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Member Spotlight: John Ruiz Is a Force for Solidarity

John Ruiz gave a fiery speech and received a standing ovation at the Safeway contract ratification meeting in November 2016.

John Ruiz believes in solidarity with every fiber of his being. During our recent contract negotiations with Safeway and Giant, Safeway workers reached a tentative agreement, but Giant workers faced a looming strike vote. John took action immediately to show he and his co-workers at Safeway would stand in solidarity with their fellow union members at Giant.

A night grocery manager at Safeway #1365 who served on the Bargaining Advisory Committee, John went into his store, gave his co-workers an update, made up signs saying “Giant workers, we are with you until the end,” took photos, and posted them online. He also got each of them to “adopt a Giant” and commit to picketing or helping their sisters and brothers in other ways if a strike took place.

“I told them, ‘we might have an agreement, but don’t expect it to always be this way,’” John recalled. “‘Next time it could be us. We might wear Safeway uniforms, but Giant members are our brothers and sisters, and we’re in this fight with them until the end.’”

John showed this same spirit of unity and leadership at the ratification meeting on November 16th, when he gave a fiery speech and received a standing ovation.

“Management came crying claiming employees cost too much,” he told his sisters and brothers. “They blamed us for not being able to man the stores. They claimed we were paid too much. We took that as a slap in the face. It was appalling to hear what the company thinks of us. But we’re the ones who keep the engine running. The companies’ proposals were extra motivation for us. In the end, we accomplished our goal of achieving a fair contract, with no extra health care costs and our pay increases. We defeated all cuts. The contract is very good compared to where we started. This is a win for all of us. United we stand, divided we fall. Solidarity is the only way. Union strong!”

In explaining why Local 400 overcame enormous adversity to win a fair contract, John said. “Solidarity was number one. Sticking together and being there for all of us. No matter how high that mountain was, we were going to climb it until we reached the peak. This was a total team effort.

“I was glad to be a part of the Bargaining Advisory Committee,” he added. “Tough as it was to sit across the table from management, hear them claim the stores are understaffed because we’re paid too much, even though they’re all profitable, and not be able to give them a piece of my mind back, I enjoyed being a part of it every single day. As the end result will tell you, it was well worth it—very gratifying.”

John has worked at Safeway for nearly 30 years and his leadership skills were clear to his co-workers for much of this time. Approximately 10 years ago, when his store needed a new shop steward, his sisters and brothers voted him in even though he was out on workers’ compensation after injuring his ankle in an accident with a powerjack. “They told me, ‘we know you’ll stand up for us and fight for us,’” he said. “I enjoy helping the employees out and working to make sure that no one takes advantage of them or violates the contract language.”

John has also gotten involved in other battles for his union. On November 29th, he spoke at a “Fight for $15” rally in Richmond, where the local NBC News affiliate aired footage of him saying, “Minimum wage workers should not have to work a full week and still have to worry about putting food on the table for their families or paying their rent on time.”

Looking to the future, John is ready to help his brothers and sisters out in any way possible. “I’m always there to do my part, no matter how small or how large, to make sure our union stays strong, that we fight for working families, and that we fight to keep and enforce language in the contract that treats employees the right way,” he said. “Too many times the contract isn’t followed, which is why so many grievances are filed. That’s why we need strong shop stewards who are not intimidated or scared to approach management, and who have been trained in how to handle grievances.”

John is a resident of Springfield. He’s married with 18- and 20-year-old children, and has two stepchildren, as well. And for him, being a Local 400 member has meant everything. “It has given me an opportunity enjoy life and have a secure job,” he said. “I was born in Trinidad. I came here with just $50 and one small bag of clothes. I signed up right away and everything I have now, I owe to Local 400. It’s given me great opportunities, helping me rise from courtesy clerk up to grocery manager. And our union is always there when we need it—including for me. I am so grateful for everything.”

Lipton Contract Negotiations Proceeding Well

Contract Negotiations Update #3

Mark Your Calendars: Lipton Union Membership Meetings April 25 & 26

After another two days of negotiations with Lipton this week, we are all in high spirits. We still have a few remaining issues to work out, but we have made significant progress on a number of fronts.

We are excited to share a contract proposal with you once this process is complete. At this moment, we are confident you won’t be disappointed with the outcome. While the process has been slow, we have made definite progress. We have scheduled a round of negotiations with Lipton next week, March 22-24, as well as another round in early April.

Please save the date for our next Lipton union membership meetings, April 25 & 26. We’ll announce the times and locations as soon as possible. These meetings are an opportunity to ask questions about the contract negotiations, bring new issues to our attention, and learn more about the union.

As we move forward, we’ll continue to update you every step of the way. In the meantime, please reach out to us any time. Your voice matters. We welcome your input and we’re more than happy to answer your questions. Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,
Your Negotiating Committee
Corey Hicks, Ricky Gregory, Juanita Hart, Paul Garrison, and Philip Surace

Never Miss An Update: Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our first union contract with Lipton, we’re committed to keeping you informed every step of the way. By signing up for text alerts, you’ll get the latest updates immediately!

To sign up, just text LIPTON to 698-329. 

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698-329.

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Anita Anderson: Organizing for a Better Life

Anita Anderson (front row, third from the left) celebrates with her coworkers at Lipton after winning a union election in August 2016.

For Anita Anderson, working as an operator/trainer at the Lipton Tea factory in Suffolk, Va., could not have been more stressful. For two full years, she and her co-workers were forced to put in 12-hour shifts for 13 consecutive days before they could get a single day off.

“We were off only two days out of every 30,” she said, due to the company policy known as “drafting.” “There wasn’t enough time to be with our families or see our children, and we knew that families would be torn apart if it kept up. And people were getting hurt because they were too tired. Back strains, hand lacerations, slips and falls were common. One injury is one injury too many.

“Making matters worse, if we spoke up, we were reminded that our jobs were voluntary and if we didn’t like how things were or if we were unhappy, we had the option to leave, as in QUIT,” she added. “This left several employees feeling unappreciated and it definitely sent us the message that management was unbothered by our feelings.”

Anita was also frustrated by minimal cost-of-living pay increases and rising health care costs. But then, a co-worker suggested they join Local 400. “When he approached me, I was excited about it, I wanted to know more about it,” she said. Before being hired by Lipton 11 years ago, Anita worked at the Newport News shipyard where she was a union member, so she knew what union representation could do for them.

Anita and her co-workers started meeting in a parking lot at a restaurant near the plant, and soon they met with Local 400 organizer Kayla Mock. “We felt that for the first time, someone was listening to us,” Anita recalled. “We took our union cards to work with us and spoke to our co-workers about why they should sign. Then, workers from other plants came down to stand with us.”

A pivotal moment in the campaign was when Anita and her co-workers spoke by telephone with Chicago Hellman’s workers, who are members of UFCW. Hellman’s and Lipton are both owned by Unilever, an international conglomerate. “We got to ask about their pay, benefits and working conditions. And we learned that what they have is much better than what we’ve gotten until now. As soon as we showed our co-workers the difference, cards started coming in left and right.”

Another key development happened in June 2016, when Lipton hired a new plant manager, who stopped the drafting policy. “This was a very good thing,” Anita said, “But we also saw clearly that our efforts to get a union were at least part of the reason why they decided to do this.”

In late July, the Lipton workers filed an application for a union election, and the date was set for August 26th—which also happens to be Anita’s birthday. Throughout election day, Anita recalled, “I was in the room with the judge representing the government. I wasn’t allowed to hold a conversation, but I couldn’t sit still, either. I was so anxious and so excited. Then, after the polls closed, as we tallied the vote and saw the yes votes pile up, I was literally screaming inside because I knew we had won. That night, it felt so good. We walked away knowing we finally had a voice. We let management know you can’t keep treating us any way you want, can’t keep taking away our benefits, can’t do drafting anymore.”

Anita and her coworkers wore “No Forced Overtime” stickers while negotiating their first union contract with Lipton.

In the wake of their remarkable victory, Lipton workers are now in the process of negotiating their first contract, and Anita is an alternate on the Bargaining Committee. While no outcome is guaranteed, she said she’d like to see “Better health coverage. Every year our health care costs go way up, but we’re only getting basic cost-of-living increases. We’re the driving force making Lipton money. The corporation says we’re doing well and always in the green. They should reward us for that. We don’t want to see forced overtime come back either.”

A resident of Chesapeake, Va., and the mother of two children and two stepchildren ranging in age from 19 to 27, Anita said that since she joined Local 400, “I am learning more and more about my workplace rights. I can ask a co-worker to be present at a meeting. And management can’t put something in my personnel file without them notifying me—something they did all the time before.

“Being a Local 400 member means I don’t have to take everything the company says or does to me,” she said. “I don’t have to sit back and let them treat me any way they want. I can go to management and voice my opinion and even if they try to turn a deaf ear, someone is there to listen and to act.”

Congratulations to ABC Drawing Winner, Tracey Anne Goroza

Active Ballot Club drawing winner, Tracey Anne Goroza (left), poses for a photo with her Local 400 union rep, Johnnie Perry.

Local 400 member Tracey Anne Goroza from Safeway #1300 in McLean, Va. is the most recent winner of our Active Ballot Club drawing! Congratulations, Tracey!

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. ABC supports pro-worker candidates and incumbents from all political parties and is the prominent political action committee dedicated to the interests of UFCW members nationwide.

By joining ABC, active members are automatically entered to win a monthly drawing. Learn more about the UFCW Active Ballot Club and talk to your rep about signing up today!

Member Spotlight: Taralyn Pike Brings Happiness to the Workplace

Taralyn Pike (right) poses for a photo with fellow contract action team member, John Ruiz (left), after speaking at a Fight For $15 rally in Richmond in November.

In her five years working at Giant, Taralyn Pike loved what her union did for her, but grew frustrated by what she saw as “a great deal of unhappiness at my store.” So she decided to do something about it.

Approximately five months ago, she stepped up to become a shop steward at Giant #748, where she works as a clerk. And she went beyond that, becoming an activist who played a central role in mobilizing members around the recent round of contract negotiations with Giant, and in fighting for a higher minimum wage in Virginia.

“I wanted to put myself in a position to bring some happiness into the workplace,” Taralyn said. “Who wants to work in a place where it seems everyone’s out to get you and you don’t feel secure? But now, I feel like my store is a place where we can be happy. The manager and I work together to make sure everyone is on the same page. My team members know they have a shoulder to lean on as well as to cry on.

“As a steward,” she added, “I now have a better understanding about employee rights and how things work. And I’m a better listener than I was before.”

Taralyn attended Local 400 trainings for shop stewards and activists, and soon joined the Contract Action Team around the Giant and Safeway negotiations.

“The whole experience was great,” she said. “I got to see a totally different side of Giant—the side where we come together as a group to be our brothers’ and sisters’ support system. We went around to different stores, sat down with every employee, listened to their concerns, fixed some issues, and explained how we ARE the union. We came together as a whole and showed everyone that we were here and we weren’t going to budge until Giant and Safeway workers got what we deserve.”

Taralyn and the other Contract Action Team members petitioned outside stores, got employees and customers to sign, and gained community support. Then, when Giant refused to budge in bargaining, they picketed. And the end result was a strong collective bargaining agreement.

“I feel like it turned out great,” Taralyn said. “Solidarity did the job. We got a great contract. It wasn’t perfect, but we didn’t lose anything and we gained something.

“There’s still more work to be done,” she said. “and now we’re working toward what we need to do to get the change we need in the future.”

Recently, Taralyn also traveled to Richmond to join the fight for a $15 minimum wage in Virginia. She met with other Local 400 members and unorganized workers in the fast food and retail industries, and spoke on a panel about why all workers should be paid enough to live above the poverty level. “It was very informative,” she said. “I was honored to be able to tell my story and encourage everyone to stay united in solidarity.”

Looking to the future, Taralyn said, “I want each and every union worker to go throughout their career and job feeling appreciated for the hard work that they do. I want to educate and advocate as much as I can. Wherever God takes me at this point, I’m on board.”

A resident of Arlington and the mother of nine- and 12-year old boys, Taralyn said, “Being a union member means so much. It means we are not alone. There are always people to help you; always someone you can call. And there are ways to get involved outside the store. I can testify that stepping up is always worth it.”

Free Workshop: How to Apply for U.S. Citizenship

On April 1, Local 400 will host a FREE workshop on how to apply for U.S. citizenship.

FREE Workshop: How to Apply for U.S. Citizenship
April 1, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Community Mennonite Church, 110 S High St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801

An estimated 8.8 million permanent residents living in the United States are eligible for citizenship, but too many of these hardworking men and women don’t know how to apply or lack the resources to do so.

All across the country, UFCW Locals are leaders in efforts to register new voters and educate workers about their voting rights and the democratic process. We’re proud to help guide those eligible for citizenship through the process so they can become fully participating members in our democracy.

There are many benefits to citizenship. As a U.S. citizen, you can:

  • vote in all local, state and national elections
  • bring your spouse or minor children to the U.S. without delay, or bring adult children and siblings within 3 to 10 years
  • travel freely and visit family abroad
  • apply for certain federal jobs

To be eligible you must:

  • Have been a Legal Permanent Resident for 5 years, or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen.
  • Have NO problems with the law.
  • Speak, write and read Basic English.

What to bring to the free workshop on April 1:

  • Your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card). Drivers License or any other Photo ID
  • Social Security Card
  • List of home addresses for the past 5 years and the dates which you lived at that address
  • List of employer names and addresses for the past 5 years and the dates you worked for that employer
  • Dates you have been outside of the U.S. for the past 5 years, and the countries you traveled to
  • Bring your passport, itineraries, tickets, etc. for all trips made outside of the U.S.
  • Complete names, dates of birth, addresses and A#s (green cards) for all your children, and your most recent tax return
  • A money order for $725.00 payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”

If you are applying for citizenship based on marriage, please bring:

  • Marriage certificate and/or divorce decrees, if applicable
  • Evidence that your spouse has been a resident for at least 3 years, such as his/her birth certificate, passport or certificate of naturalization
  • Documents referring to you and your spouse: bank statements, leases, mortgages, IRS tax returns for the last 3 years
  • If you changed your name, the court decree that legally changed your name

If you think you may be eligible for a fee waiver, please bring your most recent tax returns and proof that you are receiving food stamps, public housing assistance, medical assistance, etc.

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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

Virginia Elected Officials Rally With Local 400 to Demand Minimum Wage Increase for Working Families and Access to Drivers’ Licenses for Immigrants

UFCW Local 400 member Rick Howell, who works at a Kroger store in Roanoke, speaks to a crowd at the #TakeActionVA rally in Richmond on Thursday.

Bipartisan coalition of elected officials, immigrants and low-wage workers called for $15 minimum wage and driver’s license access for undocumented immigrants working in Commonwealth

Take Action Virginia members and a number of state elected officials called on the Virginia legislature to answer the plea of working families who demand a $15-an-hour minimum wage and immigrant-rights activists who know that granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants is beneficial to the economy of the Commonwealth.

More than 250 people attended the rally outside the state capitol.

“Driver’s licenses are very important for everyone,” said state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. “That is why I continue fighting for them every year until it passes.”

Legislators from both parties support a measure to authorize driver’s licenses to immigrants working in Virginia, who alone contribute $5.5 billion in gross state product to the state economy.

At least 12 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation. Having a state-issued form of ID allows undocumented people to open checking accounts, and also allows law enforcement officials to have positive and verifiable form of identification when detaining individuals.

In addition, advocates called on legislators to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021. California, New York and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation, along with several cities and municipalities.

“Every job in Virginia should be a good job,” said Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. “I know first-hand, it is impossible for Virginians to, not only support themselves, but much less to support their families on $7.25 an hour. It’s time to give yourselves a pay raise.”

While the minimum wage in Virginia is only $7.25, an individual living in the city of Richmond requires an hourly wage of at least $11.93 to cover the cost of living, according to Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That number more than doubles if the individual has just one child to support.

“It’s time for us to turn the tide,” said Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, who introduced the legislation to increase the federally mandated minimum wage up to $10 an hour this year and to $15 an hour by 2021. “So we’re gonna stand up.”

“It’s wrong to ask people to work two to three jobs and not be able to make ends meet,” said Del. Marcus Simon, D- Falls Church.

The measure has the support of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who emphatically rallied the crowd.

“Poverty knows no race, no color, no gender,” Stoney said. “I’m committed to the principle that everyone has an equal opportunity. That means a $15 min wage.”

People who would be directly affected by a minimum wage increase also spoke up.

“I’ve seen the anguished look on the faces of my coworkers when they can’t pay their bills,” said Rick Howell, a grocery clerk from Roanoke and member of UFCW Local 400. “The fight against corporate greed is the most important. The middle class is disappearing fast.”

Take Action Virginia is a progressive and diverse alliance of organizations working to win social, economic, and racial justice for all working families in Virginia that includes 32BJ SEIU, SEIU Virginia 512, CASA in Action, LiUNA! Mid-Atlantic, NAKASEC Action Fund, UNITE HERE Local 23, UNITE HERE Local 25, and UFCW Local 400. The member organizations of Take Action Virginia collectively represent tens of thousands of Virginians employed as home care workers, parks staff, librarians, building cleaners, nurses, construction & highway workers, hotel workers, retail employees, and more. They include African-American, immigrant, Latino, and Korean voters.

UFCW Local 400 Endorses Levar Stoney for Richmond Mayor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 29, 2016

CONTACT
Jonathan Williams, Communications Manager, jwilliams@local400.org

Union of food and grocery workers weighs in on mayoral race

RICHMOND, VA – Local 400 of the United Food & Commercial Workers union (UFCW) announced its endorsement today of Levar Stoney for mayor of Richmond.

“Mr. Stoney understands the challenges facing hard-working families today. He is committed to upholding and improving working standards, not undermining them. He knows the working people of Richmond need to be at the table, not on the chopping block. We believe Mr. Stoney will bring a fresh approach to city hall and we look forward to his much-needed leadership,” said Mark Federici, president of UFCW Local 400.

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