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DC Council Members Join Grocery Workers at O St. Giant’s Grand Opening

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DC Council member Jack Evans addressing the crowd at the O St Giant grand opening. Photo by Bill Burke/Page one.

From Union City—Political and community leaders joined an informational picket by Giant and Safeway workers in front of Giant’s grand opening at 8th and O Street NW Thursday night. DC Council members Tommy Wells and Jack Evans, as well as Rev. Graylan Hagler of Plymouth Congregational Church were among those showing their support for the grocery workers who voted last week to authorize the leadership of their union, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 (UFCW Local 400) to call a strike if the companies refuse to negotiate a fair contract.

The new Giant is in Wells’ district and he went in with a delegation to deliver petitions signed by community residents supporting the workers, telling store management “it’s time for Giant to settle a contract with its workers.”

The big issue on the table is health care because of the new Affordable Care Act. In contract negotiations across the country, companies have tried to eliminate health care for part-time workers, retirees and spouses.

“We are refusing to go backward,” said Vivian Siguion, Bargaining Advisory Committee member who works at Safeway #1431. “We’ve worked this hard to earn the benefits we have and for the companies to propose to eliminate them feels like a slap in the face to the 29 years I’ve put in to this company.”

Giant and Safeway workers have leafleted stores and gathered thousands of shoppers’ pledges, participated in flash mobs, and have turned in their own pledge cards stating that they will do “whatever it takes for a fair contract.” Other unions like the Teamsters, who work at Giant’s warehouse in Jessup, Md. have supported the retail workers by wea – See more at: http://www.dclabor.org/ht/display/ArticleDetails/i/112896#sthash.A0hGpGgY.dpuf

Labor Notes Magazine Reports: Will Grocery Workers Hold the Line for Part-Timer Health Care?

Vivian talking to a customer about what's at stake in the contract and having customers sign pledge cards in support. Photo by Karlyn Williams.

Vivian talking to a customer about what’s at stake in the contract. Members have been asking their customers to sign pledge cards in support. Photo by Karlyn Williams.

At first I was a little worried about approaching the customers,” said Vivian Sigouin, a Safeway food clerk in Virginia. But “when you mention health care and part-timers and retirees, any of that, it really hits everybody.”

She and fellow Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members are out in front of stores asking D.C.-area shoppers to sign a pledge not to cross picket lines at Safeway and Giant if they strike.

They’re fighting to keep everyone on their health care plan. The 17,000 workers have twice extended their contract to keep bargaining; it’s now set to expire December 20.

“It was a subject that everybody understood,” Sigouin said. “They all had a story to tell if you gave them a minute, about their mother or father that lost benefits, or didn’t have them.

“A lot of people say, ‘I know so-and-so who works at Walmart, so let me sign that card.’”

It’s the hot topic in grocery bargaining this year: with the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges opening up an alternative route to coverage, will employers succeed in kicking part-timers and retirees off their plans?

After what Local 919 President Mark Espinosa called “the most difficult, complex negotiations I have been part of in my entire labor movement career,” 40,000 Stop & Shop workers in five New England UFCW locals agreed in March to exclude employees working less than 30 hours a week from their Taft-Hartley health fund.

In return the company is giving the part-timers cash to buy coverage on the exchanges and contributing to individual health savings accounts, and the locals are offering workshops to guide members into the new system.

But other grocery locals, such as Sigouin’s Local 400, are refusing to dump part-timers. Their brothers and sisters at area Krogers fended off similar concessions earlier this year.

Twenty-one thousand Seattle-area workers came within two hours of striking at Safeway, QFC, Albertson’s, and Fred Meyer, before they won a no-concession contract October 21, keeping everyone’s benefits intact.

Some 5,500 Stop & Shop workers in the New York metro area’s Local 1500 authorized a strike October 28 over the same issue. At press time they hadn’t walked yet, but might anytime. And health coverage for part-timers is a top issue in Local 1262’s talks with Stop & Shop and ShopRite in New Jersey and New York, too.

Already many grocery workers are part-time, including nearly 13,000 of the 17,000 Safeway and Giant workers in D.C.

“Lots of people, Giant has cut their hours back to five hours or less a day,” said deli manager Michele Hepner. “They’re not making people full-time anymore.”

For Mary Ann Schroeder, a 20-year Safeway meatwrapper in Seattle, that’s part of why the issue was worth striking over. “It’s a larger problem than it looks,” she said, because if employers had succeeded in making under-30-hour workers still cheaper to hire by eliminating their insurance, “everybody would have ended up with under 30 hours eventually.”

Hepner has worked at Giant for 38 years. “When I started, my dad said, ‘Giant’s a good company with excellent benefits,’” she said. “At 18 I said, ‘What’s a benefit, Daddy?’”

She found out when her husband fell out of a tree. “He was in shock trauma for months. I didn’t pay one cent. My dad said, ‘That’s your benefits that I was trying to explain to you about.’”

Now her own daughter is full-time at Giant, too—and Hepner wishes she could tell her the same.

YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN

Giant and Safeway want to push not only part-timers but also retirees and working spouses off Local 400’s plan.

Because prior contracts introduced tiers, only those hired in 1983 or before are eligible for retiree medical—but those folks have been counting on it their whole careers. “They’ve taken little 10-cent, 25-cent raises all these years to maintain that,” said Sigouin, who just missed the cut-off. She started 28 years ago.

“I have a lot of retirees that are calling me and begging me, ‘Please don’t let us lose everything we have,’” said Hepner. “We built the company. We made it what it is today…. Several have called and said, ‘Do I need to go look for new health care?’”

Would it be such a disaster to switch over to the exchanges? The bottom line will vary from person to person, since eligibility for subsidies depends on family size and spouse income.

That’s the heart of the problem, says Mark Dudzic of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, which just released a report on bargaining under the ACA.

“The traditional union model is a solidarity model for benefits: everybody’s covered under equal terms and conditions,” Dudzic explained. “The ACA accelerates the move to a consumer-driven model, where everyone’s on their own to cut the best deal they can with limited resources.”

Also, “there is no exchange in Virginia, and the federal one doesn’t seem to be working real well right now,” Sigouin pointed out.

‘HOT TO GO’

Health care isn’t the only trendy takeaway grocery employers are pushing. The chains in both Seattle and D.C. proposed getting rid of premium pay for Sundays and holidays—an idea that made workers’ blood boil.

But Seattle workers held the line and took no concessions. It came down to proving to management that “we were totally prepared to strike,” said Schroeder, a member of her workplace contract action team.

She and her co-workers held button-wearing days, informational pickets, a near-unanimous strike vote, and signed everyone up for picket shifts. “People were hot to go,” she said.

The other key was rousing public support. As in D.C., workers leafleted stores and gathered shoppers’ pledges. Other unions and community groups joined rallies and even volunteered to help strikers with practical tasks, like driving kids to doctor appointments if picket duty interfered.


A countdown clock in a downtown Seattle park drew media attention to the impending grocery strike deadline. Grocery workers won a contract with no concessions, stopping the clock with less than two hours to spare. Photo: UFCW 21.

A clever visual aid spotlighted the drama over the final days of bargaining. When it gave the 72-hour strike notice, the union set up a huge tablet with the numerals “7” and “2” at a park in downtown Seattle. Each hour someone would flip the page, ticking down the hours till the deadline. 71… 70…

“The cameras were on it all the time,” Schroeder said. “It was on all the local news. So it wasn’t just happening to us, it was happening to everybody…. The whole city knew.”

05… 04… 03… The countdown stopped at 02.

In an October 30 push, D.C.-area workers donned Rosie the Riveter polka-dot scarves (it was almost Halloween) and talked with shoppers at 30 stores.

They asked customers to hand the pledge card to a manager or cashier on their way out. Thousands have done so, Local 400 says—especially when the ask comes from a checker they recognize.

All the years the company has been insisting checkers greet shoppers and call them by name, “it’s coming back to bite them a bit,” Hepner said, “because now they’re ourcustomers.”

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #417, December 2013. Don’t miss an issue, subscribe today.

Giant and Safeway Workers Standing Strong For A Fair Contract, Join Us Nov 21!

 Stand Strong with Us!

Join us at the Grand Opening of the O St Market Giant:
WHEN: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 5:30pm
WHERE: 8th and O St NW Washington, DC

CommitteeOn November 13 Giant and Safeway workers overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike if the companies continue to refuse to negotiate a fair contract.

The community stands with Giant and Safeway workers fighting for affordable health care and good, living wage jobs in our communities.

 

 

UFCW Local 400 Members Vote to Authorize Strike Against Giant and Safeway

 

Giant and Safeway members voted to authorize union leadership to call a strike if necessary by a standing vote. Photo by Joe Coffin/Page One.

Giant and Safeway members voted to authorize union leadership to call a strike if necessary by a standing vote. Photo by Joe Coffin/Page One.

Members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 voted overwhelmingly this afternoon to authorize a strike against Safeway, joining their fellow members working at Giant who also voted this morning to authorize a strike against their employer. At both stores, UFCW Local 400 members are fired up about management’s refusal to offer a fair contract.

Their current contract originally expired on October 31st. It has been extended twice, now through December 20th. Today’s vote does not mean that a strike will occur, but it lets Safeway and Giant know loud and clear that members are ready to take this step if they determine it is the only way to get a decent contract.

“This afternoon, our members sent Giant and Safeway the strongest possible message—step up to the plate with a collective bargaining agreement that recognizes how essential their hard work, productivity and customer service is to the company’s profitability and growth,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici.

“The big issue at the table has been health care and today, our union brothers and sisters refused to go backward and authorized our local union leadership to call a strike,” said Vivian Sigouin, a Bargaining Advisory Committee member who works at Safeway #1431.

“We’re the ones making all their money and it’s about time they recognize that and start respecting us,” said Tasha Schrantz, a Local 400 member serving on the Bargaining Advisory Committee who works at Giant #749. “Now more than ever, we have a stand up together because actions speak louder than words.”

Members at both Safeway and Giant pledged to continue a series of store actions informing customers and community members about the importance of local retailers providing their workers with living wages, health and retirement security, and respect.

Informational Meetings to be Held Wednesday, November 13

A Message from President Mark Federici—

Dear Fellow Members:

I’m inviting you to attend informational meetings on the state of Giant and Safeway contract negotiations tomorrow, November 13th, at the D.C. Armory. The meeting for Giant members will take place at 8:00 a.m., and for Safeway members at 2:00 p.m.

We have extended our previous collective bargaining agreement through December 20th. Both parties will continue discussions in the hope of reaching an acceptable contract.

Like virtually all negotiations taking place around the country today, the number one obstacle to reaching agreement is the impact of the Affordable Care Act on multiemployer Taft-Hartley funds, like the one that provides health coverage to you.

Between this and the pervasiveness of corporate greed, virtually all bargaining in our industry across the country has resulted in lengthy delays and extensions. For example, bargaining in the Seattle area between Safeway and other grocers and various UFCW Local Unions, affecting 30,000 members, took more than seven months to reach agreement. I don’t anticipate it will take us that long, but this is the environment in which our negotiations are taking place.

Please come tomorrow to learn more about where things are at and what you can do to secure a new collective bargaining agreement that provides you with the security, respect and dignity you have more than earned.

Thank you for your continued patience and solidarity.

Fraternally,
Mark P. Federici
President

 

GIANT
Date:     Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Time:    7:00 am Registration, 8:00 am Meeting

SAFEWAY
Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Time: 1:00pm Registration, 2:00pm Meeting

Giant/Safeway Flash Mob “We Know What We Want!” [VIDEO]

Thursday, the Giant and Safeway bargaining committee got together after being at bargaining on the day before and decided since the companies weren’t listening to the needs of the workers they would find another way to make sure the companies would “know what we want” by taking the message into the stores.

After about an hour practice to learn the moves and the song lyrics, which were written by UFCW Local 400 member Carla Lee, from Safeway #1579. the group was ready to visit two stores; both Giants, one in Largo, Md. and one in Bowie, Md.

“At the Largo store we started to march in clapping and customers and members working at the registers were shocked,” said Sharon Glaser from Safeway #1956.  “One member even joined us and starting dancing!”

At the Bowie store, the group performed both inside and outside in the parking lot.

“We hope doing these actions inside the stores and having the video up on our Facebook and website will mobilize fellow members to come to the meetings on Wednesday,” said Michele Hepner from Giant #243.  “It’s imperative that everyone attend, we have to show the companies that we’re serious and that we know what we want!”

 

We hope all Giant and Safeway members come out to the contract meetings!
Click here for details! 

 

UFCW Local 1500 Grocery Workers Vote to Authorize a Strike of Stop & Shop Stores

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UFCW Local 1500 Stop & Shop grocery workers voted to authorize a strike in response to management’s attempt to cut or eliminate healthcare benefits.

From UFCW International On Point—UFCW Local 1500 Stop & Shop (who has the same parent company as Giant Food) grocery workers voted to authorize a strike on October 28th in response to their employers’ attempts to drastically reduce employee healthcare benefits and, for some workers, eliminate them completely. A ground swell of public support for the Stop & Shop employees seeking a new contract was disregarded by management as the company refused to sign a two-week contract extension.

Currently members are negotiating without a contract and the strike authorization remains in effect until an acceptable agreement is reached. If the 5,500 workers strike, it would shut down stores in the New York City metro area.

“Stop & Shop management fails to understand that shoppers who come to our stores are not just customers but are also friends and neighbors,” said Greg Pasquale, Produce Manager for Stop & Shop in Beekman, New York. “My coworkers and I do not want to inconvenience shoppers, lose pay or create economic hardship for our communities. However, management must come back to the table with a new attitude and partner with us to reach a fair agreement to avoid a strike,” Pasquale concluded.

Members launched a public information campaign that includes press outreach, social media, and labor to neighbor organizing. They are also engaging elected officials via meetings, phone calls, and emails.

For the latest updates on negotiations and to support UFCW Local 1500 workers, members can visit http://www.ufcw1500.org/ or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UFCW1500.

Giant/Safeway Store Actions Nov 1st-9th

 

11/1/2013
Giant 326
10515 Greenbelt Rd.
Lanham, MD 11a.m.-1p.m.

Safeway 1882
990 East Swann Creek Rd
Fort Washington, MD 4:00 – 6:00pm

11/3/2013
Giant 357
5400 Westbard Ave
Bethesda, MD 10:00 – 12:00pm

11/5/2013
Giant 342
4119 Branch Ave
Marlow Heights, MD 5:00 – 7:00pm

11/6/2013
Giant 330
3500 North West Crain Hwy
Bowie, MD 4:00pm

11/7/2013
Giant 132
10400 Old Georgetown Rd
Bethesda, MD 3:30 – 5:30pm

11/8/2013
Giant 747
1450 Reston Pkwy
Reston, VA 4:00 – 6:00pm

Supermarket Workers Blitz Stores as Contract is Extended

112396From Union City—(Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO)
“Come on, sign this card,” said the customer at the White Oak Giant in Silver Spring. “Everyone line up and sign up to support these workers!” Thousands of Giant and Safeway customers yesterday signed cards supporting workers there as members of UFCW Local 400 leafleted more than 30 area supermarkets. The actions were coordinated to support ongoing contract negotiations for some 17,000 Giant/Safeway workers. The existing contract was set to expire at midnight Thursday, but on Wednesday was extended through November 15. “Our customers love us,” said pharmacist Michelle Mathis, who works in the Germantown Road Giant pharmacy. Mathis greeted many of the customers by name as they stopped to chat and sign support cards, often hugging her before they continued into the supermarket. “The problem is that (Giant parent company) Ahold is trying to take things back from us that we worked so hard for,” Mathis said. “I’m a single parent and can’t survive without health insurance. That’s just wrong.” Mathis, spotting another familiar face, called out “How’s your baby girl?” and hurried over to chat with the customer and get another card signed.
– report/photo by Chris Garlock

Giant/Safeway Bargaining Update from President Mark Federici

Good afternoon, Giant/Safeway bargaining continues.  At this time it has been mutually agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement until midnight November 15, 2013.  The tentative date of November 13th for the contract meeting is still scheduled at this time.  You will continue to be updated moving forward.  Thank you.