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UFCW Kroger Workers Rally to Keep Jobs

Kroger workers, customers and community allies gathered in front of the Frederick Boulevard Kroger last week to protest the company’s unfair treatment of union store workers. The company closed the Portsmouth Kroger Food & Drug store on Saturday and is transferring most the store’s union workforce to a store in Yorktown, 25 miles away.

Store workers delivered a petition to Kroger requesting that workers be allowed to transfer to a local Kroger Marketplace store instead. Hundreds of customers have pledged not to shop at either of the newly opened Kroger Marketplace stores until the Kroger grocery store workers are allowed to transfer to a local store while retaining their union benefits and wages. More than 60 workers have requested this transfer.

“It’s been hard saying goodbye to coworkers that just can’t make the 50 mile round-trip to the new store. We’ve built our lives around this store and the Portsmouth community,” said Laverne Wren, who has worked for Kroger for 16 years. “Kroger signed a contract with us to protect our jobs if the company ever chose to close our store. But this false choice – commute or quit – was never part of our contract.”

Many workers will lose their jobs if they cannot find transportation to Yorktown. Nick Roe, who has special needs, has worked for Kroger for 17 years. He cannot drive, and relies on his parents to drive him to and from work each day. If Nick is not allowed to transfer to the local Kroger Marketplace, his ability to keep a job he loves will rely on his parents’ ability to drive 100 miles each day. Other workers are weighing the toll that this commute will take on their families. Michael Cowan works the overnight shift in order to share childcare duties with his wife. The long commute means that the family will have to start sending their young daughter to daycare during Michael’s commute.

“Kroger is deliberately expanding its non-union stores with the acquisition of Harris Teeter, and with this new tactic of building non-union Kroger Marketplaces, and then pushing loyal union workers out of town,” said Mark Federici, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 400. “If we want to keep good jobs in Portsmouth, then it is time for all workers – grocery and Marketplace – to have a union voice at Kroger.”

The union contract negotiated between Kroger and UFCW Local 400 stipulates that in the event that Kroger closes a store, the company will transfer workers to another union store. Kroger Marketplace stores are non-union and do not offer the same pay or benefits guaranteed by the union contract.

“The High Street Kroger workers are members of the Portsmouth community. They are our friends and neighbors,” said James Boyd, President of the Portsmouth branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “We are out here today because we believe that good jobs are essential to the strength of this community. We want Kroger to be a partner in strengthening our community by keeping good jobs and loyal employees in Portsmouth.”

View footage of the protest by WAVY Channel 10 News.

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Walmart Workers Join National 4/15 Protests

Together-we-riseThis Wednesday, Walmart workers with OUR Walmart will join with fast food strikers, home care providers, airport workers, adjunct professors and many others to stand up in the fight for $15 an hour.

“I’m proud to be part of a growing movement of moms and dads, brothers and sisters like me, who are standing up for better jobs. A company like Walmart, which brings in $16 billion in annual profits, can afford to provide the pay and hours that our families need,” said Lisa Pietro, a two-year Walmart employee from Winter Haven, Florida who made just $8.95 an hour before the recent increase to a minimum of $9 an hour. “The raise we just won at Walmart shows what working people can accomplish when we stand together. I’m excited about what we’ll be able to do when we all come together to stand up and fight for $15 an hour.”

Nationwide, workers and supporters are planning rallies, marches and direct action in the streets, in front of stores like Walmart and on campuses across the country. These massive mobilizations are expected to draw some 100,000 protesters with workers from nearly every low-wage sector and will highlight the importance of holding companies like Walmart and McDonald’s accountable.

On April 15th, Walmart workers will renew their calls for $15 an hour and access to consistent, full-time schedules. Last October, Walmart workers launched a petition for $15 an hour and access to consistent, full-time schedules. The petition spread like wildfire, garnering signatures from more than half – 2,200 – of Walmart stores across the nation. Then, following the largest Black Friday protests and strikes ever, Walmart announced that it would raise wages for 500,000 U.S. workers. This modest increase, especially with no guarantee that they’ll get the hours they need, means many are still forced to rely on government assistance programs like food stamps to get by.

If you would like to join Walmart workers at the #Fightfor15 protests, visit April15.org to find an event near you.

 

Tell Walmart: Help Striking Farm Workers

This post was written by our friends at UFW.

On March 17th, thousands of farm workers toiling in the San Quintín Valley—an export oriented agricultural region in Baja California Norte—walked off their jobs in protest of low wages, poor working conditions, and alleged violations of Mexican labor law. Nearly three weeks later, key demands made by leaders of the work stoppage have been largely unmet. At issue to date is an across the board wage floor of 200 pesos per day (about $13.00 USD, brought down from an initial demand of 300 pesos per day, or about $20.00 USD) and an overhaul of existing union contracts leaders claim serve employers’ interest more than those of workers.

Hundreds of farms in the valley export millions of tons of fresh produce each year to major US retailers.[1] While US consumers enjoy the berries, cucumbers, peas, and tomatoes produced in the region, farm workers who live and labor there say that with average wages currently running at about $7.00 to $8.00 USD per day, they are unable to meet their basic needs.

AdeliaAdelia Hernandez Zamora, who says she has worked at many different agricultural companies in her 14 years living in the San Quintín valley, shared the following:

“Supposedly the product we produce here for the other side is sold in dollars. We are paid in Mexican pesos. With the money we make, we are unable to meet [our needs]. We have kids in school. We pay rent… A kilo of meat costs 120 pesos. A carton of eggs is at 80 pesos. A kilo of tortillas is at 14 pesos. Water is at 14 pesos. We do not have plumbing in our homes and pay for water.”

ElizElizabeth Valenzuela Chavez is a single mother who works for Rancho Magaña. She says, “Food prices have gone up. Gas has gone up. What about our wages?”

Representatives for the region’s growers have claimed that the 200 peso daily rate the strike leaders are demanding would cripple the local economy.[2] Workers claim that that rate is the minimum required to meet basic needs in the wake of peso devaluation impacting local prices. This is a sign of dysfunction. But both identifying where the dysfunction is occurring and how to correct it is a responsibility that goes beyond the negotiation that took place between workers and their employers in San Quintín.

Reports of low wages and poor conditions in San Quintín follow a series of documented labor abuses in other export ag producing regions in Mexico. In response to those earlier reports, the largest buyer of Mexican produce, Walmart—an industry giant —said to the LA Times on February 12 that it would be stepping up its efforts in ensuring social responsibility in its supply chain. [3] This latest unrest presents an opportunity for consumers to let the retail giant know we are expecting them to come good on this commitment with the utmost urgency. Walmart can set a new standard for other players in the fresh produce business.

Join us and more than 25,000 other supporters in calling on Walmart and other leaders in the grocery retail industry hold powerful agribusiness companies such as Driscoll accountable by signing the petition at http://action.ufw.org/baja.

[1] http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-baja-farmworkers-20150320-story.html#page=1

[2] http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-baja-farmworkers-20150330-story.html

[3] http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-me-farm-labor-20150213-story.html#page=1