Kroger ballot

Central Ohio rank-and-file Kroger employees, who are also United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 1059 members, for a second time in a month overwhelmingly voted “No” to a new three-year contract even though the contract had been endorsed by UFCW 1059. 

A 40-year Kroger employee, who is also a UFCW 1059 steward, told the Free Press that membership’s next vote could be a vote “to strike.”

“In my 40 years we have never voted to strike. We have voted ‘No’ on contracts, but I cannot recall a time when we were going to vote to strike,” they said on the condition of anonymity.

The vote was 1,722 “No” to 677 “Yes.” The union steward believes roughly half the membership did not vote, and suggested it wasn’t due entirely to apathy, but because UFCW 1059 only offered four voting locations throughout Columbus, making it difficult for single mothers and those who work outside Franklin County.

The first vote, taken in late July, was sent back to the bargaining table. But the amended contract read very similar to the first rejected contract, said several Kroger workers.

“This contract was just reworded, but we all knew it was the same contract as the one we just turned down,” said a Kroger employee who also refused having their name published out fear of retaliation.

Local Kroger employees, a tight-knit group, also told the Free Press there’s growing concern that UFCW 1059 is not on the “up-and-up.”

“One hundred percent they [UFCW 1059] are in collusion with Kroger corporate,” believes another employee.

Points of contention of the UFCW 1059 endorsed contract are the annual raises: $.65 cents for the first year, and $.50 cents for the next two – insultingly low for those who have years of service already behind them, and how they worked through the pandemic for the greater good of the community. Kroger’s fourth quarter revenue (fiscal year 2021) reached $33 billion with a profit of $965 million.

Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen – also a fervent Trump supporter who worked from home during the pandemic – made $20 million in 2020. In the summer of 2021 the Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit from California, surveyed over 10,000 Kroger employees, and 63 percent said, “they didn’t earn enough monthly to cover basic expenses” and “36 percent worry about being evicted.”

What’s more, local Kroger employees said they asked UFCW 1059 to address how Kroger is taking away health benefits for retirees in 2024 and forcing them onto Medicare. But UFCW 1059 did not address this in these latest contracts.

Labor uprisings have erupted across the region, and the latest victory of course being the Columbus City School (CCS) teachers. But there’s a significant different between Columbus teachers and Columbus Kroger workers.

CCS teachers are paid a living wage while also able to work another job during summers, and thus most are on secure financial ground. But some full-time Kroger employees – who make anywhere from $15 to $20-an-hour with benefits – do not have the savings local teachers may have, and a strike could be disastrous for those working check-to-check.

But a strike is not out of the question, as some Kroger employees in other parts of the nation recently voted to walkout. Over 8,000 Kroger employees in Colorado spent ten days picketing before the world’s largest and most profitable grocery chain folded.

And if local Kroger employees do strike, will the community even know? Because this local labor story is only being told by (World Socialist Web Site) and the Free Press, as the rest of the local media could be sold out to the Cincinnati-based Kroger ad dollar. perhaps has the best advice for local Kroger employees:

“Workers must take their fight outside of the union by building rank-and-file committees, new organizations built by and for workers, that will take on the company and fight the betrayals of the unions. All Kroger workers who wish to take on this struggle are encouraged to contact the WSWS and build the Kroger Workers Rank-and-File Committee.”