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Kroger Shop Steward Awarded Back Pay After Unjust Firing

Judy Cook, a 39-year Kroger employee, was awarded $3,500 in back pay after being unjustly fired.

As the saying goes,“with a union contract, your boss can’t fire you without just cause. But without a union, your boss can fire you just ’cause.”

Over 39 hardworking years at Kroger, Judy Cook had a perfect performance record. She received glowing reviews, was never written up, was never late and hadn’t even taken a sick day for 25 years.

Then one day, all of a sudden, Judy was suspended without pay. Kroger charged her with holding back marked-down items for herself, rather than putting them on the shelves. But she had done no such thing.

“It totally destroyed me,” Judy said, “because I had devoted my life to Kroger. I could not believe they could do anything like this. It killed my soul. You put your heart and soul into a company and this is what they do? And what bothered me most of all was the idea that people who didn’t know me would think I was capable of doing what Kroger said I did. Kroger didn’t care that they destroyed me.”

A back door receiver and shop steward at Kroger #328 in Kingsport, Tenn., Judy was well respected by her coworkers.

“Everyone looks up to her,” said her representative, Mark Collins. “I never heard a negative and her name mentioned in the same sentence. She is a genuinely good-hearted, great person. Why Kroger put her in its crosshairs is beyond me. She’s never even had a speeding ticket. She practices what she preaches and she lives her life how you’re supposed to. It ripped my heart out. Kroger didn’t give two squats about what it did to her.”

If she was not a union member, at this point, Judy would have little recourse. She would probably just lose her job. But thanks to her union contract, Judy is protected from being unjustly fired without proper cause. Thanks to her contract grievance procedure, Judy could defend herself against the false accusations. And that’s just what she did.

Mark filed a grievance on Judy’s behalf, and went through three steps—first a grievance meeting at the store, then a meeting with the human resources coordinator, and finally a meeting with Kroger’s labor relations manager. Thanks to Judy and Mark’s persistence, Kroger ultimately agreed to allow Judy to go back to work and to receive full back pay of $3,500 for the five-and-a-half weeks she was suspended.

“I was ecstatic that I won my grievance,” Judy said. “It allowed me to hold my head up when I went back and not be ashamed. I had told Mark that under no circumstances would I go back to Kroger until my name was cleared. I wasn’t doing this for the back pay—I was doing it because I would not allow my name, my reputation, to be destroyed.”

“Kroger had zero evidence for their charges,” Mark said. “They went on a fishing expedition. The company grabbed at every straw they could, but they couldn’t get around the fact that she was 100 percent innocent. I’m just glad Kroger finally recognized they were in the wrong here.”

Judy was so distressed at her ordeal that after her return to work, she decided to retire. “It totally destroyed any feeling I had for this company,” she said. But before she left, Judy made it her mission to encourage as many people as she possibly could at her store to join the union. And she succeeded, signing up dozens of new members, including one person who had refused to join for 10 long years.

“I’m close to all the people at my store,” Judy said, “And they banded together to support me, even signing letters on my behalf. When I came back, I told every one of them who hadn’t yet joined Local 400, ‘If they could do this to me, they can do it to you. If you don’t have a union to protect you, you have no one and there’s nothing you can do.’ And they got it.”

Judy’s entire family has worked at Kroger and is 100 percent union. This includes her husband, who’s retired, her daughters, and two sons-in-law. In fact Judy’s daughter took over for Judy as Kroger #328 shop steward and signed up a new member on her very first day.

“I cannot say enough about our union,” Judy said. “I am so proud we’re a union family. Local 400 is the only protection Kroger associates have. Without our union, I shudder to think what things would be like. I would have been wrongly fired, and we’d be giving up our pay, our benefits, our work week, our vacation. Look how employers treat their workers when they don’t have unions.

“While this whole experience left a bitter taste in my mouth, nothing can top my gratitude for what Mark and Local 400 did for me, and I am so pleased I was able to give a little bit back before my retirement,” she added. “And I’m proud my daughter is now carrying the torch.”

Hundreds Rally for a #BetterKroger in Roanoke

On June 12, 2018, hundreds of Kroger associates and their supporters held a rally outside of the Kroger Mid-Atlantic Division corporate office in Roanoke, Virginia.

The protest centered around a Kroger store in Norfolk, Virginia, where dozens of long-time employees could lose their jobs as a result of the company’s recent purchase of eight Farm Fresh stores in the Hampton Roads region.

In March 2018, Kroger announced plans to buy eight Farm Fresh stores in the Hampton Roads region, renovate them, and reopen them as Kroger stores.  But one of the locations Kroger purchased is directly across the street from an existing store in Norfolk, Virginia.

Now, it is only a matter of time before the store closes and employees are concerned about the future of their jobs. Many have worked at Kroger for years – even decades. They have asked if they will be allowed to transfer to the new store across the street, but after several months, Kroger still refuses to give them straight answers.

Every employee in the store signed a petition demanding answers and delivered it to their store manager. A week later, they invited Kroger to answer questions and address their concerns at a public town hall. Dozens of store associates showed up, but Kroger refused to send a representative.

Having exhausted all proper channels, on June 12, 2018, hundreds of Kroger associates and their supporters held a rally outside of the Kroger Mid-Atlantic Division corporate office in Roanoke, Virginia.

The protesters delivered five grocery carts of petitions to the Kroger office. The petitions were signed by Kroger associates and customers from throughout the region, as well as fellow union members from other grocery chains, and called on the company to meet with associates and assure them that they will have the opportunity to transfer to the new store across the street without losing the benefits they have earned.

View photos from the rally and learn more at BetterKroger.org

June 12: Rally for a Better Kroger

Kroger members in Norfolk are at risk of losing their jobs, their healthcare, and their retirement benefits. We need your help to save their jobs!

We have gathered signatures on a petition from Kroger associates, customers and community supporters calling on Kroger to meet with us

On Tuesday, June 12th, we’re going to Kroger’s corporate office in Roanoke to deliver our petition straight to Jerry Clontz, President of the Kroger Mid-Atlantic Division.

Join us!

Rally for a #BetterKroger

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
First Wesleyan Church
3706 Peters Creek Rd, Roanoke, VA

Learn more at www.BetterKroger.org

 

POSTPONED: Macy’s Contract Meeting May 20th Postponed Until Further Notice

The Macy’s Bargaining Committee – pictured left to right: Bianca Morris (Marlow Heights), Arleetta Hunter (Montgomery Mall), Mary Burns-O’Connor (Bowie), Kimberly Mitchell (Metro Center), Lewis Mattison (Montgomery Mall)

The Macy’s contract meeting previously scheduled for Sunday, May 20th has been postponed until further notice.

We began these contract negotiations united with our brothers and sisters from UFCW Local 21 working at Macy’s stores in Seattle. By standing united coast to coast, we are able to work together to negotiate better contracts for all of us.

Thanks to all of you who took action for a fair contract, we have successfully reached a tentative agreement with Macy’s that we are prepared to recommend for ratification. But while our contract talks have concluded, negotiations are still underway between Macy’s and our fellow union members at UFCW Local 21 in Seattle.

We’re in this together. We started this united coast to coast, and we’re going to finish it united coast to coast. That’s why, with the unanimous support of your bargaining committee, we have decided we will not vote on our new contract until Macy’s reaches an agreement with our brothers and sisters on the west coast. We will continue to wear our buttons and take action in solidarity with our Macy’s coworkers in Seattle.

Rest assured, we expect the wage increases and other gains we have made in our new contract to take effect retroactively. We are also aware that open enrollment for your health insurance begins on Tuesday, May 22. Later this week, we will be giving you additional information about health care changes that are included in the tentative agreement so you will have all of the information you need in order to make your enrollment selection.

We will notify all Macy’s members once our contract meeting has been rescheduled. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions and comments.

May 22 & 23: Fight For A Better Contract At Kroger

BETTER PAY + AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE + RESPECT

Join us for an upcoming union contract meeting to help us to shape our strategy and prioritize our goals for contract negotiations.

We are fighting for a fair contract with better pay, affordable healthcare, and respect for our union. We need to hear what YOU want to see in your upcoming contract, so make sure to be there!

Please plan to attend one of the meetings listed below. You are welcome to attend either of them.

You should also receive a card in the mail inviting you to the meeting. Please bring this card with you to whichever meeting you attend.

Kroger Union Contract Meetings

Richmond Area – May 22, 2018
6:00 pm
Comfort Suites Innsbrook
4051 Innslake Drive, Glen Allen, VA, 23060

Norfolk Area – May 23, 2018
6:00 pm
Iron Workers Local 79
5307 E Virginia Beach Blvd # 102, Norfolk, VA 23502

 

Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our next union contract with Kroger, we’re committed to keeping you informed every step of the way. With so many ways to stay in the loop, don’t get left out of the conversation!

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 698-329

May 10: Join Us for the Norfolk Kroger Jobs Town Hall

Kroger associates gathered to protest the rumored closure of their store Norfolk.

Norfolk Kroger Jobs Town Hall
6:00pm, Thursday, May 10
Wesley Grace United Methodist Church
288 E. Little Creek Rd, Norfolk, VA
At the I-64W exit ramp for E. Little Creek Road near Wards Corner

In March, Kroger announced plans to buy eight Farm Fresh stores in the Tidewater region in southern Virginia. The company plans to renovate the Farm Fresh locations and reopen them as Kroger stores.

But one of the locations Kroger purchased is directly across the street from an existing Kroger store at 205 East Little Creek Rd in Norfolk. Naturally, employees there want to know what will happen to their jobs when the new Kroger store opens up across the street. Kroger obviously doesn’t plan to operate two stores so close to each other, so associates are concerned that their store will close soon.

Employees have asked if they will be allowed to transfer to the new store across the street, but Kroger has refused to give them straight answers.

Last week, associates from the Norfolk Kroger store circulated a petition demanding to know if and when their store will be closed, and if they will have the opportunity to transfer across the street without losing the benefits they have earned. Nearly every single employee at the store signed the petition.

On Thursday, May 9, they delivered the petition to management, flanked by local TV camera crews and community supporters from Norfolk Branch NAACP, New Virginia Majority, and the Virginia AFL-CIO.

The event was widely publicized on local news and Kroger eventually responded with a public statement:

Our focus right now is on interviewing and onboarding former Farm Fresh associates to welcome them to our Kroger team.

We think it’s time for Kroger to focus on Kroger associates. We think Kroger employees deserve to know what will happen to their store and to their jobs. We think our members deserve to keep the pay, seniority and benefits they have earned and they should have the opportunity to transfer to the new store across the street when it opens.

Join us for a town hall with Kroger associates, customers, neighbors and elected officials to help us demand answers and preserve good jobs at Kroger!

Norfolk Kroger Jobs Town Hall
6:00pm, Thursday, May 10
Wesley Grace United Methodist Church
288 E. Little Creek Rd, Norfolk, VA
At the I-64W exit ramp for E. Little Creek Road near Wards Corner

 

 

Outspoken Kroger Shop Steward Stands Up for Her Coworkers

Courtney Meadows speaks to WVVA news during a #BetterKroger rally in October 2017.

Courtney Meadows speaks her mind—and for the past year, she’s been doing it to great effect.

A Local 400 member for the past seven years who works as lead file maintenance clerk at Kroger #805 in Beckley, W.Va., Courtney was asked to serve on the Contract Action Team during last year’s bargaining over a new contract. Her shop steward at the time said, “There’s your spitfire,” and that was an understatement.

“I won’t hesitate to tell a manager to stop being a jerk and start treating us with respect,” Courtney said. And she was just as outspoken when she went into other Kroger stores to inform and mobilize her sisters and brothers for the contract battle.

“I would ask folks to show up at our rallies and tell management that we’re not going to take any crappy offers,” she said. “We’ve got to get management’s attention.”

At the first rally, between 30 and 40 members attended. But by the last one, Courtney had tripled turnout to 90.

“I just tried to make sure we showed Kroger we’re better people and that we’re not going to stoop to their level of pettiness,” she said. “We kept everything peaceful and respectful, and we had the impact we needed.”

When members voted to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement with Kroger in West Virginia, Courtney was both relieved and proud. “I was very glad of what we accomplished,” she explained. “Like Mark [Federici] said, there’s never been and never will be a perfect contract. But for us to get the only Kroger contract not to lose any benefits and to get wage increases, that was huge. We stuck together, we fought together and we got what we needed.”

In the midst of the contract battle, Courtney became a shop steward at her store. “My rep told me, ‘you’ve earned your stripes,’” she said. In addition, Courtney was asked to join a member organizing drive at Kroger stores in the Richmond/Tidewater area, which took place over 12 days in December.

“This was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Courtney said. “To come from an area with 100 percent membership and go into stores that had less than 50 percent because of Virginia’s ‘right to work’ law was an eye-opener. Some people didn’t know what a union was and others were scared. So I gave a crash course in union history, and I explained that Kroger can’t do a single thing to you for signing up—it’s your legal right.

“I also talked to them about our own bargaining experience in West Virginia,” she continued. “I went through how we got raises across the board, how we kept our health care the same and how even if the cost of the plan rises, Kroger will pay the difference. We even won the requirement that Kroger has to provide rubber boots for workers in the meat shop. And I explained the reason why we won these provisions is because we have 100 percent membership, and that’s how you can make the same gains here. That really grabbed their attention.

“So I think it was a huge accomplishment to get the applications we were able to get,” she said. “And I’d go back and do it again in a heartbeat.”

In January, Courtney traveled to Charleston to participate in Local 400’s and the West Virginia AFL-CIO’s Lobby Day.

A resident of Fairdale, W.Va., Courtney is looking forward to continuing to take on corporate greed through Local 400. “I’m tired of companies coming in and abusing their employees, and looking down on us because some of us don’t have a college education,” she said. “I’m tired of them making $2 billion in profits but only wanting to pay us just above minimum wage. I’m tired of [Kroger CEO] Rodney McMullen getting a $2 million dollar raise but only wanting to give us 25 cents an hour. And I want to see better working conditions, and no retaliation against people who file grievances.”

Courtney is equally focused on her job as a shop steward. “I talk to everyone and I tell them, ‘you cannot get in trouble for talking to me, they cannot say anything to you,’” she said. “Everything they say to me is confidential. And if they have a problem, I’m going to fight like hell to fix it.”

Her sisters and brothers at Kroger #805—and all Local 400 members—are fortunate to have this spitfire speaking her mind and fighting for them.

Sharing in the Success of an Expanding Kroger Presence in Hampton Roads

Yesterday, Kroger announced plans to purchase 18 Farm Fresh Food & Pharmacy grocery stores in the Hampton Roads region. Ten of the stores will be operated under the Harris Teeter brand, while eight will be operated under the Kroger Mid-Atlantic Division.

Mark Federici, president of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, issued the following statement regarding the announcement:

“We were very excited to learn that Kroger Mid-Atlantic is using the profits and success our hardworking union members have built for them to purchase eight Farm Fresh stores in the Hampton Roads area. We are ready to welcome new members at these stores into our union family so they can have access to the competitive wages, benefits, and fair working conditions we have fought for and won over the years.

“As Division President Jerry Clontz acknowledged in his statement to us, it is our contribution every day that makes a difference in our customers’ lives. We are proud to be the reason they shop Kroger and the reason Kroger is able to grow.

“We look forward to welcoming associates at these new Kroger stores into our union family and to serving new customers at these locations. We are thankful for our customers loyalty to us – the people who serve them every day – and we will continue to reward that loyalty with hard work, dedication and customer service.”

How to Call Off From Work at Kroger

If you can’t make it to work, you must call off or you could face discipline. However, many of our members are reporting that they have faced discipline even after calling off from work.

The process is outlined clearly in the Kroger policy manual: “If unable to report to work as scheduled, the associate will call store management or the person in charge in absence of store management at least two (2) hours prior to the start of the shift.”

To ensure you are calling off from work properly, please take the following steps:

  1. Call the store at least two hours before your shift and ask to speak to the manager or person in charge. Tell them you are unable to work.
  2. Write down the time, date, and name of person you talked to when you called and save the information for your records.
  3. If you are disciplined for any reason relating to your absence, contact your shop steward or union rep immediately. Be ready to share the information you wrote down.

Print the Flier (PDF)

Kroger Associates Win Thousands of Dollars in Back Pay by Enforcing Union Contract

Ryan Kibble (right), a meatcutter at Kroger in Ripley, W.Va., was awarded $2,000 in back pay after the company was caught violating the seniority provisions of his union contract.

For Ryan Kibble, Chasity Moyers and more than a dozen other Kroger members in West Virginia and Ohio, justice has prevailed.

More than one year ago, they were denied promotions that rightfully should have been theirs due to the seniority provisions in their union contract.

“Seniority provisions are one of the most important protections in our union contracts,” explained Local 400 President Mark Federici. “By prioritizing the most senior employees for promotions and other benefits, seniority gives every worker the confidence of knowing that if you stick it out and pay your dues, then you will get ahead. It puts everyone on an even playing field and prevents managers from playing favorites and only promoting people they like.

“But, just like everything else in our contracts, the rules only protect us when we enforce them,” Federici added. “Ryan and Chasity did just that – and it paid off.”

Ryan Kibble was a full-time backup meat cutter at Kroger #708 in Ripley W.Va. In late 2016, he signed up for a backup customer service position at Kroger #799 in Belpre, Ohio, a move that would have cut his commute from his Parkersburg, W.Va. home from 45 minutes to just five minutes. However, the job was given to a part-time worker in violation of the contract. So Ryan filed a grievance.

“Kroger tried to pick and choose who they want,” Ryan said. “They claimed I had no skill for the position, but I had that job at a previous employer.”

After a lengthy back and forth, Ryan won his grievance in December and received $2,000 in back pay. While this victory gave him the right to take the backup customer service position, he had become a meat cutter at Kroger #799 in the midst of the grievance process and chose to stay in his current job.

“I was glad it was finally over,” he said. “And I was glad that Kroger finally had to pay for their mistake, which they need to do. You can’t set rules and then try to bend and break them whenever you want.”

Chasity Moyers had a similar experience. She was a full-time bakery clerk at Kroger #799 and signed up for a backup dairy position that opened up at her store. Someone else was given the job, and she soon realized she had more seniority than this person, so she also filed a grievance.

While her grievance was pending, the backup drug GM position came open at Kroger #799. “I signed up for that, too,” she said. “And I didn’t get that one either. So I had to file another grievance.”

A few months later, the backup drug GM position came open again and this time, she got it. But before she moved into that job, the head drug GM transferred and so Chasity leapfrogged to head drug GM.

Then, in December, she won her grievance and received nearly $1,200 in back pay.

“I was excited to win and receive the check,” she said. “To be honest, I had kind of forgotten about it because I was now in the job I wanted. But I’m really glad we enforced the contract.  Everybody has their own fair share in this company. This is a fair way to get a resolution out of something that didn’t work out, and I thank everybody who was involved.”

The Kroger West Virginia contract states that the company can award lead or department head jobs to individuals based on their fitness and ability, but when multiple candidates have similar qualifications, the person with the most seniority will receive the promotion. But in many cases, these guidelines were flouted, and the problem was not isolated to one store or one manager—it existed throughout the region. While most grievances have been resolved, some are still in process.

“Just as important as bargaining a contract is the need to enforce it,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “It’s very important not only for our representatives and shop stewards but for every member to know the contract’s terms and be vigilant about making sure they are followed. It’s our members’ activism that won justice in these cases—and sent a message to Kroger that we will hold the company accountable.”