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Safeway Stocker Reinstated with Back Pay After Wrongful Suspension

“They threw me under the bus.”

Fortunately for Local 400 member Eric Jarrett, that wasn’t the end of the story.

Eric works as an overnight stocker at Safeway #1019 in Alexandria, Virginia. His store is one of the few locations that is supposed to be open 24 hours.

But one night, Eric was instructed to close the store when there was no cashier on duty. Even though he was following instructions, Eric’s manager suspended him and one of his coworkers.

“You have to have at least one checker in the store for it to stay open,” Eric said. “But the guy who normally does the job had hurt his shoulder and was home for two weeks. So the store had to be closed occasionally because we had no checker or because the floors had to be waxed. The store manager knew all about it. When customers started complaining, instead of accepting responsibility, they blamed it another stocker and me. But I am in no position to close the store. I wasn’t the one who decided to do it.”

Eric didn’t take this sitting down. He worked with his union representative and immediately filed a grievance and pursued it aggressively.

“I was out of work for three and a half weeks,” Eric said. “Tom [Rogers, his Local 400 representative] spoke on my behalf and did a marvelous job of getting me reinstated as fast as he could. I was impatient and apprehensive, but Tom calmed me down. He knew what he was doing and reached a good settlement.”

Eric was reinstated and awarded full back pay for the time of his suspension and justice was served.

“I’m good where I’m at right now, but as far as I’m concerned, Safeway owes me [and my coworker] an apology for throwing us under the bus,” Eric said. “Safeway used to be a good company, but they don’t care about their employees, only the bottom line. They’re making lots of money in my store, but they keep cutting back hours and running on a skeleton crew. This company can’t run by itself — they need us. I’m just thankful our union’s got our backs.”

Ten Safeway Employees Awarded $11,000 in Back Pay

Alex Falsinotti was awarded more than $1,000 in back pay after Safeway was caught violating the scheduling provisions of his union contract. Nine other Safeway workers were awarded back pay totaling $11,000.

Alex Falsinotti has been working at Safeway #1365 in Fairfax, Virginia for almost two years. Officially he works in the Seafood Department, but on most days whoever is scheduled to work the Meat Department leaves around 2 or 3 p.m., and Alex is forced to man both departments until they officially close at 8:00 p.m.

“I’m expected to clean the counter and help customers and close down the department by myself,” he says. “I try not to get frustrated, but doing this for ten months you get overwhelmed.

Under our union contracts at Safeway and Giant Food, the companies are required to staff the Meat Department from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day. Furthermore, one person cannot be required to close both the Meat and Seafood departments at the same time.

Alex didn’t know this was a violation of his union contract, but he knew it wasn’t right. “I didn’t want to be rude to the manager but I came to him more than once and said, ‘The meat cutter left, is someone else coming?’ And he said, ‘No.’”

Management told him that they were short-staffed and didn’t have anyone that they could schedule to help him out.

This problem came to the attention of his union representative, Bertha McKiver, last October. After visiting several Safeway stores throughout Virginia, including Alex’s store in Fairfax, Bertha noticed a pattern – in store after store where meat departments were supposed to be open and fully staffed, the lights were off and the areas were cleaned up.

Bertha filed grievances at five stores throughout Virginia (#1298, #1331, #4002, #1606 and #1365). As a result of the grievances, Alex and nine other Safeway employees were awarded back pay totaling $11,000 for the hours they should have been scheduled to work. One individual had lost so many hours he was awarded $1,300 in back pay after taxes.

Since Bertha’s success with the grievances against Safeway, several people have called her from other stores with similar complaints. If you work in the Meat or Seafood department at Safeway or Giant Food, report scheduling violations using the form below. You could be entitled to back pay if your manager violated the scheduling provisions of your union contract.

Report Scheduling Violations in Meat & Seafood Departments at Giant & Safeway

Under our union contracts at Safeway and Giant Food,

  1. 1. The Meat Department must be staffed from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day.
  2. 2. One person cannot be required to close both the Meat and Seafood departments.
  3. 3. The Meat Department can only be closed by a Meat Department employee.

Fill out the form below to report scheduling violations in the Meat and Seafood departments at Giant Food and Safeway. A union representative will follow up with you shortly.

  • Please enter your store number or location.
  • Please check all that apply.
  • Please submit any photo evidence of the scheduling violation.
    Drop files here or
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

How to Upgrade to a Full-Time Position at Giant, Safeway, & Shoppers

Preston Brown, now a service clerk in the Seafood Department at Safeway in Alexandria, Va., was recently upgraded to a full-time position after enforcing his union contract.

If you want to work full-time, you should be able to. But all too often in the grocery industry, hard-working men and women aren’t getting enough hours to get by. Thanks to our union contracts, our members have the opportunity to access full-time status.

In recent months, dozens of members have won upgrades to full-time status or better jobs by enforcing the terms of our contracts and winning grievances against our employers.

One is Preston Brown, now a service clerk in the Seafood Department at Safeway #3250 in Alexandria, Va. He was officially part-time, but over an eight week period last year, he worked 48 hours each week. After more than six weeks of working more than 40 hours/week, Safeway should have automatically created a new full-time position at the store and allowed part-time employees to bid for the position. But that didn’t happen.

“I was informed that I had the right to become full-time, so my shop steward and I pushed forward with a grievance,” Preston said. “But once management realized the situation, they cut my hours to around 32 a week. It took more than a month before they recognized that I had completed what I needed to do to be full-time.”

When Preston learned that he had won his grievance and was now a full-time employee, “I was very happy, very pleased to get that status,” he said.

Reginald Richardson faced a different set of circumstances than Preston but had a similar positive outcome. He was hired to serve as night captain at Safeway #2737 in Washington, D.C. But while doing the work of a night captain, Safeway didn’t code him as one, so he wasn’t being paid at the proper rate. “I fought for that position,” Reginald said. “It took a whole year.”

But Reginald won his grievance. “I was blessed,” he said. “I was happy. I got what I wanted after such a long time. I received back pay. I moved to full-time. And I got a supervisor’s position, as well. I am so very thankful for my union.”

Suma Gomes, Diti Rozario and Benny Mercado were working as service clerks in the Deli Department at Safeway #2781 in Wheaton, Md. Under the terms of their contract, 65 percent of the hours in their department must go to deli clerks and 35 percent to service clerks. But at this store, the ratio was reversed. So they filed grievances—and they won, too. All three were upgraded to deli clerks, with improved pay and benefits.

At Safeway #1716 in Bethesda, Md., an unusually complicated situation arose. Yolanda Lopez, a part-time deli clerk, transferred from Safeway #2848 because she was told she would receive a full-time position at her new store. Just prior to her transfer, part-time service clerk Claretine (Smitty) Smith had been working in the store’s Deli Department for 40 hours/week for far longer than six consecutive weeks, but didn’t realize this automatically entitled him to a full-time upgrade. So he submitted a bid for a full-time position during the open bid period.

However, Yolanda had more seniority than Smitty, so when she came to Safeway #1716, she worked 40 hours/week and Smitty’s hours were cut. After Yolanda had worked 40 hours for six consecutive weeks, she filed a grievance to be upgraded to full-time. But the store’s shop steward noted that because Smitty’s bid for full-time status pre-dated her arrival, he should be first in line for the upgrade. Importantly, Smitty had kept a copy of his bid sheet, so he had evidence store management could not refute.

Yolanda’s and Smitty’s Local 400 representative, Linnette Floyd, advocated a win-win solution by arguing that both members had legitimate claims to full-time status. Management insisted there was only one full-time position to be filled in the Deli Department. But after months of difficult negotiations, Safeway agreed to the workers’ demands and made both full-time deli clerks—a huge victory.

The stories of these members demonstrates how critical it is that you know your contract, observe when its terms are not being followed, and take action to enforce it. The results can pay off many times over.

How to Upgrade to a Full-Time Position

If you work part-time at Giant Food, Safeway, or Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, there are three ways you can be upgraded to a full-time employee:

  1. One, as Preston Brown experienced, is to work at least 40 hours a week for more than six consecutive weeks. If you have worked at least 40 hours a week for six consecutive weeks, then the company must create a new full-time position in the store. You may then bid for the position, and the company must offer it to the most senior qualified part-time employee who bids for the job.
  2. The second way is to submit a written request for a full-time job during one of two annual open bid periods—and keep a copy for your records. The open bid periods are March 1-21 and September 1-21 each year.
  3. The third way a full-time position becomes available at your store is if a full-time employee retires, transfers, or resigns. The company must provide that full-time position to another employee. You may bid for the position and the company must offer it to the most senior part-time employee who bids for the job.

If you would like a full-time position, talk to your shop steward or contact your union rep and they can help you through the process.

Reminder: Vacation Requests Due Feb 28 at Giant, Safeway & Shoppers

If you are a Local 400 member working at Giant Food, Safeway, or Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, don’t forget to submit your vacation bids before February 28th!

Under your union contract, you have from January 1st to February 28th each year to select your desired dates for vacation for the year, with no “blackout” dates. You can select any days or weeks you desire. The final selection will be awarded on a seniority basis within each department. Your supervisor is required to respond to you in writing by March 31st with a final decision.

If your manager fails to give you a final decision in writing, or tells you there are certain days or weeks that are “blacked out” and you are not allowed to take vacation during those times, it is a violation of your contract and you should report it to your union representative. Call our headquarters toll-free at 1-800-638-0800 to report violations to your union representative.

Read the official contract language below.

Giant Food:

From January 1 to February 28 of each year, employees shall select their desired date for vacation for that year. Said selection will be awarded on a seniority basis within each department. After February 28 (February 29 in a leap year), employees may select vacant weeks by seniority but may not bump less senior employees who have exercised their vacation selection during the bid period. Employees who have selected vacation during the vacation bid period will be notified of the final vacation decision in writing by March 31. Vacations requested after the bid period will be honored on a first-come, first-served basis. Employees may take vacation in any of the fifty-two (52) calendar weeks, subject to management approval.

The vacation schedule of any employee cannot be changed, except by mutual agreement. The vacation schedule shall be available on request by an employee.

Safeway:

From January 1 to February 28 of each year, employees shall select their desired date for vacation for that year. Said selection will be awarded on a seniority basis within each department. After February 28 (February 29 in a leap year), employees may select vacant weeks by seniority but may not bump less senior employees who have exercised their vacation selection during the bid period. Employees who have selected vacation during the vacation bid period will be notified of the final vacation decision in writing by March 31. Vacations requested after the bid period will be honored on a first come, first served basis. Employees may take vacation in any of the fifty-two (52) calendar weeks, subject to management approval.

The vacation schedule of any employee cannot be changed, except by mutual agreement. The vacation schedule shall be available on request by an employee.

Shoppers Food & Pharmacy:

From January 1 to February 28 of each year, employees shall select their desired date for vacation for that year. Said selection will be awarded on a seniority basis within each department. After February 28 (February 29 in a leap year), employees may select vacant weeks by seniority but may not bump less senior employees who have exercised their vacation selection during the bid period. Effective January 1, 2009, employees who have selected vacation during the vacation bid period will be notified of the final vacation decision in writing by March 31. Vacations requested after the bid period will be honored on a first-come, first-served basis. Employees may take vacation in any of the fifty-two (52) calendar weeks, subject to management approval.

The vacation schedule of any employee cannot be changed, except by mutual agreement. The vacation schedule shall be available on request by an employee.

Congratulations to ABC Drawing Winner, Ashley Owens

Local 400 member Ashley Owens from Safeway #4205 in Washington, DC is the most recent winner of our Active Ballot Club drawing! Congratulations, Ashley!

All across the country, corporations and the ultra-wealthy are funneling unprecedented amounts of money into our political system. Their goal is to create an unbalanced and unfair economy where wages are as low as possible and profits replace respect for the workers that created them.

The UFCW Active Ballot Club (ABC) seeks to level the playing field. By bringing together thousands of workers, our political concerns can be amplified to a decibel that is impossible to ignore. ABC supports pro-worker candidates and incumbents from all political parties and is the prominent political action committee dedicated to the interests of UFCW members nationwide.

By joining ABC, active members are automatically entered to win a monthly drawing. Learn more about the UFCW Active Ballot Club and talk to your rep about signing up today!

Members Lead Fight for Maryland Earned Sick Leave Bill

A team of Local 400 members played a pivotal role in winning passage of the Healthy Working Families Act in Maryland.

Local 400 Shop Stewards Darlene Butler-Jones and Bill Osborn had never gone to Annapolis to meet with their state legislators, testified before the Maryland General Assembly or spoken out at rallies before. So when they were asked to help lead Local 400’s campaign to pass the Healthy Working Families Act, they were a bit taken aback. But after four months of working full-time to make paid leave a right for all Maryland workers, they were fired up and thrilled with the results.

“I wouldn’t trade it for a dime,” said Darlene, who is a meat cutter at Giant #347 in Largo. Bill, a dairy clerk at Giant #339 in La Plata, echoed her sentiments, saying, “It was a really enriching experience.”

Darlene, Bill and three of their Local 400 brothers and sisters played a pivotal role in winning passage of the legislation by a 29-18 vote in the Senate on March 16 and an 87-53 margin in the House on April 7. The bill would allow full-time and part-time workers at Maryland employers with 15 or more employees to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to five full days per year for full-time workers, benefiting more than 510,000 Marylanders who are currently unable to earn paid sick leave.

Darlene Butler-Jones (left) poses for a photo with a fellow Local 400 member. Darlene was part of a team of union members gathered support for the Healthy Working Families Act in Maryland.

For Darlene, this was personal. “When I started work at Giant 20 years ago, I was widowed with young children,” she said. “I had no sick leave. When my children came home with bumps and bruises or when they got sick, I had to choose between their health and my paycheck. That’s a position no one should ever be placed into.”

Bill Osborn testified about the challenges the single mothers he works with face. “I see them struggle when their kid is sick,” he said. “If they can’t take their kid to day care, how do single parents make it if they don’t have paid leave?

“It’s only fair to have paid leave,” Bill said. “Employers owe it to their employees.”

Darlene and Bill were invigorated by their experience. “It’s been very educational because I’ve learned a lot—I didn’t know how long and tedious it is to get a law passed,” Darlene said. “But it’s rewarding, too—you get to meet people from all walks of life telling their stories. You realize how sick leave and a higher minimum wage means so much and makes people better citizens and more productive workers.

“Today, I can tell my 12-year-old granddaughter, ‘When you go to work, you’ll have paid sick leave, and you can know that your grandmother and her friends were a part of making that happen,’” she said.

“From the very first day, the first rally in Annapolis, we learned the process,” Bill said. “We encouraged our members to support the bill. We canvassed door to door in certain areas. We sat in on a lot of the committee meetings and legislative sessions. Each of us testified and talked about how it affected us.

“It was so satisfying knowing we were there from right at the beginning to all the way when the bill was sent to the governor,” he said. “It was inspiring and it motivated me to be more involved in other bills and to take steps in our union to help others understand the process.”

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has threatened the veto the Healthy Working Families Act. Darlene, Bill and the three other team members are mobilizing public pressure on Hogan to sign the bill, but if he vetoes it, they’ll fight to get the House and Senate to override his vetoes. If no senator and delegate changes his or her vote, then the override will be successful and the bill will become law.

“If he vetoes it, I’ll be right back doing this all over again,” Darlene said.  “Without a doubt. Call me and I’ll be there.

“Each and every Local 400 member should get out, stand up for themselves, learn about politics and don’t be afraid to talk,” she added. “That’s the real lesson of this experience.”

Congratulations to ABC Drawing Winner, Andre Hickman

Active Ballot Club drawing winner, Andre Hickman (left), poses for a photo with his Local 400 union rep, Johnnie Perry.

Local 400 member Andre Hickman from Safeway #3250 in Alexandria, Va. is the most recent winner of our Active Ballot Club drawing! Congratulations, Andre!

All across the country, corporations and the ultra-wealthy are funneling unprecedented amounts of money into our political system. Their goal is to create an unbalanced and unfair economy where wages are as low as possible and profits replace respect for the workers that created them.

The UFCW Active Ballot Club (ABC) seeks to level the playing field. By bringing together thousands of workers, our political concerns can be amplified to a decibel that is impossible to ignore. ABC supports pro-worker candidates and incumbents from all political parties and is the prominent political action committee dedicated to the interests of UFCW members nationwide.

By joining ABC, active members are automatically entered to win a monthly drawing. Learn more about the UFCW Active Ballot Club and talk to your rep about signing up today!

Member Spotlight: John Ruiz Is a Force for Solidarity

John Ruiz gave a fiery speech and received a standing ovation at the Safeway contract ratification meeting in November 2016.

John Ruiz believes in solidarity with every fiber of his being. During our recent contract negotiations with Safeway and Giant, Safeway workers reached a tentative agreement, but Giant workers faced a looming strike vote. John took action immediately to show he and his co-workers at Safeway would stand in solidarity with their fellow union members at Giant.

A night grocery manager at Safeway #1365 who served on the Bargaining Advisory Committee, John went into his store, gave his co-workers an update, made up signs saying “Giant workers, we are with you until the end,” took photos, and posted them online. He also got each of them to “adopt a Giant” and commit to picketing or helping their sisters and brothers in other ways if a strike took place.

“I told them, ‘we might have an agreement, but don’t expect it to always be this way,’” John recalled. “‘Next time it could be us. We might wear Safeway uniforms, but Giant members are our brothers and sisters, and we’re in this fight with them until the end.’”

John showed this same spirit of unity and leadership at the ratification meeting on November 16th, when he gave a fiery speech and received a standing ovation.

“Management came crying claiming employees cost too much,” he told his sisters and brothers. “They blamed us for not being able to man the stores. They claimed we were paid too much. We took that as a slap in the face. It was appalling to hear what the company thinks of us. But we’re the ones who keep the engine running. The companies’ proposals were extra motivation for us. In the end, we accomplished our goal of achieving a fair contract, with no extra health care costs and our pay increases. We defeated all cuts. The contract is very good compared to where we started. This is a win for all of us. United we stand, divided we fall. Solidarity is the only way. Union strong!”

In explaining why Local 400 overcame enormous adversity to win a fair contract, John said. “Solidarity was number one. Sticking together and being there for all of us. No matter how high that mountain was, we were going to climb it until we reached the peak. This was a total team effort.

“I was glad to be a part of the Bargaining Advisory Committee,” he added. “Tough as it was to sit across the table from management, hear them claim the stores are understaffed because we’re paid too much, even though they’re all profitable, and not be able to give them a piece of my mind back, I enjoyed being a part of it every single day. As the end result will tell you, it was well worth it—very gratifying.”

John has worked at Safeway for nearly 30 years and his leadership skills were clear to his co-workers for much of this time. Approximately 10 years ago, when his store needed a new shop steward, his sisters and brothers voted him in even though he was out on workers’ compensation after injuring his ankle in an accident with a powerjack. “They told me, ‘we know you’ll stand up for us and fight for us,’” he said. “I enjoy helping the employees out and working to make sure that no one takes advantage of them or violates the contract language.”

John has also gotten involved in other battles for his union. On November 29th, he spoke at a “Fight for $15” rally in Richmond, where the local NBC News affiliate aired footage of him saying, “Minimum wage workers should not have to work a full week and still have to worry about putting food on the table for their families or paying their rent on time.”

Looking to the future, John is ready to help his brothers and sisters out in any way possible. “I’m always there to do my part, no matter how small or how large, to make sure our union stays strong, that we fight for working families, and that we fight to keep and enforce language in the contract that treats employees the right way,” he said. “Too many times the contract isn’t followed, which is why so many grievances are filed. That’s why we need strong shop stewards who are not intimidated or scared to approach management, and who have been trained in how to handle grievances.”

John is a resident of Springfield. He’s married with 18- and 20-year-old children, and has two stepchildren, as well. And for him, being a Local 400 member has meant everything. “It has given me an opportunity enjoy life and have a secure job,” he said. “I was born in Trinidad. I came here with just $50 and one small bag of clothes. I signed up right away and everything I have now, I owe to Local 400. It’s given me great opportunities, helping me rise from courtesy clerk up to grocery manager. And our union is always there when we need it—including for me. I am so grateful for everything.”

Jibril Wallace: Fighting for Paid Leave

Jibril Wallace has been working at the same Safeway in Washington, D.C. for 28 years, since she was a teenager helping her mother pay the bills. Now her income helps support her two children, ages 18 and 8. Through the years, Jibril moved up from courtesy clerk to food clerk to file maintenance manager, overseeing pricing and tagging. And for much of that time, she had no paid sick days.

“When you were sick, or the kids were sick, you went to work,” Jibril said. “You found a relative who worked in government and had sick leave if you could. Or I’d do the overnight shift and their dad would stay with them, and I’d be there during the day.”

When asked how she managed being sick herself, Jibril said, “I’m not quite sure what that is—you still had to go to work.” For a long time she could get only part-time hours—and part-timers had to be out three days before being paid for any illness. “Your body is giving you a sign that you need to rest,” she explained. “But you’d just medicate yourself, go in and pray you’ll feel better. I had to support myself.”

Jibril described the reckoning she’d go through, imagining the loss of eight hours pay. “I’d already be thinking to next Thursday, what did I have to be planning for financially,” she said. Because hours can fluctuate so much, many employees have to arrange before and after-school care.  Eight hours represents the weekly payment for that care.

But since the District of Columbia’s paid sick days law was expanded to include part-time workers, Jibril has a new peace of mind. “It’s very relieving to know if your kid or you yourself are sick, there will still hours on your check,” she said.

As a Local 400 leader and activist, Jibril makes sure to stay informed and to keep her co-workers informed about their rights. “Management is not going to tell you,” she said. “They tried to play around with it, but it got big, you’d hear it on the news.”

When a manager tried to deny one employee his sick time, Jibril straightened him out. “It’s not coming out of your pocket,” she told him. “It’s the law now.” Jibril is also alerting Safeway workers in Montgomery County, where a strong, comprehensive paid sick days law is now in effect.

Still, workers often aren’t aware of their rights. Jibril described a night stocker who got an infection after having a tooth pulled. “She sent me a picture of how swollen her face was and said she’d been told not to call out.” Jibril told her to take paid sick days. The woman was able to heal and come back to work.

“It’s awesome to know you have that cushion,” Jibril said, “especially when you’re part time. Everybody gets sick, or has a parent or kid who’s sick. This really helps out.”

Original post by Family Values At Work

Montgomery County Members Now Eligible for Paid Sick Days

Thanks to the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2015, a new law championed by UFCW Local 400 and our allies, if you work in Montgomery County, you can take paid time off if you or a loved one get sick.

Starting October 30, 2016, as a UFCW Local 400 member working at Giant or Safeway in Montgomery County, you earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours you work, and you can earn up to 56 hours a year.

You can use your paid sick leave to:

  • stay home when you get sick
  • go to a doctor’s appointment
  • take care of a sick family member
  • get services for domestic violence or sexual abuse

At UFCW Local 400, we fight hard to pass innovative laws like this one, so our union members and their families can focus on getting better, not just getting by.

If you have questions about this new law or if you have been denied sick leave, contact your union representative immediately or call our headquarters toll-free at 1-800-638-0800 (Mon – Fri, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).