It wasn’t such a merry Christmas for grocery store management in central Minnesota. Five hundred grocery workers in the Brainerd Lakes area walked out on an unfair labor practice strike, deserting five stores between December 22 and 25. Management tried to keep the stores running, but workers said they turned into disaster zones. Why did two Cub Foods stores, two Super Ones, and a SuperValu find themselves on Santa’s naughty list last year? Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 charges management with interrogation, surveillance, intimidation, and bargaining in bad faith.
Las Vegas — It was 7:30 on a Monday morning on the Las Vegas Strip, early enough to stand outside without sunscreen. A group of people — first a trickle, then dozens — wearing matching blue T-shirts that read “Organizing & Bargaining & The Right to Strike & A Voice in Our Union,” flooded the patio of the Mirage Resort & Casino pool, overwhelming the early morning smokers who had sought refuge there. This group was smiling, energized, far too wholesome for their garish surroundings. Like a team of underdogs before a critical game, they seethed with nervous excitement. These were the reformers.
A company accused of lying about retirement benefits to stop workers from organizing can be sued in a class-action lawsuit, a federal judge ruled. The decision came on April 7 after the defendant, the California-based grocery retailer Save Mart Supermarkets, asked the judge to dismiss the case, which experts are calling a creative use of labor law against union-busting. The suit hinges on promises made by managers about retirement benefits to undercut the appeal of union membership to employees, a common tactic in campaigns against labor organizing. A ruling against Save Mart could haunt companies that have used similar tactics for decades.
For the first time in their history, 3,000 grocery workers in the local chain Cub Foods across the Twin Cities metro area were set to strike. They were going to shut down 33 stores during the busy Easter weekend. Hours before the strike was to begin, the company offered a settlement that gave the workers much of what they wanted, and none of the concessions it had been demanding. Workers will get raises between $2.50 and $3.50 an hour, and hundreds will receive even more raises as they get reclassified into higher-paying job titles. A company-wide safety committee will be established.
Next April, 1,200 delegates from the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) will gather in Las Vegas for the union’s international convention. A new reform group, Essential Workers for a Democratic UFCW, is gearing up for a fight. The group describes itself as a coalition of rank and filers, local leaders, and not-yet-union workers. Drawing inspiration from the caucuses that have recently won landmark reforms in the Teamsters and Auto Workers, it is pushing for change in three areas: union democracy, new organizing, and coordinated bargaining. The reform group is encouraging rank-and-file supporters to run for convention delegate on its platform. The effort has its strongest public backing from the union’s largest local: Local 3000, formed this year by merging Locals 21 and 1439.
Over 47,000 grocery store workers in Southern California have voted to Authorize Walkouts after contract negotiations have stalled. Despite reaping huge profits during the pandemic, the supermarket executives are refusing to meet workers’ demands for increased wages, higher minimum hours for part-time workers, and health and safety committees at stores. A strike would include workers at over 500 Krogers, Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions supermarkets. These workers currently make between $17.02 and $22.50 an hour after five to seven years, less than the living wage for the area, which MIT researchers estimated at between $19 to $34 an hour. These workers have seen rising costs of living and inflation eat into their wages.
An alarming new survey of thousands of grocery workers across three western U.S. states reveals that they suffer from shockingly high rates of poverty. More than three-quarters of the workers meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s definition of “food insecure,” and 14% say they have been homeless within the past year. The survey, which was funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and performed by the nonprofit research group the Economic Roundtable, drew responses from more than 10,000 workers at Kroger, the largest all-grocery chain in the United States. (Kroger also owns other grocery brands including Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, and City Market.) The workers surveyed live in Southern California, Washington state, and Colorado, and all of them are UFCW members...