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April 14, 2019

Stop & Shop workers overwhelmed by outpouring of community support

Since Stop & Shop workers walked off the job Thursday, there has been an outpouring of customer support as New England communities rally together with the goal of making Stop & Shop a better place to work and shop.

UFCW Locals 328, 919, 1459, 1445, and 371, representing all 31,000 Stop & Shop workers in New England, have been in negotiations with the company over a new contract for nearly three months since January 14th, with the current contract having expired on February 23rd.

Despite Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, taking in more than $2 billion in 2018 and authorizing over $4 billion in stock buybacks from 2017 to 2019, the company is proposing unreasonable cuts to workers’ take-home pay, health care, and retirement benefits.

In addition, the company unlawfully refuses to provide financial information to verify its claim that their proposed cuts are necessary.

UFCW’s five New England locals are unified at the negotiation table and are asking for Stop & Shop to properly value the employees whose hard work and dedication have made their company so successful.

Support from Customers

The flood of support, both in person as customers stop by picket signs to drop off bottles of water, offer hugs or messages of strength and encouragement, or online on social media, shows New England is a place that values hard-working union families and believes workers have earned the right to build a better life and community.:

Support from across our union family

Union members, both UFCW and from other unions, have also been sending along their strength, both from local former Stop & Shop workers, but also from union members as far away as Alberta, Canada:



Thank you to everyone who has shown their support so far. It means a great deal that in these divisive times, we can still come together as a community and have one another’s backs when it matters. The hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop pride themselves on their service to the community, and are humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement received so far.

If you would like to voice your support for Stop & Shop workers, sign the petition.

April 14, 2019

Why New England Stop & Shop workers walked off the job Thursday

31,000 Stop & Shop workers from over 240 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island walked off the job Thursday April 11. This massive worker protest comes in response to months of negotiations with Stop & Shop in which the company has refused to back down from proposals attempting to cut workers’ health care, take home pay, and retirement benefits.

Stop & Shop is claiming they are offering a wage increase, but $.30 in hourly wages for a part-time worker would not offset the cuts they have included in their proposal such as:

  • Elimination of Sunday and holiday pay for part-timers
  • Increase in weekly premium costs for employee only coverage by up to 90% over three years
  • Doubling of health care out-of-pocket limits for many employees, going from $1,000 for an individual to $2,000, and from $2,500 to $5,000 for a family

Stop & Shop is the number one grocery chain in New England. It is a subsidiary of multinational company Ahold-Delhaize, which reported more than $2 billion in profit last year. This is not a company in financial trouble.

At the same time the company was demanding workers’ pay more for health care and lose Sunday and holiday pay, Ahold authorized $880 million in dividend payments to shareholders from 2017 to 2019. Ahold also recently received $217 million in corporate tax cuts. Amongst other actions, the company unlawfully refuses to provide financial information to verify its claim that their proposed cuts are necessary.

Instead of investing in the workers who made the company successful and who take care of their customers, Stop & Shop is trying to stiff them.

The decision to walk off the job is a tough one. If one person were to try to fight back on cuts like these by themselves, they wouldn’t stand a chance. But the 31,000 workers who made this choice are doing it together as one union family. None of them have to fight for their health care and benefits alone. Together they can fight these cuts and protest the company’s unlawful actions in connection with negotiations—and win. .

UFCW’s five New England locals are unified at the negotiation table and are asking for Stop & Shop to properly value the employees whose hard work and dedication have made their company so successful.

UFCW members who work at Stop & Shop could use your support. If you live in New England, please don’t cross the line. Please stop at other union stores.

Please sign our petition and stand with UFCW Stop & Shop workers for a contract that allows them to deliver excellent customer service while still being able to provide for their families. It’s time for Stop & Shop to reach a fair contract agreement that reflects the true value of its workers.

Sign and share the petition today to support Stop & Shop workers

Or Text “support” to 698329 to sign the petition by mobile.

March 27, 2019

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month and a good opportunity to not only thank the UFCW men and women who help make the healthy foods we eat, but also our hardworking men and women in the health care field, like the registered dietitians of Kaiser Permanente.


What is a nutritionist?

Nutritionists are experts in food, health and nutrition. Nutritionists can work in a wide range of environments where healthy eating is important- which can be anywhere from hospitals and grocery stores to gyms and fitness centers.


Member Spotlight

One of our own UFCW nutritionists is also a published author. Kaiser dietitian and UFCW Local 400 member Mary Lynn Farivari shared her tips for preparing nutritious, flavorful meals in her cookbook, Healthy Palate. 

Farivari published the cookbook in 2010 after her patients urged her to share her healthy and delicious recipes with others who would benefits from them.

Farivari works at Kaiser Permanente’s Capitol Hill Medical Center where she provides individual nutrition counseling and teaches classes for those who want to lose weight, manage their diabetes, or lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. She was recognized at Kaiser Permanente with a Thrive Award for sharing her passion for nutrition.

You can order Farivari’s book online and learn for yourself how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet in a way that is both delicious and nutritious.


Nutrition Resources You Can Use


The USDA has put together a number of great resources for National Nutrition Month that can help you stay on track year round. With recommendations and tools for kids, teens, families, and nutrition professionals, there’s a little something for everyone looking to learn more about what they can do to make eating right easier and more fun.

Learn More

 

March 18, 2019

Should we be worried about dynamic pricing in retail?

Ever go to tell a family member or a friend about a great deal you found online, but when they go to buy it too, it’s no longer there? Or maybe it costs way more than you paid for the same thing?

While you got a great deal, what you’re experiencing is the phenomenon known as “dynamic pricing” or raising and lowering prices many times a day, a week or a month to drive sales but still ensure a consistent profit. This is often paired with what is called “personalized pricing” or “cohort pricing” where each shopper gets their own price for a product – what’s my price isn’t yours and vice versa. These are marketed to consumers as a benefit – deeper discounts just for you — but in the end, may actually end up benefiting the retailer at your expense.

One paper from MIT’s Sloan School says that “Implementing DP can improve revenues and profits by between 8% and 25%.”

So if everyone is saving, how are retailers making money? In the case of things like groceries, people tend to buy the same items over and over again. Since you’re not the only shopper, companies like Amazon sometimes charge one shopper triple what another one pays for the same item.

Companies are able to get away with doing this because as customers, we don’t actually have a single price we’re willing to pay, we have what’s called a “latitude of price acceptance.” That’s a band of prices—from a steal to a little pricey—that we’re willing pay for an item. According to McKinsey & Co., that price variance can be as much as 17% , which is a lot of extra money to be made if you move to the top of the band.

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence

While price fluctuations aren’t new and dynamic pricing has been around since the 1980s, having those changes determined by Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is uncharted territory. As retailers battle it out to find that exact pricing sweet spot that maximizes both sales and profits, evolving technology raises concerns about what the effects are on both consumers and smaller businesses when large companies like Amazon use AI and algorithms to enhance profitability with little oversight.

Data is King

AI-driven personalized pricing relies on tracking and retaining information on customer behavior. That means whoever has the most information on you has a competitive advantage over their rivals. Beyond the security and privacy concerns of big data, this also means that the playing field is tipped even further in the favor of large companies like Amazon, who reached over 100 million Prime members in the US in January.

According to Amazon’s Privacy Notice page, the retail giant collects and analyzes everything from purchase histories and products viewed or searched for to reviews, wish lists and length of visits to certain pages. This huge pool of data on its customers’ shopping habits can help Amazon better understand what shoppers are looking for, what they buy and what prices they are willing to pay. 

Increasingly, company leaders are recognizing that a dynamic pricing strategy supported by big data and artificial intelligence (AI) can help them gain a competitive pricing advantage over rivals. 

– Forbes

With deep insights into the personal preferences and online behavior of about a third of the US population, not even including the shoppers who are not Prime members, Amazon isn’t just a retailer, but a data company.

Pricing based on who you are

While the law prohibits assigning prices based on protected characteristics—like race or gender—personalized pricing is by its nature nontransparent, meaning you can’t see everyone’s prices. That means you may not know that women, for example, are charged more for the same item, because the only price you see is the artificially high one. If we know companies have information on your race or gender, and we also know the AI-driven dynamic pricing responds to your unique set of data and characteristics, how would anyone know if the law was being violated?

What comes next?

We don’t know—and we’re not sure anyone else does either. But we also believe that honesty and transparency are essential. Lawmakers should be wary of technology evolving faster than our laws, or the ability to enforce them, can keep up with, especially if that technology is skewed to benefit powerful retail industry players like Amazon.

March 5, 2019

Tired of empty promises? Get it in writing.

Have you ever been promised something by your boss, only to have it fall through later? It may be a promise to give you more hours, let you take time off, or give you a promotion or a raise. There are plenty of times when for one reason or another, employers or managers don’t come through on a promise they made and you’re left trying to figure out how to adapt.

You don’t even have to have a bad manager for this to happen, sometimes your boss just might not have had all the right information when they spoke to you, or perhaps the final say was above their pay grade.  Some well-intentioned managers may even just not like saying no, even when they know they don’t have the authority to actually promise you something. Whatever the reason, in the end it often feels like there’s not much you can do about it but hope for better luck next time.

You don’t need to rely on luck.

When it comes to your job, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been working there a while, you need to know that you can count on a promise your boss makes to you. Sometimes they will come through and make good, but that’s not always the case. That’s why you need to make sure you get it in writing. And that’s where a contract can help you.

Your time and effort has value – act like it!

When companies do business with each other, they can’t just rely on promises– they put agreements down in writing where they are legally binding. But while this is accepted as normal for businesses, we have a harder time thinking of the work employees do as having the same level of value and deserving of the same commitment and respect.

Instead of relying on awkward favors, a contract creates a way for two parties with different interests to work together. One of the most powerful but often overlooked benefits to belonging to a union is that you and your coworkers can draw up a contract of your own and have that same level of clarity and security.

A contract spells out all the agreements between you and your employer. This can include how much you get paid, your benefits, holiday/sick days, personal time off, your pension, scheduling agreements, health and safety standards, staffing, and more. Unlike a company handbook, you have a say in what goes into it, and you can have the peace of mind of knowing it can’t be changed without your knowledge or input.

Contracts can also help ease possible tensions between you and your managers by making it really clear what the agreed upon rules are, as well as what to do when they are violated. Confronting your manager one on one can end up feeling like a personal attack or criticism with someone you have to work with every day and maintain a good relationship with. In the end, many people just decide to let minor problems go rather than risk creating an uncomfortable situation or even just seeming like they aren’t a team player. In the end, that isn’t a very good way to get problems solved. With a written contract and union representation you have someone to call who isn’t your boss who can help you get the issue resolved.

Never forget that you’ve already earned it.

When you have a strong contract that protects your rights as an employee and the promises your employer makes, you can rest easy knowing exactly what you’re getting in exchange for your hard work.

You work hard every day. When a promise is made to you, you deserve better than being expected to just take someone’s word for it.

 

March 1, 2019

UFCW president responds to Amazon’s newly announced grocery chain: “Our leaders need to stop fawning over Jeff Bezos”

A report today from the Wall Street Journal claims Amazon plans to open a new grocery US grocery chain that would be separate from Whole Foods, which was purchased by Amazon in 2017 for roughly $13.5 billion. According to the WSJ article:

Amazon.com is planning to open dozens of grocery stores in several major U.S. cities, according to people familiar with the matter, as the retail giant looks to broaden its reach in the food business. First grocery store in Los Angeles as early as the end of 2019. Amazon has already signed leases for at least 2 other grocery locations with openings planned for early next year, this person said.

The new stores would be distinct from the company’s upscale Whole Foods Market brand, though it is unclear whether the new grocery chain would carry the Amazon name.

Amazon is also exploring an acquisition strategy to widen the new supermarket brand by purchasing regional grocery chains with about a dozen stores under operation, one person said.

Amazon is now in talks to open grocery stores in shopping centers in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, the people familiar with the matter said.

While Amazon has already signed leases, that doesn’t guarantee it will open the grocery stores. Retailers sign contracts and then pull out or delay store openings if certain conditions aren’t met.

The new stores aren’t intended to compete directly with Whole Foods and will offer products at a lower price point, these people said. The new chain would offer a different variety of products than what is on the shelves at the more upscale Whole Foods stores.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone responded with the following statement warning of the dire impacts Amazon’s move to take over the grocery industry could have for everyday Americans:

“Make no mistake, Amazon’s new and ruthless supermarket strategy is its latest salvo bent on destroying good American jobs to enrich one billionaire – Jeff Bezos.

Amazon isn’t about providing better food or customer service, and it certainly is not about fair competition. Launching this grocery chain is an aggressive expansion of Amazon’s market power as it seeks to fundamentally change our country’s food retail and service economy while eliminating as many retail workers as possible.

It is time that Republicans and Democrats realize that Amazon’s predatory business model is wrong for this nation and will needlessly destroy millions of jobs in every state in this country. Our leaders need to stop fawning over Jeff Bezos’ wealth and wake up to the serious threat Amazon’s business model poses to consumers, the economy, and our society.”

The UFCW has been calling for more scrutiny to be given to Amazon’s impact on the grocery industry since their announcement of the Amazon Go stores in 2016. 

February 27, 2019

Black History Month Spotlight: Albert Arnoux of Local 342

For UFCW Local 342 member Albert Arnoux, every month is Black History Month.

Albert Arnoux“Black History Month means prestige and success coming from where black people have come from,” he said. “Achieving success is what Black History Month is to me. It’s more than just one month. I celebrate black history every month.”

Arnoux works as a meat cutter at Stop & Shop in Brooklyn, New York, and has been a member of UFCW local 342 for 27 years. He has also served as a steward for 14 years, a role he assumed because he was inspired by another steward.

“As a steward, I like helping my colleagues have a better future,” he said.

Arnoux has spent decades in the grocery industry, and worked at ShopRite, Gristedes, A&P and Pathmark before it was acquired by Stop & Shop. He started off as a meat wrapper and was promoted to a meat cutter early on in his career.

Arnoux reflected on his 27 years as a UFCW member. “Being a member of the UFCW is about job protection and brotherhood—something people don’t have if they’re not part of a union,” he said.

February 19, 2019

UFCW Member Spotlight: Kelly Ward

Kelly Ward’s story was originally featured on the UFCW Local 227 Facebook page:

Kelly Ward has been a member with UFCW Local 227 since 2012. When she isn’t putting in hours at Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro, KY, she is running her own business.

UFCW Local 227 member Kelly WardMil’s Dairy Drive-In has been a family business for over twenty-five years. In October 2017, Kelly and her husband took the reins. The drive-in has been known for its dedication to the community but most recently Kelly and her husband have gotten more involved.

During the recent three day school shutdown from snow, Kelly realized that some kids who benefit from the backpack meal program would be lacking from the long break.

They decided to donate pizzas to the Whitesville PTO board to help distribute them. It’s community awareness like this that shows the love and dedication she has for those around her.

“I get joy from giving back to the community!” says Ward.

February 15, 2019

Organizing Is “InStyle” With Local 770 Member

More than 7,000 pork ribs are cut in a 4-hour shift –about 30 ribs per minute– at the Farmer John’s pork processing plant in Vernon, California. UFCW 770 member, Rina Chavarria, and her co-workers in the rib conversion department work diligently to meet the production’s fast-paced demand. Despite performing a physical taxing job, Rina still finds energy and extra time to organize and represent her co-workers as a union shop steward. She was recently featured in the “badass women” series of InStyle magazine.

Roughly 1,200 UFCW 770 union members work at the Vernon Farmer John hog slaughterhouse, which is owned by Smithfield Foods. They produce bacon and other pork products, including the famous “Dodger Dog” hot dog that many people enjoy. Rina Chavarria has worked at Farmer John for 5 years.  She shares her thoughts about her experience:

“I feel good that I was considered for this story. Very often, people don’t realize that as working women we are on our own working to provide for our children and to be able to help them succeed in life,” says Rina who has two children Cynthia,18 and Marco, 10. “I teach my children to be fighters. I tell them to dream big and fight for those dreams. And to be good people,” she says. For her, being featured in an InStyle article was “an acknowledgment of us women who are hardworking people and who don’t chicken out,” she points out laughing.

“I really enjoyed the experience of doing the photo shoot and the interview. It was a very nice, new experience. I also liked it because I had the opportunity to meet other women from different industries such as farm workers, caregivers, and hotel workers.”

Rina Chavarria has been a member of the UFCW 770 bargaining committee since 2016 when she was actively engaged in contract negotiations. Last year, she became a shop steward within the plant. She was also involved in the bargaining sessions of 2018 when union members won a union contract that included wage increases, affordable healthcare, and union security. The contract also secures protections and other benefits.

“Being a UFCW 770 member represents a great value to me because I have the opportunity to be a voice for my co-workers. I’m involved in the Union to help my co-workers as much as I can. As a shop steward I’m more aware of the problems that my co-workers face in the plant, so I to try to find a way to resolve them. I love helping my co-workers. That’s why I enjoy being a Union steward. And I really like defending my rights and the rights of my co-workers.”

“Being a shop steward empowers me because the bosses look at me differently, and people in the plant look at me differently. I don’t know, you feel kind of important when your co-worker comes to you and asks you for advice or asks you for help. When I’m able to help them, I feel great satisfaction,” she adds.

Last year, Rina completed a 3-day health and safety training and she also represented her local at a UFCW International’s Packinghouse chain meeting in Nebraska. She is always eager to collaborate with her union to make sure her fellow workers at Farmer John have respect, dignity and a voice on the job.

February 6, 2019

Black History Month: how the push for fair treatment in a Texas poultry plant changed the health and safety standards of an industry

Union organizing efforts won significant benefits for meatpacking workers during the first half of the 20th century. In 1960, before a wave of automation and rapid restructuring would decimate jobs in the industry, meatpacking wages were 15 percent above the average wage for manufacturing workers in the United States. But one area where change was slow to come was in the poultry industry. Unlike other jobs in meatpacking, a much higher percentage of poultry workers were African American women in the anti-union South.

A reasonable request

In 1953, Clara Holder, an East Texas poultry worker, wrote to Patrick Gorman, Secretary Treasurer of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workman of America (a union that would later merge with the Retail Clerks Union to become the UFCW in 1979). She and her coworkers were fed up with the exploitation and unhealthy practices they witnessed on the job and had decided to form a union to better conditions at the plant.

“I was told to contact your office to secure help in organizing a much needed plant,” Miss Holder wrote. “The majority of the workers are eager to organize, if only they had some advice from a bonafide labor union. Would you kindly inform me if your organization can help us.” Clara Holder’s brief and innocently worded letter sparked a tortuous organizing campaign — in Center, Texas — that stirred racial and class tensions, triggered a national boycott, and persuaded the union to launch a successful drive to reform the entire American poultry industry. – The Texas “Sick Chicken” Strike, 1950s by George N. Green

Strikers outside the Eastex Poultry plant in Center, Texas.

Demands for better conditions spark violence and ignite racial tensions

What started out as a politely worded letter, boiled over into open violence as the strike touched off racial tensions that had been simmering beneath the surface of the small town:

As in most East Texas towns. the white citizens of Center were angered by the desegregation decision of the U.S. Supreme Court (on May I, 1954). Coming on the heels of a strike by blacks, this decision stirred endemic hatreds. Thus, while white strikers seem to have been regarded as curiosities. black picketers were resented. Just after the Eastex strike began, [Meat Cutters’ District Vice-President Sam Twedell] claimed that he was summoned to the county district attorney’s office. There, in the presence of the sheriff, Twedell said he was ordered to “get those goddamn N*****s off the picket line or some of them are gonna get killed.” Twedell refused. On May 20 he sent telegrams to the FBI and the FCC concerning a broadcast on KDET radio, a strongly anti-union station, which “openly advocated violence, as a result of Supreme Court decision … and other racial problems, if Negro pickets were not removed from the picket lines.” Station manager Tom Foster explained that his announcer merely had stated that “Twedell himself was advocating trouble by ordering Negro and white pickets to walk the picket line together. Hancock [the announcer} said that may be common practice in Chicago [location of the union’s international headquarters], but we are not ready for that here.”  Foster, according to one of his friends, was extremely anti-union and simply looking for an angle of attack. Twedell began walking the line with the black picketers.

On May 9 organizer Allen Williams prophetically reported that “We are sitting on a keg of dynamite … I honestly think our lives are in danger … These bastards will stop at nothing, including murder, if they think there is half a chance to get away with it.” On the night of July 23 a time bomb explosion destroyed Williams’ Ford. A fire which resulted as an after-effect of the detonation completely leveled two cabins of the tourist court where Williams was residing and did extensive damage to two other buildings. Fortunately, Williams had stayed out later than usual on the night of the bombing and thus escaped injury. The would-be assassins were never apprehended and, according to his reports in the next few weeks, Williams held some doubts that law enforcement officers seriously sought to find them. Remarking on the openly anti-union sentiments of a majority of the members of a grand jury investigating the bombing, Williams jokingly explained that he felt some fear of being indicted for the crime himself. A second bombing occurred near the black “quarters” in Center on August 12. Though the August bombing scared the black strikers, Williams observed that they weren’t showing it openly.

Neither of the two banks, whose presidents were directors of the Center Development Foundation, extended credit to their fellow townfolk on strike. But the Meat Cutters paid regular benefits through the duration of the conflict and also conducted a highly successful nationwide clothing drive for the strikers. So much clothing was received from the locals that it actually became necessary for President Jimerson to request members to halt the donations.”– The Texas “Sick Chicken” Strike, 1950s by George N. Green

Resulting wins and establishment of poultry inspections

Donald D.Stull and Michael J. Broadway wrote about the struggle to organize and how it led to the inspection of poultry and better health and safety standards for the industry in the book From Slaughterhouse Blues: The Meat and Poultry Industry in North America:

Organizing efforts in the poultry industry lagged behind those in meatpacking: it is a newer industry; its plants were located in the rural South, long known for anti-union sentiment; and it drew heavily on African American women to work its lines. In Jun 1953, poultry workers in the East Texas town of Center asked the Amalgamated Meat Cutters to help them organize. At the time, poultry workers were paid the minimum wage of 75 cents an hour; they worked 10 or 11 hours a day in filthy conditions without overtime pay, and their employers denied them grievance procedures, seniority, and paid holidays. Center’s two poultry plants — one staffed by black workers, the other by whites — voted to join the union. When the companies refused to negotiate in good faith, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters organized a national boycott of plant products, and the workers staged wildcat strikes.

At the time, less than a quarter of the poultry sold in the United States was federally inspected, and neither of the Center plants employed inspectors. With the support of its 500 locals and the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters organized a national campaign to mandate federal inspection of poultry. Subsequent

congressional hearings revealed that one-third of known cases of food poisoning could be traced to poultry. Despite opposition from the poultry industry and the U.S.Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat inspection, a poultry inspection bill eventually passed Congress. In August 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Poultry Products Inspection Act, which requires compulsory inspection of all poultry that crosses state lines of is sold overseas.

And what of the striking workers? Eastex, the plant that employed only black workers, settled after 11 months, agreeing to wage increases, time-and-a-half overtime pay, three paid holidays and vacations, a grievance procedure, and reinstatement of strikers. Eastex subsequently sold out to Holly Farms, which later sold out to Tyson.