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July 31, 2006

North Carolina Kroger Workers Stand Up for Health Care

North Carolina Kroger workers are ready to fight to protect affordable health care. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 204 at stores in the Raleigh-Durham area will be voting to reject company demands that would make health care unaffordable for workers and their families.

More negotiations are to take place, and UFCW members will bargain in good faith with Kroger. However, if Kroger is unwilling to provide workers with adequate health care and wage increases, a strike may become a reality as early as mid-August.

Workers will be voting in three meetings this week: Monday July 31, 6 p.m. at the Windgate Inn in Greenville, Monday July 31, 7:30 p.m. at the North Gate Mall in Durham, and Tuesday Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m. at the North Raleigh Hilton in Raleigh. The threatened strike would affect 1000 workers from 19 stores in the area.

In their last contract, workers bargained for corporate contributions to their health care fund. Because local Kroger workers have remained relatively healthy in the last few years, there is now over $4 million in that fund–$4 million that is already invested for health care for workers and their families.

But corporate greed has surfaced. Kroger wants to raid that fund themselves and then force workers to pay an extra $1 million out of their own paychecks towards health care. This adds up to an unsustainable amount for Kroger workers and their families.

If Kroger’s proposed health care changes are put into place, workers, especially those with families, will have to choose between health care and things like rent, food, and other basic necessities. Any wage increases workers would get under the new contract would be eaten up by the proposed increased health care costs.

UFCW members believe that grocery jobs can and should be good, career jobs that can sustain a family and provide affordable health care. Kroger workers are among the most productive in the retail food industry, and have generated more than $60 billion in sales for their company in the last year. Yet Kroger treats them as though they are dispensable.

UFCW members remain committed to reaching a fair agreement with Kroger. But Kroger has to meet workers halfway, and to stop punishing those with families. Kroger workers have contributed greatly to their company, and they deserve better.