COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – On the eve of voting beginning on a new contract proposal, one Kroger employee said that for him and those he works with, the ongoing labor negotiations aren’t about money.
The employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said he is frustrated about the negotiation process and feels like everyday workers are being left in the dark.
“Really, we’re wanting something that can’t be contracted,” the man said.
Starting Tuesday, Kroger workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union Local 1059 will have the opportunity to vote on the latest labor deal proposed by the grocery store chain.
If a majority of union members fail to accept the contract, a strike could be on the horizon.
“It seems like there’s three different factions right now and the workers are left completely out of it,” the employee said. “It’s just between the union and Kroger company at this point. The workers have no say at all.”
As thousands of union members prepare to vote this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the employee said he knows little about what he’ll actually be voting on.
“I know basically what I find out on the news,” he said.
The man has been a Kroger employee for seven years, stocking shelves at one of its central Ohio locations. He said employees have felt mistreated by the grocer since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“We see those profits skyrocketing, and at the same time, Kroger continues to cut hours and make one worker do three workers’ worth of work,” he said.
Sometimes working 60 hours a week, he said he’s at the end of his rope and those fighting on the workers’ behalf need to pick up the slack.
“The common consensus is that they’re fighting for themselves, while we’re just sitting around waiting to hope we get a few drops from them,” he said of the union.
Eighty-two stores and more than 12,000 employees would fall under the newest proposal, which, if approved, would see 85% of employees receive a frontloaded $1 per hour raise starting Oct. 23. Department heads and full-time top associates would also receive a $2,500 bonus.
“We see that Kroger is just taking advantage and hoping that a quick dollar-an-hour patch will make everyone feel better about it,” the employee said.
If a majority of the 6,700 union members vote to ratify the contract, it would end any further motion to strike, but this employee urges his fellow workers to think again before giving in.
“We want to see them actually commit to changing the way they treat their employees,” he said. “That’s what we want to see.”
The employee said he didn’t vote during the last set of labor talks years ago and now realizes that was a mistake. He hopes members vote to strike down this latest offer as well.