A new mission for UFCW

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By DAVID A. COOK
President

Taking on Field Foods

By the time many of you read this, we’ll have held our vote on a new union contract with Schnucks. That means that by the time you read this, you might have heard about what comes next. There’s a Dierbergs and Straubs contract to complete, but I’m talking about what comes next for Local 655 as an organization.

We continue to fight for the best contracts possible. We continue to fight for our partners, to ensure that they are treated with respect on the job, to ensure that they are paid the wages they deserve negotiated in their contract and to ensure that they can enjoy good benefits.

But we can’t simply maintain what we have: We need to grow. Union density has been on a steady decline across this nation for a generation. We need to treat this like the serious problem that it is, not as some unfortunate reality we have to accept.

UNION GROWTH MEANS BETTER COMMUNITIES, HIGHER WAGES
Union workers drive up wages and benefits for all workers. Union workers make better wages and benefits on average, but the benefits of being union go beyond that. Communities with higher union density have better local schools. Union members are more likely to vote and engage in the political process, and union workers are safer on the job.

While we represent many industries, the majority of our partners work in retail grocery. In St. Louis, the retail grocery industry is unique, with three locally owned and operated chains, Schnucks, Dierbergs and Straubs having a large piece of the market. There are fewer major national chains here than in other cities.

Those three local employers are union, and we are proud that the three hometown grocery store chains provide good union jobs.
However, there are other local employers that are not putting their employees first, and that is not acceptable and will not be tolerated any longer!

NON-UNION FIELDS FOODS PROMOTES SELF-INTEREST
Take a look at Fields Foods. Some of you may have shopped there. Many of you have not. It’s a new chain with a small number of locations, but it is looking to expand.

Fields Foods, unfortunately, doesn’t want to create quality jobs and lift up their community. Instead, Fields Foods seems content to get as many tax breaks as possible and employ workers as cheaply as they can.

Not all employers are created equally. Sadly, Fields Foods doesn’t appear to have any desire to provide quality jobs and respect their workers. I know this because when we ran an organizing campaign at one of their locations, their managers engaged in underhanded tactics. Managers at Fields Foods told employees with past criminal records that “the union” would fire them. They lied and intimidated low-wage workers into voting against their own interests.

They did what too many major companies try to do. And while we can’t always affect the giant companies that bury any challengers in money, we can affect a new, small operation like Fields Foods.

UFCW TO TARGET FIELDS UNFAIR PRACTICES
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of these kinds of companies. I’m tired of local businesses that don’t care about their own community. I’m tired of the 1% squeezing workers for every single penny. I’m tired of watching workers grind themselves away at a job that doesn’t give them what they deserve: A good life.

One good job should be enough.

Hard-working people shouldn’t be trapped in a cycle of poverty that they can’t escape while a local millionaire collects another tax break to expand his business so that he can simply add more poverty wages to his payroll.

It’s time to show these kinds of employers what we think of their business methods. It’s time to show the public what it means to truly support a better community and better lives. It’s time to start changing St. Louis.

That’s why Local 655 will be launching an aggressive social media campaign to let shoppers know what type of employer Fields Foods is. When we bring change to Fields Foods, we will be targeting other bad employers.

So, this is a notice to retail employers in St Louis: if you don’t provide quality jobs Local 655 will be working to change that. You don’t have to be union to provide high-quality jobs, but it sure does help.

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