-care plan, which Rite Aid was trying to cut back, according to the union. Employees will get a “substantial” severance package, according to the union, whether they’re laid off soon or lose their jobs when the warehouse closes.

Under the agreement, the Poca warehouse will remain open if the Charlotte and Tuscaloosa warehouses are not closed down and if the new replacement warehouse is not built, according to the union.

“While we are not happy about the closure of the warehouse, the 94 percent vote shows we were able to negotiate a substantial severance package to help employees in the initial layoff and subsequent 2017 closure,” Ken Hall, president of Local 175 and general secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters, said in a news release. “Additionally, the union and negotiating committee were able to secure a 40-hour-per-week guarantee for all remaining employees until November 2017.”

Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower said Monday that the company “was pleased to hear that our associates ratified the agreement reached between Rite Aid and Teamsters 175.”

“We believe this is a fair agreement for Rite Aid, our associates and the union. We look forward to working together with the union and to continue to provide our customers and patients with the best service possible,” Flower said. She said the contract runs through Nov. 4, 2017.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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