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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.”

Lipton Update: Tentative Agreement Reached!

CORRECTION: Contract Ratification Vote July 24*

Contract Negotiations Update #8

On August 26, 2016 we took a leap of faith together and decided that it was time to have a union. We joined the campaign at different times and for different reasons but our collective goal has always been the same: building a better Lipton, together. We have had months of long, difficult negotiations, full of tough decisions, but we are thrilled to announce that we just completed our final bargaining session and have a tentative agreement that we are unanimously recommending for ratification!

We are close to our first collective bargaining agreement, the final step will be voting, and like our decision to have the union, it will be up to all of us.

BE THERE TO VOTE: MONDAY, JULY 24
Registration: 9:00 a.m.
Meeting: 10:00 a.m.
Hilton Garden Inn, 100 East Constance Rd, Suffolk, VA

*CORRECTION: A previous announcement stated voting would take place over two days, July 23-24, but since then, Lipton unilaterally decided on their own to close the plant. The vote will now take place at a single meeting on July 24 so everyone can participate in the same meeting and vote at the same time.

Only Lipton employees who have completed and submitted a union membership application will be allowed to attend the meeting and vote, so if you haven’t filled one out yet, do it now! We will mail entry cards to those who have filled out and submitted their application, but you will still be allowed to enter and vote if you fill one out any time before the meetings. We will answer any questions and/or get an application to you, but we aren’t permitted to share details about the tentative agreement until the meeting.

Sincerely, Your Negotiating Committee

Print the Flier (PDF)

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.

 

Lipton Contract Negotiations Continue July 10-11

Contract Negotiations Update #7

After several long days of talks, we’ve wrapped up with Lipton contract negotiations for the week. We’re back at it July 10-11.

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.

 

Four Candidates Recommended by Local 400 Win Elections in Virginia

The results are in from yesterday’s closely-watched primary election in Virginia. Local 400 recommended candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates in six districts. Four of the candidates won their races:

In House District 31, Elizabeth Guzman won the Democratic primary with 52.16% of the vote. In District 51, Hala Ayala won with 66.34% of the vote. Karrie Delaney won in House District 67 with 65.33% of the vote. And in District 92, Jeion Joyner Ward won with an overwhelming 87.54% of the vote.

In District 42, Tilly Blanding lost to Kathy K. L. Tran. Meanwhile, Josh King was defeated by Jennifer Carroll Foy in District 2 by a mere ten votes.

Local 400 made some of these recommendations in conjunction with Take Action Virginia, a partnership of major community and labor groups representing tens of thousands of the commonwealth’s workers fighting for policies to raise the standard of living and protect people’s rights.

For a complete list of election results, visit the Virginia Department of Elections website.

Lipton Contract Negotiations Resume June 7

Contract Negotiations Update #6

We have a philosophy as your negotiating committee: all or none of us. Unity and solidarity are how achieve every improvement in our workplace. By sticking together as a union family, we can get the better lives we deserve.

This is our guiding principle as we work towards the best contract possible. We are here to get the best deal for all of us – not some of us. Our goal is to make a positive impact for all of our coworkers.

This week, one of our core team members was unable to participate in negotiations due to business needs at the plant. But we will not be divided. Rather than allow business needs to split up our team, we chose to postpone negotiations.

We will continue bargaining with the company on June 7 when our entire team can participate.