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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.”

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.

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.”