I want to start off by offering my sincerest thank you. Thank you for the important work that you do. You are put to the test everyday in your line of work during the ongoing COVID pandemic. You continue to rise to the top to serve your communities and keep Minnesota, and the world, running. Our union is 17,000 frontline essential workers and will continue to be frontline essential workers even when the pandemic ends. You fuel Minnesota’s economies and provide the services and goods that take care of families. That is something to be proud of, because you have the gumption to move forward together as a union, and continue to have a voice at work.
As we approach 2022, I want to share my reflections upon the last year, as well as set our course together for the future.
We are stronger together. This fall, rank and file members from UFCW Local 663 and UFCW Local 9 voted overwhelmingly to merge and become even more powerful. We welcome our new union family in Austin, Rochester and Mower County. Our strengthened membership means we are one of the largest unions in Minnesota. We will use this strength to bargain even better contracts with employers, create laws that protect workers and open pathways for more workers to organize a union, and elect pro-worker candidates that stand together with us on our issues.
We continue to make strides with higher wages, workers’ rights and increasing workplace protections in all of our new contracts in all of the industries we have contracts. We’ve won big with our Metro retail grocery contracts this year, and some of the gains include:
- All workers gain more wages and will see increases, regardless of hours, over the course of the contract. All contracts expire in March of 2023. UFCW Local 663 members at Supervalu/UNFI Cub Foods continue to see their union negotiated wage increases each year of their five year contract.
- Hazard pay–members who did not continue getting $2/hour received one time bonuses in the form of Hazard Pay around contract ratification time.
- No increases in health care costs over the entire length of the contracts.
- All part-time non-benefited positions at grocery stores will have the opportunity to sign up and receive ancillary benefits for one dollar a week. Ancillary benefits include: Doctor on Demand/telehealth, dental, vision, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment benefit, as well as access to an employee assistant program.
- Part-time employees will make more money when they are put on temporary full-time status and part-time employees with more than one year of service will begin earning pro-rated vacation benefits.
This year we also secured a deal that guarantees union grocery workers fulfill Instacart orders at Jerry’s Foods, a grocery operator of Cub Foods, when a customer selects “pickup” in the app. This agreement applies to 14 stores in Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington, and across the western Twin Cities suburbs. UFCW 663 member Blanche Gulley of Cub Foods in Chaska shops the online orders, and says it best:
I’ve been doing online shopping since COVID hit last year. It’s important that this work is done by unionized workers because we are in the grocery industry and are the experts in customer service. I expect online shopping to continue to grow, even though COVID might be on the decline. It’s convenient for the customer, and it’s convenient for us because we are in the store to do the work.
Along with boosting our current contracts, we’ve also been busy at the legislature this year to fight for more worker protections for all meatpacking workers statewide through the Minnesota Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act, and pushing for all of our union to receive frontline worker hazard pay.
Dozens of UFCW Local 663 members bravely testified to legislators and the public and told of their experiences working in the meatpacking, grocery and healthcare industry for meatpacking and hazard pay, and you can watch them on our YouTube channel.
While the Meatpacking safety legislation passed as part of a larger omnibus package in the MN House of Representatives, we will continue to work on it in the coming year to make it even stronger and have it pass both the MN House and MN Senate.
A compromise was not reached in the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group to put forward to the Minnesota legislature, and the distribution of the $250 million that was set aside for Minnesota’s frontline workers is unlikely to be resolved this year. The issue will be taken up again in the next legislative session in Jan 2022. Our Union will continue to advocate for the inclusion of our members and all frontline workers who could not work from home and to increase the size of the pot.
This fall, UFCW Local 663 member Dwight Gaddis told members of the media at a press conference following the last Frontline Worker Pay Working Group:
As a retail grocery worker who has continued working through the pandemic, it is very frustrating that the Republicans on the Frontline Workers Pay Working Group continue to move forward proposals that tell me retail grocery workers are not worthy of any of the $250 million hero pay. It is now clear to me that they never had any intentions of including all frontline essential workers. Instead, they wasted our time, choosing to play politics instead of taking care of us, the workers, who continue to put our lives on the line on a daily basis. The right thing to do is to honor all essential frontline workers by passing legislation that disburses the $250 million in a swift manner into the hands that need it.
All frontline essential workers deserve this bonus pay as a sign of respect for the work you have done, and continue to do in the face of a challenging pandemic.
We’ve been busy updating you through my COVID updates we send out via text and email, as well as transforming all of our union contracts into easy electronic reader formats so you can access online at any time. We will continue to encourage communication with each other so we can continue to be proactive and respond to your membership needs. Along those lines, I encourage you to participate in the Essential Worker Survey that UFCW is co-sponsoring. It is a monthly, anonymous survey that takes a more in-depth look at how COVID has impacted our members and how many of them are getting vaccinated. This partnership also allows us to give members information about COVID-19 and the vaccines directly from expert sources.
Lastly, I would like to emphasize that it truly moves my heart working for this great union membership each and every day that I do the job. I will continue to do everything within my power as president to do the best work humanly possible on your behalf.
Blessings to you and your family throughout the holiday season and in the coming year ahead.