Sometimes the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference. It’s not easy to be personable, upbeat, and polite every day and all the time doing any job, but that’s what’s expected out of cashiers to give great customer service. However, Kristen Clark, a UFCW Local 75 member, who works as cashier at an Ohio Meijer grocery store went the extra mile with customer Kimberly Grandinette and her 3 year-old son Paul proving that a small act of kindness can have a great effect on more than just those who shared the moment.
Last Sunday, while checking out her items, Kimberly conversed with Kristen about her family’s recent hardships that had begun to have effect on 3 year-old Paul. The two continued to chat while Kristen rung up the rest of Kimberly’s items until Paul asked if he could join Kristen in ringing up the rest of his mother’s groceries. Kristen then picked up Paul and held him while he helped scan the rest of his mother’s items.
Kimberly Grandinette detailed the story in a Facebook post about how much that act of kindness meant to her and her son Paul. “She made him feel like a million bucks. He skipped out of the store with a smile on his face,” the mom wrote. “Thank you, Kristen, for making my son’s day (and my day!) a bit brighter.” Since that Sunday, Grandinette’s Facebook post has touched the lives of so many others and gathered more than 144K likes, 10K shares, and 3.6K comments on Mejier’s Facebook Page.
Kristen’s own parents saw the post of their daughter and shared their elation with and thanks to everyone who shared their daughter’s story. “That’s my wonderful daughter, I’m so thankful for her taking the time to make his day because that’s how she is and I’m thankful for you to notice. Happy holidays to you and your family,” wrote her mom, Diane. Her father, Carl, added “That’s my daughter. I’m am so proud of her. #prouddaddy.”
Although Kristen admits that she was initially surprised by how much attention the story received, she said that way she interacted with Kimberly was ordinary in her day’s work. “I try to engage with my customers,” she said. “I like to get to know people. Even if it is just for three minutes” as they’re checking out.
Since then, Kristen has received recognition as an “incredible” Meijer employee from her store spokesperson, Christina Fecher. “This is another reminder that compassion and kindness go a long way, because kindness is contagious. (Pass it on!)”
Workers at the Latino grocery chain strike in response to current violations of their rights under U.S. labor law.
Grocery employees are joined by human rights legend Dolores Huerta at an El Super Store in Los Angeles.
Today’s action comes one day after 19 members of Congress called on the Obama administration to uphold international labor standards at El Super.
Los Angeles, December 16—With signs held high and chants ringing across store parking lots, El Super workers at seven locations in Southern California went on strike over recent unfair labor practices (ULPs). The strikers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), are protesting violations of their rights and U.S. labor law requiring the company to bargain in good faith. They were joined by labor and human rights legend Dolores Huerta at a rally in front of the grocer’s location on E. Gage Ave. in Los Angeles.
“The fight El Super workers are engaged in is the same fight that the farm workers have historically fought for: the right to belong to a union, the right to bargain in good faith, and the right to industry labor standards, which means wages that can sustain their families. I stand with El Super workers and their campaign to win respect in the workplace and dignity for their families,” said Huerta, longtime champion for labor rights and co-founder of the United Farm Workers union.
Yesterday’s strike, was launched to protest recent ULPs at the chain. El Super’s conduct is the subject of charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board within the past week, including surface bargaining, repudiation of terms El Super unilaterally implemented nearly a year and half ago as part of it’s “last, best, and final” contract offer, and unreasonable delay in providing information crucial to effective negotiations.
El Super union members have been working without a contract since September 2013. In the face of court action and an NLRB trial, the company returned to union negotiations in August of this year, after over a year and half absence. They came back, however, to engage in bad faith bargaining in violation of federal law.
Flora Castaneda, an El Super cashier on strike to get the company to meet its legal obligations, said, “Reaching a union contract with the company is much more than a legal document to me, my family and my coworkers. It is my hope that if the company bargains in good faith we can sign an agreement that would ultimately allow me a holiday season where I’m able to make dinner for my family and buy some little presents for my kids. I think if the Company bargains in good faith we can reach an agreement that will enable us to able to go to the doctor when we are sick, save for our children to go to college, and have enough money at the end of the month to afford food and rent. It means we will have protection from the company’s retaliation against union supporters.”
“El Super’s disregard of workers’ rights and of labor law is shameful,” said UFCW Local 770 President Ricardo Icaza. “We will continue to stand together against this company’s lawless stonewalling of the bargaining process, and be with the workers until El Super comes to the table to negotiate in good faith for a contract where workers have the wages, benefits, guaranteed hours and respect that they have earned.”
In addition to the recent charges filed with the NLRB that prompted this strike, the NLRB recently issued a complaint against the company for additional unfair labor practices.
The UFCW and allies have also filed simultaneous complaints under the NAFTA labor agreement and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines to stop El Super and its parent company Grupo Chedraui’s attack on workers’ rights in the United States and Mexico. On Monday, 19 members of Congress representing districts with El Super store locations called on the Obama administration to expedite investigations into the complaints’ allegations.
[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”center” size=”2″ quote=” I am not afraid. I know we can work together to change our workplace and make it better for everyone.”” parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
Some of the participants in the training pose with their completion certificates.
This past Saturday, UFCW Local 1189, the UFCW Occupational Safety and Health Department and the Greater Minnesota Workers’ Center hosted a workers’ rights training session for unorganized poultry workers in St. Cloud, Minn. The training was focused on giving unorganized workers tools to stand up for a safe workplaces and helping them build common ground with workers of different cultural backgrounds. More than 70 workers from a variety of plants came out for the training, which was simultaneously conducted in English, Spanish and Somali.
“I am really glad I came to this training with the Somali people,” said one Spanish-speaking worker during the comment portion of the training. “I tried to get my friends to come with me but they were too afraid. I am not afraid. I know we can work together to change our workplace and make it better for everyone.”
Yesterday, the UFCW and Making Change at Walmart officially released a series of holiday actions against Walmart, beginning with a call to action during the week leading up to Black Friday called the “Give Back Friday” initiative.
Give Back Friday is all about helping the hundreds of thousands of hard-working Walmart employees who are paid so poorly that they must rely on assistance from food banks and use food stamps. During this entire Black Friday week, Making Change at Walmart, our progressive partners, and countless other organizations will be hosting food drives in cities across the country the week leading up to Black Friday with a goal to feed 100,000 Walmart workers and families though the holidays.
Locals Unions are asked to share and sign the pledge to donate to a food drive or a food bank in their area. By working together, we can help Walmart workers and their families.
Help us feed 100,000 Walmart workers and families and make sure to post about it using the hashtag #GiveBackFriday and #feedhungryworkers.
Together, we can make a difference in the lives of over 100,000 families because no one in America, especially the men and women who work for one of the richest companies in the world, should have go to hungry this Thanksgiving and through the holidays.
It’s not easy to be the first person to arrive at our Union’s General Membership Meeting. It’s even more difficult to arrive eager, excited and alert after riding a bike through the rain for a few miles. But rain or any negativity has never stopped Peter Hoffman, and won’t stop him from riding to any meeting, regardless how hard the commute may be. Peter Hoffman is one of the most dedicated, positive union members in UFCW Local 1500.
“I started out with Local 1500 in 1998,” Hoffman explained, “Ever since then, I’ve been dedicated to the union, seeing how much they care and how much they help workers.” Peter currently works in the Front End at Stop & Shop 516, where he is always talking up the importance of going to union meetings, sticking together and being positive to his coworkers. “My favorite thing about being in a union is being involved with others, and having a place to explain and talk about work issues,” Hoffman explained, “There’s never a right or wrong answer at union meetings, you can say what’s on your mind.”
Peter lives with resounding positivity and pushes solidarity amongst all of his coworkers. “If everyone can stick together we can do amazing things. When people think differently about the union than I do, I tell them why I like the union so much, I’ve been around for a while, I know and have seen people get in trouble, and the union is the only one there to help you,” Hoffman said. He also enjoys raising funds and awareness for various charities like Making Strides Against Breast Cancer or the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.
Peter genuinely enjoys helping customers at work, and talking to them about his union. “The best thing I’ve learned in life is to never say never, and don’t give up your belief in yourself. That’s the most important thing in life,” Hoffman said.
The Wedge employees began their union drive last December, because they wanted to unionize in order to make their jobs sustainable and mirror the values at their workplace, which promotes a sustainable food system. The co-op’s management had already complied with a neutrality agreement they’d signed with unionized warehouse workers. “It was really a worker-driven thing,” Local 1189 Organizing Director Abraham Wangnoo said of the recent victory. “You could just see the excitement in a lot of the people who’d been part of this whole thing.” He added that the workers wanted to be able to “maintain a voice on the job and a sense of control and leadership in the operation of the co-op.”
Once the results of the election are certified by the National Labor Relations Board, the the 136 grocery workers will be part of the UFCW union family
A union drive at the Wedge Table, a cafe and market in the area that is also owned by the Wedge, is still ongoing.
Workers Shut Down Normal Operations of Boston-Area Store
via UNI Global Union
BOSTON – Early this morning, workers at a Boston-area IKEA store went on strike, shutting down normal store operations in an effort to improve the lives of hard-working IKEA workers and their families.
The striking workers are the first unionized retail workers at an American IKEA store, and are taking this action in response to IKEA USA’s refusal to recognize their union and enter into contract negotiations.
“Instead of doing what is right, IKEA has chosen to fight its own hard-working employees. That is wrong. All we want is the chance to earn a better life,” said eight-year IKEA coworker Chris DeAngelo. “We are dedicated to our jobs, and wish IKEA would honor its own policy and respect our union rights.”
Today’s action follows the decision of workers in the Goods Flow In department at IKEA Stoughton to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest private sector union with 1.3 million members.
The workers requested that IKEA USA recognize their union after following a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process that allows companies to voluntarily recognize a union when workers demonstrate majority support. Seventy-five per cent of workers in the bargaining unit signed a petition affirming their desire to join the union.
The action today highlights a failure to follow IKEA Group policies, which explicitly state support for the right of workers to bargain collectively and to join a union of their choice in the company’s internal code of conduct.
The Stoughton IKEA store has been the subject of a recent NLRB complaint filed in Boston, alleging that the company violated federal law by unlawfully infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected union activity. The company has since settled the complaint with the NLRB.
Workers Challenge IKEA’s American Labor Relations Record by Calling for Union Recognition
BOSTON – Today, workers at the IKEA furniture store in Stoughton, Mass. filed with the company for union recognition. While IKEA USA has union manufacturing plants in Danville, Va., and IKEA Group prides itself on positive relationships with unionized workers in stores around the world, this is the first time that IKEA retail workers in the United States have formed a union.
The bargaining unit consists of workers in the Goods Flow In department. The workers are joining the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest private sector union with 1.3 million members.
“I love working at IKEA, and I want to make a career here,” said eight year IKEA co-worker Chris DeAngelo. “A union is the best way to work together to live our values and build an even better IKEA. We’ve gone through a lot at our store, but this is a chance to turn over a new leaf and reset the relationship between IKEA’s hard-working men and women and management. If IKEA does what is right and chooses to recognize our union today, it will show that IKEA respects our right to join a union without fear of retaliation or harassment.”
Workers are seeking union recognition in an NLRB process that allows an employer to voluntarily recognize a union when workers demonstrate majority support. An overwhelming majority of Goods Flow In workers have signed a public petition to join the union. A copy of the petition can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Boston-area IKEA store has been the subject of a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint filed in Boston, alleging that the company violated federal law by unlawfully infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected union activity. The company has since settled the complaint with the NLRB.
The effort to improve the lives of IKEA workers has garnered domestic and international support. Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, stated, “here at the meeting of our World Executive Board, the affiliates of UNI, representing 20 million workers, including those working at IKEA stores the world over, have stated their unequivocal support for the brave actions of workers in IKEA Stoughton”. Jennings continued, “we call on IKEA to listen to the workers at Stoughton and recognize their union rights; and we have today committed to stand with these workers until they have a union contract.”
UNI Global Union is an international federation of unions, representing the unions of IKEA retail workers around the world.
UNI Global Union, based in Nyon, Switzerland, represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade. UNI and our affiliates in all regions are driven by the responsibility to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and collective bargaining.
As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting the story of Fermin Rodriguez, who has bravely stood up for his coworkers and their collective union rights.
Fermin is a member of UFCW Local 770, and works at El Super–a California-based, Mexican owned supermarket chain. Fermin had worked for El Super for 9 years, until the company illegally terminated him, simply for standing up for workers’ rights. The company tried to silence him due to his union activity, and the union’s charges lead the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to obtain a court injunction that ordered the grocer to return Fermin to work
Since September, 2013, Fermin and his fellow workers had been working without a contract because El Super refused to bargain with them even after the workers fought off the company’s decertification attempt to take away their Local 770 union representation. In response, the workers launched a boycott to protest the company’s unfair labor practices at their store. Since then, workers like Fermin have continued to speak up about what the company is doing, and have gained support from other workers and community members from far and wide.
In late July, Federal Distict Court Judge George King granted the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) request for a rare “10j” injunction to stop El Super’s unfair labor practices and immediately remedy their unlawful treatment of workers. In the face of El Super’s coercive and threatening conduct designed to silence workers, Chief Judge George H. King issued the significant “10j” injunction, ordering not only the immediate reinstatement of Fermín, but the restoration of workers vacation accrua which El Super had taken away. The Company also conceded in the face of these actions that it would return to the bargaining table.
Fermin is proud of this victory but is clear that this fight isn’t just about him–“it’s about respect for all workers and basic protections on the job. The ability to take sick leave when we or a family member is ill; a fair wage that reflects our contribution to the company’s giant profits; and guaranteed full-time hours for those willing to work.”
To speak out about how he and his coworkers are engaged in a campaign to stand up for worker rights, Fermin came to Washinton, D.C. this week to #StartTheConvo at the White House Summit on worker voice.
His message? “Don’t let yourself be exploited. Fight for your rights. Join a union. Unions are there to protect all workers from exploitation and ensure that employers respect workers’ rights.”
Fermin also used the opportunity to discuss how unions are at the forefront of fighting for immigrant workers’ rights: “It is imperative for workers to realize that they shouldn’t be afraid and know that they have rights. Regardless of whether workers are documented or undocumented, the union is here to help all workers. It is important to know that we, Latino workers, come to this country to work hard, contribute to the economy of this country, and fight to better the lives of our families. It is important for this to be taken into account and finally pass immigration reform.”
In his remarks, Fermin also touched on the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month, and what it means to him: “It is an honor and gives me a sense of pride in my work and my contribution. Latinos come to the USA to improve our living standards and to help our families here and back home. Whether we are from Mexico or other countries in Central America, Hispanic Herititage Month is important to us because we come here to work hard, not only for ourselves but to help this country as well.”
On Oct. 7, the White House is holding a summit with leaders in the various movements to improve the lives of working people across the country, with a focus on how to make sure that economic growth is broad-based and that workers share in the benefits they help create with their labor. Until the summit begins, we’ll be highlighting the stories of workers and their struggles to make sure their voices are heard on the job.
Today, we take a look at Lydia Flores.
Flores is a 37-year-old single mother of three who works as a cashier at union El Super market in Arleta, Calif. She and her co-workers have been fighting for a new contract for more than two years in the face of a campaign by the company to undermine the workers’ desires for fair working conditions and a voice on the job.
Currently, she makes $12.88 per hour after 11 years at the company. The low wages and the lack of sufficient hours keep Flores in a constant struggle to pay her bills:
I pay the mortgage and my car and my utilities—and the rest of the bills have to wait. Sometimes I work 32, 36 hours. The 40 hours are not guaranteed.
When Flores speaks up about anything at work, she says that she is met with hostility and disdain. Other workers at El Super have made similar complaints.
Flores says the workers want more:
We want more respect and enough hours to support our families. If we had a contract, they would respect the 40 hours, and we would not have to be fearful about raising concerns about the company’s failure to follow the rules
Flores knows that coming together with her co-workers can make positive change. She is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770, a shop steward and a member of the union’s bargaining committee.
El Super employs low‐wage and predominantly Latino workers. The workers at the union stores were covered under a contract with El Super that expired on Sept. 27, 2013. For more than a year, the unions and the worker bargaining team sought to bargain to improve their working conditions. In September 2013, El Super imposed what it called its “last, best and final” offer, which did not address the workers’ concerns and provided for less paid sick leave than is currently mandated by California state law. On Dec. 12, 2014, El Super workers voted resoundingly to recertify the union and demanded the company return to the bargaining table, a request which El Super rejected. El Super employees and the UFCW launched a boycott in December 2014 to protest the company’s actions. The union’s boycott lines have turned away more than 100,000 prospective El Super shoppers. In the face of the boycott and after the NLRB issued complaint and sought a 10(j) injunction in federal court regarding the company’s unlawful refusal to bargain, the company agreed to return to the table. El Super recently agreed to bargain for the first time in more than a year.
Flores and her fellow workers aren’t making outrageous demands, especially in light of the fact they are owned by a billion-dollar business:
“What we’re trying to do with our consumer boycott of El Super is trying to get something better for our families. We just want the company to hear us, we want them to come and negotiate and give us what is fair. We’re asking for better wages, regular schedules and hours to support our families and respect, that’s what we want.”
About El Super
El Super is managed by the Paramount, Calif.-based Bodega Latina Corp. There are 50 El Super locations in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. Bodega Latina Corp. is 81.4% owned by Mexico-based Grupo Commercial Chedraui (Chedraui). Chedraui operates 211 markets in Mexico. It is Mexico’s third-largest retailer.
In January 2013, Forbes estimated the personal wealth of Chedraui’s chairman of the board, Alfredo Chedraui Obeso, at more than $1 billion. That year the company made $5.1 billion in revenue. The El Super stores make up more than 20% of Grupo Chedraui’s income.