Collective Bargaining

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Local 400 Member Writes Op-Ed About Kroger’s New Anti-Union Direction

10153899_753063741381197_2612718722607377983_nLaverne Wrenn, a Local 400 member who works at a Kroger in Portsmouth, Virginia, wrote an op-ed this weekend that was published in the Virginian-Pilot.

In her op-ed, Laverne discusses how she and her co-workers have been preparing for the upcoming closure of her store. She says it will be hard to say goodbye to the customers whom she has known and served for 17 years, but what’s worse is that she and her coworkers will lose their jobs unless they are able to make a 50-mile, round-trip commute to the nearest unionized Kroger store in Yorktown, Virginia.

Putting these dedicated Kroger employees in this situation is irresponsible and unfair. Laverne says that she and her coworkers are active members of their Portsmouth community, and understandably many do not want to leave their communities, or they simply can’t.

Lavern’s coworker Nick, who has special needs, has been a fixture in their store where he scans and bags groceries, thanks to his “open smile and dedication” to the neighbors who shop in their store. On his days off, Nick volunteers with the Portsmouth Fire Department. Nick’s parents, who live nearby the Kroger, have been able to drive him to work for the last 16 years.

By closing their unionized workplace, Kroger is hurting workers like Laverne, Nick, and another employee who can’t drive due to medical reasons. Driving 50 miles twice a day is out of the question for many commuters, and impossible for those who can’t drive themselves. So although Kroger has a legal obligation to transfer their employees to other stores, they are essentially forcing many of these hard workers to quit.

Laverne writes:

“All of us who work in the High Street store are members of the Portsmouth community. We live here and send our children to the neighborhood schools. Many of my co-workers walk or take the bus to work; they do not own a car. We have built our lives around this store and this community. But now Kroger is giving us just one month’s notice to transfer to a store 25 miles away or lose our jobs.

Kroger signed a contract with us to protect our jobs if the company ever chose to close our store. This false choice – commute or quit – was never a part of our contract.”

There are two other Kroger stores in the Portsmouth area, however Kroger opened them under their Marketplace brand, as non-union. These non-union stores do not offer the types of jobs that Laverne and her coworkers have under their union-contract. “For a job with union wages, pension benefits and a voice on the job, the stores in Yorktown and Virginia Beach are the only options,” wrote Laverne.

Laverne’s op-ed conveys a shift in what Kroger stands for. What Laverne used to believe was a company that stood for good jobs, is not a company that is “deliberately expanding its non-union stores by acquiring Harris Teeter, building non-union Kroger Marketplaces and then pushing loyal union workers” out of town.

It is the workers who are supposed to have the right to choose whether or not they have union representation–not the company. Kroger needs to respect choice its Portsmouth workers made when they chose to be union members. Laverne urges all employees working at stores under the Kroger banner to fight for representation, to stop things like this from happening: “It is time for all Kroger Marketplace workers to make that choice. Together, we can keep good jobs and good workers in Portsmouth and strengthen our local economy.”

UFCW President Perrone Statement on Adoption of Right to Work in Wisconsin

“By standing against hard-working families, Governor Walker should be ashamed, but we know he is not.”

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C.Marc Perrone, International President of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement in response to the adoption of right to work in Wisconsin.

“Every elected leader has a sacred responsibility to stand up for America’s hard-working families and to help them achieve a better life. Higher wages, better benefits, equal pay for equal work, protection from discrimination and exploitation; those are the rights that unions offer and which we fight for every single day. These are the true rights that Governor Scott Walker wants to take away from the union men and women who work hard, sacrifice, and help make Wisconsin and America a better place.

The truth is by standing against hard-working families, Governor Scott Walker should be ashamed, but we know he is not. He has chosen to pursue a radical agenda that willingly ignores that this law will devastate countless workers and their families. Make no mistake, this law gives irresponsible corporations, let alone politicians, the right to exploit and mistreat countless men and women all across Wisconsin.

Let me be clear, this fight is not over. We will stand up and fight for the right to protect our hard-working union family and the rights of countless families in Wisconsin and all across America who earn and deserve a better life.”wisconsin

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Key Facts: Value of Union Membership for Hard-Working Men and Women

  • Union workers vs non-union workers earn higher wages, receive better benefits, and have more job security than non-union workers. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Union Members – 2014”, January 2015, Table 2. Available at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm
  • Women are more likely to get equal pay for equal work by being a union member. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Union Members – 2014”, January 2015, Table 2. Available at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm
  • LGBT workers are less likely to be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity as a union member.  Source: Frank, Miriam. “Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America”, Temple University Press, 2014.

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

UFCW Local 400 Shoppers Workers Ratify New Agreement

Local-400-Shoppers1-300x168Last week, UFCW Local 400 members working at Shoppers Food & Pharmacy overwhelmingly ratified a new, three-year collective bargaining agreement that increases their wages and maintains their health and retirement security.

The contract culminates a months-long, difficult round of bargaining that required multiple extensions of the old agreement to resolve complex issues, many of which revolved around increased costs imposed by the Affordable Care Act. The workers’ success was due to a sustained campaign that mobilized support from Shoppers customers and the community, with members of the bargaining advisory committee visiting every store in the area.

“Because our Shoppers members stayed strong throughout this challenging process, they won a collective bargaining agreement that improves their standard of living and keeps their comprehensive health and pension benefits,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “This is a solid contract that compares well to others in the industry, and it’s testimony to the power of member activism. It also gives our members one more thing to be thankful for two days from now.”

“It took a lot of hard work, but we stuck together in solidarity, and it all paid off,” said Jose Mercado who works at Shoppers #2615. “I think it’s a fair and good contract.”

“I feel good about the contract,” said Kevin Freeman of Shoppers #2618. “We touched base on all the issues people had in the stores and it was a good outcome. I was really glad to be on the bargaining team—it was a great group. Now we just have to keep moving forward.”

“We earned this contract through our actions in the stores,” said Chartel Scott, who works at Shoppers #2653. “I’m proud of the strength we showed through this long process.”

“Together with our union leadership we stuck together, didn’t give up, and got the best deal possible,” said Keith DeWitt, who works at Shoppers #2646. “Our hard work has paid off.”

Key provisions of the contract include:

  • Guaranteed wage increases of up to 90 cents/hour over three years, with all of the agreement’s financial benefits coming in the form of permanent raises rather than one-time bonuses.
  • Increased employer contributions to fully fund pension benefits.
  • Health care maintenance of benefits, which ensures that Shoppers will contribute whatever is necessary to the health care fund to pay all benefits.
  • Spouses will continue to be covered under the health benefit plan.
  • Overtime will continue to be paid for work exceeding eight hours in any day.
  • Sunday will continue to be treated as separate from the basic work week.

The agreement, which affects 2,500 workers in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, takes effect retroactively as of July 13, 2014, and it expires on July 8, 2017.