Kari Perkins sticks with her union family
Kari Perkins has a way of returning to her roots. The steward and UFCW Local 1167 activist began her career working for Ralphs in 1986, when she took a summer job out of high school in Torrance. From there she moved all over Southern California, especially when she worked as a manager. Recently, however, she has settled down as a cashier at Ralphs 717 in Rancho Cucamonga.
“As manager I was spending all of my time at the store and had no time for the grandkids,” she said. “That had to change.”
Perkins had experience as a steward prior to the strike and lockouts of 2003-2004, so she was a logical choice for the position when it opened up at the Rancho Cucamonga store.
She was raised in a union family. Her mother, sister and brother-in-law have worked for Ralphs and know the benefits of a good union job within the UFCW.
“It’s all about family,” she said. “Not only do I have family in the union, but the union is my family.
“When you work 40 hours a week with the same people and see them every day, they become your family and we all stick together.
“If something isn’t right for my co-workers, I’ll speak up on their behalf. It’s the right thing to do – we all need to do that.”
Now that Southern California’s supermarket industry is deeply involved in contract negotiations, “the best thing we can do is all stick together and stay positive,” Perkins said.
“Talk positively about your union at the workplace. Stay informed with union updates, text messages, social media pages and the website. Most importantly, ask your rep if you have any questions.”
She has other advice, as well.
“You always hear about rumors during negotiations,” she said. “Get the facts straight and don’t give in to propaganda.”
The stakes in these negotiations are high, Perkins continued.
“Health care is so vitally important in the union contract, as are the guaranteed wages and progressions,” she said.
“None of us will become rich working in this industry, but we deserve our fair share. The corporations are making millions because of the work we’re doing. We need to be compensated fairly.”
She added: “I have faith in my union and understand this is a long and tedious process.”
Life at home
Perkins and her husband, James, a retired police officer, have two daughters, Amber and Kristie. They also have four adult grandchildren named Scott, Catelyn, Landon and Harlie. They also have a lab/shepherd mix named Bella and a shepherd named Queeny.
In their spare time, the couple enjoys watching Landon play hockey or Harlie skate. They used to ride motorcycles and motorsports, but James’ knees and back aren’t what they used to be and had to give up riding.
“I’m very thankful for my union job,” Perkins said. “We’re not getting rich, but if you do it right and save up, you can have a life outside work thanks to our union careers.”