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Kroger Shop Steward Speaks at Canadian UFCW Conference

Courtney Meadows

Courtney Meadows, a Kroger shop steward in West Virginia, spoke to hundreds of attendees at the UFCW Local 401 Members’ Conference in Alberta.

Inspires Sisters and Brothers to Mobilize Members

“There’s an activist in everybody. At some point, you’re going to get pissed off about something enough that you’ll want to make a change. It’s in each and every member. It just needs to be hit on.”

That’s the message Kroger shop steward Courtney Meadows brought to her sisters and brothers in Calgary, Alberta, where she was a featured speaker at UFCW Local 401’s 2019 Members’ Conference, held from March 14-17.

Courtney was invited after Local 401 members heard her speak at the 2018 Labor Notes Conference panel on “Contract Campaigns That Win.” They were so excited by her discussion about Local 400’s innovative tactics and member mobilization efforts around the 2017 Kroger West Virginia contract campaign, they told her they’d like to have her join them this year when they have their own bargaining with Safeway coming up.

“They wanted me to talk about member engagement and also about ‘right to work,’ because some politicians in Alberta want to try to pass similar legislation there,” Courtney said. “I told them about my family history and how I’m a third-generation union member. I explained how when I was first hired at Kroger, I was a model employee, but I got pissed off at how management mistreated my co-workers and me. And I was even more pissed when I learned that Kroger spent $2.6 billion to buy Harris Teeter, and how Kroger’s CEO got a $2 million raise while Harris Teeter employees need food stamps to feed their families. That’s what got me on the Contract Action Team.”

Courtney talked at length about how Local 400 members mobilized for the 2017 Kroger bargaining which resulted in the best contract for Kroger employees nationally that year, how they’ve fought back against “right to work” in West Virginia, and what it’s like to sign up Kroger members in “right to work” Virginia.

“It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had,” Courtney said. “They had different workshops set up for member engagement on subjects like positive action, workers’ rights, empowering women and supporting LGBTQ members. I learned about the history of labor activism in Alberta, including all the strikes they’ve had. We even went door knocking on behalf of UFCW-backed candidates in their upcoming provincial elections.

“And the coolest part was this: They realize they need to get their younger members more engaged,” she said. “They’d been working on this conference for 18 months. They sent out applications. More than 1,000 Local 401 members applied for the 300 available seats. That was really impressive.”

Courtney was deeply moved by the response she received to her talk and her presence. “The whole time I was there, people shook my hand, said, ‘you’re such an inspiration’ or ‘you’re a bad ass.’ They would say they want to be like me and I told them, ‘you already are!’ Everyone’s got the activist in them—it’s just waiting to be tapped.”

With 32,000 members, UFCW Local 401 is nearly as big as Local 400, and due to the size of the province of Alberta, it covers an even larger geographic area. It is currently focused on upcoming bargaining with Safeway, though in Canada, it’s a different corporate entity than in the U.S., because in 2013, Canadian Safeway assets were was purchased by Sobeys, Inc.

Courtney, a resident of  Fairdale, W.Va., who works as lead e-commerce clerk at Kroger #805 in Beckley, has been a Local 400 member for eight years. Local 400 Representative Bertha McKiver accompanied her to the conference.

67 Kroger Leads Upgraded to Full-Time

Garret Wahl, Lead Nutrition Clerk at Kroger #753 in Parkersburg, said he was “completely ecstatic” when he learned his job was becoming full-time.

Local 400 Led Push for Better Hours, Pay & Benefits in W.V.

Sixty-seven Local 400 members working as Lead Clerks at Kroger in West Virginia received an early Christmas present from their Union when they were upgraded to full-time status thanks to an agreement between the Company and Local 400.

As of December 16, 2018, all Lead Clerks were guaranteed a minimum of 40 hours a week and full-time benefits, increasing their financial, health and retirement security.

“I was completely ecstatic,” said Garrett Wahl, Lead Nutrition Clerk at Kroger #753 in Parkersburg, upon learning that his job would be full-time. “I knew I would not have gotten that without the help of my Union.”

Garrett started at Kroger in August 2018. He was originally hired to be on the night crew, but worked mostly as a stocker until becoming Relief Nutrition Clerk. He was promoted to Lead in December and now is very happy to be receiving full-time pay and benefits. “My union looks out for its members,” he said.

Local 400 West Virginia Director Bryan Bond had heard from members across the state that lead jobs deserve full time hours, pay, and benefits and decided to rectify the situation. Kroger management, in turn, recognized that the part-time status of some Lead Clerk positions were hampering the company’s ability to recruit and retain qualified workers and recognized that the upgrade was in its own best interest, too.

“I said to Kroger, ‘How can someone be leading their department if they’re not there because they’re part-time,” Bryan explained. “The company agreed and we achieved a positive resolution for all concerned.”

New $1.00 Night Premium for Kroger Roanoke Associates

Photo via Flickr

We are pleased to announce that UFCW Local 400 and Kroger have negotiated changes in your union contract to provide new incentives for associates working overnight under the Roanoke union contract – including night crew.

An hourly premium of $1.00 will be paid in addition to the base rate of pay for associates working overnight (including night crew) as well as full-time employees in the Meat Department working overnight. The new premiums took effect December 16, 2018 and extend through the life of the union contract.

The precise contract language is as follows:

Article 14.21 shall be changed to read, “A night premium of $1.00 per hour shall be paid for night work performed between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., including grocery night stock clerks. This is separate from and in addition to the employee’s straight time hourly rate. When a clerk is scheduled to work fifty percent (50%) or more of the scheduled work shift between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., the employee will receive the night premium for the entire shift.”

Article 14.22 shall be changed to read, “In the Meat Department, a night premium of one dollar ($1.00) per hour shall be paid for work performed by full-time employees between 9:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on a night shift, such shift not to begin before 9:30 p.m. (except that a night shift may be started at 9:00 p.m. or after on Sunday and holiday nights and the time and one-half (1- 1/2) will not apply). When a night shift employee is scheduled to work fifty percent (50%) or more of his scheduled work shift between 9:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., he will receive the night shift premium for his entire shift.

The established night premium will be in effect until the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement which expires on June 6, 2020.

Deadline Extended! Kroger Open Enrollment for 2019 Health & Welfare Benefits

We are pleased to inform you that open enrollment for health care benefits in 2019 has been extended through December 20, 2018 for Kroger associates covered by one of our union contracts.

Everyone currently enrolled must re-enroll by no later than December 20, 2018 – even if you have no coverage changes.

You may enroll online through the secure website (instructions below) or return your paper form by December 20, 2018.

Also, for Kroger associates in the West Virginia division, the physical form deadline has been extended to February 1, 2019. Discounts will be applied after proof of physical is received.

To enroll online:

  1. Go to https://memberxg.gobasys.com/CARDAY
  2. First time users click Create Account and complete the requested information.
  3. From the website, click on the Open Enrollment Icon from the dashboard and complete the requested information.

Or call the Fund Office for an application form:

304-343-7682 or 1-866-343-7682 or 1-800-654-5038

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.).