Desert Edge Magazine

Gerald After 42 years, ‘union girl’ keeps on working

Shirley Labrador stays on the job for benefits and co-workers ‘I’ve always been a union girl,” says Shirley Labrador, a checker at Albertsons 6735 in Wildomar and a proud UFCW Local 1167 steward.
Labrador’s career began 42 years ago, when she was in high school. A friend told her the Fazio’s supermarket chain was hiring, so she applied and was hired. Albertsons bought Fazio’s about a year later and she hasn’t looked back.“The pay is good and the union benefits are good,” she said. “I have health care, vision care and dental benefits you don’t get anywhere else. And I get to work down the street from where I live.”She added: “I didn’t think about it a lot at first — how good I have it with this job — but after about 22 years it hit me!”
She even met her husband, Lawrence, at Albertsons. His store in Anaheim Hills closed and he was sent to her store in Walnut. “We got married and had kids, and wow, we never had to pay for anything for the births of our three children.” A 40-year union man, Lawrence has been on Workman’s Comp for the past three years, and now Shirley works to keep everyone on insurance.

Stepping up as a steward
When her store steward retired, she was asked to step up to take on the role. “It was a natural fit,” she said. “When I’ve seen things that aren’t right in the store, I’ve always been the one to say something.”

Educating young workers
Educating young workers about the union has always been a priority, she said.
“When I’m talking to a 16-year-old who doesn’t understand what the union is all about, I just tell him or her my own union story. I was just like them 42 years ago.“I explain to them why they need those dental and vision benefits that are unheard of in other places of employment. Who knows when they’ll get dropped by their parents’ insurance plans? They need to prepare for themselves.
“I qualified for retirement benefits under the Golden 85 rule two years ago, but I’m keeping on working. I can keep my kids on my insurance through my union until they’re 26. “That’s such a wonderful benefit!” Labrador continued.
“I know people who pay $500 a month for one person! How can anyone afford that? My paycheck is so much more than the wages I earn.”
Shirley and Lawrence Labrador’s 22-year-old son, Christian, is studying abroad in Austria while enrolled at Franciscan University in Ohio. Their 20-year-old daughter, Gabriella, is at Mount San Antonio College studying political science, and their 18-year-old son, Miles, is at UCSD in La Jolla studying data science. All three have received scholarships from the UFCW and Food Employers Trust Fund Scholarship program.

Looking ahead
What’s ahead for Shirley Labrador? “Negotiations are ahead,” she said. “It’s our members’ excellent customer service that makes the loyal customers who make the difference at our store. We have their support and they need to know we may need it again.” Farther down the line is eventual retirement. “I’m going to have a pension as well as Social Security,” she said. “Not everybody has that. And the health benefits keep us healthy so we can survive and enjoy what we’ll have later in live — for us and for our children.”

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