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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.

New Site Highlights Growing Inequality, Walmart’s Impact on All Working Families

FB-image-waleconThe following post from Making Change at Walmart describes a new website they have created that depicts what life is like for the associates who make America’s largest retailer the success it is, as they gear up for Walmart’s Annual Shareholder’s Meeting.

 

 

Walmart made $16 billion in profit last year. The Walton family, who owns and controls Walmart, holds $144 billion in wealth – as much as 42% of Americans combined. Yet hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers are struggling to get by on less than $25,000 a year. Many are forced to turn to government assistance programs just to get by. And Walmart workers aren’t the only ones who are hurt by the Walmart economy, where the low-road, profit-at-any-cost business model rules.

Today marks the launch of a new site that aggregates the real life stories of trying to get by in the Walmart economy. The site provides a space where all people can share their examples of how the Walmart economy is impacting them.

WHAT IS IT?

As Walmart workers gear up for Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting, they will be holding actions all across the country. At these events, Walmart workers and their allies will build a wall that represents the true face of the unfair divide growing in this country. On it, we will place photos, images and objects that represent the struggle to get by in the Walmart economy. This could include anything from pictures of broken down cars people can’t afford to fix and student loan bills to photos of empty lots where business been driven out and pay stubs.

WHY ARE WE BUILDING IT?

It’s time we speak out against the Walmart economy that is hurting our nation. We can’t let the 1% of this country hide in their gated communities without having to see the reality the rest of us face every day. We want to pull back the veil of shame that surrounds economic struggles in our country and show that inequality–driven by families like the Waltons–is something all of us are facing, whether that means struggling to pay bills, drowning in debt or being unable to retire.

HOW CAN I CONTRIBUTE?

You can help Walmart workers show the Waltons and families like them how the Walmart economy impacts us all. Visit www.WalmartEconomy. com and post your story or symbol of the economic struggles we all face in our day-to-day lives. This is our chance to tell the true story of trying to get by in America.

You can submit images, videos and stories to the website www.WalmartEconomy.com/submit or on Instagram and Twitter using #WalmartEconomy.  The stories and images will then be displayed on WalmartEconomy.com for all to see.

Sample Tweet: The #WalmartEconomy means (fill in the blank with your story).

OR

1.     Go to walmarteconomy.com/submit

2.     Select in the left corner if it will be text, photo or video

3.     Enter your name and email in the right corner

4.     Write your text and/or upload your photo/video

5.     Check the boxes on the bottom “I accept the Terms of Submission”

6.     Click submit in the bottom right

UFCW JBS Workers Lobby to Protect Workers in the Beef and Pork Industries

UFCW JBS workers met with USDA/GIPSA Administrator Larry Mitchell along with numerous members of Congress to lobby for meatpacking workers.

UFCW JBS workers met with USDA/GIPSA Administrator Larry Mitchell along with numerous members of Congress to lobby for meatpacking workers.

Last week, UFCW JBS beef and pork workers traveled to Washington, D.C. for a series of lobby days to advocate for workers who are facing hardships in the meatpacking industry. Members from UFCW Locals 7R, 227, 293, 435, 540, 951, 1149, 1161, 1473, and 1776 visited with White House staff, numerous members of Congress, the DOL, and also the USDA.

During their sessions with congressmen and department officials, workers shared their stories of how they are negatively impacted by cattle shortages due to the severe drought, and hog shortages because of the PED virus.

“We’re used to working 50-60 hours a week. Now because of the drought we’re seeing a lot less work because there just aren’t enough cattle to slaughter,” said Tim Gavaldon, a JBS beef plant worker from Greeley, Colo., and member of UFCW Local 7R. “It’s really taking a toll on workers and our communities are hurting financially.”

Workers lobbied for members of Congress to support a new drought relief bill. The California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014 (S. 2016) was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein and includes a section covering emergency supplemental agriculture disaster appropriations for agricultural and migrant farm workers. The bill would provide funds for food, rental assistance, and utilities. UFCW members advocated for similar legislation to be introduced so it includes not just farm workers, but meatpackers and food processors as well.

Workers also expressed their concern about a new healthcare plan that JBS is proposing. At a time when workers are already struggling because of reduced hours, JBS is proposing a substandard health plan that will double, or even triple the health costs for workers. If the new plan goes into effect, the costs are so high that a family could become bankrupt if they decide to have a baby or if there is a medical emergency.

“We came to Washington, D.C., to stand together and tell people on Capitol Hill that the new plan is unacceptable. This new health plan could mean financial ruin for workers and their families. We work hard to help make JBS a profitable company and now they are trying to push this on us for extra profits,” said Ramon Sanchez, a JBS beef plant worker form Cactus, Texas and member of UFCW Local 540.

UFCW JBS workers from across the country will continue to stand together and support each other until they are back to operating at full time and also fight for a fair health plan that protects workers.