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Save the Date! Kroger West Virginia Contract Meetings

Local 400 shop stewards from West Virginia Kroger stores pose for a group photo during a meeting on August 1, 2017.

What do you want in your next Kroger contract?

Join us for an upcoming union contract meeting to help us to shape our strategy and prioritize our goals for contract negotiations. Your input will help us put together proposals well in advance of the actual contract negotiations, and it will help us fight hardest for the things you and your coworkers want most.

All meetings will run from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

CLARKSBURG/BRIDGEPORT AREA
August 28, 2017
Bridgeport Conference Center, 300 Conference Center Way, Bridgeport, WV 26330

PARKERSBURG AREA
August 29, 2017
Comfort Inn & Suites, 167 Elizabeth Pike, Mineral Wells, WV 26150

CHARLESTON AREA
August 30, 2017
Embassy Suites, 300 Court Street, Charleston, WV 25301

HUNTINGTON AREA
August 31, 2017
Holiday Inn & Suites, 3551 U.S. Route 60 E, Barboursville, WV 25504

BECKLEY AREA
September 1, 2017
Country Inn & Suites, 2120 Harper Road, Beckley, WV 25801

Please plan to attend any one of these contract meetings. You should receive a card in the mail inviting you to the meetings. We need to hear what YOU want to see in your upcoming contract, so make sure to be there!

Kroger Shop Steward Wins Promotions, Raises for 10 Members

Drema Trent, a shop steward at Kroger #322 in Vinton, Va., won raises for ten courtesy clerks at her store by enforcing the contract.

If you work at a Kroger store in the Roanoke region, you know courtesy clerks have a tough job to do.  They are the lowest paid employees in the store and have little to no opportunity for advancement.

Kroger justifies this practice by saying courtesy clerks are only responsible for a limited set of duties – such as bagging groceries and returning shopping carts. If a courtesy clerk is assigned work above and beyond their normal duties, he or she is supposed to get paid more for doing that work. But we all know that more than not, Kroger is cheating these workers out of the higher pay they deserve.

When Drema Trent saw courtesy clerks working the cash registers at her Kroger store, she decided to do something about it.

A shop steward and front-end clerk at Kroger #322 in Vinton, Va., Drema took photos of every courtesy clerk working a register. She talked with them and had them sign forms testifying that they were assigned work beyond the scope of a courtesy clerk’s responsibilities. She then sent the information to her Local 400 representative, Steve Meador, who verified the details and took it to management.

The result? Ten courtesy clerks were promoted to front-end clerks and given raises. And Kroger now faces arbitration over whether the store violated the contract’s “three strikes” policy against misusing courtesy clerks, which would eliminate the position entirely.

“It felt really good to enforce the contract and get results for the young men and women involved,” Drema said. “They were really happy about it. And it improved morale on the front end.”

Drema makes it a priority to sign new employees up as Local 400 members—and this action certainly provided a reminder about why joining their union is the best investment they can make in their future. “I’ve got a good rapport with the younger people,” she said. “I explain to them what a union is, since many of them don’t actually know that. I talk about how our union gets them better wages and benefits, and how if you ever get in trouble, you won’t have to go alone, one of us will be with you to make sure you’re treated fairly.

“I also discuss how fantastic our insurance is,” she added. “I was in a car accident last year and had to be out for more than half a year. My health costs were covered and our union paid me for six months.

“And then I talk about my daughter, who’s 22, started at Kroger when she was 14, and now works full-time with full benefits,” Drema said. “This also makes them see the advantage of joining Local 400.”

Drema started at Kroger 10 years ago. It was her first union job, and the fact that workers had Local 400 representation was a big reason why she wanted to work there. She became a shop steward nearly two years ago. “I have kind of a big mouth,” she said, “and knew everybody in the store, so it seemed like a natural thing to do.”

She attended some of the union meetings last year during negotiations over the current Kroger-Roanoke contract. “It was the first time I’d been to one and it was a very powerful thing to witness,” she recalled. “I’d like to be involved in future negotiations.”

For Drema, Kroger is a family business. In addition to her 22-year-old daughter, Katie Robertson, her 33-year-old daughter, Jennifer Trent, also works at Kroger and is interested in becoming a shop steward. She also has a 24-year-old son who worked at Kroger for five years before moving to another job, and an older son who is 36. She lives in Thaxton.

“It’s really important to have a voice to speak for you other than just yourself,” Drema said. “If you’re at Kroger, you have somebody on your side—your union. And I think we have 10 of my Local 400 sisters and brothers at my store who can testify to that.”

Work at Kroger? Ignore This Sign!

UFCW Local 400 members have reported seeing these misleading signs posted in Kroger stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

It’s come to our attention that many Kroger managers are posting a “speed limit” sign in some stores that reads “minimum speed 55 cases per hour.”

Under your union contract, you cannot be compelled to stock 55 cases per hour. This is only a recommended guideline. You cannot be disciplined for failing to stock 55 cases per hour.

If you are threatened with discipline, contact your union rep immediately: 1-800-638-0800

To make this clear, we’ve created a sign of our own. Ask your Local 400 union rep for a copy or print the sign and post it in your store.

Print this Sign (11″ x 17″ PDF)

Victory! All Courtesy Clerks Promoted at Kroger Store in Lynchburg

Member activism and the hard work of Local 400 shop steward Mary Little won a landmark victory at a Kroger store—all courtesy clerks were promoted to front end clerks, gaining raises, benefits, holiday pay and paid vacations in the process.

In fact, all Local 400 members working at Kroger under the Roanoke and West Virginia contracts have the power to make the same gains at their stores if management regularly assigns courtesy clerks tasks beyond the scope of their position, such as stocking shelves or providing break relief for cashiers.

Thanks to tough negotiating by Kroger members, the current contracts inRoanoke and West Virginia state clearly that if management at any store misuses courtesy clerks in this way three times, all courtesy clerks are promoted and the position is eliminated. It doesn’t matter how far apart the violations happen or whether they involve different managers or courtesy clerks—it’s “three strikes and you’re out!”

At Kroger #408 on Boonsboro Road in Lynchburg, Mary Little uncovered three such violations. They took place this fall, involving two courtesy clerks and two store managers.

“I saw that one courtesy clerk was manning the register,” Mary said. “I made sure what his classification was, and then I snapped a picture. They asked me what was going on and I explained why I did it. The courtesy clerk said he’d been working as a cashier for a while. I took it to the store manager; he blamed it on the courtesy clerk and said he’d deal with it. But he didn’t. Because several weeks later, I caught the same violation.

“A few weeks after that, I caught a different courtesy clerk working as a cashier and she told me she’d been doing it for almost a year,” Mary recalled. “Management did promote her and gave her back pay, which was good. She was very grateful, said she’d put her back pay in the bank and would use it toward college.

“Most important, this was the third violation,” she said. “So my representative and I put the wheels in motion to enforce the contract.” On January 6, 2017, Kroger confirmed the workers’ victory in a letter, stating:

A copy of the statement signed by Kroger announcing that all courtesy clerks at a store in Lynchburg would be promoted and the courtesy clerk job classification would be eliminated at the store entirely.

Store 408 will no longer hire associates into the Courtesy Clerk classification. All associates currently classified as a Courtesy Clerk will be reclassified as a Front End Clerk effective Sunday, January 8, 2016. All future associates being hired for the courtesy clerk position will now be hired and classified as a Front End Clerk for the duration of the existing contract.

This was a huge achievement, but Mary isn’t resting on her laurels. She travels to other Krogers on her two days off.  “I’m going to go to every shop steward,” she said. “I’m going to talk to them, hand them the playbook on how to do this, and tell them how we did it at our store. I’ll coach them, because all courtesy clerks deserve the same raises and benefits as the rest of us.

It’s not that hard to do,” Mary explained. “You just have to be focused and you have to pay attention to your surroundings. You can do your work and also look out for people at the same time. You have to know who your courtesy clerks are. Communication is the number one thing.”

“This is one area where it’s relatively easy for members to make a difference and improve the lives of their brothers and sisters,” said Local 400 representative Philip Frisina, who serves Kroger #408 and other stores in the region. “The process is so simple. If you see a courtesy clerk given non-courtesy clerk tasks, take photos, document the violation, and contact your representative. That’s all it took to get our members the promotions they deserved at this store, and that’s all it will take at any other store. The power is in our members’ hands.”

Under the Kroger collective bargaining agreements in West Virginia and in the Roanoke region, after the first written complaint, the store must stop assigning improper tasks to courtesy clerks. After the second written complaint, any affected courtesy clerks must start getting paid at the part-time clerk hourly rate effective immediately upon the date the written complaint is received. And after the third written complaint, the courtesy clerk classification is eliminated at the store.

“I believe everyone should be treated equally,” Mary said. “Courtesy clerks have a hard job. They’re out there in the snow and sleet pushing carts and I always thought it was wrong for Kroger not to give them benefits. They are my co-workers and my friends, and I’m going to do whatever I can to help them out. If I can make a difference in one person’s life, I’m all for it.

“It’s a wonderful thing that we did,” Mary emphasized, “and I’m just going to do everything I can to get every shop steward on board so we can get all of these courtesy clerks what they deserve.”

How YOU Can Take Action

If you work as a courtesy clerk, or if you see a courtesy clerk at your store doing work he or she shouldn’t have to do, you should file a written complaint. Remember, if this happens three times at your store, the courtesy clerk “classification” will be eliminated at your store and courtesy clerks will be promoted.

Here’s how you can make a difference:

  1. Ask your rep for a copy of the Courtesy Clerk Playbook – inside you’ll find all documentation and forms you need to properly file a complaint with your store manager.
  2. Take a photo of the courtesy clerk performing duties outside the scope of his/her job.
  3. Take a photo of the schedule for that day.
  4. Fill out a Notice of Complaint form and take a photo of the complaint after you’ve filled it out. The form can be found in the Courtesy Clerk Playbook.
  5. Give the completed Notice of Complaint to your store manager.
  6. Fill out an Incident Report form to document the violation. Write down anything the manager said after you delivered the complaint. Note the date, time, name of the courtesy clerk, and the name of the person you believe assigned the courtesy clerk improper duties. Take a photo of the form after you’ve filled it out.
  7. Send everything to Local 400 for our records, including the photos described above to:

Alan Hanson, UFCW Local 400
ahanson@local400.org
(301) 256-6405

Thousands Gather in Richmond for Historic Fight for $15 March

20160813-Richmond Fight for $15 March (ALBUM) - 17

On Saturday, August 13, we made history in Richmond.

Thousands and thousands of us marched through the streets of Richmond to demand economic justice for the 64 million Americans working for less than $15 an hour. The march brought together people from across the country working too much for too little – from Kroger associates to fast food workers to childcare providers and even college professors.

The march culminated the first-ever national Fight for $15 convention, which brought together thousands of underpaid workers to strategize next steps for our growing movement.

The Fight for $15 movement shows us what we can accomplish when we stand together. It all started four years ago when fast food workers in New York went on strike. Since then, it has grown to thousands of cities across the world and has scored victory after victory for working people. Just last month, we passed legislation to raise the minimum wage in Washington, D.C. to $15 an hour by 2020. New York and California have already done the same thing. Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles have also gone to $15.

Marja Tippin, a teacher from Oakland, California, explained the importance of the movement to millions of hardworking men and women:

“We need to get a livable wage across the board, and possibly, hopefully, end poverty. We work really hard to provide, and can’t maintain, and that is not right. This is not the American dream, at least not the way I was taught.”

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, leader of North Carolina’s chapter of the NAACP who recently made headlines after delivering a speech at the Democratic National Convention, was a featured speaker at the convention. With his piercing moral perspective, the reverend put the crisis facing underpaid workers today in stark relief:

“Right now you’re helping to fight for a third Reconstruction in this country. Labor without livable wages is nothing but a pseudo-form of slavery. When you pay people more, it’s good for them, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for America.”

It’s time for an economy that works for us ALL. It’s time for $15 and union rights. We are thousands strong, and we are tired of struggling to get by no matter how hard we work. We deserve better. We know that by standing together, we’ll get the better lives we deserve.

Photos on Facebook

Check out photos from the march on Facebook.

Meet the Winner of This Month’s Active Ballot Club Drawing

20160809-ABC Winner-Christopher Hurd-Kroger 209

Kroger member Christopher Hurd from store 209 in Roanoke, Virginia is the most recent winner of our monthly Active Ballot Club drawing!

“I believe that the union should have some help not only from what we normally do, but also since they help us we should help them a little bit better as they speak for us in the political functions,” he said when asked why he chose to join the Active Ballot Club.

By joining the Active Ballot Club, Local 400 members are automatically entered into a monthly drawing for a chance to win a prize.

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.

Learn more about the UFCW Active Ballot Club and talk to your rep about signing up today!

August 13: March for $15 at Kroger

20160629-$15-at-Kroger-Petition-Delivery-(Album)---10

On Saturday, August 13, thousands of people like us will be marching through the streets of Richmond calling for a $15 minimum wage and union rights. Can you make it?

March for $15 at Kroger
1:30 pm, Saturday, August 13
Monroe Park, Richmond, VA
Part of the first-ever Fight for $15 National Convention

The Fight for $15 has grown to become a household name in our country for a reason. Thousands of hardworking men and women have refused to stay silent about the challenges of making ends meet on today’s poverty wages.

Just look at the facts. Nearly 64 million Americans work for less than $15 an hour, including many members of Local 400. Over the last few decades, the real value of our wages has plummeted. Today, the minimum wage in Virginia is only $7.25. But in 1968, it was $1.60 –equivalent to $11.08 today. Not only that, we’re more productive today than we were in 1968. If the minimum wage kept pace with our productivity, it would be $18.85 today!

20160804-EPI_Chart_Min_Wage_Productivity

Even if you make more than the minimum wage, your pay is affected too. When the value of the minimum wage goes down, so does the value of your paycheck. It’s simple: the lower the bottom goes, the deeper we all sink. That’s why we’re fighting to raise wages up and down the scale – because like the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.

It’s not that Kroger can’t afford to pay more. Kroger made $2.4 billion in profits last year. Kroger’s CEO, Rodney McMullen, was richly rewarded for your hard work: he got a 17% pay raise this year. He now makes $11.2 million a year. A part-time Kroger associate making $9 an hour would have to work 1,204 years to make what he made last year alone.

We’re tired of CEOs getting all of the reward off of our hard work while we struggle to make ends meet. We’re tired of working harder than ever but earning less than we did decades ago. It’s time for change.

Join us on Saturday, August 13, for a historic Fight for $15 march through Richmond. We’ll be marching with thousands of McDonald’s cashiers and airport baggage handlers, truck drivers and early education teachers, retail employees and home care workers. And so many others.

To those of you that doubt us, those of you that think we’ll never get $15 an hour (or worse, think that we don’t deserve $15 an hour) – think again. We’re already doing it. Just last month, we passed legislation to raise the minimum wage in Washington, D.C. to $15 an hour by 2020. New York and California have already done the same thing. Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles have also gone to $15.

This isn’t just a fight worth winning, it’s a fight we ARE winning. Help us keep up the momentum! Join us on Saturday, August 13 to Fight for $15 at Kroger!

Print the Flier (PDF)

20160813-Richmond Fight For 15 March

Kroger Associates Plan Noon Rally to Call for $15 Minimum Wage

PRESS ADVISORY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

CONTACT
Jonathan Williams, UFCW Local 400, jwilliams@local400.org

In just ten days, more than 1,000 Kroger employees sign petition supporting $15 minimum wage

100+ expected to attend rally to deliver signatures to store managers today at noon

WHAT:

At noon today, more than 100 Kroger workers and union activists will host a rally to deliver petitions calling for a $15 minimum wage to managers at a Kroger store in Portsmouth.

The petition spread like wildfire among employees at Kroger stores in Richmond-Tidewater the region. In just ten days, at least 1,000 store associates in the area signed a petition calling on the company to provide a wage floor of $15 an hour.

WHO:

100+ Kroger associates and union activists expected to attend

WHY:

The workers claim they simply can’t afford to survive on the company’s current pay, but with $2.4 billion in profits last year alone, many employees feel Kroger could easily afford to pay them higher wages. Last month, Rodney McMullen, the CEO of Kroger, was rewarded a 17 percent pay raise by the company’s board of directors. His total compensation jumped from $9.2 million to a staggering $11.2 million.

“If Kroger can afford to give the CEO a raise worth millions of dollars, it can afford to pay me enough to raise my child,” said Dakayla Williams, a single mother who has worked as a cashier at the Kroger Marketplace in Portsmouth for two years.

The workers launched the petition shortly after the District of Columbia city council passed legislation to raise the minimum wage in the nation’s capital to $15 an hour by 2020. Los Angeles, Seattle and New York have passed similar legislation.

Currently, Kroger hires new workers at less than $10 an hour and most are part-time positions. However, many workers report they are unable to make ends meet on Kroger wages. In Portsmouth, a single adult working full-time must earn at least $12.68 an hour to afford basic costs of living, according to researchers at MIT. That figure jumps to over $20 an hour if the worker has just one child – more than double the starting pay at Kroger.

WHEN:

12:00 p.m. Noon, Wednesday, June 29

WHERE:

Kroger Marketplace, 1301 Frederick Blvd, Portsmouth, VA 23707

VISUALS:

Protesters carrying signs, chanting, drumming

Picket line

Potential confrontation with store management

###

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Member Spotlight: Rick Howell, Union Through And Through

Rick Howell, a nine-year Kroger associate from Roanoke and member of the 2016 contract bargaining team, addresses his fellow UFCW members at a recent contract vote in May.

Rick Howell, a nine-year Kroger associate from Roanoke and member of the 2016 contract bargaining team, addresses his fellow UFCW members at a recent contract vote in May.

When Rick Howell started working at Kroger nine years ago, no one had to tell him why he should join Local 400. Rick’s father worked at Rubatex in Bedford, Va., where he was a proud member of the United Rubber Workers (now part of the United Steelworkers). “He took me to union meetings when I was eight or nine years old,” Rick said of his father. “Even though I didn’t understand everything they were saying, I could tell this was serious business. It really made an impression on me.

“Working people built this country,” Rick said. “I saw my father struggle to support his family on one salary, but back in the ‘60s, with a union contract, you could do that. Today, the middle class in this country has just about been destroyed. That’s one of the tragedies of modern America and only organized labor can fix that.”

A cashier, front-end supervisor, and shop steward at Kroger #375 in Roanoke—and a board member of the Western Virginia Labor Federation—Rick’s strong union perspective served his union well in the just-completed round of bargaining with the company, which was the most contentious in decades.

“I think management showed some ignorance about how the working class in America lives,” he explained. “They make good salaries and they’re sitting across the table from people making $9, $10, $11 an hour. The income gap at Kroger reflects the larger gap in America between corporate CEOs and workers which has only ballooned in recent decades. All we asked them to do is put themselves in our shoes, but they didn’t seem to be able to do that.”

As a member of the Kroger Bargaining Team, Rick strongly supported the May 18th strike authorization vote as critical to getting the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified on June 8th. “We weren’t satisfied some of the specifics in the deal, but overall, we stood up to them and got a better offer,” he said. “It was a hard-fought process, and we had to make tough decisions, but in the end we got the best deal available. It’s something to build on.”

“I was glad to be a part of the committee, and I’m glad we have a contract, after long bargaining hours and hard work,” Rick added.

Rick brought to his work on the Bargaining Team several other unique perspectives—a career as a journalist and decades of work as a political activist. Before joining Kroger, he worked as a reporter and political columnist in Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia for 12 years. He currently writes a regular column, “The Liberal Agenda,” for the Bedford Bulletin, giving him a perch from which he discusses the plight of working families and what politicians are—or are not—doing to make life better. For example, in a column last fall on where candidates stood on raising the minimum wage, he wrote, “When people make more money, they spend it, and spending helps the economy. It allows working people to live better, and it spurs economic growth that later creates more jobs. It certainly does not ‘destroy’ the free market system.”

Rick also takes a leadership role electing pro-worker candidates to public office, with direct involvement in the Virginia AFL-CIO’s get-out-the-vote drive each year. “Labor’s political operation is so much more effective than that of the Democratic Party,” he said. “As someone whose first political efforts involved stuffing envelopes for Jimmy Carter in 1976, I’ve never had more fun or seen better results than with the labor GOTV effort.

“I’m grateful to Local 400 for giving me this opportunity every campaign season,” he added, “along with the chance to be a leader in my store and to help people who really need help.”

A Roanoke resident and father of a 20-year-old son, Rick is a role model of member activism, and a strong advocate for it, too. “You know the old saying about how most of life is just showing up?” he said. “We’d gain a lot just by having more members show up at meetings, and be engaged in their union all the time, not only when there’s a crisis.

“What I enjoy is being the face of our union in the store,” Rick said. “I wear my Local 400 button every day and people know they can come to me with any questions. I seek out new employees, whether I’ve been introduced to them or not, and talk to them about their union. The greatest calling is to help people, and knowing I can do that helps me sleep well at night.”