As Hy-Vee moves into the Twin Cities market, union grocery workers are rolling out a campaign to hold the supermarket chain to local standards for “good jobs.”
That means high wages, guaranteed schedules, affordable health care and retirement plans – and the security of a union contract.
“The ability to negotiate guaranteed wage increases, hours of work and benefits allow our members to take care of their families and strengthen our communities,” UFCW Local 1189 Secretary-Treasurer Jennifer Christensen said. “We are committed to making all retail grocery jobs really good jobs, meaning life-sustaining ones.”
Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers staff grocery chains across the Twin Cities, including Cub Foods, Kowalski’s, Festival, Rainbow and Lunds and Byerly’s. These union shops represent “an oasis in the world of low-wage retail,” Christensen said.
Indeed, annual raises for members of Local 1189 who work in East Metro grocery stores take effect today, with part-time workers seeing a 45-cent hourly increase, keeping them on track to reach $14.90 per hour, according to the union. Full-time grocery clerks and journeyman meat cutters will see 50-cent raises, with senior clerks moving to $23.58 and cutters to $25.10.
Christensen said Local 1189 and Minneapolis-based UFCW Local 653 plan to reach out to Hy-Vee workers looking to organize for comparable wages and benefits.
But the chain, which so far has opened stores in New Hope and Oakdale, presents a unique challenge for union organizers. As an ESOP, Hy-Vee grants workers small shares in the company’s ownership structure as part of their compensation.
Of course, owning a few shares of stock is no guarantee of good wages, fair schedules or security at work. ESOP workers are able to organize for a voice on the job – a union – just like any other grocery store employee.
To drive home that message – and to warn Hy-Vee against interfering with workers’ efforts to join a union – the UFCW locals are teaming up on a “Union Jobs Are Good Jobs” campaign. Supporters are sending postcards to Hy-Vee management and workers, and lawn signs are popping up in neighborhoods across the Metro.