Many of us will be able to remember the location where we were, when we heard or learned that Kroger and Albertson’s have come to terms to merge the two largest conventional retailers into one company! The two competitors, cutting a deal in total silence and away from any leaks, before they jointly in perfect collaboration released the exact same press release within minutes of each other.
On October 14, 2022, Kroger and Albertson’s both announced the terms to join together these companies into a model that would supply 85 million households with services. At a price of 24.6 billion dollars, Kroger will take over Albertson’s operations on a date to be announced in 2024.|
Currently, these two companies employ more than 710,000 workers in about 5,000 stores with a combined 66 distribution centers, 52 manufacturing plants, 3,972 pharmacies and 2,015 fuel centers across 48 states. This will quickly put Kroger in the east part of the country where they currently have no footprint.
In 2021 the companies on a combined basis delivered $210 billion in revenue, $3.3 billion in net earnings, and $11.6 billion of adjusted EBITDA. The sale is not finalized, as it must be approved and pass anti-trust tests. Some say it will not go through, where others feel it will.
Your UFCW International Union is evaluating and preparing to challenge or promote this merger, but it must be in the members’ best interest. There is a concern that in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington, it will result in stores being required to be sold to a competitor to pass federal regulations. No one knows which stores, but some of us remember what happened in Albuquerque when Albertson’s acquired American Stores. We have seen a number of Albertson’s stores sold off to Raley’s and a few others to comply with the Federal Trade Commission requirements. The two have created a public company called SpinCo to sell off an estimated 100 to 375 stores, because they know to be approved, they will be required to divest certain stores. The problem is we believe they will pick stores that have Union Health Benefits, and a Union Pension to spin off. Once again, first the transaction must be approved, and then there is about 18 to 24 months before this happens. Will SpinCo assume Union members’ current benefits and Union Collective Bargaining Agreements? This is something that will be pursued over the next year. The UFCW International Union, which represents over 1 million Union members is very concerned and involved because they have members across these areas mentioned above.
Your Union reached out to the New Mexico Attorney General, Hector Balderas on October 25, 2022, asking him to stop the transfer of $4 billion dollars on November 7, 2022, until more research and details could be investigated. We have some areas in New Mexico where we have an overlap of Kroger, Albertson’s, and Safeway stores.
I have seen a handful of mergers over my 28 years at Local 1564 and none match the size and scope of this one. The merger is expected to take 18-24 months if the Federal Trade Commission approves it. Your Union along with various local Unions met with the FTC over the effects and ramifications of our concerns if this goes through. We met on November 1, 2023 in Denver. We believe the FTC will reject the merger, and then we expect Kroger and Albertson’s to sue the FTC to overturn this decision. We shall wait and see.
The theme for the 9th Regular UFCW Convention was: Essential, Value, Strength, and Future. While UFCW workers have always known they were essential, the national health crisis of the past few years truly highlighted just how essential UFCW members are to their communities. UFCW members bring value to their workplaces and communities every day. The value of belonging to our Union family comes with benefits that many nonunion workers do not have, including better wages, affordable health care, education benefits, immigration assistance, and Union discounts on thousands of products, services, and entertainment. When workers stand together as a Union, they have bargaining power and a collective voice that they simply do not have when they are not unionized. Strong Unions benefit all workers. The future of working families and the middle class depends on a united voice that can stand up to powerful corporate and political interests.
The last few years have been a remarkably difficult time for everyone, but our Union family felt the impacts of a global pandemic and a changing world more acutely than most. The COVID-19 pandemic, an increasingly volatile political landscape, and a changing labor movement have all posed unprecedented challenges but have also created a remarkable opportunity to strengthen UFCW.
We have spent this time fighting for and organizing with the essential members who make up our Union, and those efforts have solidified the fact that a better future begins with all of us.
The pandemic touched UFCW members and every aspect of our Union. We will strengthen our Union family by working together to address specific needs. We will capitalize on this exciting and monumental moment in the labor movement. As interest in unions grows and organizing campaigns experience previously unexpected success, the American people’s faith in unions remains strong, even as their faith in other national institutions falters.
The continued faith is a direct result of the value that our Union and all unions bring to the workplace. We can maintain that faith because of the hard work UFCW members have done to stand together while fighting for a better future.
Organizing to grow and strengthen our Union is a crucial priority and will remain one in the years ahead. The core industries of retail grocery, meat cutting, non-food retail, meatpacking, food processing, and health care will remain the UFCW’s goals. We have achieved remarkable success in strong contracts and members’ rights for continued success in the future. The UFCW is leading the way in Digital organizing, which brings the tools we used during the pandemic to cultivate thousands upon thousands of leads. These tools include social and web-based media tools, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Zoom video meetings, WhatsApp, You tube, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok, and many more. Organizing an entire worksite now can take place remotely and at times where more workers are available to join in.
Protecting the future of our members through pension reform is vital and we must continue to ensure our members’ futures are protected, even after they leave the workplace. To do this, the UFCW has prioritized strengthening our members’ pension by fighting for critical pension reform efforts and working to prevent legislation that harms those plans. Recently, the UFCW played a central role in securing legislative pension reform through the American Rescue Plan’s Special Financial Assistance Program. This program protected millions of workers in multi-employer pension plans who faced significant cuts to their retirement benefits.
We may have our hands full with corporate greed and other challenges ahead, but being united in strength with value, makes the future of our essential work irreplaceable. replaceable.
New Mexico Smith’s and Albertson’s workers get the changes they deserve!
The mood was set by the Pandemic and the hard work of Grocery workers. The timing was perfect for Smith’s, John Brooks, and Albertson’s workers to be negotiating a new contract this year. Several things added to the perfect storm such as a ten-day strike in Denver against Kroger, just three weeks before the New Mexico agreements would expire.
New Mexico began working and coordinating with Colorado about six months before Colorado began negotiations with King Soopers. President Greg Frazier attended Denver Kroger negotiations and the two sides shared much of the same goals and projected outcome. Both were also helped with the soured conditions with Kroger in the Houston and Little Rock areas as they were ready to fight back. Also, coming into the picture was a quick approaching of large California and Seattle areas, who also shared the same frustration and badly needed improvements. The work and media exposure were so helpful in reminding and exposing the compassion of customers, who remain supportive and appreciative of the Grocery worker for helping them through the pandemic over the last two years.
Ultimately, it was you, the Negotiating Committee and workers at the store standing united and demanding more that led to the results in the Smith’s contracts, followed by Albertson’s, and then leading over to the John Brooks contracts.
All three employers were forced to provide a new benefit level starting on July 1, 2022 for Sick Pay. The Companies wanted sick days to come from your personal holidays and vacation bank, but the new benefit will stand alone, so employees kept their holiday and vacation days for their own enjoyment. Wages were a huge piece as well with many of these members seeing $3 to $4 per hour over the next twenty-four months in addition to the new sick leave benefit. Albertsons was in line with getting money into the workers’ hands as quickly as possible, where Smith’s Kroger pushed the process as far as a scheduled Unfair Labor Practice Strike before the all-night winter storm blew the ice in and made leaving not much of an option. Both sides were forced to stay and work it out, and we did just a few days before the ULP Strike Vote. We had not announced the ULP strike but the ULP strike vote was going to take place during Super Bowl week. Looking ahead the wages that were reached are due and payable, regardless of prosperity or regression. Special thanks to the Negotiating Committee and all workers for standing tall and not being frightened.
Sick Pay| Healthy Workplaces Act | Highlights
·Effective July 1, 2022, your Employer is required to provide their employees with paid Sick Leave.
·Qualified Use Employees can begin to use accrued sick leave immediately after accrual for qualified purposes:
Tips to remember-
President's Message Archives+August 2021 - Contract Negotiations
+March 2021 Bargaining Update
+October 2020 Corporate Greed and Profits Before Essential Grocery Workers Needs
+Feb 2020 - Union Shop Stewards sharpen skills on supporting members!
Next year each of the three big supermarket chains will be up for contract negotiations in New Mexico and in neighboring Colorado, Nevada, and Southern California. Having all these contracts expire around the same time is good for the workers. Only Union members get to participate in contract negotiations also called Collective Bargaining. This process allows the workers to seek and make changes to their employment. In the non-union environment negotiations do not exist because the Company can just change anything they desire at anytime. Only Union members have the privilege to negotiate. This is something your Union takes very seriously.
In New Mexico, Smith’s / Kroger will expire first on January 30, 2022, Albertson’s / United will expire next on June 11, 2022, and then Safeway will expire on November 3, 2022. This is both an opportunity and a challenge to you and your family. As Kroger has just finished its biggest year of all time with the additional sales COVID-19 brought, their CEO Rodney McMullen received a 45% increase in his salary with a $22.4 million dollar bonus. Most of us remember that the workers $2-hour hazard pay was removed after three short months in 2020 and replaced with less expensive gifts.
Our sister local in Colorado has their King Soopers / Kroger and their Albertson’s contracts expire on or around January 8, 2022. That is a full three weeks prior to the New Mexico contracts expiring with Smith’s / Kroger. Colorado and New Mexico share the same struggles. This is a great year for coordinated bargaining since both areas deal with the same executives during negotiations. Colorado will receive more attention since their 13,000 workers and contracts expire first. I will be heavily involved in Colorado bargaining, as together we have many more options to protect and advance our member’s concerns.
New Mexico and Colorado are both facing large productive supermarket chains who give a small budget for their workers. Kroger’s bargaining stye usually begins with reductions in the workplace for the employees. They should treat you as the essential workers you have proven you are. The customers acknowledged how essential you were, and we will not let them forget all that you worked through last year to help the, while others collected unemployment checks. Essential workers need better pay and benefits.
Please take a few minutes and fill out the Contract Survey / Questionnaire so we know exactly what is important to you and your family. You can scan the QR code box in this newsletter with your photo app on your mobile phone, it will only take about 5 – 10 minutes. You can also enter the web address/link into your home computer and submit the survey from there. The answers and comments you provide are very important. Your answers will be kept private and not shared.
Please consider how you can be a part of negotiations. We will need a number of New Mexico members who are willing to take pictures and share their stories of how they worked through the COVID scare, and how they deserve to be taken care of. Your Union wants good faith bargaining, we want workers working, but we also want workplace improvements and wage increases. More for Kroger, Albertson’s and Safeway should mean more for YOU!
Your Union has been preparing for 2022 contract negotiations since the last contract was ratified in Jan 2019. We really need to hear from you to make sure we understand what you need and how important it is and if you feel Kroger is taking care of you. Please spend a few minutes to reply with your answers. Your answers will be kept private, and you can let us know if we can count on you. Scan the QR code below or click on this link to take the survey now!
BARGAINING UPDATEOur Union is less than one year from contract negotiations with Smith’s and just short of 18 months from contract negotiations with Albertson’s, Safeway, and United. As you are aware, the Union is “you and I”, and negotiations are a right that Union members get to be involved with. Union members can propose changes, exercise their voices, and ultimately vote on changes to their working conditions, wages, and benefits. We are looking forward to seeing the changes you want to see in 2022.
What changes, additions, deletions, or modifications would you like to see in the next contract with Smith’s, Albertson’s, United, or Safeway? Now is the time to start thinking about this as we will send you a survey/questionnaire in June/July of 2021 for your suggestions.
We want to let you know what’s going on in new contract negotiations in areas around us.
Kroger UFCW workers in Houston, Texas, are just now starting to realize how much more it will cost them and their family to belong in the Kroger Health and Welfare K-Plan. Houston workers belonged in a UFCW Health Fund prior to January 1, 2021, until they were removed. Kroger told the Houston employees repeatedly that the K-Plan would be an improvement, cost them less, and put more money in the pockets of workers. Many in and around Houston have now lost their health insurance from the higher benchmarks to be eligible based on hours worked. In addition, health care costs and prescription costs have skyrocketed for Kroger Houston workers while a work stoppage/strike is lingering. Kroger wanted the employees to believe they could give them more money if they got away from the Union health insurance, but employees are now realizing that what they gained is far less than what they have lost as they are paying a lot more out-of-pocket health care costs to them and their families. This issue is ongoing and will result in a work stoppage soon if a fix is not agreed to. Union Members decide to accept or strike over such matters. New Mexico members get ready; we all know the K-Plan is awful and not a good move.
Just as in Houston, Kroger just recently notified Arkansas Kroger employees that they are forcing them into the Kroger K-Plan. A work stoppage is also building in Little Rock, Arkansas, and being coordinated with Houston and potentially other areas. Arkansas workers are aware that moving from a Union Fund that is equally administered with both company and union trustees to a 100% company-controlled plan is drastic and will allow Kroger to change anything they want, including in the future and at any time Kroger desires.
KROGER DALLAS TEXAS (MEAT)
One of the two Dallas UFCW local unions is having trouble with Kroger, as they face Kroger wanting them to go into the Kroger K-Plan, facing the same problems as in Houston and Arkansas. This group is just meat cutters and wrappers.
ARIZONA KROGER / SAFEWAY / ALBERTSON’S
Arizona just completed negotiations for a three-year contract. Unlike Houston, Arkansas, or Texas, Kroger and Safeway did not propose the company health K-Plan, but they did negotiate cost savings to the company with language not requiring them to pay monthly contributions for six months. Some of you may have noticed your $5, $10, or $15 a week has stopped. This took place because the company is not making any premiums to our health fund. Both the New Mexico and Arizona health funds have an excessive number of reserves and made this possible. New Mexico members are not interested in joining the Kroger K-Plan next year or any year. Some of the other changes Arizona adopted were to add 3 weeks’ vacation after 5 years, floating holiday after one year anniversary, sick pay on first day, a physician’s note after 3rd consecutive absences, and a Labor Day holiday.
We all remember as this Pandemic of the Covid-19 virus began, no one was sure what to do or how to protect themselves from this contagious virus that has now left over 200,000 dead. Many employers began having employees work remotely from home, and others were required to follow Government “stay at home orders”. Some of the employees who were not allowed to stay at home, were the Grocery Workers! The Grocery Worker began working more overtime hours than ever before, giving up days off as they provided vital services to a world full of panic. Grocery stores were packed with lines flowing from the cashier into the grocery aisles. Parking lots were packed as every employee was working, the shelves were empty, and the company’s sales and profits were setting all-time highs.
Thank you for working harder, staying later, risking your safety and well-being to answer the call to provide essential services during this global pandemic. Sadly, as other business began to slowly open, Kroger took away the extra pay for working during hazardous conditions, leaving you to provide essential work with only a mandatory face mask and hand sanitizer.
Unfortunately, back when this was all taking place, UFCW members in Texas and Arkansas were negotiating terms for a new contract. Houston UFCW Local 455’s 15,000 members were negotiating by video conferencing with Kroger as their contract was to expire on April 11, 2020. Little Rock, Arkansas was also bargaining for a new contract. The Kroger executives worked from their homes where they proposed a gutting of Union members’ contracts and health benefits and NO hazard pay. Kroger’s damaging proposals included Company flexibility for the same freedoms as their competition, where workers have no contract, no Union, and no way to bargain over anything. After more than 25 bargaining/video sessions, Kroger remains determined to remove worker perks and forcibly move Union members into the Company “Kroger” controlled health fund. The 15,000 Houston Kroger employees were given a Last, Best and Final Offer on August 19, 2020 sometime after Kroger refused to sign an extension of the current contract. The only option left now is for these workers to strike as the Holiday season gets closer if Kroger does not relent. Houston Kroger workers have remained determined on Hazard Pay being restored.
In Houston, Texas Kroger is using the same bullying tactics and tricks they did here in New Mexico in 2018. They sought significant wage increases for short term newer employees, cuts that affect everyone, and the Company wants no rules and a lot of flexibility to operate like Wal-Mart, all at their employees’ expense.
Here is a summary of what Kroger has included in their Last, Best and Final for 15,000 Houston UFCW members as of October 2020:
Union Shop Stewards sharpen skills on supporting members!
Training for new Stewards and advancing experienced Stewards to new levels was the focus for the Union Stewards who gathered in Ruidoso, New Mexico on August 13-15th. Shop Stewards representing 43 locations in New Mexico working at Smith’s, Albertson’s, Safeway, John Brooks, La Montanita, and Aramark traveled up to the Sierra Blanca mountain range of south-central New Mexico to be educated and appreciated for the work and responsibility they handle on a daily basis. The focus of this training was, “Overcoming Fear- Stand Up and Stand Out”!
We were joined by Educational Director, Dr. Rick Gregory who is known for getting your attention and not letting go of it. Dr. Gregory speaks around the country to various UFCW Union leaders and members. Everyone enjoyed his experience, style and teachings. Dr. Gregory addressed the Stewards on Thinking Before You Speak, Reaching and Listening to the Five (5) Generations in the Work Force, Leading with Joy, and Keys to Relationship Building by Understanding Each Other.
President Greg Frazier had a powerful presentation and Powerpoint titled, “Don’t Be a Good Steward; Be a Great Steward”.
The Stewards also had smaller designed breakout groups where they discussed subjects in detail with excellent participation, discussion, and involvement. The UFCW International Union kicked off a political drive to go towards supporting labor friendly candidates in 2020. UFCW Legal Counsel, Shane Youtz, presented a very powerful legal presentation, informing Stewards of their special powers and rights when operating in the Steward capacity. Stewards learned they are an equal with management in such a capacity, and how to know the difference between that role and the role as an employee. They also learned they have multiple forms of protection against retaliation for standing up and standing out! Stewards also learned about New Mexico Workers Compensation and special benefits and discounts reserved and limited to UFCW members only.
Stewards volunteer their time and skills all week long so rewarding them was a also a top priority, which is why the Inn of the Mountain Gods was selected by the Officers of UFCW to hold the 2019 Conference, not to mention it was free of distractions by being away from their home. Steward Rose Gonzales, Smith’s #414 was the best dance winner and Jessica Noble from Smith’s #427 was the best dressed for the “Dirt on My Boots Dance”.
We had various gifts, prize drawings, and gift cards distributed over the three days, but the Super Steward winner of a Mac laptop was Darlene Chavez Lucero, Smith’s #413. The heart and devotion these Stewards have towards their Union was evident from the start as they had to request a day off or take a paid day off to attend.
We know you will appreciate having Stewards that make a difference in their work sites by helping and assisting Union Members. I am happy to inform you that New Mexico UFCW Stewards are second to no one. They are educated and equipped Stewards, just looking to help, and that makes your Union a powerful resource for each of you. Please thank your Stewards for the job they do, because some days it is a thankless position.