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New City Ordinance Protects Grocery Workers

L5 Grocery

Last week, the City Council in Alameda, Calif., signed a new ordinance requiring companies purchasing large grocery stores to retain workers for at least 90 days if the stores’ ownership changes. The ordinance will protect the jobs of grocery workers after a sale or transfer takes place for stores that are more than 15,000 square feet. Alameda is home to a dozen grocery stores, and the new rules would cover five of those. As written, the ordinance covers Alameda’s Safeway, Lucky’s, and Nob Hill grocery stores. The ordinance is modeled on a 2005 ordinance passed by Los Angeles lawmakers that survived a state Supreme Court challenge and has also been adopted by San Francisco, Santa Monica and Gardena.

UFCW Local 5 provided testimony during hearings in support of the ordinance and stressed the importance of grocery workers not having to live in fear that they are going to immediately lose their jobs if the stores’ ownership changes.

“Stores change hands frequently in the grocery industry. This ordinance will give us the opportunity to stay on staff with a new employer and continue to provide the public with the quality service and products they are accustomed to and deserve. And it will give us peace of mind that our jobs are safe following a store ownership change,” said Joe McAdams, a Safeway meat cutter and member of UFCW Local 5.

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Women’s History Month Member Profile: Local 5 Safeway Workers Joanne and Denise

Local 5 Member Joanne Murtha

Local 5 Member Joanne Murtha

We asked UFCW members across the country to share stories about women in their union as part of our ongoing celebration of Women’s History Month.

Denise Ward, a passionate Local 5 steward working at Safeway in Soquel, California, was eager to tell us about her coworker Joanne Murtha, who has worked at her store for close to 25 years.

“Joanne is the go-to person in the store,” says Denise. “She’s not an official manager because she’s chosen to remain a UFCW member, but she does all managerial duties and more. She interviews and orients the new hires. She does payroll . She works at the cash register, she helps customers find things in the store. She wears many hats and is great with all of them.”

Not only does she do all of this while still making time for her family at home, says Denise, but she does it all with a strong sense of compassion for all the people she works with. “She’s so sweet, and she makes everyone at the store feel comfortable and capable in their jobs.”

“If you’re having trouble at the register, and it’s broken or something, Joanne can come help and take over. She’s the hub of the wheel. If she doesn’t know how to help you, she’ll find someone who will. Everyone loves her–everyone’s a fan of Joanne,” Denise exclaims.

But Joanne’s compassion extends beyond the workplace.

Denise adds that when one of their elderly coworkers became sick and was ailing, Joanne and another coworker took care of him–buying his groceries, and becoming his caregivers.

Women like Joanne and Denise know that belonging to a union gives them greater opportunity and job protections than their non-union counterparts, creates a level playing field for female workers, and enables them to have a united voice on the job.

According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR), women are a large and growing portion of the union workforce, currently comprising 45% of union members. Women are on track to become a majority of the union workforce by 2023.

On average, union membership increases a woman’s wages by 12.9%, or $2.50 an hour. Also, studies have shown that being in a union raises a woman’s pay as much as a full year of college does. Unionized women of color earn almost 35% percent more than non-union women of color.

CEPR also found that “the union impact on the probability that a female worker has health insurance or a retirement plan through her employer was even larger than the impact on wages. At every education level, unionized women are more likely to have employee benefits than their non-union counterparts with similar characteristics. In fact, for a women worker with a high school degree, being in or represented by a union raises her likelihood of having health insurance or a retirement plan by more than earning a four-year college degree would.”

Additionally, employer-provided retirements are one of the largest advantages that union-women have, when compared to non-union women, CEPR shows.

Denise herself has worked at Safeway for 21 years, and will retire at the end of the month.

“I’m retiring a little early at age 61,” she says. “My union benefits enabled me to do that. And I could have been unfairly fired several times over the years, but because my workplace is union, I am protected against that–our union establishes rules that the employer must follow. I’m about to retire now but I will always be a union member, for the rest of my life. I will always be pro-union.”

Do you know a strong woman in your life and your union that’d you’d like to share with us? Let us know at submissions@ufcw.org

 

UFCW Intl President Marc Perrone on Safeway Albertsons Merger

UFCWnews(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement in response to Safeway’s merger with Albertsons:

“More than 250,000 Safeway and Albertsons workers are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). UFCW members also work for several other Cerberus Capital Management-operated supermarkets across the country, including Albertsons, Acme, Jewel-Osco and Shaw’s.

“UFCW members have a history of negotiating union contracts with Safeway, Albertsons and Cerberus Capital Management. Together in their union, these workers have been able to ensure that union grocery jobs are the best jobs in the industry with fair pay, decent benefits, and job security – all the while ensuring that their companies are able to be profitable and successful.

“UFCW members in California stores that were divested by Albertsons are pleased to learn that the grocery store chain Haggen will acquire many Albertsons stores in California. Haggen workers in the Pacific Northwest are also members of the UFCW. UFCW members across the country are looking forward to working with Safeway, Cerberus, and Haggen on issues that pertain to the members and industry. Our members plan to continue to serve their customers and their communities with pride.”