Kroger Shop Steward Wins $250 in Back Pay for Coworker

Kristy Vance, a shop steward at a Kroger store in Blacksburg, poses for a photo with her coworker, Alex Taylor. Alex was awarded $250 in back pay after Kristy reported a manager doing work that should have been assigned to Alex.

For years now, Kristy Vance has seen managers, management trainees and loss prevention staff stocking shelves at her store, Kroger #402 in Blacksburg, Va. This not only violates the Kroger-Roanoke contract, which specifies that only bargaining unit members can stock shelves, but it also reduces the number of hours Local 400 members are scheduled to work. Kristy wasn’t going to tolerate it.

This fall, she took photos and documented 24 hours of management doing shelf-stocking. She sent the photos and evidence to her representative, Mark Collins, and filed a grievance against Kroger. The company could not dispute what happened and Local 400 won a back pay award for part-time associate Alex Taylor. He was the most senior part-timer and had only worked 16 hours during the week in question, so he received a check for $250, covering the extra hours he should have been assigned.

“Alex was grateful, but he said, ‘Wow, I don’t need this,’” Kristy recalled. “He was wanting to give it to someone who was older. That was really admirable of him, but this was his award because management took those hours away from him. And we sent a clear message that we are going to enforce our collective bargaining agreement.

“I’m really pleased we got results because this has been a long time coming,” Kristy said. “Whenever I raised this problem in the past and told them they have to give part-time workers the extra hours they need or pay full-time workers overtime, management would deny that they were stocking. I would take photos and they would claim it wasn’t proof. They kind of laughed us off. Not any more.”

After Kristy filed the grievance, a new manager was appointed for the store. Since then, Kristy has caught a few incidences of management doing bargaining unit work—which she continues to document—but the frequency is down. “We’re having an impact, but we’ve still got to be vigilant,” she said.

For Kristy, fighting back was hard. She had previously worked Kroger #192 in Galax, Va., just a few miles from her home in Fries. But after that store was closed, she was transferred to Blacksburg, 72 miles away. So she spends two and a half-hours each day commuting—or longer, when traffic is bad. As a result, she relies on her Local 400 sisters and brothers to document contract violations when she’s not there, and they played a central role in winning back pay for Alex.

In addition, Kristy and her co-workers spearheaded an arbitration case against Kroger charging the company with using courtesy clerks to perform work that can only be done by food clerks. “We’ve turned in the three violations,” Kristy said, “which would be enough to trigger the ‘three strikes’ clause, promote all courtesy clerks and eliminate the position in our store if we win in arbitration.

“I think all of these actions are showing everyone working in our store that their union is here to fight for them,” Kristy said. “We’re showing them that together we’re stronger, that divided we’re weak, and that if we come together, we can fight corporate America and get what we deserve—our pieces of the pie.”

Work at Kroger? Here’s How to Report Violations

Are managers doing work that should be assigned to a clerk? If you see a manager doing work that should be assigned to a clerk, click here to report the violation or talk to your shop steward.

Are courtesy clerks getting cheated at your store? If you work as a courtesy clerk, or if you see a courtesy clerk at your store doing work he or she shouldn’t have to do, click here to report the violation and a union representative will follow up with you.