Why Unions Matter: Helping Families Through Times of Need

Richard with his mom and dad

Richard with his mom and dad

A year and a half ago, when Richard Kern was 18, he was diagnosed with malignant Melanoma.

While going through treatment, his medical bills soared to exceed $100,000. Thankfully, Richard’s mom is a member of UFCW Local 1059. Because of the collective bargaining agreement UFCW Local 1059 fought for at Kroger where Mrs. Kern works, her health insurance covered a vast majority of Richard’s overwhelming medical costs.

“My bill was in the triple digits instead of the sextuple digits,” said Richard. “Without her union, I would not be going to college. We would have sold at least one of our cars. I’d be working a full-time job or two part-time jobs. And we likely would have had to cash in retirement funds and all the life insurance policies we have. We would have had to give up nearly everything just to pay for a surgery to keep me alive. If it wasn’t for my mother’s union, my family would have been finished.”

Richard can now say he is a cancer survivor. But tragedy very recently struck his family again, when his father had a stroke. Richard’s father was airlifted from his local hospital in Lacaster, Ohio, to the facilities at Ohio State University where doctors fought to keep him from having another stroke.

“Again, the UFCW came to the rescue,” says Richard. “We haven’t yet gotten all the medical bills but the life flight alone was thousands upon thousands. He had two procedures done, saw neurologists, vascular surgeons, cardiologists, and neuro vascular surgeons, along with spending five days in arguably the best hospital in Ohio. The bills will be astronomical. But again, without my mom’s health insurance that the UFCW bargained for at the table, we would have had to pay for it all out of pocket. Which, to be blunt, never would have happened. We would have never been able to pay it all off. Ever.”

“Ever since my battle against cancer”, said Richard, “I’ve been on a mission. And after my dad’s medical troubles, the fire in my heart was set all over again. My goal is to make a speech at the Democratic National Convention. I want to send the message that without unions, the middle class is beyond screwed. I want to send the message that every single person in this country deserves a living wage, not the minimum wage. And I want to send a message that everyone is entitled to quality health insurance. I am living, breathing proof that unions save lives, as is my father.”

Richard says that by fighting for workers’ rights, the union “literally kept me and my dad alive.” Help Richard spread his message, by posting on social media, shopping union-made, or simply telling a worker in your local grocery store or in your favorite retail shop thank you for their service.

Together, unions and the millions of hard-working Americans they represent will continue fighting for workers’ rights and improving the quality of life for the middle class.


Celebrating UFCW Moms: New UFCW Member Loves Her Job and Security of Being a Union Member

maggieTo continue our celebration of UFCW moms, we’re sharing the story of Local 1000 member Maggie Duhig-Freeman.

Maggie is a single divorced mom working at Kroger Marketplace in Lewisville, Texas, supporting her family and finishing college.

A little over a month ago, Maggie began working at her store and had started training. After her orientation, a 25 year UFCW member and rep came by the store to reach out to new folks and let them know about the union, and to see how members were doing.

Texas is a right to work state, but after Maggie learned about what a union is, she said she definitely wanted to give it a try.

“It sounded like a great idea,” Maggie says, “We talked about how the union can help facilitate interventions if there is ever a workplace dispute. They are there to really support the employees. I haven’t had any trouble at my store, but you never know what can happen!”

Maggie loves the people and her job as a cashier at Kroger Marketplace, and has now been a union member for about a month.

Maggie has never been in a union before but she had many people tell her that she should go for a union job.

“Belonging to the union is inexpensive, and in our store which is very big, it’s nice to have UFCW people, who have relationships with management and other employees who you may not have ever met help you get to know everyone and how things operate. Everyone here is awesome,” she says.

She also notes that if her store were to ever go on strike, the employees have the option to choose whether or not to join it, but as union member she would be out there fighting. “When you’re invested in something, they will go to bat for you.”

Another thing Maggie values about being in the union is her union benefits. The paid family and sick leave and the good union benefits in her contract will be very helpful someday, she says, adding that as a single mom, she needs that sort of support.

In her spare time, Maggie also volunteers, a lot. She is a notary official for the state of Texas, helping her community members get the important documents they need notarized. She has also been volunteering at her community food bank for six years, helping unpack donations—many of which come from her own workplace, where employees including herself and customers can buy bags of groceries as part of a donation program to the Denton County Food Bank.

When she was younger, Maggie also volunteered at several political conventions, where she enjoyed listening to various candidates speeches. This inspired her to be even more involved politically—she now volunteers at polling places and worked the polls for President Obama’s campaign during his second election.

Maggie is a wonderful member of her community, and we are happy to welcome her to the union family and congratulate her on her union job that enables her to take care of her family!

Are you a union mom too? Share your story with us at

UFCW Local 227 Members Ratify New Kroger Contract

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UFCW Local 227 members who work at Kroger overwhelmingly ratified a new agreement by a nearly 4 to 1 margin. The four year agreement covers approximately 13,900 hard working men and women across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. The contract ensures quality, affordable health insurance that includes spousal coverage, and additional insurance options for part-time members. It also includes a raise for all members each year of the contract and prevented potential pension cuts.

Kroger, one of the world’s largest retailers, employs nearly 400,000 associates who serve customers in 2,625 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names.

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