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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.).

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 Agrees to Allow Employees to Transfer to New Store

We are pleased to announce that Kroger has agreed to allow all interested associates at store #536 in Norfolk to transfer to the former Farm Fresh across the street if and when it reopens as a Kroger store.

If you refused to be silent, if you signed a petition, if wrote a letter, if you joined a protest – this would not have happened without you.

Kroger says it still hasn’t finalized plans, but the company has signed a legally binding agreement that protects your jobs in the event the store closes:

  • If Kroger closes store #536 and opens the former Farm Fresh store within six months, then you may transfer to the newly opened store if you choose.
  • You will not have to quit and reapply for your job.

As we’ve always said, “together, we can make Kroger better.” And make no mistake – we did this together. By sticking together as a union family, we successfully protected our jobs.

Now we must turn our attention to our next contract. We want a fair contract with better pay, affordable healthcare, and respect for our union. But this won’t be easy. We must continue to stick together to make Kroger better and get the fair contract we deserve. We know we can do it.

Joint Statement from Kroger & UFCW Local 400

The following statement was released jointly by Kroger & UFCW Local 400 on July 17, 2018:

Kroger Mid-Atlantic and UFCW Local 400 Reach Agreement Regarding Store #536

We are pleased to share that after some discussion, Kroger Mid-Atlantic and UFCW Local 400 have reached an agreement regarding the potential opening of Store #576 located at 230 East Little Creek Road, and its possible impact on current associates at Store #536 in Norfolk, VA.

At this time, the Company has not finalized plans for opening Store #576, nor has it made a decision to close Store #536.

In the event that Kroger Mid-Atlantic decides to close Store #536 and open Store #576, the Company and the union have agreed to transfer all interested associates to the newly opened store. This agreement is good for a period of time up to six months after the potential closing of Store #536.

Kroger Mid-Atlantic and the union commit to communicate with you when decisions are made.

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.”

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