Web Analytics
  • Background Image

    UFCW Blog

    Grocery

May 6, 2019

UFCW Kentucky florist to retire after over 30 years of derby rose garlands

UFCW Local 227 member Carol Belzer has worked for decades as a talented florist at Kroger, where every year she helps craft the iconic Kentucky Derby rose garland.

Carol has had a hand in every derby garland since 1987. Recently, she appeared on tv talking about her upcoming retirement and how it feels to be trusted with making the famous “Garland of Roses.”

“Seeing that blanket of roses placed across that winning thoroughbred, that is such a warm, touching feeling,” she said in an interview with WDRB.

The derby’s rose garland has a history that dates back to 1896, when winner Ben Brush received an arrangement of white and pink roses. Red roses became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby in 1904, and UFCW members at Kroger have been crafting the garland since 1987.

May 3, 2019

Third Shift Day

Whether it’s working through the night to prepare fresh food for the morning, restocking store shelves, or taking care of our loved ones in the hospital, the hard-working men and women of the UFCW who work the third shift provide an incredible value that too often goes unnoticed or taken for granted.

That’s why every second Wednesday in May, we celebrate Third Shift Day. Last year, UFCW Local union staff went out to surprise some of our third shift members with donuts, coffee, or other tokens of appreciation.

UFCW Local 770 members hold up their "Night Shift Strong" mugs from Third Shift Day

UFCW Local 770 members hold up their “Night Shift Strong” mugs from Third Shift Day

So what is it that drives someone to go to work while the rest of us are asleep? A survey of part-time night shift workers showed that:

  • 42% said it ‘allows time for school’
  • 22.5% liked the ‘nature of the job’
  • 9% said ‘better arrangements for family or childcare’
  • An additional 11.5% of night-workers surveyed say that it’s just their preference

One of those hard-working night owls focused on going to school is Kathy of UFCW Local 1428 in southern California, who worked nights so she could get her masters degree in Anthropology. Way to go, Kathy! Her coworker Sharon also reminds us that contrary to what some people might think, many dedicated employees build their careers working nights – she’s spent the past 35 years as a third shifter! The stability of third shift work allowed her to balance work and family responsibilities.

Are you a Third Shifter? Let us know why you do it by emailing us at submissions@ufcw.org or send us a message on Facebook. 

May 2, 2019

Stop & Shop workers ratify strong new contract

UFCW members at Stop & Shop have overwhelmingly ratified a strong new contract for the 31,000 workers across New England who walked off their jobs on April 11 to protest the company’s proposed cuts to health care, take-home pay, and other benefits.

The five UFCW Local Unions (328, 371, 1445, 1459, and 919) who worked collaboratively together throughout negotiations with the company, responded to the deal in a joint statement, saying “We are incredibly grateful to our customers and everyone who proudly stood together with us every day for a contract that invests in the communities we serve, and makes Stop & Shop a better place to work and a better place to shop.”

The new agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.

Negotiations with Stop & Shop received national attention as being one of the most important work stoppages in the grocery industry in recent memory and a blow against the erosion of good jobs by needless corporate greed.

“It’s exciting to be back to normal, but it’s also exciting to know how much our community cares about good jobs,” said Nicole, a UFCW member who works at Stop & Shop. “We’re all a lot stronger now.”

UFCW members react to the news

Paul, Stop & Shop

“I feel so proud. Our store and community came together to make things better. I couldn’t think of a better way for us all to come back to work.” – Paul

“It just feels so good to be back. Feels like the family is together again. It was a humbling experience and I’m happy things turned out so well.” – Marc

“We found out our family is a lot bigger than just our store. Our customers care about us just as much as we care about them. That’s pretty special.” – John, Owen, Michael, Kristen, and Dario

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 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 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.

January 25, 2019

Beyond TSA: how is the shutdown impacting our national food security?

There have been a number of recent articles highlighting the air-travel safety issues caused by the government shutdown as more and more TSA agents are forced to call out from work. TSA agents are a visible reminder of the work that federal employees do, but some of the most damaging and dangerous impacts from the government shutdown are ones that are also out of sight of the average American. After all, many people pass through the airport, but not that many people regularly visit food processing facilities.

Food Safety


The FDA oversees 80 percent of our food supply and has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities (Washington Post) and canceled more than 50 high-risk inspections. (Washington Post) The FDA halted many inspections on January 9th, though the agency also resumed the most high-risk ones on January 15th, when FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that furloughed food inspectors would be recalled to carry on their work without pay.

40% of FDA workers are furloughed

40 percent of the FDA’s employee’s remain furloughed and it is important to recognize that just because inspections may not be considered “high risk” does not mean they are “no risk” and should be left without inspectors. These decisions about what merits inspection or not are also being made without the informed consent of the American people, who trust that the food they are eating has been held to certain agreed upon standards and guidelines.

 

Risk of recalls has increased

Since the last extended federal shutdown in 2013, the number of meat and poultry products recalled in the US for potentially life-threatening health hazards has nearly doubled.  A new report shows the number of meat and poultry products recalled in the United States for potentially life-threatening health hazards has nearly doubled since 2013, raising new concerns about food safety. A recent report by TIME highlighted that if shutdown-caused furloughs continue to impede FDA operations, “federal regulators might not even realize outbreaks are happening” in the first place.

Long term impacts

Workers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry, have all continued to perform inspections without pay. It is important to recognize that much of the work inspectors do requires a high level of training and experience, and filling vacant positions with qualified employees can be challenging. Though the dedication shown by the inspectors working without pay because of their commitment to the common good is inspiring, the longer this shutdown continues, the more we are asking those workers to sacrifice. If a number of inspectors are forced to take other work in order to support their families, there is a potential for long-term consequences that will be felt beyond when the federal government resumes its responsibilities.

Grocery Sales and Food Access


This week, nearly 40 million low-income Americans received their February Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (or food stamps). Beyond the hardships endured by families who reply on SNAP, the program makes up a significant percentage of grocery sales and the harmful impact of the shutdown threatens not only families, but businesses up and down the supply chain.

SNAP represents a large portion of grocery sales

SNAP accounts for about 10 percent of the food that U.S. families buy for their homes.  Disruption to the SNAP program can cause reduced revenue for grocery stores, disruption to food supply chains, reduced hours and even job cuts for workers, and significant consequences for local economies.

Uncertainty triggering food shortages

Due to the federal government shutdown, the benefit’s release is occurring weeks earlier than scheduled. It is being reported that recipients may have to wait 40 days or longer before additional assistance is available causing state agencies to warn recipients to ration their benefits.

Shutdown induced uncertainty is anticipated to cause worried hardworking families using food stamps, to stock up on food for the weeks ahead and triggering food shortages at local supermarkets.

Out of touch leadership

In addition to damage done by the disruption of the SNAP program, many federal workers are wondering how to feed their families when they are not receiving a paycheck. This is especially troubling as Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross recently expressed confusion over why federal employees would be turning to food banks instead of just taking out loans to get through the shutdown. Donald Trump reacted to the comments by suggested grocery stores need to “work along” with federal employees.

Food access is both a humanitarian issue and bad for business

When you consider that the potential loss of sales in the grocery industry is not only a threat to business, but represents every day Americans who cannot afford to eat right now, the depth of the crisis we are in as a country becomes clear. Grocery workers and grocery stores are united in calling for an end to the shutdown before further disruptions occur in our food stores and on our nation’s kitchen tables.

A partial federal government shutdown started on December 22, 2018 after President Donald Trump demanded a $5.7 billion appropriation for border wall construction be included in the federal budget, something Democrats refused to agree to. The impasse has resulted in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Today, many Federal workers will miss their second paycheck in a row.

December 24, 2018

UFCW members make the holidays happen

For those of us fortunate enough to be able to sit down and spend time with our loved ones, let’s pause to be thankful for the holiday heroes whose hard work and dedication help make possible the traditions and warm memories we make year after year.


UFCW members are the heart behind the holiday brands we’ve all come to love—brands like Butterball, Boar’s Head, Hanover, Reddi-Wip. For those who work in food processing, their knowledge and expertise help ensure the turkey that makes its way to your grocery store has been properly prepared and is safe to eat, and their skilled quality control makes sure Stove Top Stuffing and Marie Callender’s pies will taste just like you remembered.

UFCW members also sacrifice time with their families to keep Albertsons, Kroger, Safeway, Giant, and so many other union grocery stores open during the holidays. We know they’ve saved countless holiday feasts from disaster by making sure families across America can make that last minute run to the grocery store if they need to.

From our family to yours, we wish you happy holidays and all the best in the new year.

UFCW Local 1994 member stands in a building full of road salt

UFCW Local 1994 members in Maryland help keep the roads safe during icy conditions