September 1, 2006
NORTH CAROLINA KROGER WORKERS, COMMUNITY LEADERS, AND SUPPORTERS “”WALK THE BLOCK FOR HEALTH CARE””
(Durham, NC) – On Tuesday, August 29th, 2006, at 2:30 p.m., United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 204 members working at Kroger stores in the Raleigh-Durham area joined with local community leaders and supporters in asking Kroger to stop attacking workers’ health care. A press conference and neighborhood walk were held near the Durham Kroger on Highway 54.
Supporters like Barbara Zeltner of the North Carolina Council of Churches and Reverend Nelson Johnson of the Southern Faith and Labor Alliance, as well as Kroger workers and members of UFCW Local 204, got the chance to speak out on how Kroger’s plans to raid employee health care funds would hurt local communities.
“”I think the customers have a right to know how Kroger really treats their employees,”” said Monique Wilkerson, a local Kroger employee. Wilkerson has worked for Kroger for ten years but says that the last two have been difficult, with a young child at home and the strain of the long hours she has to work. “”Customers don’t realize that we work every holiday but Christmas, we work long hours, overnight sometimes, we have to do several jobs at once since we’re so understaffed–and now Kroger wants to take away the one thing they do well, our health care benefits. It’s just not right.””
Under Kroger’s current proposal, the company would take money out of workers’ health care funds and force workers to pay over $1.4 million to make up the difference. Workers would have to choose between health care and things like rent, food, and other basic necessities.
Members of UFCW Local 204 have been attempting to negotiate a new contract with Kroger for over a month. Workers are frustrated by Kroger’s failure to put forth any reasonable proposals after weeks of bargaining. UFCW members have made numerous fair and equitable proposals that would benefit both the company and workers, but Kroger has rejected these. UFCW members are currently into the second day of a new bargaining session with Kroger.
UFCW members and supporters wanted to participate in the walk because they wanted to let their neighbors know what Kroger was up to. “”The company?s not being fair to us, and they’re not being fair to the community,”” said 12-year Kroger employee Nina Tilley. “”This affects everybody. The people who shop here will still get charged the same or more, and now their families and neighbors will have less because they?ll be paying more for health care.””