UFCW Industries

RSS

Member Profile: Mike Davis

mike davisFor 38 years, retired UFCW member Mike Davis worked at Kroger as a member of Local 550 and later Local 700. We chatted with him this week about his experience as a union member:

Beginning work at Kroger at age 17 in 1969 in Indiana, Mike says he decided to work there because it was “a good outfit” which paid a good wage and provided benefits. Back then, he says, everyone got raises once a year, and from 1968 to 2003, “I never paid a dime for medical” or healthcare.

In 1970, Mike joined the army reserve and was on active duty while still working for Kroger–which he did for over 20 years.

Under his union contract in 1983, Mike reflects that  he and his coworkers were making over $10 and hour, had ten personal days, and some even had six weeks vacation. Then Mike was out on army leave for three years. When he returned, things in the store were not as good as they had been previously, and eventually Indiana became a Right to Work state, making Kroger one of the only union grocery stores in the state. “In Indiana,” he says, “if you’re hurt on the job, your employer will pay your medical bills but once you are able to come back to work they can fire you.”

However, it’s being a union member, Mike says, that ensured his job remained a good one throughout the years, and keeps jobs protected: “The UFCW fighting for us was what got us back.”

When Mike’s former manager gave him a hard time about getting weekends off for when he had army reserve training and drilling, which is a federally protected right, Mike stood up to him, knowing that the union was behind him. Nevertheless, the manager still tried to fire him for not being at the store when he had to fulfill his duty with the reserves. So, Mike filed an official grievance with the union. Mike’s UFCW Local stood with him and helped him ensure that his rights as a union member and army reservist, as well as his job, were protected.

Mike also says that being a union member helped him win justice when he was wrongfully accused of stealing cigarettes from the store by a manager, and was told he was fired. When Mike, the union, and management met to settle the dispute, it turned out that the store had scheduled a week of vacation for Mike’s coworker, who had witnessed him paying for the cigarettes, so that he would not be able to vouch for Mike’s innocence at the meeting. But the union backed Mike up in proving management wrong, and Mike not only was rightfully able to keep his job, but the manager was transferred to another store.

“I’m glad the UFCW had my back for all those years because there were managers who didn’t want to obey labor laws and thought our contracts were a floor mat,” he says, looking back at these experiences. “I was lucky to have good representation and make good friends.”

Now that he’s retired, Mike still follows the union lifestyle by telling all his family and friends to buy union.  He also supports Walmart workers and other workers fighting to make their jobs better. As a vet, Mike finds it upsetting that Walmart has been said to change the job titles of workers who are out on military leave, so that when they return they don’t have to keep them at the same position of level of pay that they were before they left.

Mike also enjoys doing polar plunges with his family and volunteering for the state’s plane pull each year, all in order to raise money for the Special Olympics. He also manages to find time to lobby on Capital Hill with a charity group called American Veterans, which he has helped raise money for now for many years.

“It’s all about trying to pay it forward,” Mike says. That’s why he wants younger new hires at Kroger, or any workplace, to get involved with the union and be proactive. Educating people about what being a union member is can help ensure that they aren’t taken advantage of at work, Mike says.

Like Mike’s story? Share your union story with us by going here.

UFCW Local 1776 Workers at JBS Ratify New Contract

JBS-1776-300x225This week, JBS workers in Souderton, Pa., overwhelmingly voted to accept a new five-year contract. The contract covers more than 1,100 workers.

Negotiations for a new agreement began last December. UFCW Local 1776 members bargained in solidarity for affordable health care and fair wage increases.  Many members participated in various chain activities leading up to ratifying the new contract.

“This year we have more people active and involved and taking part in the process.  We worked together to be effective and to work to satisfy all workers,” said Michelet Felix, UFCW Local 1776 JBS worker.

The five year agreement, which will expire in August 2019, includes affordable health care for employees and their families and significant wage increases for the full term of the agreement along with additional bonuses in the first year.  The agreement includes workers in two different units, the JBS slaughter and processing beef plant and the nearby JBS rendering facility.

Wendell W. Young, IV, President of UFCW Local 1776, said that the vote “can be accredited to the solidarity between UFCW members.”

Young continued: “There is no doubt that the strength and solidarity amongst the workers played a tremendous role in securing this contract. That solidarity stretched from JBS workers in other UFCW plants here in the United States to the global solidarity shown by union JBS workers in Brazil.  JBS workers recognize the value both chain and global unity has in achieving what they deserve.”

UFCW Members Hold Actions in Support of El Super Workers

El-Super1-300x200On July 23, hundreds of UFCW members and their supporters joined workers from El Super stores throughout Southern California in a bus tour that brought protests to 37 of the chain’s stores in a single day. Protests were held in support of El Super workers as they continue to fight for a good contract. Workers have been without a contract since September 27, 2013.

The day of action began in the early morning hours and culminated in hundreds attending a rally at El Super’s regional headquarters in Paramount, Calif., a largely Latino community about ten miles east of Los Angeles.

Members from UFCW Locals 135, 324, 770, and 1167, participated in the day of action that was designed to keep the pressure on El Super management as negotiations appear to have stalled weeks after the stores union employees voted for strike authorization in June.

Wages, paid sick days, and respect on the job have topped the list of issues that union negotiators have pushed hard to advance for months but have run into “a brick wall of indifference on the part of El Super management,” according to UFCW Local 324 Secretary-Treasurer Andrea Zinder.

Despite the company’s apparent unwillingness to compromise, workers at the chain’s union stores have not backed down. They have continued a near constant drum beat of pressure aimed at store management that has included everything from rallies in store parking lots to petition drives. Seven of the company’s 44 U.S. stores are union as a result of the Mexico-based retailer’s purchase of Gigante’ in 2008.