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Member Profile: Mike Davis

mike davisFor 38 years, retired UFCW member Mike Davis worked at Kroger as a member of Local 550 and later Local 700. We chatted with him this week about his experience as a union member:

Beginning work at Kroger at age 17 in 1969 in Indiana, Mike says he decided to work there because it was “a good outfit” which paid a good wage and provided benefits. Back then, he says, everyone got raises once a year, and from 1968 to 2003, “I never paid a dime for medical” or healthcare.

In 1970, Mike joined the army reserve and was on active duty while still working for Kroger–which he did for over 20 years.

Under his union contract in 1983, Mike reflects that  he and his coworkers were making over $10 and hour, had ten personal days, and some even had six weeks vacation. Then Mike was out on army leave for three years. When he returned, things in the store were not as good as they had been previously, and eventually Indiana became a Right to Work state, making Kroger one of the only union grocery stores in the state. “In Indiana,” he says, “if you’re hurt on the job, your employer will pay your medical bills but once you are able to come back to work they can fire you.”

However, it’s being a union member, Mike says, that ensured his job remained a good one throughout the years, and keeps jobs protected: “The UFCW fighting for us was what got us back.”

When Mike’s former manager gave him a hard time about getting weekends off for when he had army reserve training and drilling, which is a federally protected right, Mike stood up to him, knowing that the union was behind him. Nevertheless, the manager still tried to fire him for not being at the store when he had to fulfill his duty with the reserves. So, Mike filed an official grievance with the union. Mike’s UFCW Local stood with him and helped him ensure that his rights as a union member and army reservist, as well as his job, were protected.

Mike also says that being a union member helped him win justice when he was wrongfully accused of stealing cigarettes from the store by a manager, and was told he was fired. When Mike, the union, and management met to settle the dispute, it turned out that the store had scheduled a week of vacation for Mike’s coworker, who had witnessed him paying for the cigarettes, so that he would not be able to vouch for Mike’s innocence at the meeting. But the union backed Mike up in proving management wrong, and Mike not only was rightfully able to keep his job, but the manager was transferred to another store.

“I’m glad the UFCW had my back for all those years because there were managers who didn’t want to obey labor laws and thought our contracts were a floor mat,” he says, looking back at these experiences. “I was lucky to have good representation and make good friends.”

Now that he’s retired, Mike still follows the union lifestyle by telling all his family and friends to buy union.  He also supports Walmart workers and other workers fighting to make their jobs better. As a vet, Mike finds it upsetting that Walmart has been said to change the job titles of workers who are out on military leave, so that when they return they don’t have to keep them at the same position of level of pay that they were before they left.

Mike also enjoys doing polar plunges with his family and volunteering for the state’s plane pull each year, all in order to raise money for the Special Olympics. He also manages to find time to lobby on Capital Hill with a charity group called American Veterans, which he has helped raise money for now for many years.

“It’s all about trying to pay it forward,” Mike says. That’s why he wants younger new hires at Kroger, or any workplace, to get involved with the union and be proactive. Educating people about what being a union member is can help ensure that they aren’t taken advantage of at work, Mike says.

Like Mike’s story? Share your union story with us by going here.

UFCW Region 1 Locals Come Together to Support Mrs. Green’s Workers

MrsGreens-2-300x225UFCW and UFCW/RWDSU Locals 338, 371, 464-A, 888, 919, 1245, 1360 participated in UFCW Local 1500’s day of action on July 22 to support eight Mrs. Green’s Natural Market workers who are returning to work after being unlawfully fired. The day of action commemorated the workers’ victory, fighting back against a multi-national employer.

The eight workers were leading union supporters in a closely contested election to join UFCW Local 1500 in May 2013.  After just barely losing the election, in June 2013 the NLRB charged Mrs. Green’s with violating federal labor laws and illegally interrogating and intimidating employees during the weeks leading up to the union election. In the meantime, employees began to meet with local elected politicians to discuss the difficulties were facing every day at their job and how having a union voice would make their jobs better. In November 2013, the federal charges were settled and Mrs. Green’s agreed under federal order to create an intimidation free environment for their workers, and post a notice in their store for 60-days. 

In January 2014 during the 60-day settlement period, Mrs. Green’s unlawfully fired eight workers who were vocal UFCW supporters.  The workers had over 60 years of combined experience and some of them worked at the store for over 13 years. UFCW Local 1500 filed charges to the NLRB that Mrs. Green’s unlawfully fired the eight workers for supporting a union. In May 2014, NLRB Regional Director files a complaint against Mrs. Green’s after finding merit in UFCW Local 1500′s charges that the employees were unlawfully fired. Days after complaint is filed, CEO Robin Michel is forced to step down.

Since the firings in January, workers had been on a picket line in front of the store for over six months until the company settled and agreed to return the workers with back pay, days before a federal hearing on July 24, 2014. The charges were settled after Mrs. Green’s agreed to create a safe, intimidation free atmosphere, and post a federally issued notice on workers’ right to organize.

“We’re happy to be returning to work and could not have done it without the support from the community. The last time we worked inside the store, Mrs. Green’s illegal treatment of us led to the most difficult times in our lives, so thank you all for your support!” said Yesica Mendez, one of the eight unlawfully fired workers who returned to work on July 22.

 

UFCW Local 75 Members in Ohio Approve New Kroger Contract

L75-Kroger-Contract1-300x225UFCW Local 75 members in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, Kroger stores have voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement. The new contract merges the formerly separate Cincinnati and Dayton contracts.

Through the hard work of the members of the Cincinnati and Dayton Bargaining Committee, and by sticking together through the negotiations process, members were able to reach an agreement that guarantees annual wage increases; protects quality, affordable health care; strengthens contract language; and preserves full-time jobs.

The new contract:

  • Creates more bargaining power and work opportunities for members. By merging the Cincinnati and Dayton contracts into one agreement, members have more opportunity for promotion and transfer, and one set of work rules for all stores in the area. The merged agreement protects and provides full-time jobs over the life of the agreement, in an increasingly part-time industry.
  • Secures affordable, quality health care. Members have more options for health care and may take advantage of lower weekly contributions by completing biometric screenings. Spousal coverage is maintained through the spouse’s employer provided, ACA qualified benefits; other spouses continue to have coverage through the union contract. Part-time members retain access to health care benefits.
  • Provides wage increases and wage parity. The contract provides guaranteed wage increases each year over term; increase amounts vary depending on classification. There will also be wage parity between Cincinnati and Dayton by the end of the agreement. The bracket progressions have been reduced so members can get raises more quickly, and have been adjusted to reflect an increasing minimum wage.
  • Guarantees pension benefits. Members of UFCW Local 75 are part of the UFCW Consolidated Pension Fund, ratified in 2011. Pension benefits are guaranteed for ten years, until 2021.