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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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Take Action Virginia Endorses LuAnn Bennett and Hillary Clinton

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2016

 

WOODBRIDGE, VA – Take Action Virginia, an alliance of community and labor organizations focused on improving the lives of working and immigrant families, announced today its endorsement of LuAnn Bennett for Congress and Hillary Clinton for President, two candidates who vow to work toward a more progressive agenda in Virginia and nationwide.

In Virginia’s District 10, Take Action is supporting LuAnn Bennett in light of her unwavering support of comprehensive immigration reform. Bennett has said that if elected, she would be in favor of a comprehensive, bipartisan approach to immigration legislation.
 
We believe Bennett is the kind of fair candidate Virginia’s District 10 deserves.

A cosmopolitan, racially diverse district deserves a candidate who supports raising the minimum wage and investing in badly needed infrastructure and transportation projects, has supported a woman’s right to choose, and equal pay. As opposed to her opponent Rep. Barbara Comstock who has repeatedly sided with the far right-wing of Republicans in the House, Bennett has stood with working moms and favors access to quality health care.

Comstock has also refused to condemn Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump for this attack on Mexican immigrants, an American born judge of Latino descent, and a Muslim Gold Star family.

“Comstock has refused to condemn Donald Trump for his racist attacks, to us, not surprisingly given that Trump has hosted fundraisers to support her candidacy,” said CASA in Action President Gustavo Torres. “Comstock shares many of the beliefs Donald Trump shares and we think they both would be very dangerous for this country.”

Bennett has repeatedly stated she will work to end the partisan Washington gridlock that has stalled progress in such important issues as infrastructure repair and job creation.
 
Virginia’s 10th congressional district includes all of Clarke CountyFrederick County, and Loudoun County, and the cities of ManassasManassas Park, and Winchester, with portions of Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

Take Action is also endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. Clinton has promised she will make immigration reform one of her top priorities if she is elected. We are encouraged that she listed immigration reform as her number one task during her first 100 days in office.

“If Congress won’t act, I’ll defend President Obama’s executive actions and I’ll go even further to keep families together. I’ll end family detention centers, and help more people become naturalized.”

Clinton has fought for quality, affordable care for more than 25 years and has vowed to defend the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, she plans to crack down on drug companies that charge outrageous prices, slow the growth of out-of-pocket costs and provide new credit to those facing high health expenses.  She is a pro-choice candidate who has promised to protect Planned Parenthood.

“We believe that Hillary Clinton is the right choice for Virginia and the right choice for the United States,” said Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400.

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Take Action Virginia is an electoral collaboration of community and labor organizations that share concerns about issues impacting working families in Virginia.  Our members are SEIU 32BJ, SEIU Virginia 512, CASA in Action,LiUNA! Mid-Atlantic, NAKASEC Action Fund, UNITE HERE Local 23, UNITE HERE Local 25, and UFCW Local 400.

Sep 12: Join Us for the Moral Day of Action!

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

Join us for the “Moral Day of Action” in Richmond on Monday, September 12!

Moral Day of Action
10:30am @ St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
815 East Grace Street, Richmond, VA 23219

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.

Now, we’re taking our message to Virginia legislators. On Monday, September 12, we’re rallying to call on the governor, state legislators and candidates for office to move away from extremist politics and policies that benefit the few and move toward policies and laws that are just and fair and guarantee a better life for the majority of the people. As we rally in Richmond, simultaneous rallies will be held at state capitals throughout the country as part of a national Moral Day of Action. Join us!

10:30am @ St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
815 East Grace Street, Richmond, VA 23219

About the Moral Day of Action:

On Monday, September 12, 2016 at State Capitols around the nation, at 11 AM in every time zone, justice will roll across the country as faith leaders from diverse traditions, people impacted by poverty, racism, and injustice, advocates, and activists come together rally and to deliver to our elected leaders and candidates the Higher Ground Moral Declaration, which calls on governors, senators, state legislators and candidates for office to move away from extremist politics and policies that benefit the few and move toward policies and laws that are just and fair and guarantee a better life for the majority of the people.

The Moral Declaration that has already been delivered to the RNC as well as the DNC will be read, proclaimed, and delivered to our Governors, US Senate candidates and state party officials. The format will be simple and will be the same in every state.

The Moral Day of Action on Monday is part of “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values,” a national tour to redefine morality in American politics and challenge leaders of faith and moral courage to be more vocally opposed to harmful policies that disproportionately impact the poor, people who are ill, children, immigrants, communities of color, and religious minorities. The first part of the national revival tour has over 19 stops from April 2016 to January 2017 including New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Missouri, Washington DC, Tennessee, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Virginia.

The Revival is co-led by the Rev. Dr. James A Forbes Jr. and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, architect of the historic Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina. They will be joined in some states by other national social justice leaders, including the Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, acting executive minister of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries, and Sister Simone Campbell, leader of the “Nuns on the Bus” and executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK in Washington, DC.

Print the Flier (PDF)

20160912-Richmond Moral Day of Action1

 

Workers at Nation’s Only Lipton Tea Factory Vote to Unionize

Lipton workers announced the victory at a press conference outside the plant on Monday, August 29. They were joined by several supporters, including Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas, Doris Course-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO, and Renee Browder, Financial Secretary Treasurer of ATU Local 1177.

Lipton workers announced the victory at a press conference outside the plant on Monday, August 29. They were joined by several supporters, including Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas, Doris Course-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO, and Renee Browder, Financial Secretary Treasurer of ATU Local 1177.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 29, 2016

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

Hundreds of workers in southeast Virginia manufacturing plant vote to unionize with UFCW Local 400

SUFFOLK, VA – Last week, nearly 200 workers at the Lipton plant voted to unionize with Local 400 of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).

“I woke up this morning feeling wonderful,” said Lisa Gayle, who’s been with the company for 14 years. “As a unified group, now we can make Lipton the best place it can be. I’m so excited!”

The Lipton plant has operated in Suffolk, Virginia for more than 60 years and produces nearly all of the Lipton tea sold in North America. More than 200 employees currently work at the plant, but that number could as much as double in the coming months as the company expands its workforce.

“I couldn’t be happier to welcome such a wonderful group of people into the UFCW family,” said Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400. “Their courage, commitment and tireless efforts bolstered my faith in the power of working people to stand up for themselves and improve the lives of all hardworking men and women.”

On Monday morning, the workers held a press conference outside the plant to announce the victory.

“For the last ten years, we’ve seen our benefits decline. By standing together as one, as a union, we hope we can stop the bleeding now before it’s too late,” explained Alvin Brown, an Operations Technician who celebrated his 21st year with the company on Monday.

“I’m so proud of all of us for coming together and standing as one,” said Rodney Hart, who has worked at the company for 24 years. “We come a long way in a few weeks, and now we have to stand as one and support each other in order for our union and our company to be the best at what we do.”

The workers were joined by several supporters, including Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas, who represents the district where the plant is located.

“I just wanted to say how proud I am of what you’ve accomplished here,” Senator Lucas told the workers in attendance. “It takes a lot of hard work and courage to do what you’ve done and I know our district is better off for it. I know you’ve worked hard to make Lipton the success it is today. Congratulations on taking the bold step to form a union and stand up for your rights at work.”

“Welcome to the union family,” said Doris Course-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO, who also attended the event. “You may not know this, but you’re not alone. You have union brothers and sisters throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia behind you today.”

Renee Browder, Financial Secretary Treasurer of ATU Local 1177, the union of transit workers throughout the region, echoed the sentiment. “Unions are all about unity – not just unity with your brothers and sisters at work, but unity with everyone that works hard for a living. When we stand together, we all do better.”

Earlier this year, several people working at the Lipton facility reached out to the UFCW to explore the possibility of forming a union at the plant. At the time, many workers were required to work up to 12-hour shifts for as many as 13 days in a row with only one day off before doing it again. The widespread practice of forcing employees to work overtime was known as “drafting” and went on for years. The workers claimed they needed the guarantees and protections of a union contract to ensure fair treatment and accountability from plant management, including putting an end to involuntary overtime drafting.

“We just want a voice. A lot of us missed a lot of quality time with our families because of our forced commitment to the company – times that we will never get back,” said Robert Davis, a maintenance technician at the plant who recently marked his 25th year with the company. “Now, we’re looking forward to having a seat at the table and negotiating a fair contract with Unilever.”

Following last week’s vote, the workers will now collectively negotiate their first union contract with Unilever, the parent company of Lipton, which could cover several aspects of employment, including wages, benefits, safety measures, and workplace policies.

“I have such a wonderful group of coworkers,” explained Anita Anderson, who has worked at the plant for 10 years. Like many of her coworkers, she’s looking forward to the next step in the process. “Whether you voted for the union or not, whether you’re a worker or a manager, now it’s time to move forward, together. Let’s let our unity and smiles warm the hearts of many. Working together is the only way we will ensure we have a fair contract that treats us all as equals.”

With the support of their union, UFCW Local 400, the workers will begin the bargaining process by surveying coworkers to gather input on their first contract, then forming a committee of employees to negotiate with management. Once negotiators reach a tentative agreement with the company, the proposal will be presented to the entire workforce for a ratification vote. The contract will take effect once ratified by a majority of the workers.

Last week’s vote by a majority of workers at Lipton means the employees will soon collectively negotiate a union contract, which will apply to all employees once ratified, but does not require the workers to join the union to receive the full benefits and protections of the contract. Because of the state’s so-called “right to work” law, union representatives in Virginia are required to provide their services for free to all workers, even if the employee is not a member of the union and does not contribute to covering the costs of union representation.

“As a longtime Virginia resident, I know all too well how decades of regressive legislation and outdated federal labor law have stacked the deck against workers, particularly in the South,” explained Local 400 President Mark Federci. “This unfortunate reality only makes me more proud of what the workers at Lipton have accomplished.”

While many companies notoriously fight tooth and nail to prevent their employees from exercising their right to form a union, Unilever’s own Human Rights Report states the company is “committed to the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.” In a letter to employees earlier this year, Lipton factory director Katie Ingersoll emphasized the company’s commitment to “remain neutral when it comes to employee’s right to organize.”

“We must commend Lipton and Unilever for upholding their commitment and honoring their employee’s right to organize,” said Tiffany Flowers, Director of Organizing at UFCW Local 400. “Too many companies intimidate, threaten, or even outright fire workers who dare to exercise their right to have a voice on the job. We’re happy to say that wasn’t the case here.”

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Aug 27: Votante Fiel Kick-off Event

Join us as we celebrate the beginning of a historic election season for Latino voters. Hear stories of trial and triumph as community members discuss how to motivate your Latino friends and family to vote. Find out how you can take action and be empowered at the polls.

Saturday, August 27, 2016
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Patric Henry Elementary School
701 S. Highland St.
Arlington, VA 22204

For more information, call Sara Benitez at (202) 499-4084 or email sbenitez@faithinpubliclife.org.

Print the Flier

20160827-Votante Fiel Kick-Off Event Flyer

2016 Election Labor Walks

Steve Meador (left), a Local 400 union rep, knocked on hundreds of doors to speak with fellow labor voters last year.

Steve Meador (left), a Local 400 union rep, knocked on hundreds of doors to speak with fellow labor voters last year.

Labor 2016 kicks in to high gear on Saturday, September 10th! Come out to walk and talk with fellow union members about what’s at stake in November’s election.

Meet at 9:00 a.m. on September 10th at one of the following locations:

In Annandale: NoVA Labor Offices – 4536 John Marr Drive

In Richmond: CWA Local 2201 Hall – 5809 Lakeside Ave.

In Norfolk: Ironworkers Local 79 Hall – 5307 E. Virginia Beach Blvd.

In Roanoke: Western Virginia Labor Federation – 2101 Dale Ave., SE