Michigan Kroger Workers Reject Contract, Strike Preparations Pending
Workers at 17 Kroger stores in the Flint and Saginaw areas overwhelmingly rejected the company's contract offer earlier in the week, authorizing their union to take any action necessary, up to and including a strike, to reach a fair and just contract.
The approximately 1,900 workers are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers employed at the Kroger New Market Stores, the former Kessel stores purchased by Kroger in 2000. The workers at the 14 Flint area stores are represented by Local 876, based in Madison Heights, Michigan, while the workers at the three Saginaw stores are represented by Grand Rapids-based Local 951. Both local unions said they are committed to supporting their members' desire to receive their fair share from a highly profitable company.
"Kroger is doing well nationally and in Michigan,” said Roger Robinson, Local 876's president. “Kroger can afford to compensate their employees fairly, but have chosen to try to use Michigan's economic woes to bully their workers into accepting much less than they deserve. These workers know they are worth more than Kroger's final offer and are taking a stand. We support them 100 percent."
According to the union, the workers are most unsatisfied with elements of the wage and benefit proposal including:
· A wage progression that puts workers at a pay rate of $7.80 after 42 months on-the-job.
· Pay rates of $8.50 an hour and less for workers in positions with high responsibility.
· A three-year wage freeze for courtesy clerks.
· No containment of employee health insurance costs over the proposed contract's three-year term.
"UFCW members are a big part of Kroger's success in Michigan," said Marv Russow, Local 951's president. "Under Kroger's offer, over 650 members covered by the contracts would make less than $8 after working for the company for three and a half years."
The union is currently forming Membership Action Committees, meeting with members to discuss strategy, and is in the process of setting up meetings with the company to discuss outstanding issues. The current contract extension expires August 31, 2010.