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22-Year Kroger Member Triumphs Over Adversity

Margie Landers poses with her 20-year service award from Kroger.

To say that Margie Landers has never had it easy is an understatement.

Twenty-two years ago, she was living in a homeless shelter in Amadaville, W.Va. and she was determined to make it on her own. During the year she lived in the shelter, she took GED classes, and classes in accounting and bookkeeping. She also got a job as a cashier at Kroger #725 in St. Albans.

Without a car or driver’s license, Margie had to walk the nearly two miles from her shelter to Kroger every working day, but she was grateful to have a job and income.

“The woman who ran the shelter—we called her ‘Grammy’—she never gave up on me,” Margie recalled. “She even helped me get my driver’s license, which made it easier to get to work and keep my job. If not for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Not long after joining Kroger, Margie was able to get a place of her own. She also received her certificate in accounting and bookkeeping. And she stayed at Kroger #725, becoming full-time in 2007 and doing almost every job in the store outside of the Meat Department. “I’ve been backup dairy, head produce for a year, backup deli, you name it,” she said. Today, Margie is assistant front-end manager.

However, she recently had a huge scare. One day in August, the head front-end manager was off work, so Margie was to receive an upgrade in pay for the day. It was also the day that payroll was to be transmitted, and she wanted to make sure she was paid the proper amount, but an employee cannot adjust her own pay. So Margie got another employee’s ID and password and made the entry.

“This had been going on for years,” Margie said, “so I didn’t think anything of it. And my entry was correct—I wasn’t trying to get more than I was owed.”

Unfortunately, a co-manager witnessed the event. Rather than tell Margie she wasn’t allowed to use another employee’s ID and password, he said nothing, let her do it and then reported it to the manager. She was immediately suspended.

“When it happened, I filed a grievance,” Margie said. “I was freaking out. This is my first job and I’d never done anything wrong until now. It was insane. I could have lost everything—my home, my car, my dogs.

“But I also got statements from two employees that this had been happening for years and no one had ever done anything about it until now,” she said. “My shop steward, Kelly Snyder, was awesome, and so was Gary Southall, my representative. They know I’m a person of my word.”

When the grievance reached the second stage, Margie’s evidence—plus her moving testimony about how much her 22 years at Kroger meant to her, how far she had come, and how she would never do it again—won the day. After three weeks, she got her job back as assistant front end manager.

“Ever since I’ve been back, my attitude’s changed,” Margie said. “I’m so grateful to have my job and so grateful for what my union has done for me.”

Margie has always made a point of attending ratification meetings and staying informed about union affairs. She has also found her Local 400 sisters and brothers to be an endless source of support over her 22 years at Kroger, during which time she endured far more adversity.

“I lost my son in 2003 when I was here,” Margie said. “Two years later, my mom passed away. More recently, my fiancé passed away. Kelly has been with me all 22 years and she has been my rock, along with so many other co-workers. They’ve been amazing—tremendously supportive—every step of the way.

“It’s been crazy, but it’s made me who I am today,” she said.

Kroger Shop Steward Retires After 42 Years

Fought for Fair Treatment, Served on Four Bargaining Committees

Over the course of 42 years working for Kroger—40 as a shop steward—Ray Jones saw a massive amount of change. But every step of the way, through good times and bad, there was always one constant—he made sure management treated his sisters and brothers fairly.

“Back in the day, everything was done at the store level,” Ray said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, I could take care of any issue that arose in-house. If not, I could make a call, get a regional manager on the line, and take care of it on the phone. I could nip things in the bud the day they happened.

“Today, it’s not like that,” he said. “Managers are too scared for their jobs to resolve problems, so they immediately get corporate involved. This leads to a long, drawn-out process and grievances that can take months.

“Before, managers knew the employees and knew their work ethic,” Ray noted. “If a worker makes a mistake, he or she might get a slap on the wrist and later may go on to become a manager. Today, we lose good employees over minor infractions because of zero tolerance policies. That’s one reason turnover’s so high.”

During his more than four decades at Kroger, Ray has served on four bargaining committees—one with UFCW Local 347 and the other three with Local 400 after the two locals merged. He raised the issue of turnover in his most recent three negotiations. “I told Kroger, we’ve got to find something to keep people here, we’re losing too many good workers,” Ray recalled. “They told me three different times, ‘We like the churn.’

“In the earlier years of bargaining, we were a smaller group and so were the Kroger negotiators,” Ray said. “We could sit around and air out our issues. Today, Kroger alone has 12 to 15 people there and they’re a lot less willing to listen. Their approach seems to be, ‘There’s only so many jelly beans in the bowl. You can decide how much goes to wages, health care and pensions, but we’re not going to give you any more jelly beans.’”

Ray’s passion for fairness and justice led him to become a shop steward when he was just 20 years old. “I had worked at Kroger in Morgantown, W.Va. for about a year and some of the employees felt there was favoritism, and they felt like I was fair, so I was asked to be an assistant steward,” he recalled. “At first, I wasn’t sure what to do, but a couple of days later, I was having lunch in an Arby’s. I asked for my roast beef sandwich without sauce and the young woman behind the counter told the manager that. But when I got my sandwich, it had sauce. So I brought it up to the counter. Then, the manager reamed the poor woman out for his own mistake, and told her to punch out and go home. She was in tears. So I gave the manager a piece of my mind and I decided right then and there that I wouldn’t let anything like that happen at Kroger.

“I’ve always treated both sides fairly,” Ray said. “If I saw a manager doing something wrong, I’d let them know. There was an atmosphere of mutual respect. Kroger used to be a fun place to work. Now, managers are so afraid for their jobs, it’s taken all the fun out of it and makes everything harder.”

Ray, who worked most recently as assistant deli manager at Kroger #730 in Elkins, W.Va., retired on August 31st partly out of frustration with the way the work has become more automated and rigid. “I found myself having to spend more time doing reports than stocking shelves,” he said. “They took a two-hour job and turned it into a four-hour job. And that took me away from serving customers.”

At age 60, Ray is not ready to call it a day, and he now works as a real estate broker and property appraiser. He lives in Elkins with his wife, Peggy. Together, they have four children and five grandchildren. And while he no longer works at Kroger, he deeply values his service and activism with Local 400.

“Being active in your union makes you a better person overall, because your fellow members hold you to a higher standard, and so does management,” Ray said. “Everyone has eyes on you. So you’ve got to be policing yourself about being on time, doing the job right, behaving right. Above all, you try to treat everyone fairly. So you’ve got to step up and you’ve got to be on top of your game. Being a shop steward has helped me achieve greater success in all aspects of my life. I’m very grateful for that and for all I was able to do to help my brothers and sisters.”

Kroger Members Vote Overwhelmingly to Ratify New Contract in Richmond/Tidewater

Kroger members working at 22 stores in the Richmond and Hampton Roads areas voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new union contract today.

Congratulations on your new contract! Some highlights include:

  • Accelerated wage scales with guaranteed pay increases twice a year
  • Annual bonuses for most experienced associates
  • Premium pay for select positions in the store
  • Maintaining affordable healthcare and retirement benefits

Thanks to every member who came out to vote today. This wouldn’t have been possible without your hard work. Our union membership has grown significantly and this new and improved contract reflects our greater strength. As we continue to grow stronger, our contracts will continue to get better.

Your new contract takes effect immediately and extends through August 7, 2021. To get a review copy of the new contract, talk to your shop steward or union representative, or call our headquarters at  1-800-638-0800 (Mon – Fri, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

Hundreds of Kroger Associates Win $90,000 Settlement in West Virginia

Pictured left to right, back row first: David Simpson, Gary Southall, Shawn Cantrell, Chelsea Snow, Stephen Bumgardner and Randy Fields at Kroger #725 in St. Albans, W.Va.

Hundreds of Local 400 members are about to receive back pay checks after winning a $90,000 settlement against Kroger, following a grievance against the company over lengthy delays in implementing raises provided for under the terms of their contract.

Kroger members in West Virginia ratified a new contract last Fall that provided raises for backups and night crew workers. The contract was ratified on November 6, but the raises were supposed to take effect retroactively to October 7, 2017—the date the previous contract expired. But Kroger didn’t start paying the new raises until February 2018, leaving a roughly four-month gap when hundreds of people should have been paid at the higher rate.

“When we went to a meeting on the contract, I saw that DSD [direct store delivery] people got their raises immediately and someone in pharmacy got a raise in December, but they made us wait until February,” recalled David Simpson, a 38-year Kroger veteran who is shop steward and backup meat cutter at Kroger #725 in St. Albans, W.Va.

“That wasn’t right,” he said. “So I looked into it. I talked to the night crew and meat cutters and they thought they should be getting their raises too.”

David filed a grievance against Kroger and with the assistance of his Local 400 representative, Gary Southall, worded it to ensure that it covered all 522 members affected by the company’s contract violation.

The grievance went through first, second, and third level meetings and each time, Kroger refused to budge. It was finally slated for arbitration and at that point, the company realized it was unlikely to win and negotiated the $90,000 settlement.

“I was very excited about the victory,” Dave said. “A little extra never hurts anybody. I thought I was right all along and this shows Kroger knew it. I told the night crew and everyone was happy.

“Kroger’s always trying to put one over on us and this time we got them instead,” he added.

The $90,000 settlement is being divided equally among the 522 members who were affected. Settlement checks have been mailed and should arrive in members’ mailboxes over the next several days.

September 11: Kroger Richmond-Tidewater Contract Meeting

Be There to Vote on Your Next Contract

We are pleased to announce that we have reached a tentative agreement with Kroger that we are prepared to recommend for ratification. The offer provides better pay and maintains affordable healthcare.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, we will hold two membership meetings where we will review the offer in detail and answer any questions you may have. It is critical that you make every effort to attend one of these meetings and hear the details of your contract proposal. You only have to attend one of the meetings.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

8:00 a.m. Richmond
Four Points by Sheraton
4700 South Laburnum Avenue, Richmond, VA 23231
Registration begins at 7:00 a.m.

5:30 p.m. Norfolk
DoubleTree Norfolk Airport
1500 North Military Highway, Norfolk, VA 23502
Registration begins at 4:30 p.m.

As a Local 400 union member, you have the opportunity to get answers to your questions and vote on your next contract. Please make a plan to attend one of these important contract meetings.

In the meantime, all of the protections and benefits of your current union contract remain in effect. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to talk to your shop steward, union representative, or call our headquarters at 1-800-638-0800 (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

Kroger Tentative Agreement Reached

We are pleased to announce that we have reached a tentative agreement with Kroger on a new contract that we are prepared to recommend for ratification. The offer provides better pay and maintains affordable healthcare.

We are arranging membership meetings to vote on the proposal, at which time we will review the offer in detail and answer any questions you may have. As a member of Local 400, it is critical that you make every effort to attend one of these meetings and cast your vote on your next contract. We will announce the meeting information as soon as possible.

In the meantime, all of the protections and benefits of your current union contract remain in effect.

As always, we will continue to keep you informed every step of the way. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to talk to your shop steward, union representative, or call our headquarters at 1-800-638-0800 (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

West Virginia Shop Steward Hosts His Own Union Meetings at Home

Jim Logan holds a sign at a Kroger rally in West Virginia.

Jim Logan has been a Kroger employee and union member in West Virginia for 42 years. He lives in Caldwell and works in Fairlea, but to people who don’t live there, it’s all Lewisburg – the town with a population of around 3,800 that was named “the coolest small town in America” by Budget Travel in 2011. While Lewisburg may be celebrated for its “breathtaking vistas,” and “eclectic food scene,” the area around it is often overlooked.

“It’s considered a good retirement place, good hunting, good fishing,” Jim says. “You have a wide gamut of people, [you have people] who live at the sporting club at Greenbrier, which is beyond our imagination, and then you have people who are just squeaking by.”

Jim’s coworkers know this better than anyone. “Everyone knows how tight things have gotten in the last ten years,” he says. “And it used to be that it didn’t affect everybody, but no one has any sense of security nowadays.”

But he sees in this economic hardship an opportunity for building solidarity. “Everyone needs to feed a family, and they may differ on certain viewpoints, but beyond that everyone agrees that a livable wage is an important thing, insurance is an important thing,” he says. “We need to focus on those issues and then respect everyone else’s position on different issues, and be willing to allow a diversity of people to come to the table. […] And that’s what the union does in the workplace — it allows people to have a voice in their future. And that’s a precious thing.”

Jim served as a member of the Contract Action Team during negotiations with Kroger last year. “I had really hoped to be at the table negotiating, but instead they put me on the action committee, and I was like, this is not what I want to do,” he admits. “But then I thought, well, if I’m going to be a positive impact, I can’t back down now, I have to do this.”

And he learned a lot in the process, about organizing informational picket lines, connecting with other unions and members from elsewhere, and communicating with customers about workers’ needs.

When the local started organizing demonstrations at Kroger stores throughout West Virginia, Jim and his coworkers were invited to participate at the protest in Beckley, about an hour away. They certainly had cause to demonstrate – turnover was high and only getting higher and many of Jim’s coworkers, especially the younger and newer employees, felt undervalued and disrespected by the company.

Now more than ever, they needed to know that their union was fighting for them and that they could and should participate in that fight. “We just really needed to say, enough is enough,” he says, and they needed to say it in Fairlea.

So they held their own demonstration. “We had a good turnout,” he recalls. “People were coming out on their lunches and breaks and joining in, and it was really well received in the community. [Customers] would literally come up and say, ‘Do you want us not to go in and shop?’ And we would say, ‘No, we just want you to understand what’s going on and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

With mounting public pressure on Kroger, an agreement was reached and a new contract was ratified a few weeks later with zero cuts. This certainly was a victory, but Jim knows there is always more work to be done. And since West Virginia became a right-to-work state in 2016, he’s learning to play a whole new ball game.

“There’s no way someone can just start at a job and grasp all of the dynamics that are involved in having a decent job,” he says. “So [with right-to-work] there’s this huge educational curve, right from the get-go, of what it means to belong to the union and what it can accomplish. And what I’m learning is that in that little 15 minute introduction, without any kind of established relationship with a new person it’s almost an impossible thing to accomplish.”

As an ordained Baptist minister, Jim used to formally pastor a church, but since he’s lived in Caldwell, West Virginia he’s been “unchurching,” or holding services in people’s houses. On Tuesday nights he hosts bible study in his own home, and every once in a while, he hosts a union meeting. Otherwise, Jim and his co-workers have to drive an hour to get to union meetings, which he says can be economically burdensome.

He usually only hosts union meetings at his house for special occasions, but he’s been thinking about hosting more casual get-togethers, “bridge-builders” he calls them, to help create a stronger sense of community in his store.

“It’s probably the direction we need to go,” he says. “Now in an environment of right-to-work, you’ve got those issues of trust and truth again. You can say you care but sometimes you have to show you care.”

With 42 years of experience under his belt, Jim Logan sounds patient, almost calm, but part of what allows him to connect with younger workers is that he remembers how frustrating it was to be in their position.

He has a saying: “A bunch of straws are harder to break than just one.” He knows that all of his co-workers complaints are valid, no matter how long they’ve been working for Kroger, but he also knows that the best way to address them is to stand together.

“I try to articulate it’s a long-term investment,” Jim says about union dues. “And when [new employees] look in that contract they can see some of those better wages, [and realize] that it took everyone a long time to get there but the only way to get there is to stick together.”

Both his patience and his passion are manifestations of how much Jim Logan cares. He says he doesn’t know why he became a shop steward. But then he says, with absolute certainty, “I really care about people. And I’ve got this thing, if someone is an underdog or at a disadvantage, if someone takes advantage of that, that just really lights me up. It’s something in my nature.”

And it’s not changing any time soon. As he looks forward, Jim has a bunch of ideas for how he can better support his fellow union members and build community relationships, both in his corner of West Virginia and throughout the region. He hopes to retire from Kroger soon, but not from union activism.

“If and when I get to retire, I think that then I will become more and more politically active, because the union needs friends,” he says. “And I will do it without compromising, because I’m not doing it for a career or economics, just because it’s the right thing to do.”

Kroger Contract Extended to August 16

Negotiations with Kroger on our next union contract are still ongoing. We agreed to extend our current contract until August 16, 2018. All of the protections and benefits of your current union contract remain in effect.

We will not be rushed into a bad deal. Our goal remains to negotiate a fair contract with better wages, affordable healthcare and respect for our union.

Sign Up for Text Alerts

As negotiations proceed forward, we will continue to keep you informed every step of the way. Sign up for text alerts to ensure you never miss an update.

To sign up, text Richmond to 698-329. 

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

Kroger Is Succeeding, Why Aren’t We?

 

During the four years since our last contract, we have helped Kroger succeed and grow in both Richmond and Tidewater. It is our hard work that brings in customers and keeps them coming back. With that in mind, we went in to this round of contract negotiations expecting that we would be rewarded for our hard work and everything we have done to keep Kroger a top shopping destination in a very competitive market.

Unfortunately, with our contract expiring this coming Saturday, August 4, we are still very far from the fair deal we deserve. We never expect to get everything, but when the company grows and succeeds, we should as well. That means fair pay, affordable health care, access to more hours and full time jobs, the ability to transfer to other Kroger stores in the area, and respect for us and our union.

Despite being far apart, we are not going to be in a rush to get to a bad deal. We are committed to continuing to negotiate with Kroger until we have a deal that we deserve and can recommend for ratification. We are at the table every day from now through the end of the week, including Saturday, and will continue to bargain for the best possible contract.

While negotiations continue at the table, we will continue to rely on your support in the stores. Close to 500 of you have signed letters in the past week indicating your interest in more hours and full time jobs under our current contract. We presented those at the table and to store managers to demonstrate that we need hours to take advantage of the fair pay and affordable health care we have earned. We expect Kroger to give that the serious consideration it deserves.

As we move forward we will continue to be in stores letting you know how you can get involved in making sure that under our next contract we are sharing in the success we have built. That means everyone needs to take action if the time comes. As always we will continue to keep you updated every step of the way.

To stay up to date, make sure you are getting text updates by texting “Richmond” to 698-328.

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20180801-Kroger Richmond-Tidewater Update 2

 

Kroger Richmond/Tidewater Bargaining Update: Do You Need More Hours?

 

As bargaining for our new contract continues, we are working hard at the negotiating table on the three things we know we deserve and have earned: better pay, affordable health care, and respect for our union. At the same time, we know that in order to take care of ourselves and our families we need to have access to the hours we need to take advantage of fair wages, become eligible for affordable health care, and get the respect we deserve.

 

Over the past several days, we have been out in the stores collecting interest letters from members who want more hours and full-time jobs. Article 11.4 of our current contract outlines the process for making your desire for a full-time job known, and we want to make sure everyone who is interested in more hours has the opportunity to fill out a letter and let Kroger know that we have earned more full-time job opportunities.

 

If you have not had the opportunity to fill out a letter yet, please contact your shop steward or call your representative now so we can make sure you have the opportunity to fill one out as soon as possible. We know that Kroger has been successful and growing over the last four years of our current contract and in order to share in that growth and success we need access to more hours and more full-time jobs.

 

We are going to continue to work at the table, and we need you to continue to stand up in the stores. Sign an interest letter, make sure new employees at your store are joining the union, and if you haven’t yet, sign up for text message alerts so you are the first to get updates by texting “Richmond” to 698-329.

 

We work hard every day and have made Kroger successful in a very competitive market. They have been able to make a profit, open new stores, and buy other chains. We have earned the right to share in that success and are ready to do what it takes to get our fair share and, as always, we will continue to keep you updated every step of the way.

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