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Union Wins $31,855 in Back Pay for Kroger Meat Cutter in Appomattox

For Local 400 member and Kroger meat cutter Clarence “Pete” Dickerson, justice was a long time coming. But when it arrived, it was sweet—to the tune of $31,855.

Pete’s ordeal started more than eight years ago, when he transferred from his Kroger store in Richmond to Kroger #406 in Appomattox, Virginia. He needed to help care for his brother who had cancer and be closer to his family.

In Richmond, Pete worked as a meat cutter. But in order to transfer to Appomattox, he took a position as a part-time clerk, the only available opening at the time. Pete worked as a clerk in grocery and produce for a few weeks, but once the meat manager found out Pete was a fully trained meat cutter, he started scheduling Pete in the meat shop as a part-time meat cutter from that day forward. Sadly, his brother passed away, but Pete stayed in Appomattox, where he continues to work as a meat cutter today.

Unfortunately—and unbeknownst to him—the move from the grocery department to the meat department was mishandled by Kroger management. Pete was wrongly classified as a meat clerk, not a meat cutter.

Eventually, Pete became aware something was wrong. “My pension seemed awfully low,” he said. “So I started checking into it. They had me listed as a clerk according to paperwork. But I’m a meat cutter. I was hired as a meat cutter from the get-go.”

When Pete raised concerns, the store manager said, “We’ll look into it.” But months passed by with no action. But when his Local 400 representative, Phil Frisina, visited the store and learned of Pete’s issues, he filed a grievance.

“In our first meeting with HR, she told me I had said I came here as a clerk,” Pete recalled. “I told her I never said any such thing. And how would she know what I said? They were trying to blow me off.”

“It was a battle,” Frisina said. “Management claimed he should have known better. Come on—Pete’s 71½ years-old, an easy-going guy who didn’t want to rock the boat. I told Kroger he fulfilled his obligation to you by working as a meat-cutter. Your obligation is to pay him as a meat cutter.”

After more than five contentious months, Kroger finally did the right thing and agreed to a settlement reimbursing Pete for the pay he had rightfully earned as a meat cutter.

“I was thrilled to know that it has been done and handled the right way,” Pete said. “Anyone can make a mistake, but not to admit to the error is a problem.

“It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had my union there to help me,” he added. “Everyone should join our union. That’s why Local 400 is here—to catch errors that would otherwise never be caught.”

“Local 400 repaired Pete’s past and fixed his future,” Frisina said. “I’m about to retire myself and this is the biggest back pay award I’ve ever won. It feels really good to have helped someone—especially a good person like Pete.”

Shoppers Workers, Community Leaders Rally to Save Stores Facing Closure

Warn of the Loss of Good Jobs and Creation of Food Deserts

Hundreds of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy workers represented by UFCW Local 400, along with community leaders, other union activists and public officials, rallied in front of the chain’s Coral Hills, Md. store on June 26th to protest the potential closure of all stores in the area.

Speakers and participants called on the company to ensure these locations remain grocery stores with strong union jobs.

“I’ve worked at Shoppers for 11 years,” said Amber Stevens, a Local 400 member who works at Shoppers #2669 in Forestville, Md. “It’s my livelihood. It pays all of my bills. Not knowing if I’m going to be able to provide for my family makes me uneasy. When they decided to sell the stores, they should have informed their loyal employees. They should have informed us first. I hope that we can keep our stores and find union buyers — that would be a great outcome.”

“It’s been very stressful,” said Meeko Whitley, who works at Shoppers #2634 in Landover. “I have a family, two children and a grandchild, and it’s been very rough on a lot of people. I hope that I’m able to keep my job and stay employed. I hope UNFI reconsiders closing our stores.”

“We built this company,” Kevin Freeman, who works at Shoppers #2618. “For them to treat us like we’re nothing is wrong. We’re going to keep fighting, fighting and fighting some more. I hope UNFI sees and hears what’s going on and rethinks their decision.”

A host of public officials spoke out in support of the Shoppers workers.

“Prince George’s County has a problem already with food deserts, food swamps and not enough good paying jobs for our residents,” said County Councilwoman Jolene Ivey (D-5). “So this is a double-whammy. We need to protect people’s access to groceries and the right to good jobs. We need to make sure that we have quality grocery store here that’s a union shop. We need both.”

“I have a Shoppers in my district in Charles County,” said state Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-28). “It’s been there for years. I go there from time to time. I consider the people who work there my friends. I want them to keep their jobs, their health care and their retirement benefits. And we want people in our county to have access to fresh, good food, and we don’t want a food desert. Last year, Safeway in Charles County closed but we only found out after the fact. Here, we have an opportunity before an adverse action is taken to keep good jobs and fresh food in our communities.”

State Del. Dereck Davis (D-25) told the ralliers, “This is ridiculous. All we’re doing is asking them to let us know what’s going on. Well, we’re done asking. Now we’re demanding. We’re calling on the CEO to take care of their employees just like they take care of their shareholders.”

“You live here, you are our neighbors and constituents,” said state Del. Andrea Harrison (D-24). “We need to let UNFI know we mean business. Everyone should be able to take care of their families.”

“We are here to tell UNFI, it might be business to you, but it’s personal to us,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy. “You are vital members of our community. I commit to you that I will do everything in my power to negotiate on your behalf.”

All Shoppers Food & Pharmacy stores in the DMV area are at risk of closing due to a decision made by corporate executives at Shoppers parent company, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI).

In 2018, UNFI purchased the parent company of Shoppers, Supervalu, and immediately announced their intention to divest all of their retail operations, including Shoppers, as quickly as possible. Since that time, the people who work at Shoppers and the communities they serve have been left in limbo, not knowing what is going to happen to the good, union jobs and quality food options that have served their neighborhoods for decades.

“To be clear, Shoppers is not bankrupt or going out of business,” said Mark Federici, president of UFCW Local 400, which represents the unionized workers. “Their parent company is simply determined to sell these stores, regardless of whether or not they are profitable. The loss of these grocery stores and the union jobs they provide would be devastating for these communities.”

Participants noted that 12 of Shoppers’ 36 stores are located in Prince George’s County. Nine are inside the Beltway, where five Safeways have closed since 2010, making them all the more important. Two stores are in Forestville and one in Oxon Hill, considered by county officials to be food deserts. Other stores are in Bladensburg, Bowie, Clinton, College Park, Coral Hills, Hyattsville, Landover and New Carrollton — all communities with residents who periodically struggle to find and afford healthy meals for their families and need access to affordable, healthy food.

For more than 40 years, Shoppers has provided good union jobs with fair wages and health and retirement benefits, as well as affordable, fresh food in many communities that would otherwise be food deserts.

“Our members have been left in the dark for far too long,” explained Federici “After decades of faithfully serving the community, it is irresponsible to leave these hardworking men and women to wonder what the future will hold. We are calling on the company to ensure that these locations remain grocery stores with strong union jobs.”

June 24-28: Take A Stand at Shoppers

A Shoppers store front in Herndon, Va.

For far too long, the future of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy has been in question. We don’t know when and we don’t know how, but one thing seems clear: thanks to a decision by the corporate office of Shoppers’ parent company, it’s only a matter of time before all Shoppers stores are sold or closed.

For more than 40 years, Shoppers has provided good union jobs with fair wages and health and retirement benefits, as well as affordable, fresh food in many lower-income communities that would otherwise be food deserts.

Now thousands of union jobs are at risk and entire communities could be left without access to fresh food. Just because some far-off corporate office decides to leave the retail business doesn’t mean our community can be cast aside and forgotten.

Join us for a rally on June 26 to call on Shoppers to ensure these locations remain grocery stores with strong union jobs!

Rally at Shoppers
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2626/2345
4801 Marlboro Pike, Coral Hills, MD

RSVP on Facebook

We will be joined by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy and other local leaders.

Can’t make it on Wednesday? We’re holding other actions throughout the week. Check out the full schedule below and join us at an event near you!

To be clear: Shoppers is not bankrupt or going out of business. Their parent company is simply determined to sell these stores, regardless of the fact that they are profitable.

For the last two years, Shoppers’ parent companies (first Supervalu and now UNFI) have hinted at plans to completely leave the retail business to focus on wholesale distribution. The implication has always been clear – the company plans to sell off all Shoppers locations.

Throughout this time, our union members – the store associates who are the backbone of the Shoppers stores – have been left to wonder what the future will hold. Our repeated requests for information have been met with silence from the company.

Well enough is enough. Join us for a week of action June 24-28 to call on Shoppers to preserve access to fresh food and quality jobs in our communities. Join us at an action near you!

Take A Stand at Shoppers: Week of Action Schedule

Monday, June 24

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2650/2366 (4720 Cherry Hill Rd, College Park, MD)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2656/2371 (2201 Randolph Rd, Wheaton, MD)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2635/2353 (806 Largo Center Drive, Landover, MD)

Tuesday, June 25

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2654/2370 (5110 Nicholson Lane, Rockville, MD)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2619/2340 (6881 New Hampshire Ave, Takoma Park, MD)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2634/2352 (7051 M L King Jr Hwy, Landover, MD)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2281 (8212 Liberty Road, Baltimore, MD 21244)

Wednesday, June 26

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2653/2369 (6111 Livingston Rd, Oxon Hill, MD)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Rally At Shoppers #2626/2345 (4801 Marlboro Pike, Coral Hills, MD)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2299 (2000 Gwynns Falls Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21215)

Thursday, June 27

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2649/2365 (3801 Jefferson Davis Highway, Alexandria, VA)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2648/2364 (6360 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church, VA)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2615/2336 (9622 Main Street, Fairfax, VA)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2338 (264 Solomons Island Road, Annapolis, MD 21401)

Friday, June 28

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2628/2346 (7005 Manchester Lakes Blvd, Franconia, VA)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2641/2358 (7660 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA)

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Shoppers #2674/2381 (4174 Fortuna Center Plaza, Dumfries, VA)

Poll: Should Lipton Lower Vacation Limits?

Vacation

Do you work at Lipton? Please take a moment to complete our quick poll below!

Currently, Lipton has a limit on the number of employees within a job classification who may take vacation at the same time. Management is proposing to lower the current limits as follows:

Operations Technicians – Management would like to lower the current maximum of five people allowed off at once down to three people.
– 2 Perfecta Maximum
– 2 EOL Max
– 1 PP/MM Maximum
– 1 Food Service
– 1 Gamma
– 1 Specialty Tea

Maintenance Technicians – Management would like to lower the current maximum of three people allowed off at once down to two people.
– 1 Perfecta
– 1 EOL
– 1 Food Service
– 1 Gamma
– 1 Specialty Tea

Should management lower the limit? Take our poll below to cast your vote by 3:00 p.m., Friday, May 17th.

We will share the results with Lipton management to make sure our voices are heard.

The poll is now closed. Thank you to everyone who took time to respond!

Bernie Sanders Workers Become First Presidential Campaign Staff to Ratify Union Contract

Bernie 2020 staff union

CONTACT:
Jonathan Williams, Communications Director, UFCW Local 400, jwilliams@local400.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 8, 2019) — In a groundbreaking development, Bernie Sanders campaign workers — now proud UFCW Local 400 union members — ratified the first collective bargaining agreement by a presidential campaign.

In taking this historic step forward, they are also revolutionizing the nature of presidential campaign work, which has traditionally been known for its 24/7 demands and difficult working conditions.

Their contract sets new standards for their field, doing so in a way that will dramatically improve their quality of life without hindering the Bernie 2020 campaign’s ability to compete for votes and delegates.

“I am so proud to be taking this historical step of becoming the first-ever presidential campaign with a unionized workforce,” said Krista Harness, a Senior Development Manager who served on the bargaining committee that led negotiations on behalf of the union. “I know that our newly ratified union contract will make our workplace more equitable, fair and resilient, and our overall campaign will be much stronger with the protections we were able to win for the workers.”

“What this union pulled off will change the way presidential campaigns are run in this country,” said Bianca Márquez, a member of the campaign’s digital team. “Representing a talented and diverse group of campaign staffers at the bargaining table and in a contract was no easy task, but we came together in support of one common goal: achieving the best contract possible and setting a new standard for the industry. As a member of the bargaining committee for the Bernie 2020 staff union, I could not be more proud of what we collectively accomplished.”

“Political campaigns are cause-driven and because there is always more work that can be done, staffers are typically worked to the bone,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. Even political work must be subject to minimum standards. I congratulate our members on the Bernie Sanders campaign for making their own revolution.”

For many employees, this was their first experience forming a union at their workplace.

“You feel more at ease knowing you’re backed up by the strength of the union,” explained Reg Ledesma, an intern at the DC campaign headquarters who served on the bargaining committee. “This has been the first union I’ve been a part of, and I’m proud to be part of a historical moment!”

Working long hours is not unusual in the hectic campaign environment, and all too often employees are disincentivized from taking time off even when they need it. To address this challenge, the collective bargaining agreement establishes a clear but flexible workweek, as well as days off each month where the employee is not on call. It provides breaks throughout the day, including meal breaks, as well as mandatory time off between particularly long shifts. The negotiated agreement also doubled paid vacation time from 10 to 20 days per year.

The contract sets clearly defined wages and benefits along with the opportunity for employees to earn performance raises. Field organizers, who will eventually constitute the vast majority of campaign staff, will have 100 percent of their health care premiums paid for by the campaign. And interns in the national headquarters will make a minimum of $20/hour along with full medical benefits. All hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay. In addition to health insurance, the contract provides broad coverage for mental health care services.

And in keeping with Senator Sanders’ emphasis on fighting income inequality, the contract puts a cap on management pay proportional to union employees’ salaries. Pay transparency provisions and a pay equity review process are also established for employees who feel they are being unfairly underpaid.

The first-of-its-kind agreement also includes robust anti-discrimination provisions as well as comprehensive protections for immigrant and transgender workers. And it establishes employee-led Labor Committees to address ongoing working conditions and other issues with management.

All of this was made possible due to the adoption of fair labor practices by the Bernie 2020 campaign. On February 26th, the campaign agreed to remain neutral in the organizing campaign and to recognize Local 400 if a majority of workers signed union cards. This milestone was reached on March 15th, making it the first presidential campaign staff in history to unionize. Contract negotiations commenced shortly afterward, led by a committee of staff from the campaign. Negotiations were productive and the collective bargaining agreement was ratified on May 2nd by a majority vote of union employees.

“This was a model experience in every respect,” Federici said. “First, Senator Sanders walked the talk on unions, agreeing to a truly democratic process — neutrality and card check — that every responsible employer should embrace. And then, the campaign engaged in good faith bargaining, recognizing that it’s in their own interest to have well-treated employees empowered to operate at the top of their games. I urge every other campaign to follow their lead.”

John Marzabadi, who works on the advance team and served on the bargaining committee, echoed the call for other campaigns to organize. “I’m very proud of what our bargaining committee has accomplished to improve the working conditions and overall welfare of our campaign staff. In my view, the most worker-friendly campaign in the race ought to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Our contract sets the standard for others to not only follow, but to expand upon and I encourage fellow campaign workers to organize and collectively bargain for their rights.”

###

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Member Wins Grievance, Receives Back Pay

Mary Stephens (left) received a check for more than $12,000 in back pay after settling a grievance with Health Care Services Group (HCSG).

For 29 years, Mary Stephens had worked at the Parkersburg Care Center (now owned by Genesis Healthcare, Inc.) in Parkersburg, W.Va., the first 15 years in dietary and the last 14 years in laundry. By all accounts, she was a model employee and Local 400 member.

Two years ago, a subcontracting firm, Health Care Services Group (HCSG), was hired to run the laundry.  Up until this point, residents’ clothes, sheets, towels and other personal items had been washed with two workers operating the laundry. But HCSG—looking at the bottom line, rather than the actual workload—got the brilliant idea that laundry only required one worker. This person was expected to do the work of two people all by herself.

That’s the impossible position Mary Stephens found herself in. “They cut us down to one and it should have been two,” she said. “They haven’t yet proven it can be done.”

Mary worked as hard as she could but kept falling behind. She had been set up to fail. In October 2018, she was terminated. Adding insult to injury, management did not follow proper discipline procedures. Instead, they just kept a diary of what Mary didn’t get finished, because the workforce had been cut by 50 percent.  “I didn’t like the way they treated me,” she said. That was an understatement.  After she was let go, the members at the facility united together and documented what was taking place in the laundry.  They proved that the laundry job was not able to be done by one person in an eight-hour shift.

Mary and her union immediately filed a grievance. When the case was scheduled for arbitration, HCSG reached out to the Union one more time and we reached an agreement. Under the agreement, Mary received a check for over $12,000.00. “My union did what they could and they did their job,” she said.  Mary has decided not to return to work and start her retirement.

In the meantime, the subcontractor running the laundry operation has been bringing in extra people to help, suddenly realizing the job is too big for one person. Unfortunately, this “epiphany” was too late for Mary. But her union ensured that justice was served.

Local 400 Stands in Solidarity with Striking Stop & Shop Workers

This afternoon, 31,000 UFCW members working at Stop & Shop stores in New England walked off the job. Stop & Shop—like Giant Food in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia—is a banner of the Dutch-Belgian conglomerate Ahold Delhaize.

Stop & Shop workers need your help to win a fair contract. Sign the petition to Stop & Shop management to let them know you stand with UFCW members as they fight for a fair contract.

The workers, represented by UFCW Locals 328, 371, 919, 1445 and 1459 in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, have been bargaining with the company since January and remain miles apart. Ahold Delhaize has refused to back down from demands for drastic cuts in employee health coverage and take-home pay.

“This company has shown us that they do not respect you,” said Local 1445 President Jeff Bollen in a message to members. “They do not respect the hard work that you do every day, and we’re done talking. Today, we’re going to take action.”

Local 400 stands in unbreakable solidarity with our sisters and brothers in New England.  We have got their backs and we stand ready to assist and support them in every way possible. An attack on one of us is an attack on all.

The outcome of this strike matters all the more because our own bargaining with Ahold Delhaize (and Safeway) starts this fall and we have every reason to believe the company will go after our pay and benefits, too, unless we help our fellow UFCW Locals win a decisive victory.

As Local 1445 noted, “Ahold Delhaize saw over $2 billion in profit last year and got a US tax cut of $225 million in 2017. The company is claiming the proposed cuts are necessary but is unlawfully refusing to provide financial information to verify that claim. While Stop & Shop continues to propose drastically cutting worker benefits, Ahold shareholders voted on April 10 to give themselves an 11.1 percent raise in dividends over last year. The expected payout will be on April 25 for around $880 million.”

We cannot and we will not let this immoral greed stand—not in New England and not in the DMV. Add your name to the petition to Stop & Shop management and let them know you stand with UFCW members fighting for a fair contract.

Local 400 members working at Giant should check back regularly for updates on the Stop & Shop strike, what we are doing to support it, and our own preparations for this Fall’s bargaining.

Shoppers Plans to Close All 30 Pharmacies

A Shoppers store front in Herndon, Va.

A joint statement from UFCW Local 400 & UFCW Local 27

Today, UNFI, the parent company of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, announced plans to close all 30 Shoppers pharmacies.

Here is what we know:

  • The pharmacies will close on a staggering basis beginning on April 23, 2019.
  • Pharmacy techs at these locations will be informed before their pharmacy closes and will be placed on the stores schedule in a clerk position with no effect to their rate of pay or status (full-time or part-time).
  • CVS purchased the pharmacy scripts and inventory from 24 stores and Walgreens has purchased the scripts and inventory from six stores.
  • The company continues to insist that there are “no immediate plans” to close any Shoppers stores.

This is a frustrating situation for everyone involved, and the lack of information has only made things worse. We are continuing to push UNFI to provide us with more information. We have made it clear that we expect UNFI to respect the terms of our collective bargaining agreement in the event that stores are sold.

In the meantime, we will continue to enforce your rights under your contract and we are committed to sharing any new information with you as we have it.

Sign Up for Text Alerts

We will use text message alerts to keep you updated as things move forward. If you have not already, please sign up for text alerts by texting SHOPPERS to 698-329.

* Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698329.

Meeting with UNFI CEO Provides No New Information

A Shoppers store front in Herndon, Va.

A Joint Statement from UFCW Local 400 & UFCW Local 27

On Tuesday, April 2, 2019, we met with United Natural Foods (UNFI) CEO Steven Spinner with other UFCW leaders who represent workers at UNFI owned and operated retail employers. Unfortunately, Mr. Spinner provided no new information about UNFI’s plans for the Shoppers Food & Pharmacy stores beyond what has already been reported to you by us and in the news media.

We share your frustration with the lack of information from UNFI about their plans for your stores. It is the employees that have made Shoppers into a successful company and keep customers coming back. We expect UNFI to acknowledge the value of your hard work and commitment when the stores are sold to another operator.

We understand that this has been a difficult situation and the lack of concrete information from the company is not helping. We will continue to demand information from UNFI to ensure that they are complying with our collective bargaining agreements as they discuss a planned sale with potential buyers. In the meantime, we will continue to enforce your rights under your contract and we are committed to sharing any new information with you as we have it.

2019 Giant Food & Safeway Union Contract Survey

What do you want in your next union contract?

In the coming weeks, we will begin negotiating our next union contracts with Safeway and Giant Food. Please help us put together our proposals for the upcoming negotiations by completing the survey below.

Your responses will help us put together proposals well in advance of the actual contract negotiations, and it will help us fight hardest for the things you and other members want most.

Please complete the survey by no later than Friday, April 26, 2019. This will give the negotiators time to compile your information before the first proposal meeting.

*THE SURVEY IS NOW CLOSED. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their input!*