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Secretary-Treasurer’s Report

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RICHARD BARRERA
Secretary-Treasurer

Food 4 Less should not mean Work 4 Less

Our contract with Food 4 Less expired in early June, and we at Local 135 have been at the bargaining table for a couple of months with the Kroger Company negotiating a new contract.
In some ways, the issues facing our members at Food 4 Less are very similar to the issues facing all of our members. Food 4 Less members struggle to make ends meet because wages are not keeping up with the cost of living and because members struggle to get enough hours per week to pay the bills. On the other hand, Food 4 Less members benefit from great union health care benefits and also from a guaranteed pension that is becoming too rare for workers in today’s economy.

But Food 4 Less workers face conditions that in many ways are more difficult than conditions faced in stores like Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons. Food 4 Less claims to be a “warehouse store” which means workers generally are paid 20 percent less than their counterparts at the major grocery stores, and struggle even more for adequate hours in a work week. Anyone visiting a Food 4 Less store quickly realizes how understaffed these stores are and how overworked our members are.

At the negotiating table, we are trying to achieve a fair contract for our Food 4 Less members that raises wages, increases hours and protects health care and pension benefits.
Despite the fact that we were able to achieve such a contract last year with the Kroger Company for our Ralphs members, so far these same Kroger executives have refused to be open to a fair contract for Food 4 Less members. In fact, Kroger continues to make proposals that would actually reduce wages and hours for Food 4 Less members.

These Kroger executives claim that Food 4 Less can’t compete with stores like Walmart and El Super, and therefore they need to cut labor costs. In fact, UFCW International researchers have found that the Kroger Company yields the highest return for its shareholders of any grocery chain in the country. One of the primary reasons for these high returns is that stores like Food 4 Less turn over product faster than other stores. What that translates to is that the very same Food 4 Less members who are struggling to make ends meet are, through their hard work, producing billions of dollars in returns for Kroger corporate executives.

Last year the CEO of Kroger alone made over $12 million. These huge corporate salaries are made possible on the backs of our Food 4 Less members.
We know that we only achieve a fair contract when we’re willing to fight.

Over the last week, our Food 4 Less members, supported by their UFCW Sisters and Brothers from other stores and industries, have been out in front of their stores speaking to Food 4 Less customers about the need for a fair contract.

When Food 4 Less customers realize that the workers who have served them well for so many years are now in need of support, they have responded.

Thousands of customers have signed a petition demanding that Kroger executives do the right thing for their neighborhood grocery workers and have pledged, if necessary, to boycott Food 4 Less until we achieve a fair contract. This fight will likely need to intensify over the next several weeks.

We ask all of you to pay attention to the website, UFCW135.org, and to our Food 4 Less Facebook & Twitter pages for updates on how you can support your Sisters and Brothers in this fight.