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Factor Sales Grocery Workers Say “Yes” to a Union Voice with UFCW Local 99

Last week, 360 Factor Sales grocery workers in Yuma, Ariz., joined UFCW Local 99 through a card check process that allowed them to have a free and fair choice. Workers at nine grocery stores stayed united throughout the campaign by communicating with each other through Facebook, text messages, and worker meetings.

Workers said they wanted a union voice so they would have dignity and respect on the job, a way to solve problems at work, and improvements in pay and benefits.

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Factor Sales grocery workers said “yes” to a voice on the job with Local 99.

“Finally we have a voice, respect and dignity at work,” said Lupita Iniguez, a Factor Sales worker.

Workers have been fighting for better jobs and to be a part of a union since 2004. The successful card check follows the workers’ two previous attempts to join a union. In the two other card checks, the company was charged with unfair election practices by the NLRB.

“Congratulations to the many workers whose lives were changed today. Their hard work and dedication paid off,” said UFCW Local 99 President Jim McLaughlin.

Factor Sales operates Del Sol and King Market grocery stores.

Costco an Example of the “Union Difference”

This week, during a speech about poverty, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez praised Costco, a union store, for its business practices, which continually pay its employees living wages, and continue to yield profits.  According the Huffington Post, Perez joined the long list of Costco admirers when he stated that Costco proves the notion of the service industry having to adhere to a minimum-wage business model to be wrong, and “phooey”.

Secretary Perez is right–in an industry that employs millions of working poor, whom struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis, Costco is a shining light. The wholesale retailer is known for low employee turnover, thanks to its wages that allow people to actually make a living, and its health benefits. Costco values its workers–without them, the company couldn’t be the success that it is. These ideals are embodied in Costco cofounder Jim Sinegal and former CEO. In his speech, Secretary Perez remembered:

“I went to a [Costco] grand opening in Northern Virginia. The woman who was the manager at that store, she started out pushing carts, to use her term. And the remarkable loyalty that they have to Jim is a function of the fact that he categorically rejects the notion that, ‘I either take care of my shareholders or my workers’. That is a false choice.”

But part of the reason Costco’s workers are making good wages and receive benefits is due to the fact that over 15,000 of its workers are unionized. Organized by the Teamsters, Costco is union-friendly and meets workers on an even playing field when it comes to bargaining, and as union members, they have a say in the terms and conditions of their employment. For more than 20 years, they have stood together to ensure their rights as workers are protected.

The union-difference is huge. UFCW members work at grocery stores, retailers, and packing and processing plants all across the country. As union members, they are able to stand together and bargain for decent wages that allow them to feed their families and pay their bills, unlike Walmart, which pays such low wages that many of its associates must choose between shelter or food. Union jobs are good, middle class jobs, that provide healthcare, sick-leave, and retirement benefits. When workers stand together, like at Costco, or at UFCW shops like Kroger and Macy’s, they have a powerful voice that can stand up to that of the company.

Member Spotlight: Matilde Reyes, Bestway Worker

Metilde ReyesWorkers at Bestway, a Latino supermarket in the Falls Church, Va. suburb of Washington, D.C. came together in September to form a union at their work. However, their company ignored their requests to bargain and instead engaged in systematic illegal retaliation against union supporters by cutting hours, changing schedules,  holding one-on-one interrogation meetings and threatening to call immigration on the workers. But workers at Bestway stayed strong and held together and staged a work stoppage to protest the company’s illegal conduct. The company responded by firing 31 workers in attempt to silence the workers.

The workers continued to hold strong against the company threats and intimidation. They staged a daily picket line outside the store to educate customers on the unfair treatment and violations of labor law.

After seeing a noticeable decrease in business, Bestway reached an agreement with workers to reinstate all terminated workers, recognize UFCW Local 400 as their union, provide back pay to terminated workers, and begin contract negotiations with workers this week. Metilde Reyes is one of those workers.

Metilde Reyes is a mother of three that has worked at Bestway for 13 years. The company calls her a “supervisor,” but she gets no extra pay or better treatment from her position. She works to make sure the cashiers work together to check customers out and to void merchandise when necessary.

When Bestway illegally fired her coworkers for standing up, they offered her extra money and more hours to train their replacements, instead, she joined her coworkers in protesting in front of her store.

“I do love my job” said Metilede, “but I love my people more. I had to come out and support them.”

Together, Bestway workers like Metilde are negotiating for better wages, benefits and working conditions. But that’s just the beginning of their journey – they’re now working to show workers at other Bestway stores what’s possible when workers come together.

“I can’t wait for the day when workers at all Bestway Supermercados get the same rights that we now have at our store,” said Metilde.