Help keep us strong as we confront changes in our industries
On pages six through 11 of this issue of the Desert Edge, you’ll find coverage of UFCW Local 1167’s Stewards Conference, our first since 2016. Its purpose was to educate and inspire the members who volunteer to be the union’s eyes, ears, voice, heart and soul in the workplace.
I can’t overstate the importance of our stewards’ role in keeping co-workers informed about their union-negotiated contract and calling attention to management’s failures to follow its terms. The stewards are also key to helping the members appreciate the value of their wages, benefits and rights on the job.
All this is especially important as our union begins preparing for the next rounds of contract negotiations with the retail drug (in 2024) and food (in 2025) employers.
In my “state of the union” remarks to the stewards, I began by praising the hard work and dedication of UFCW Local 1167’s team of 11 union representatives and five union organizers. I also thanked the office staff and insurance staff who attended for their hard work. Most of them were present at the seminar, wearing their gold T-shirts with the union’s logo.
“I don’t care what your politics might be,” I said. “These people in the gold shirts are advocating for you and your fellow members every single day.”
The workloads carried by these individuals are formidable. Each union representative is responsible for close to 2,000 members who deserve, and receive, the best representation any labor organization can possibly provide. In total, our team serves close to 20,000 members across a vast jurisdiction that covers all of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties — the two largest counties in the United States — as well as portions of Los Angeles and Imperial Counties. The scope of this task would be almost impossible if not for our union’s model of efficient, world-class service. Through careful planning and management of time and resources, we have been able to settle more than 5,000 workplace grievances since the stewards last assembled in 2016.
Through these grievances, we succeeded in restoring more than $2 million in back pay and benefits that had been denied to our members by management. Also during this time, we restored the jobs of more than 1,389 members who were unfairly fired.
Local 1167 is second to none, and we are justifiably proud of what we do for the members of this fine union.
Fighting the merger
Most of my remarks to the stewards addressed current developments in the retail food and drug industries, including the proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger. We are strongly opposed to this merger, as we are opposed to anything that will put your families in danger. Some of us remember when Safeway acquired Vons in the 1990s. Many of our brothers and sisters were reduced or laid off as a result of that merger. Also around that time, Alpha Beta was absorbed by Ralphs and Lucky was merged into Albertsons. With each takeover, good union jobs were lost.
Don’t buy into company propaganda. This new merger would only benefit the senior management and shareholders of Kroger and Albertsons, which are already the two largest grocery retailers in the United States. Few others will benefit from it — not the customers, who will pay the cost in higher food prices, and certainly not the employees, who will pay the price in lost jobs and diminished bargaining power.
These companies don’t make our members a priority. If it was up to their own devices, they would take everything they possibly can from you and your colleagues.
So, we have work to do, and that work requires all of us to step forward and take action. The companies need to know that if they swing at us, we will swing back.
This is not a spectator sport. The key to our success is you. It’s you, because you are the union. Please get involved by contacting your representatives in Congress and letting them know you oppose the merger. Also, do what you can to strengthen our union’s market share, and therefore our effectiveness, by providing information about potential new members to our Organizing Department. If we’re having a rally in front of a Cardenas store or a non-union CVS store, please come out and add your voice.
Finally, as we prepare for the next round of negotiations, it is especially crucial for every member to fully support our efforts to strengthen our contracts, and help these workers find their voices.
These are critical times in the history of the various industries our union represents. With your help, we can resist and reverse the companies’ attempts to take away all that we have worked hard for and won over the years.
It’s up to you. It’s up to all of us.