White guy shaking hands

UFCW 1059 President Randy Quickel

Kroger members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 1059 have rejected three contracts and the 1059’s negotiating team is returning to the bargaining table with Kroger corporate today (Tuesday, September 27).

UFCW 1059 members also voted to strike if the union leadership would authorize it, but so far 1059 President Randy Quickel – who’s salary is over $222,000 – has sent mixed signals to the 12,500-plus Kroger members of 1059.

For example, word was spreading through local stores that if a strike were to be authorized, 1059 would pay $250 for 20 hours of picketing but only for the first week. But because 1059 leadership does not take questions from the media, and just offers statements, the Free Press could not confirm this. 

Nonetheless, Kroger corporate is also preparing for a strike.

Managers and assistant managers, who are non-union, have been sent to other stores to train on registers and a hiring blitz for temporaries is ongoing even though the response has been tepid at best.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Kroger fulltimers have been overworked, exhausted, and stressed out. Their labor struggle with the Cincinnati-based grocery giant, which now rivals Walmart, is almost entirely about pay, which also equates to respect, especially when you consider how the pandemic and inflation have been great for Kroger’s profits. Kroger told the Motley Fool earlier this year it can generate over $4.2 billion of operating profit in 2022 compared to $3.5 billion in 2021.

It’s also come to light that Kroger corporate owns three private jets, with a $25,000,000 price tag for each new.

“We have been shorthanded for two-and-a-half years and they still will not pass the symbolic $15-and-hour for new employees,” said a local Kroger full-time associate who will remain anonymous. “They took away the pay premium for new employees with past experience, and they want to change the overtime rules for new employees from overtime after eight hours to overtime after 8.5 hours. All current employees are grandfathered in, but with the rules Kroger wants, I’m not certain our short staffing will be solved, and that means a strong possible three more years of short staffing.”

Kroger corporate has also been urging Columbus associates to “stop talking to the media.”

But associates scoff at such protocols, and in fact, are very outspoken about how they are treated by Kroger corporate (just ask them yourselves).

Kroger associates are also increasingly becoming disgruntled with 1059 leadership, which they believe doesn’t have the “fight and fire” they used to. Kroger 1059 leadership, with their office in Whitehall, endorsed all three rejected contracts, yet Kroger associates said all three contracts were “abysmal.”

“Most of us seem to understand that 1059 isn’t working hard enough for us,” said another anonymous Kroger fulltimer. “Three people on the committee from the union are leaving within a year.”

Perhaps the World Socialist Web Site, the first media organization to cover the local Kroger worker uprising, says it best about UFCW 1059 leadership:

“Columbus Kroger workers have shown their willingness to strike and fight for what they deserve. But the corrupt union leadership has undermined them every step of the way. Any organization that spends just one day in negotiations and brings back the same contract that has already been rejected is not a workers’ organization but a gang of scabs,” they wrote.

Because 1059 leadership does little explaining to the media it’s difficult to gauge what they are thinking or why they endorsed three contracts all rejected by their members.

“I don’t think anyone’s got hard proof of the union selling us out, but in almost every negotiation this past year the union pushed through deals the workers didn’t approve of. They’re afraid of Kroger kicking them out if they strike and going nonunion,” said a 1059 member on Reddit.