Read your contract!

This is Deborah Peralta, checker at Hazel Dell Fred Meyer Store #140. As she tells it, “I’ve been a union member since 2007 and have never fully read my contract, only parts of it! I’m not alone. More than half of my coworkers claim to have never taken the time to read it either. That’s one of the reasons why I chose to take the steward development classes when Ron, my union rep, suggested I consider becoming a steward. The second reason is that I believe there should be someone in my store that my co-workers can talk to concerning Union issues because Ron can’t always be there, and this is a good way to educate myself and in turn others about the union’s role and our contract. I naturally aim to be honest, present, and nice. I hope my peers trust me enough to take on the responsibility of being their shop steward.”

Click here to request a copy of your contract.

The 555 Bulletin 2/3/2016

Upcoming Union Events and Announcements

NW Hope Foundation Scholarships

UFCW Local 555 is proud to work with the Northwest Hope Foundation which offers this Scholarship Program to UFCW Local 555 members and their families.

This year we are pleased to announce that there will be up to a total of thirteen (13) scholarship awards of up to $2,000 each. The scholarships must be used at; any accredited college or university, technical or vocational school, or junior community college for any course of study. The award is to help pay for tuition, fees, books, educational expenses and educational materials for the 2016-2017 academic year.

In addition to the awards above, The L Walt Derry Scholarship is for those motivated students seeking a career in the labor movement advancing worker rights and fighting for working families. There will be one scholarship of $2,500.00 awarded this year. The Scholarship is to offset costs in traditional college and trade school programs including but not limited to: Human Resources; Labor Relations; Arbitration; Collective Bargaining; Investigation; Counseling; and Public Relations.

Click here for more information.

Retail Unity Negotiation Committee Update

From 1/28/2016

For the last three days your Retail Unity Negotiation Committee met with the employers mostly over non-economic language. In fact, the companies spent, including previous bargaining sessions, almost four days on a single issue delaying economic discussion to the very last day of scheduled bargaining.
Once economic discussions began, your Retail Unity Negotiation Committee proposed pension increases, wage increases for Journeypersons and Apprentices, and a plan to address wage inflation.

The employers’ counter proposal included NO pension increases, NO apprentice wage increases, NO wage increases for Journeypersons, reducing the starting wage in most contracts, and offered only 15¢ bonuses for some employees spread over three years.

Your Retail Unity Negotiations Committee is committed to the original goals: Obtain wage increases, protect healthcare benefits, strengthen pension benefits, improve scheduling practices, secure and improve sick pay benefits, and standardize where possible contract language throughout the jurisdiction.
What do you think of your employer’s “offer?” Do you think your committee should have jumped at a 15 cent bonus?

Click here to download a flyer to print and hang in your break-room to help spread the word.

Member Spotlight

Robert Flath has worked for Safeway twenty eight years. Peggy his wife pictured with him has been a member for as long. He was given a certificate of merit last month by the Portland Fire department for saving a choking infant’s life. An infant in the back of his store was not breathing. Supporting the baby in his arms, he delivered a series of blows to her back and dislodged the object choking her, and she was breathing normally when paramedics arrived. Had it not been for Robert, the outcome would have been gravely different. Way to go Robert!
“Thanks to my Union contract, I have great sick pay benefits! After a recent stay in the hospital, I was told I needed to use vacation days, until I asked my Union Rep. She got it straightened out. An adjustment was made and vacation added back to my bank! It’s great to be Union and have the benefits in my contract.”
Desiree Durbin
UFCW 555 Member

Pictured here are Glen Espersen, Longview Safeway Steward/Executive Board VP, Gail Brundage, Steward, St Helens Safeway, and Robert Bellew, Steward, Longview Fred Meyer! These three dedicated UFCW 555 members are part of the Retail Unity Negotiations Committee, working to bring you a solid contract.
“I appreciate all the hard work our leaders and stewards do to ensure decent living, wages, and the benefits we receive.”

Michele Myers
UFCW 555 Member

Sue Bacon, a 24 year union member that works in the pharmacy at the Sunset Fred Meyer, says that she loves being union and having the protection of the union contract in the workplace.
Richelle Cain was terminated from Foster Farms for allegedly leaving her shift early without notifying anyone. After an investigation and a fact finding meeting with Foster Farms by Union Rep, Lynda Hart, and Shop Steward, Ahren Belden, it was determined that the union would take Richelle’s case to an arbitrator for a decision. Short of presenting the case to the arbitrator the company settled with Richelle with $3,000, along with removal of discipline from her file and a clean job referral. Since her termination, Richelle, has enrolled in college and made the “Dean’s List.” Now with her settlement she will continue with her education and is very appreciative of her Union putting her best interest first and going to bat for her. Congratulations, Richelle! Keep up the great work in school!

“The Union helps me secure a good job with fair wages”
Kimley Neth
UFCW 555 Member
Forty plus year member Steve Burbach and ten plus year member Melody Lino keep the meat and fish case at Lamb’s Thriftway on Olson Road looking fresh and well stocked every day. They are as proud of their UFCW 555 pension plan as they are of their case display. Melody knows that her retirement is as secure several decades into the future as is Steve’s, which he could take advantage of at most any point. “I’m fully vested and have my financial future pretty well planned out,” says Steve. “But right now a job that I enjoy and great customers keep me going.”
“I love working here for the very same reasons,” says Melody. Both eager followers of the stock market and their pension fund’s performance, Melody and Steve both take comfort in the fact that their retirement benefits are safe, solid, and secure.

“The reason I became a shop steward is because I like being a voice to help people settle problems and make their working experience a great one. We are all one big family and spend a lot of time together and should help stand together united.”

Erin Olp
UFCW 555 Member
“I feel fortunate to be employed at Sherm’s Thunderbird Market for the past twenty-seven years and a member of UFCW Local 555 for twenty-six of those years. During this time, our Union has gotten stronger under the leadership of Dan Clay and his crew. By merging southern Oregon with the greater Portland area, healthcare has improved tremendously proving there is really strength in numbers. With contract negotiations underway, I feel confident that under Dan’s direction, we will be offered a workable agreement that will be beneficial to members and employers alike.”

Regina Sample
UFCW 555 Member

“I would like to take this time to thank Local 555 for their support and attention they have given me when I needed it. I left the Union in 1991 with a bitter taste in my mouth. Since I came back to 555, I feel they truly do care about me. I am thankful for my insurance and very glad that I now have a pension.”

Dewayne Gobble
UFCW 555 Member
“I would like to thank my Union for the support I get from my rep and from our leadership in the office. My insurance is great and I look forward to having a great pension. I am also the shop steward for my fellow members in Lakeview and enjoy helping them when I can.”

Suzie McCully
UFCW 555 Member

Bad Economic Policy Is Hurting (you)…

When I first took over as President of UFCW Local 555, we had some pretty serious problems with our pension trust and our two health trusts. Jeff and I traveled around Oregon and SW Washington talking to hard working UFCW members and telling everyone that we could get this fixed if they gave us a little time. Over the next couple of years, we added money to the pension and, frankly, adjusted some benefits to make sure that the fund would be stable for when you want to retire. We also merged our two health trusts into one and we increased funding substantially.

As of the last report, your pension trust was about 93% funded (which is pretty darn good) and your health trust had the necessary reserves to pay claims for months if there was a problem.

Back before the trusts were fixed, I recall a member from Vancouver asking me a very profound question. She said, “If I didn’t know about these problems and now my benefits are being affected, how am I going to know if there is a problem in the future?” I still remember my exact answer today. I said, “I will tell you if there is a problem ahead, so you don’t need to worry too much.” Today is that day.

As I said before, your health trust is in very good shape. There is nothing to worry about there. It is your pension trust that prompted my previous story. Your pension is inextricably tied to various stock markets around the world and if you have been watching the news, you know the news isn’t good for investors. As of this writing, the Dow Jones and NASDAQ were down about 10% for 2016.

At our recent high point, we had about 880 million dollars in your pension fund. While your fund is diversified in foreign markets, hedge funds, bonds, infrastructure, housing, and numerous other strategies, our exposure to stocks will have a noticeable impact on our plan. My guess is 40-50 million dollars in losses will be reported at the end of the quarter just based on January alone. The Markets have a tendency to bounce back, but if they don’t rebound, we will likely see your pension slip from “Green Status” which is good, to “Red Status” which is not good. You don’t need to worry about whether your pension check will arrive and I don’t want anyone to panic. At this point, this problem is manageable. However, I made a promise to keep UFCW members informed about the good news and the bad news. These recent returns are bad news and could spell trouble if the trend continues.

So you now know the “what”. Let’s talk about why. There are a few obvious answers and a few not so obvious answers. One obvious contributing factor might be that this is a Presidential election year. Financial markets historically perform below average in these years, likely due to investor uncertainly in what the new President will change. Thankfully, these “bad” years are usually followed by a recovery.

Since 2008, it could be reasonably argued that the economy has slowed down due to NAFTA. NAFTA allowed corporations to send American jobs overseas, but it didn’t require that they share the benefits; shoes that once cost $27 to make started costing $3 to make. And what did the American worker get? A pink slip. I know what you are thinking… NAFTA was way before 2008. How could this be? After NAFTA, American jobs were sent overseas. American workers were laid off. These workers took the jobs that were left, which most paid less because the good jobs were gone. People turned to credit to keep up their standards of living. The credit ran out in 2008, once it became clear that mortgage backed securities were in many cases worthless. The Stock Market crashed. Any investments that these workers had often took a huge hit. It all happened and it wasn’t a mistake. It was wealthy people manipulating the markets to become more wealthy.

Ready for the next “mistake” that is going to hurt you and your pension? We already know what it is going to be. This one comes from the Supreme Court. A few years back they decided that corporations were people. I remember Mitt Romney’s infamous defense of that ridiculous idea. Second, the Court ruled that corporations (and actual people) could spend unlimited money to buy politicians. There is no need to explain how that works. Finally, the Court has now taken up Friedrichs vs. the California Teachers Association (CTA). There is a strong belief that the Court will rule against the CTA and in doing so limit the rights of all public sector union members to act collectively to defend the quality of their worklife. It is a tortured argument that they will likely follow, but that doesn’t matter much as the Supreme Court has the final say on any particular law.

If this ruling comes down as expected, every public sector worker’s united voice will be muffled and it will become unconstitutional for public workers to speak with one voice like they do now. Once the Supreme Court eviscerates public sector workers, the politicians that vote to their right to unified action will be unelected. Workers will be in worse shape. And many of the politicians that fought against the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be eliminated.

Soon American workers will be competing head-to-head with workers who make less than a tenth of what we do and these hard-working Americans will have even less to spend. The economy will suffer. The stock market will continue wild swings in the absence of a robust economy that investors can trust. Workers’ pension money will grow slower because of the lower stock market returns. We end up having a big problem. In a nutshell, working people won’t have the money to buy the things they make.

Don’t get me wrong. UFCW Local 555 will be fighting this all the way, but that is what corporations are trying to do to you.

Dan Clay
President, UFCW Local 555

Local 555 Member Spotlight, December 12, 2015

“I appreciate our Union for always doing their best in contract negotiations for our members.”

Cynthia Kline
UFCW Local 555 Member

“I just attended the new member meeting, it was very informative and well worth the $50.00 credit.  Good luck to the Negotiations Team and thank you for fighting for more hours!”

Kimberly Thomas
UFCW Local 555 Member

“I like being a union member because of the benefits we get through unity negotiations. I also like that they fight for working families for a better way of life.”

Melody Gramley
UFCW Local 555 Member
Executive Board Member
Retail Unity Negotiations Committee Member
“I am glad to be a union member because labor unions can raise the employment standards of the entire industry just by being present and active! The existence of unions helps us all.”
Andrew Busch
UFCW Local 555 Member
Retail Unity Negotiations Committee Member

“I’m glad to be a union member, and I am especially grateful for those two magic words: Weingarten rights.”

Alice Grassl
UFCW Local 555 Member
Executive Board Member
Retail Unity Negotiations Committee Member
Tomi Jo Lorentzen and Carmen Riddle from the Fred Meyer in Longview are looking rather festive this holiday season, and both love their UFCW Local 555 Medical benefits.

“I love the fact that my union cares about me. Thank you for the cash that I won in the raffle for signing up for Active Ballot Club.”

Jaymee Acoba
UFCW Local 555 Member

“I won one of the ABC Raffles, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.  I just turned 21, and am taking a camping trip vacation.  This is going to make it much more fun.  Thank you UFCW and the ABC.”

Jerold Graves Jr.
UFCW Local 555 Member

“I signed up for the ABC because I thought it would do a lot of good things.  Now we have first day sick pay .  Thank you UFCW for the things you do through the ABC.”

Molly Ayres
UFCW Local 555 Member
“What I like about being Union is that my Union makes sure that I get what is in my contract. It is rare that I need to call them, but when I do, they are there for me. They will also help me fight for a fair contract.”
Ross Villegas
UFCW Local 555 Member

Local 555 Member Spotlight, December 1, 2015

“I like how we can ask for help when needed. The medical benefits and pension trust are great; they always take care of us. I also want to thank our union for protecting our brothers and sisters that came back from Haggen’s without losing any benefits they had earned before they left. My husband was one of them.”
Amy Tibbetts UFCW
Local 555 Member
“I really like the medical, dental, and eye care that is provided by the Union.  Even though I fund a 401k, it is nice to know that the union pension plan will be there when it comes time to retire.”
Mark Hamada
UFCW 555 Member

“As a younger person, I may not use a lot of the health benefits, but it feels great to know my union has my back and supports me, with not only things like Weingarten rights, but with knowledge of the legalities and technicalities that I don’t understand.”
Devin Calkins
UFCW 555 Member
“I have had lots of health problems, and I am so thankful to have the medical benefits from my union.”
Jeanne Ramsey
UFCW 555 Member

Teresa Hefley, from Fred Meyer, is a bone marrow recipient, and a cancer survivor.  She participates in fundraising for the annual Cowlitz / Wahkiakum Relay for Life on the Fred Meyer team.  Pictured is Teresa giving a thank you card to Jeff Anderson, for the $500 donation from UFCW Local 555 to help her reach her fundraising goal.
“I like being union because it gives us job security and rights in the work place. Being part of the bargaining committee was a learning experience which taught me the importance of solidarity.”
Rafael Contreras Martinez
UFCW 555 Member
Pictured are Katie Newell and Rebecak Nelson after filling out their Contract Negotiations Survey. The surveys were important because they helped create the framework the Retail Unity Negotiations Committee would use going into contract negotiations. At the end of the survey, the following goals were created for negotiations:
  • Obtain wage increases to protect long-term members’ buying power and increase wages for new members to support adequate staffing in stores.
  • Protect the affordability, and access to, healthcare benefits.
  • Strengthen pension benefits while protecting the security of, and access to, the defined benefit plan.
  • Improve the scheduling practices with a bias toward full time employment.
  • Secure and improve sick pay benefits.
  • Standardize, where possible, contract language in the various contracts.