Congratulations on the New Food 4 Less Contract! It was a Team Effort!
We began negotiations with the Kroger Corporation, on a new Food 4 Less contract in April of this year – six months ago. Although it was a long road, at that time we were optimistic that we could achieve a new contract before the last agreement expired in early June – but that didn’t happen. We had a real fight on our hands.
But you, our UFCW Local 135 members who work inside those Food 4 Less stores, did not waver. We kept you informed and up-to-date on negotiations. And because of this, you stood together during tenuous talks, even taking a vote to authorize a strike.
And finally after six months of collective bargaining, we overwhelmingly ratified a good contract on October 16. We had settled a fair contract with the same Kroger Corporation a year ago, which protected our health care and pension benefits and provided decent wage increases for our Ralphs members. We wanted the same for our Food 4 Less members and we got it. In fact, that was our main goal.
Many of you mentioned to me that when your customers saw us outside with Boycott signs, they drove right by. Many customers walked up to ask us why we were out there and when we told them, they turned around and walked away. They respected you enough to not cross a picket line, and that is important.
I have to say, these were some of the strangest negotiations I’ve been involved with. Fortunately for us, we had you – our members who stood together and showed strength and solidarity. We got this contract because our members from Food 4 Less and our other stores stood together. We also had help from and thank community members from organizations like the Employee Rights Center and from the faith community at IWJSD. Thank you also to our strong UFCW Local 135 Retirees who came out to support you. Thank you to our staff as well. They stepped up like champs.
We thank our elected officials, and their staffs for supporting our members.
Our collective efforts made Kroger re-evaluate their bargaining position. They decided to exchange proposals – after we had voted for strike authorization. In conjunction with our other UFCW Southern California Local leaders, we reached an 11th-hour tentative agreement as we prepared for a work stoppage. A week or so later, our Food 4 Less members overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract.
Now we are tasked with plotting a course and laying out a roadmap to guide us as we prepare for negotiations with Viejas Casino and Rite Aid next year and our master food employers in 2019. Your trust and faith in us at the bargaining table speaks volumes as you allowed us to represent you.
You set the bar for future negotiations and we will need your help in the future. Thank you to all for helping to protect the rights of hard working people and families who have earned dignity, respect and a fair wage!