News and Updates
September 29, 2006
RALEIGH-DURHAM—On Tuesday and Wednesday, UFCW Local 204 members in North Carolina ratified a new agreement with Kroger, protecting quality, affordable health care for workers and retirees. The four-year agreement covers 1700 Kroger employees. It ensures that pension benefits are secure, and that workers will receive wage increases for each of those four years.
Kroger workers in the Raleigh-Durham area stood together in a show of solidarity through two months of bargaining, making it possible to secure a good contract and successfully avoid a potential strike.
“We’re very satisfied with this contract,” said Local 204 member Nina Tilley. “I don’t think we would have an agreement like this without the support we got from the community here, and from UFCW members all over the country.” Thousands of community and UFCW members sent emails to Kroger, urging them to continue to provide Kroger workers with quality, affordable health care. UFCW members in Kroger stores nationwide also kept abreast of the contract negotiations and offered their support.
Kroger and UFCW members differed mainly on the employees’ health care fund and the amount that employees would pay towards health care coverage. In negotiating this final contract offer, however, members were able to maintain and even improve affordable family health care.
Local 204 members voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement on September 26-27th.
September 1, 2006
(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.””
August 21, 2006
RALEIGH, N.C. — After a grueling 72 hours, contract negotiations between Kroger Company and Raleigh- Durham area grocery store workers broke off Wednesday evening. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 204 and Kroger have been at odds since negotiations began in late July, after Kroger proposed to raid employee health care reserve funds and force workers to pay $1 million from their own paychecks to cover the difference.
During the negotiations, UFCW members made several fair and equitable proposals. Kroger, however, refused to move on key issues like health care and wages, effectively ending negotiations at that time. Kroger workers were angered that the company’s negotiators appeared unable to make decisions on any of the proposals the UFCW offered.
UFCW members are hoping to schedule negotiations for Thursday and Friday of next week.
The UFCW is committed to the bargaining process and will continue to bargain with Kroger as long as it takes to secure a good contract for grocery workers in North Carolina. However, if Kroger is unwilling to provide workers with affordable health care and wage increases, a strike may become a reality.
UFCW Local 204 members voted to authorize a potential strike at the beginning of August. The threatened strike would affect 1,917 workers from 19 stores in the Raleigh-Durham area.
August 3, 2006
- They would be forced to pay an extra $1.4 million out of their own paychecks towards health care.
- They would have to choose between health care and things like rent, food, and other basic necessities.
- Any wage increases workers would get under the new contract would be eaten up by the proposed increased health care costs.
July 31, 2006
North Carolina Kroger workers are ready to fight to protect affordable health care. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 204 at stores in the Raleigh-Durham area will be voting to reject company demands that would make health care unaffordable for workers and their families.
More negotiations are to take place, and UFCW members will bargain in good faith with Kroger. However, if Kroger is unwilling to provide workers with adequate health care and wage increases, a strike may become a reality as early as mid-August.
Workers will be voting in three meetings this week: Monday July 31, 6 p.m. at the Windgate Inn in Greenville, Monday July 31, 7:30 p.m. at the North Gate Mall in Durham, and Tuesday Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m. at the North Raleigh Hilton in Raleigh. The threatened strike would affect 1000 workers from 19 stores in the area.
In their last contract, workers bargained for corporate contributions to their health care fund. Because local Kroger workers have remained relatively healthy in the last few years, there is now over $4 million in that fund–$4 million that is already invested for health care for workers and their families.
But corporate greed has surfaced. Kroger wants to raid that fund themselves and then force workers to pay an extra $1 million out of their own paychecks towards health care. This adds up to an unsustainable amount for Kroger workers and their families.
If Kroger’s proposed health care changes are put into place, workers, especially those with families, will have to choose between health care and things like rent, food, and other basic necessities. Any wage increases workers would get under the new contract would be eaten up by the proposed increased health care costs.
UFCW members believe that grocery jobs can and should be good, career jobs that can sustain a family and provide affordable health care. Kroger workers are among the most productive in the retail food industry, and have generated more than $60 billion in sales for their company in the last year. Yet Kroger treats them as though they are dispensable.
UFCW members remain committed to reaching a fair agreement with Kroger. But Kroger has to meet workers halfway, and to stop punishing those with families. Kroger workers have contributed greatly to their company, and they deserve better.
June 27, 2006
(Little Rock, Ark.) – Facing pressure from Kroger, Arkansas supermarket workers stood together to secure a new union contract that protects affordable health care for workers and their families. A majority of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 2008 Kroger members voted to accept a new contract Sunday evening. The agreement came after eleven straight hours of bargaining, through which members were able to avoid a potential strike.
UFCW Local 2008 members expressed their satisfaction with the new four-year contract, which locks in quality, affordable health care with minimal co-pays beginning in 2009. The new agreement expands some additional health care benefits for workers and secures the financial health of the joint labor-management health care trust fund. Workers will receive wage increases of $1.25 over the term of the contract and equalizes wage scales. Members in the retail unit ratified the contract by 80 percent, and meat unit members by over 68 percent.
Charles Lee, UFCW Local 2008 President, said Sunday, “We achieved more at the table by coordinating our bargaining with other UFCW locals in our region, including Houston Local 455, Dallas Local 540 and Memphis Local 1529. Our members stuck together and stayed involved in the process. They deserve all the credit for making gains without a work stoppage.”
Approximately 2,500 UFCW Local 2008 members in and around Little Rock, Arkansas are affected by the new contract.
June 8, 2006
(Washington, DC) – Albertsons Supermarket CEO Larry Johnston and his management team ran the national grocery chain into the ground and then sold off the remains–crippling communities and leaving workers’ lives in turmoil in the process. They deserve to suffer the same fate as the workers they’ve put out of jobs. So why are they receiving multimillion dollar compensation packages?
Apparently, it’s the American way. After all, it’s not just Albertsons—CEO pay is skyrocketing across all industries. In 1960, the average CEO made 41 times more than the average worker. By 2004, the average CEO was making 431 times that of the average worker! And much of this money goes to CEOs whose poor performance is driving their companies, and their workers, into financial ruin.
The $17.7 billion sale of Albertsons to Minnesota grocer SuperValu, drug store chain CVS Corp. and a group of private investors led by Cerberus Capital Management, is the latest example of corporate greed gone haywire. The deal provides multimillion dollar “golden parachute” packages to the former Albertsons’ executives. In addition to CEO Larry Johnston, four other former executives received eight-figure compensation packages.
A “golden parachute” is a term for the clause in executives’ contracts that provide special compensation packages in case they lose their employment through an acquisition or a merger. The Albertsons board approved the compensation packages, and has repeatedly refused to discuss the details of executive compensation.
And while Albertsons’ former executives coast on their golden parachutes, their workers are being put out of work. On Tuesday, Albertsons announced that it is closing 37 stores in Northern California — about one-fifth of its total Northern California stores.
Workers are being left out in the cold while Larry Johnston and his cohorts enjoy their multi-million dollar reward packages:
- Johnston, Albertsons’ president, chairman and chief executive officer: $105.5 million.
- Robert Dunst, executive vice president of technology and supply chain and the chief technology officer: $16.1 million.
- Paul Gannon, executive vice president for marketing and food operations: $15.5 million.
- John Sims, executive vice president and general counsel: $15.2 million.
- Felicia Thornton, executive vice president and chief financial officer: $17.2 million.
Albertsons first agreed to sell the company to Supervalu, CVS, and the investor realty group in January. Albertsons operates around 2500 stores in 37 states, and employs about 86,200 UFCW members in its various stores who will be affected by the sale.
“Is this the kind America we want – one that rewards CEOs for doing a bad job and leaving workers foot the bill? Albertsons workers deserve better. We will continue to fight to protect supermarket workers from corporate greed run amok,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.
The UFCW is America’s neighborhood union, representing 1.4 million members in the supermarket, food processing, meatpacking and other industries. UFCW is a member of the Change to Win Federation of unions.
April 28, 2006
TORONTO, April 28, 2006 – Wayne E. Hanley, the 48-year-old president of UFCW Canada Local 175 and International UFCW Vice-President, was elected National Director of UFCW Canada on Thursday by the UFCW Canada National Council. Until the election of a successor at Local 175, Hanley will also continue in his role as the local’s president.
Hanley’s election as National Director follows the retirement announced earlier this week by Michael J. Fraser who had served as UFCW Canada National Director since 1999 and as International Executive Vice-President of UFCW since 2004.
“Michael Fraser has done an outstanding job leading UFCW Canada,” said Hanley. “I am committed to advancing the programs he has initiated. For more than 25 years, Michael has dedicated his life to improving the lives of working Canadians and I’m determined to continue that agenda.”
Like Fraser, Wayne Hanley also started out as grocery store employee in 1976. The teenage customer service clerk at a London, Ontario Miracle Food Mart soon became involved as a union activist. Over the next eight years, he went on to become a steward, a member of his local union’s executive board, and then an organizer when he was hired on staff at UFCW Canada Local 175 in 1984.
In 1992, Hanley was elected as Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Canada Local 175. In 1999, he was elected President of Local 175 which today has grown to become North America’s largest single local, with over 50,000 members.
“I’ve been a friend and have worked with Wayne for over 20 years,” says Michael Fraser. “His vision, leadership and commitment to the members has never wavered. With Wayne, the future of UFCW Canada could not be in better hands. I congratulate him on his election. No one could be more deserving and I leave feeling confident of greater things ahead for Wayne and UFCW Canada.”
As for Fraser’s own future, “UFCW Canada will always be a part of my life, just a smaller part. I plan to continue to contribute in some way but what I’m really looking forward to is spending more time with my kids.”
UFCW Canada is one of Canada’s largest private sector unions with more than 230,000 members across the country working in retail, warehousing, food and beverage processing, manufacturing, hospitality, health care and other professional and service sectors.
January 23, 2006
January 19, 2006
(Washington, DC) – The health care system is in crisis and now, a major supermarket chain has joined the movement to help create a solution. Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer, announced plans today to mobilize its employees and customers to participate in community meetings and online surveys sponsored by the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is one of the fourteen members of the Working Group and has been reaching out to employers such as Kroger to enlist their involvement in this national dialogue. Kroger is the first to respond.
“We are thrilled to have Kroger’s involvement in this effort,” said Hansen. “We have sat at the bargaining table together for years trying to plug holes in the levees of a failing health care system. Now, we are working together toward a solution that will help all Americans.”
“Affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans is one of the most significant challenges facing our nation,” said David B. Dillon, Kroger chairman and chief executive officer. “Thanks to the work of the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, all of us have an opportunity to make our voices heard.”
The Citizens’ Health Care Working Group will be holding community meetings in a number of major cities – including Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Detroit, Phoenix and Chicago – over the next five months and conducting online surveys. For a complete list of cities and to share feedback with the Group, please visit: www.ufcw4healthcare.org
More than 200,000 of the UFCW’s 1.4 million members are hourly Kroger employees