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Kroger Shop Steward Wins $250 in Back Pay for Coworker

Kristy Vance, a shop steward at a Kroger store in Blacksburg, poses for a photo with her coworker, Alex Taylor. Alex was awarded $250 in back pay after Kristy reported a manager doing work that should have been assigned to Alex.

For years now, Kristy Vance has seen managers, management trainees and loss prevention staff stocking shelves at her store, Kroger #402 in Blacksburg, Va. This not only violates the Kroger-Roanoke contract, which specifies that only bargaining unit members can stock shelves, but it also reduces the number of hours Local 400 members are scheduled to work. Kristy wasn’t going to tolerate it.

This fall, she took photos and documented 24 hours of management doing shelf-stocking. She sent the photos and evidence to her representative, Mark Collins, and filed a grievance against Kroger. The company could not dispute what happened and Local 400 won a back pay award for part-time associate Alex Taylor. He was the most senior part-timer and had only worked 16 hours during the week in question, so he received a check for $250, covering the extra hours he should have been assigned.

“Alex was grateful, but he said, ‘Wow, I don’t need this,’” Kristy recalled. “He was wanting to give it to someone who was older. That was really admirable of him, but this was his award because management took those hours away from him. And we sent a clear message that we are going to enforce our collective bargaining agreement.

“I’m really pleased we got results because this has been a long time coming,” Kristy said. “Whenever I raised this problem in the past and told them they have to give part-time workers the extra hours they need or pay full-time workers overtime, management would deny that they were stocking. I would take photos and they would claim it wasn’t proof. They kind of laughed us off. Not any more.”

After Kristy filed the grievance, a new manager was appointed for the store. Since then, Kristy has caught a few incidences of management doing bargaining unit work—which she continues to document—but the frequency is down. “We’re having an impact, but we’ve still got to be vigilant,” she said.

For Kristy, fighting back was hard. She had previously worked Kroger #192 in Galax, Va., just a few miles from her home in Fries. But after that store was closed, she was transferred to Blacksburg, 72 miles away. So she spends two and a half-hours each day commuting—or longer, when traffic is bad. As a result, she relies on her Local 400 sisters and brothers to document contract violations when she’s not there, and they played a central role in winning back pay for Alex.

In addition, Kristy and her co-workers spearheaded an arbitration case against Kroger charging the company with using courtesy clerks to perform work that can only be done by food clerks. “We’ve turned in the three violations,” Kristy said, “which would be enough to trigger the ‘three strikes’ clause, promote all courtesy clerks and eliminate the position in our store if we win in arbitration.

“I think all of these actions are showing everyone working in our store that their union is here to fight for them,” Kristy said. “We’re showing them that together we’re stronger, that divided we’re weak, and that if we come together, we can fight corporate America and get what we deserve—our pieces of the pie.”

Work at Kroger? Here’s How to Report Violations

Are managers doing work that should be assigned to a clerk? If you see a manager doing work that should be assigned to a clerk, click here to report the violation or talk to your shop steward.

Are courtesy clerks getting cheated at your store? 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, click here to report the violation and a union representative will follow up with you.

Huge Issues at Stake In Virginia Elections – Vote November 7th!

Local 400 members in Virginia—and all the commonwealth’s working families—have much at stake in the Tuesday, November 7th elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and the House of Delegates.

The Local 400-led Fight for $15 in Richmond has been blocked until now by anti-worker members of the General Assembly, but if opponents of the $15/hour minimum wage are defeated and control of the House shifts to pro-worker forces, victory will be within reach.

Another vitally important issue is whether Medicaid will be expanded—just as Maryland, the District of Columbia and West Virginia have done—to cover 400,000 uninsured Virginians living between 100 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level.

In all the key races, the choices could not be more clear. Local 400 recommends Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for governor, Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor, and Attorney General Mark Herring for re-election in the statewide contests.

“Ralph Northam will be on our side as governor, just as he has been throughout his career as a state senator and lieutenant governor,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “He’ll fight for higher wages and better jobs, expand Medicaid, and look out for the interest of working families. By contrast, his opponent is a longtime lobbyist who’s made millions representing corporate, anti-worker interests—and who would continue to do their bidding in Richmond.”

Northam is a veteran Army doctor, pediatric neurologist, and volunteer medical director for a pediatric hospice care facility who moved into public service a decade ago with a focus on improving Virginian’s health and economy. His opponent, Ed Gillespie, has represented companies like the corrupt Enron and Bank of America, which sold defective mortgages that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

In addition to wages and health, another key issue in this campaign is redistricting. Today, Virginia is carved into congressional and state legislative districts that minimize the votes of workers and people of color, and rig the outcome in favor of anti-worker forces. If pro-worker forces can keep the governorship and take control of the General Assembly, Virginia can have fair representation again, one that reflects the true will of the commonwealth’s voters.

“I urge our members to volunteer in our efforts to go door to door and operate phone banks, as we spread the word about how much this election matters to Virginia’s working families,” Federici said. “And above all, please vote on November 7th.”

VOTE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7TH!

Recommended Candidates

Governor

Ralph Northam

Lieutenant Governor

Justin Fairfax

Attorney General

Mark Herring

Virginia House of Delegates

2nd–Jennifer Foy

12th–Chris Hurst

13th–Danica Roem

21st–Kelly Fowler

31st–Elizabeth Guzman

32nd–David Reid

34th–Kathleen Murphy

42nd–Kathy Tran

50th–Lee Carter

51st–Hala Ayala

67th–Karrie Delaney

87th–John Bell

93rd–Mike Mullin

94th–Shelly Simonds

100th–Willie Randall

How Candidates Are  Recommended

Local 400 recommends candidates for office only after an exhaustive process of getting to know them, analyzing their records, and reviewing their positions on issues impacting our members’ lives. These issues include jobs, the economy, workers’ rights, health care, retirement security, workers’ compensation and education. We recommend those candidates judged to have your best interests in mind.

In Virginia, we:

  1. Review the voting records of incumbents on labor issues.
  2. Participate in the AFL-CIO interview process and schedule one-on-one interviews between Local 400 and many of the candidates.
  3. Discuss with other union members and leaders the interviews and the written questionnaires candidates submit.
  4. Make recommendations to the executive boards of the relevant area labor councils.
  5. Participate in state AFL-CIO meetings, where delegates from Local 400 and other unions vote to give labor’s recommendation to a limited number of candidates.
  6. After acceptance, these recommendations are communicated to Local 400 members.

Please note that for offices not listed above, Local 400 has made no recommendation.

Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. If you cannot cast your ballot on election day, please apply for an absentee ballot no later than 5:00 p.m., October 31st by visiting the Virginia Department of Elections website.

NAACP Calls On Trio Healthcare to Restore MLK Day Holiday, Negotiate Fair Contract

Members of Local 400 serving on the union bargaining committee pose for a picture with union staff and leaders of the NAACP in the Greater Richmond area.

On Sunday, leaders representing thousands of NAACP members in the Greater Richmond area delivered a letter calling on Trio Healthcare to negotiate a fair contract with Local 400 members working at Elizabeth Adam Crump Health and Rehab center in Richmond, Virginia.

The NAACP condemned the company for attempting to take away the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, stating:

“We are sure we do not have to share with you how important the King holiday is or how long our community had to fight to win the right to recognize his work. It was not until the year 2000 that Virginia created a separate holiday for Dr. King. We are living in divisive times, and having time to reflect on Dr. King’s life and legacy is more important than ever.”

The NAACP called on Trio Healthcare to restore the holiday and negotiate a fair contract which “rewards hard work, maintains company profitability and ensures quality patient care.”

The NAACP is the latest in a growing list of community organizations who support our efforts to negotiate a fair contract. By not only standing together as coworkers, but uniting as a greater community, we can win the fair deal that we deserve.

The full letter is pictured below.

Local 400 Board of Directors Passes Resolution Condemning White Supremacy

Today, the board of directors of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 passed an official resolution condemning white supremacy and the violent actions of bigots in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend.

“Now is a time to make it clear what we stand for,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici. “Unity and solidarity are core values of our union family. We embody the diversity that makes our country great. The hardworking men and women of Local 400 stand together for a better life for all Americans. Hatred simply has no place in our union or in our country.”

Local 400 has nearly 11,000 members who live and work in Virginia, including grocery workers at three Kroger stores and one Giant Food store in the city of Charlottesville. The resolution was approved by a unanimous vote of the board of directors at a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday.

The resolution mourns the death of Heather Heyer and further expresses full support of all counter-protesters who demonstrated against the hateful white supremacists. In addition, the board resolution mourns the deaths of Virginia state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, who lost their lives in the line of duty while serving the Commonwealth.

The full text of the resolution is below:

WHEREAS, nearly 11,000 United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 members live and work in the Commonwealth of Virginia;

WHEREAS, we are proud that our membership reflects the racial, ethnic, sexual identity, and religious diversity of the Commonwealth and our great nation;

WHEREAS, although racism is hardly a new phenomenon in the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Center has recorded a significant spike in hate crimes since Donald Trump’s election, as well as violent gatherings of white supremacists, including the deadly events in Charlottesville, VA last weekend;

WHEREAS, the wealthy and powerful have always used the politics of hate, division, and racism to divide the working class and weaken unions;

WHEREAS, by forging interracial solidarity, Lipton Tea workers in Suffolk, Virginia recently won a union contract that dramatically lowers healthcare premiums, raises wages and secures better working conditions for all;

THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED that UFCW Local 400 condemns the racist, violent actions of Nazis, and white nationalists, and attendees of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville this weekend.

LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED that UFCW Local 400 rejects in the strongest possible terms the ideology of white supremacy.

LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED that UFCW Local 400 mourns the death of Heather Heyer and will fight like hell for the living in her name.

LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED that UFCW Local 400 is deeply saddened by the deaths of two Virginia state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, who lost their lives in the line of duty while serving the Commonwealth;

LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED that UFCW Local 400 fully supports all counter-protesters who demonstrated against the hateful white supremacists who attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and Local 400 extends our thoughts and prayers to all counter-protesters who were injured in the resulting violence.

LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED that UFCW Local 400 recommits ourselves to the struggle for racial and economic justice, gender equality, and human and civil rights for all, and stands in solidarity with anyone who is fighting for the same.

Lipton Shop Stewards Wanted

The shop steward is a key “link” in our union.

Apply by Friday, August 11, 2017

Being a shop steward means stepping up to play a key role in building our union. While not always an easy job, the role of a steward can be deeply rewarding—and something to be proud of.

The shop steward is a key “link” in our union. As a steward, you will lead your coworkers in enforcing their contract and defending their rights daily. Being on the shop floor makes you a first responder in understanding your coworkers’ concerns and priorities, organizing with them to take action, and educating them about their rights on the job. Apply to be a shop steward today!

In the meantime, four members have stepped up to the plate to serve as interim shop stewards while we process applications. You can pick up and turn in applications from one of the interim shop stewards below. Applications are due by Friday, August 11, 2017.

How to Apply:

Four members have stepped up to the plate to serve as interim shop stewards while we process applications. You can pick up and turn in an application from one of the interim shop stewards below. Applications are due by Friday, August 11, 2017.

Interim Shop Stewards:

A-Shift:   Paul Garrison

B-Shift: Anita Anderson

C-Shift: Terrell Owens

D-Shift: Corey Hicks

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.”

Shop Stewards Save Members from Dust Exposure

Local 400 shop stewards from several plants in Virginia, including DanChem Technologies, pose for a photo at a seminar in May 2017.

Banks Stamps, Jr., has worked at DanChem Technologies in Danville, Va., for 42 years, and he became a shop steward in 2004 after a 10-month-long strike. One of his top priorities ever since has been to build a worker-run safety program to better protect members’ health. Recently, Banks and two fellow shop stewards, Mike Barker and Eddie Dalton, put that program to the test.

The shipping & receiving lead person at DanChem, Banks knew something wasn’t right when UFCW International Vice President Robin Williams came to the plant for a tour. “There were certain areas that management didn’t take her around to,” Banks said. “But I’ve been here so long, I knew what processes were going on.”

It turns out that one particular room was being used to package a newly-produced material for a customer that was demanding a lot of this product. (The specifics can’t be revealed because it’s proprietary information.)

“The product’s put in large tote bin,” Banks explained. “It comes out of a shoot. Then it’s put through a sifter, which vibrates, turning larger granules into a powder. The problem is it leaves plenty of dust in the air. It’s dangerous to inhale and it actually has explosive properties. Making matters worse, there was no ventilation in the room where the packaging was taking place.

“So we’ve been working on eliminating or reducing the dust to safe levels,” he said. “Mike [Barker] and I had a meeting with management. We let them know our concerns and that we expect them to do what’s needed to minimize the dust. We also told them they need to address the heat and lack of ventilation in that room.”

In response, DanChem management acted to make some temporary fixes to the problem. “The company said they would make some adjustments on the machine used for packaging,” Banks said. “They would transfer the product into smaller drums and sift it into smaller packages. They would blow in cooled air on hot days. The people doing the packaging would rotate in and out, rather than doing full 12-hour shifts in the one room.

“We made clear to them that these actions need to be followed by a permanent fix,” he added. “Among other steps, they promised to install a permanent air conditioning system. We’re going to hold them to it and we’re going to have follow-up meetings, getting employee participation to improve on the design of the safety solutions. If they had done this from the start, we wouldn’t have had these problems.”

Banks emphasizes that the positive results so far are, “A result of our activism. Our members have an employee-driven safety program. And we have subcommittees dealing with specific parts, like ergonomics. Management is only looking at the bottom line of their profits, so it’s up to us to bring these issues up and demand action. So far we’ve had some success and if management drags its feet, we have the grievance process, which is often enough to move things forward.

“It’s a constant battle, but we’re going to see this through to stop the dust and every hazard our members face,” Banks said.

Lipton Tea Workers Vote Overwhelmingly to Ratify First Union Contract

Check out more photos from the day on the Local 400 Facebook page.

Workers from the nation’s only Lipton tea plant voted overwhelmingly to approve their first union contract at a mass meeting in Suffolk on Monday, July 24, 2017.

This represents the first time in the history of the plant when workers were given the opportunity to vote on the terms and conditions of their employment.

“It was a long process, but we couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” said Anita Anderson, an Operator at Lipton for 11 years.

The contract covers 240 employees at the facility and includes significant improvements to working conditions and healthcare benefits. The union deal will result in many workers saving more than $4,000 a year on healthcare costs while greatly improving coverage.

“Our new healthcare plan is a huge weight off my shoulders. Personally, I take medication every day and I can’t go without my health insurance. But I’m also a dad, and saving $4,000 a year goes a long way for me and my family,” said Terrell Owens, who has worked as an operating technician at Lipton for the past nine years.

Last Spring, 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 in between. The widespread practice of forcing employees to work overtime was known as “drafting” and went on for several years.

“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 who has worked at the plant for more than 25 years.

The union contract places strict limits on when management can require employees to work overtime. The agreement provides workers with four days per year to opt out of mandatory overtime, in addition to two weekends off each month in which they can’t be forced to work overtime.

In an election last August, a majority of workers at Lipton voted to unionize with Local 400. Negotiations on the first collective bargaining agreement at Lipton began last Fall. A team of eight Lipton employees served as the union’s bargaining committee and lead negotiations with Lipton representatives that resulted in the contract ratified today.

“For the last ten years, we saw so many of our benefits taken away,” said Paul Garrison, a 16-year mechanic. “But now that we have a union, we’re getting them back again.”

Philip Surace, a mechanic at Lipton, said his first experience with a union was when he called UFCW Local 400 last Spring. “I didn’t know much about unions, but I knew something had to be done. Enough was enough. I was looking for help and the union sent people right away.” Philip quickly pulled together a meeting with his coworkers to learn about their rights to form a union. “Two months later, we had our union. I would encourage anyone who wants to make their workplace better to do the same thing we did.”

“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.”

Lipton is owned by Unilever, a British-Dutch multinational corporation jointly headquartered in London, U.K. and Rotterdam, Netherlands. The Lipton plant in Suffolk has operated for more than 60 years and produces nearly all of the Lipton tea sold in North America.

Check out photos from the ratification vote on Facebook.

“Sign-Up” Queen Retires

Laurette Ford, a Local 400 shop steward affectionately known as the “sign up queen,” retired after 29 years of service at Giant Food.

Laurette Ford Organized Tenaciously

Laurette Ford is a force of nature. For more than a decade as a Local 400 shop steward, she made it her mission to build her union by signing up as many new members as humanly possible. And she succeeded brilliantly.

On June 30, Laurette retired from Giant after 29 years as a proud Local 400 member—and she did so with the knowledge and satisfaction that she is leaving her union better than she found it.

“I joined our union in 1988,” Laurette said. “I was making $5.25 an hour. When the kids today complain they don’t make enough money, I tell them that—and make the point that because of their union, they can expect to do a whole lot better in the future just like I’ve done. That’s usually enough to pull them in.

“I also explain that I’m here to work with them if they have any issues inside our store,” she added. “And I tell them about how our union protects our jobs and gets us  benefits few workers have anymore, like good health insurance and pensions. That also persuades them to join.”

“Laurette’s a very hard person to say no to,” said Johnie Perry, her Local 400 representative. “I call her the ‘Sign-Up Queen’ because every day, she worked to build our membership. All of us at Local 400 and especially her sisters and brothers at her store will miss her—but I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a happy retirement.”

For the past three years, Laurette worked as an HBC clerk at Giant #2742 in Arlington. About 10 years ago, at another store, she was asked to serve as a shop steward because she had long been speaking up for and helping her fellow associates. Ever since, she developed a reputation not only for organizing but for solving problems in her stores. “I never had any grievances,” she said. “I always tried to work things out with the manager before issues would get to that point.”

An Alexandria resident, Laurette is looking forward to retirement. “I plan to travel a lot,” she said, “and spend more time with my son, my four granddaughters, and my great grandson.” All live nearby in Manassas.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a shop steward and a Local 400 member,” Laurette said. “Our reps do a wonderful job and it’s great to be able to help people. My co-workers were coming up to me before I retired saying, ‘What are we going to do Miss Laurette when you’re gone?’ I’d always reply, ‘You’ll be okay.’ And that’s true—because our union’s in great shape.”