Nearly 150 brothers and sisters at Main & Vine in Gig Harbor, Washington, were granted recognition to be represented by Local 367.
Main & Vine is a new store concept from Kroger that focuses on fresh local produce and high quality prepared foods. The Gig Harbor Main & Vine is the first shop that Kroger has opened under this new brand.
Their contract vote was held on March 17, and passed by an overwhelming majority.
Becoming a part of UFCW Local 367 was exciting to everyone who works at Main & Vine because it meant an instant improvement in both wages and benefits. As Kroger opens more Main & Vine stores throughout the country, this effort by Local 367 will help to reinforce the message that being a part of the UFCW union family really does lead to a better life.
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.
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.
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.
A year and a half ago, when Richard Kern was 18, he was diagnosed with malignant Melanoma.
While going through treatment, his medical bills soared to exceed $100,000. Thankfully, Richard’s mom is a member of UFCW Local 1059. Because of the collective bargaining agreement UFCW Local 1059 fought for at Kroger where Mrs. Kern works, her health insurance covered a vast majority of Richard’s overwhelming medical costs.
“My bill was in the triple digits instead of the sextuple digits,” said Richard. “Without her union, I would not be going to college. We would have sold at least one of our cars. I’d be working a full-time job or two part-time jobs. And we likely would have had to cash in retirement funds and all the life insurance policies we have. We would have had to give up nearly everything just to pay for a surgery to keep me alive. If it wasn’t for my mother’s union, my family would have been finished.”
Richard can now say he is a cancer survivor. But tragedy very recently struck his family again, when his father had a stroke. Richard’s father was airlifted from his local hospital in Lacaster, Ohio, to the facilities at Ohio State University where doctors fought to keep him from having another stroke.
“Again, the UFCW came to the rescue,” says Richard. “We haven’t yet gotten all the medical bills but the life flight alone was thousands upon thousands. He had two procedures done, saw neurologists, vascular surgeons, cardiologists, and neuro vascular surgeons, along with spending five days in arguably the best hospital in Ohio. The bills will be astronomical. But again, without my mom’s health insurance that the UFCW bargained for at the table, we would have had to pay for it all out of pocket. Which, to be blunt, never would have happened. We would have never been able to pay it all off. Ever.”
“Ever since my battle against cancer”, said Richard, “I’ve been on a mission. And after my dad’s medical troubles, the fire in my heart was set all over again. My goal is to make a speech at the Democratic National Convention. I want to send the message that without unions, the middle class is beyond screwed. I want to send the message that every single person in this country deserves a living wage, not the minimum wage. And I want to send a message that everyone is entitled to quality health insurance. I am living, breathing proof that unions save lives, as is my father.”
Richard says that by fighting for workers’ rights, the union “literally kept me and my dad alive.” Help Richard spread his message, by posting on social media, shopping union-made, or simply telling a worker in your local grocery store or in your favorite retail shop thank you for their service.
Together, unions and the millions of hard-working Americans they represent will continue fighting for workers’ rights and improving the quality of life for the middle class.
Labor Day is the symbolic end of summer for many, but as always, it’s a holiday to honor hardworking men and women who make our country great. Many of our UFCW members will be working on Labor Day, but for those who get to take the day off and enjoy time with family and BBQ, we can continue to support each other by buying and shopping union-made.