It’s time we take a different look at voting

By Dan Clay

The last election I remember being really excited about was 2008. There were two candidates that I really believed in and believed could help bring the change American workers so desperately needed.

That year Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were neck and neck in a race that highlighted ideas, positions, and, of course, Obama brought a heaping helping of hope. It was exciting. And after Obama’s victory, I believed we might be on the right track for a change. In the end, Obama’s support for free trade agreements, deals with pharmaceutical companies, and a couple other disappointments soured me on his presidency to a degree, but there were some highlights too. While the Affordable Care Act is everyone’s favorite punching bag, I have a different perspective. As a Trustee on your medical plan, I’m a fan. Your plan spends about $100,000,000 per year and even with all the hassle it has caused, the ACA has made this part of your life better by limiting gouging, banning insurance companies from predatory practices, and controlling medical inflation. But back to my original topic…

Back in 2008, I was really excited about two candidates: John Edwards and Jeff Merkley. John Edwards said all the right things, demonstrated that he understood what American workers needed, and had demonstrated that he could separate himself from Corporate America. And he did all this while carrying on with a coworker behind his cancer ridden wife’s back. While I didn’t know this at the time, I was really relieved that he didn’t get the nomination once all this came out. Yikes! Thank goodness Jeff Merkley turned out better. In fact, during the primary I was very torn between Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick who now is one of Portland’s Commissioners. In the end, Jeff won and he has been better than I had hoped. If you are an American worker, Jeff is right on almost all the issues. Never once have I thought he sold out to Corporate America. His leadership has been indispensable for Oregon and the entire country.

If I had the opportunity, I would have voted for John Edwards and been wrong. I did vote for Jeff Merkley and I think I was right. I’m sure you all have had similar experiences.

Fast forward to today… I’m not entirely thrilled with the choices we have for President. A friend sent me a picture they got off the internet. It showed a dirty truck and someone wrote on the back window “Orange Hitler vs. Grandma Nixon. Come on America.” I think that sums up where many Americans are at this election cycle.

I’ve never lied to you and I’m not going to start now. I’m not a big Donald Trump fan. Any of you that know me probably could have guessed that. I’m not a Republican, but there are many decent, honorable, and competent Republicans that I support even though I disagree with them on this issue or that issue. The Donald isn’t one of them. But Hillary Clinton wasn’t my first choice either. In fact, she wasn’t my second or third choice. But here we are. This year I have a choice of voting for Donald or Hillary. Or I can throw away my vote on a third-party candidate. Or not vote.

Unlike most of the rest of the world that votes for people in many, many different parties and then force the parties to work together to build governing coalitions, we have a “lesser of two evils” system of voting. So I’ll be voting for the Presidential Candidate I dislike the least.

But that is just one race. There are scores of candidates that either need your vote or don’t deserve it. Jeff Merkley was in the Oregon Legislature. Bernie Sanders was once a small town mayor. Your Union evaluates candidates based on where they stand on workplace/pocketbook issues. Most of the time I follow the recommendation of my union, but not always. Members of the Active Ballot Club, which are UFCW Local 555 members, send out questionnaires to any candidate who seeks our endorsement. Without a completed questionnaire, we very rarely endorse. The committee interviews the candidates. They debate who would be best for the membership. And then they make a recommendation.

Not voting is refusing to play the game and if you don’t play, you can’t win. These people, whether you like them or not, make the rules that you must live by. Nationally, people have elected leaders who made rules allowing billionaires to pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than me, my secretary, or my meat cutter friend in Eugene. They have made rules that say tricky corporations don’t even have to pay taxes. And they have made rules that mean some of the tax money you pay goes back to corporations in welfare so that they have a negative tax rate and can give more money to the billionaires. It’s utter madness.

However, I’m still excited about voting. Here’s why. Whether I know it or not, this year I am going to be voting on dozens of down ballot candidates who could either be the next Jeff Merkley or the next John Edwards. I’m praying I get it right.

If you aren’t registered to vote, you can do so by going to UFCW555.org/vote and following the links for your state. You can also talk to your Union rep. They can help you out.

Labor Day – Monday, September 5, 2016

picnic logo

Every year, members and the staff of UFCW Local 555 participate in Labor Day activities all across our jurisdiction. We all come together on this special day to celebrate the hard work you have done all year, and to remember the battles fought for the respect and dignity of hard working people in this country. We invite you and your family on September 5th to join your Union Brothers and Sisters at a Labor Day Picnic so we may celebrate together!

Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Counties – Toutle River RV Resort (150 Happy Trails, Castle Rock, WA, Exit 52 off I-5) – Grilling Hamburgers & Hot Dogs from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Bring the family and your favorite picnic dish to share. Come out for Swimming, Kids Games, Camping and a great chance to socialize with other local union members from our community.

Bend Area – Pioneer Park (NW Wall St.) – Picnic hours will be from 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm. Music, Games, and Fun for the whole family. This picnic is put on in conjunction with the Central Oregon Central Labor Council.

Eugene/Springfield Area – John Lively Picnic Shelters (6100 Thurston Street) – Picnic runs from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. This picnic is put on in conjunction with the Lane County Labor Council. **Please bring a side dish!**

Medford/Grants Pass Area – Emigrant Lake, Shelter D (5505 Highway 66, Ashland, OR) 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Lunch will be served. Speakers and entertainment for the whole family. There is a $4 charge for parking. Sponsored by the Southern Oregon Central Labor Council.

North Bend/Coos Bay Area – Ferry Road Park – Picnic hours will be from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. Music, Games, and Fun for the whole family. This picnic is put on in conjunction with the Southwestern Oregon Central Labor Council. Asking for a small donation of non-perishable food.

Portland / Vancouver/ SW Washington – Oaks Amusement Park – The event starts at 10:00 am. Lunch will be served from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm and is free to members and their families. Ride bracelets will be given out to the first 500 kids under the age of 12. This picnic is put on in conjunction with the Northwest Oregon Labor Council.

Salem Area – Salem Waterfront Park – Lunch will be served from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. Music, Games, and Fun for the whole family. Arrive around 11:00 am to mingle and listen to Labor Day speakers. This picnic is put on in conjunction with the Marion-Polk-Yamhill Labor Council. **Please bring 2 cans of non-perishable food per person as a donation.**

Sherm’s Ratification Votes This Week

Votes are scheduled this week to ratify the contracts for members working for Sherm’s in Medford, Roseburg, and Klamath Falls. Local 555 has reached a tentative agreement with Sherms for all Grocery and Meat contracts in Oregon. There will be Union Votes where you will have a chance to review the agreement and vote on it. UFCW staff will be available to answer any questions. You can drop in anytime during your vote’s day at the following locations.

Sherm’s Klamath Falls
June 29, 2016, @2:00pm
Sherm’s Thunderbird #2
1877 Avalon Street
Klamath Falls, OR 97601‐0212
(in the cooler behind the cutting room)

Sherm’s Medford
June 30, 2016, 9:00am to 6:00pm
Labor Temple
4480 Rogue Valley Hwy.
Central Point, OR 97502

Sherm’s Roseburg
July 1, 2016 9:00am to 6:00pm
Labor Temple
742 S.E. Roberts Avenue
Roseburg, OR 97470

Update on Retail Raises & Retro

The recent contract settlement agreement with Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway, & QFC provided for Journeyperson wage increases at the start of the new contract, which for some contracts that were already expired, meant retroactive pay. Your union and the company’s labor relations representatives expected that the companies would implement the raises and retro checks within approximately 30 days of ratification. Unfortunately that will not necessarily be the case for all contracts.

Your Union Leadership has been in frequent contact with your employer’s Labor Relations representatives over the last couple weeks to determine why there was a delay in implementation, and have been able to receive the following information:

Fred Meyer & QFC Members:

Kroger payroll opted to process all of the retro contracts at the same time, regardless of ratification date. That, along with the fact that retro for most contracts was recorded in two different payroll systems, caused a bit of a delay. Here is the timeline had been put together by Kroger payroll and finally sent to Fred Meyer Labor Relations this week:

  • June 30th – members will see their new rates on the check they receive this day.
  • June 29th – July 18th – figure all retro owed up until June 18th.
  • July 21st – the associates will see the retro included on the paycheck they receive this day.

Albertsons & Safeway Members:

Your employers are concerned about making sure the increase and retro is implemented correctly, so they have spent extra time to try and make sure they don’t have payroll errors similar to what many of you may have experienced at some point over the last year. Albertsons/Safeway Labor Relations has informed us that while they expect to have the raises and retro pay worked out in the next couple weeks, they do not have a set date from payroll yet.

Your Union will continue to stay on top of this issue and make sure each member entitled to a raise and retro check receives it as soon as possible, and that the raises and retro checks are correct.