We are hearing that the UFCW Local 455 may be communicating incorrect information about the status of contract negotiations. It’s also been a while and we wanted to give you an update. Continue reading “Get the Facts”
UFCW Local 455 is shamefully trying to create fear and uncertainty with their misleading claims and it’s time for them to stop using the tragedy of the pandemic to satisfy their own political agenda and convince you that they are working hard for you.
FACT: During our meeting this week, we shared with the union that we had not been officially notified that an associate’s death was linked to COVID. For the union to ignore this fact and the privacy of this associate’s family is WRONG. Our hearts go out to the associate’s family and we are doing everything we can to support them.
FACT: From the onset of the pandemic, we have shared information on positive COVID cases with our associates when their store is impacted as well as shared the number and location of positive cases with your union. We also share these cases with the local health department when requested. Contrary to what the union claims, we are not hiding anything from you, them or local health authorities.
FACT: Kroger continues to take safety measures and protocols to help keep you and customers safe. We have shared this with the union many, many times. As a matter of fact, our meeting on January 13 was entirely dedicated to safety and our update that week reflected those discussions.
FACT: We’ve invested more than $1.3 billion to both reward associates and implement dozens of safety measures across the Kroger family of stores. We are committed to the health of our associates and customers.
FACT: We perform daily cleaning and disinfection, require masks and provide instruction on their proper use, encourage proper handwashing, and practice social distancing. When we have a positive case a third-party comes to sanitize and deep clean the store. Associates are directed to stay home when sick and to go home if they become ill while working. We have also reinstated greeters in our store entrances to reinforce cleaning measures.
FACT: We have encouraged and continue to work with federal and state governments to have our associates included on the priority list for the vaccine. We have started to offer the vaccine to associates as it becomes available to those that have been prioritized.
FACT: Unfortunately, Texas, including Houston, is experiencing a spike in cases and our positive case rate is similar with the trends we are seeing in the communities we serve.
Bottom line: We are doing everything we can to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers.
Today, we met with Local 455 and continue to remain at impasse over health care. Your union continues to criticize the company-administered plan, but have they shared what their entire health care proposal would mean for you and your family?
Who is Local 455 trying to kid? As we have shared in the past, your union has proposed significant health care changes in order to keep your benefits tied to the South-Central Fund. We have given you many side-by-side comparisons – all available at www.krogerhoustoncba.com.
Associate contributions affect your weekly paycheck – the union’s proposal on contributions is more costly than what the company is proposing. Associates in Plan B and C will see an improvement in co-insurance in the company plan versus the union’s proposal. Why is the union not sharing these facts with you?
In their latest communication, your union is taking three items from our proposal and presenting them out of context while ignoring the reality of their proposal. Consider the following:
The company knows that access to quality and reliable health care is important for you and believes you need to consider all the facts.
Since negotiations began in February, we have been very transparent on our proposals and offers, keeping you and your co-workers informed every step of the way through your store leader and by posting all our proposals on www.krogerhoustoncba.com.
UFCW Local 455, on the other hand, continues to misrepresent the facts to create fear and uncertainty. Our Last, Best and Final Offer is a strong offer and includes wage increases for all associates, secure and stable health care benefits, and a reinstated one-time ratification bonus for all associates. Yet, Local 455 continually refuses to allow you the opportunity to vote our offer and is threatening a strike that puts your paycheck in jeopardy. Consider the facts vs. the union’s recent statements concerning our offer.
|Union Statements||Company Facts|
|Eliminates a number of full-time positions in a majority of stores||· Our proposal on Full-Time and Part-Time ratio does not impact the status of any current Full-Time associate.|
|Makes it harder for you to get wage increases||· We provided permanent wage increases to many associates in October and all other associates will receive a permanent wage increase in early February 2021.
· You will make more money faster and we are guaranteeing increases each year of the contract.
|Destroys your current health care by putting Kroger solely in charge of your costs and coverage||· Nearly 8,000 of eligible associates have elected coverage in the company-administered plan for 2021.
· By comparison, the number of enrolled associates in the company plan for 2021 is over 600 associates more than those enrolled in South Central for 2020. More are enrolling every day. We believe this is because our associates understand the value and security that the company-administered plan represents.
· Your union will continue to bargain your health care contributions and coverage for future contracts.
|Pays clerks less for jobs they’re asked to do||· Our proposal would allow associates to move within departments and could potentially mean additional hours for associates and an opportunity to learn more aspects of the business.
· It also provides the company with flexibility to back fill hours due to call-offs or when a department is understaffed.
|Makes it harder to qualify for daily overtime||· We are proposing to change daily overtime from 8 hours to 8.5 hours. Rather than eliminating it entirely, we want to give associates who are working to serve customers or complete tasks at the end of their shift the opportunity to still earn daily overtime.
· We will also continue to follow all Federal labor laws and provide overtime after 40 hours per week.
· It’s also important to note that your coworkers in Louisiana also covered by Local 455 do not have daily overtime in their contracts.
|Reduces paid vacation for certain workers||· Our proposal limits the vacation for new hires filling part-time roles only.
· All current associates will maintain their current vacation pay and, in our Meat contract proposal, we are adding an additional week to Part-Time Meat associates’ vacation.
· In addition, our proposal allows associates to accumulate personal holidays more quickly.
We are continuing to hear that UFCW Local 455 is providing you with inaccurate information about the company-administered health care plan and open enrollment for your 2021 benefit coverage. It is causing unnecessary fear and uncertainty for associates.
The union is not comparing their proposal to keep benefits in the South-Central Fund with our Kroger plan proposal. They are comparing your current contract benefits with our current proposal. We aren’t sure why the union is sharing your current benefit levels rather than their proposal that significantly changes your current benefits. Consider the following:
Has the union given you a copy in writing of their proposal that makes significant changes in order to keep your benefits in the South-Central Fund? You can and should ask for it.
Have they provided you with a complete side-by-side comparison of their proposal versus the Kroger health care proposal? Check it out for yourself on www.krogerhoustoncba.com. Here are the facts:
|Union Fiction||Company Facts|
|Kroger’s plan is designed to make it more expensive for you to use your health care.||· The company plan is secure, reliable and affordable unlike the South-Central Fund which cut your benefits in 2019, requiring you to pay 65% of your health care costs.
· The company plan guarantees your benefit coverage for the life of your agreement. Can the union guarantee that the South-Central Fund will not cut your benefits in the future?
|Out-of-Pocket (OOP) Maximums: Your OOP maximum is guaranteed under your contract to be set at $4,000/$8,000 for Plans A& B and $4,500/$9,000 for Plan C.||· These OOP maximums are for your current benefits. Your union’s health care proposal raises your OOP maximums in the South-Central Fund.
· Under the proposed South-Central Fund plans, OOP maximums listed are medical only. Your actual OOP maximums in the South-Central Fund are aligned with the Affordable Care Act – for 2021 South-Central Fund Plan OOP maximums would be $8,150/$16,300.
· Under the union’s proposal, there is no cap for out-of-network OOP maximums.
|Emergency Room Visits: Under your current employee-controlled plan, it is guaranteed under contract that an emergency room visit co-pay is $100 + co-insurance for hospital stays or specialty visits.||· Under the proposed South-Central Fund plans, ER visits are $150+20% for Plan A, $150+25% for Plan B and $300+30% for Plan C.|
We don’t want to see our hard-working associates potentially lose their benefits. As the company has already informed the Union, if you want to have healthcare benefits in 2021, you should sign up for the Kroger plan to protect you and your family.
Thousands of your fellow associates eligible for benefits in 2021 have already enrolled in the Kroger plan in just the past week and a half.
If you are eligible for benefits and have not signed up for the Kroger-administered plan, you should enroll to ensure coverage in 2021. For information on how to enroll, please go to FEED, then Human Resources, Total Rewards, and click on Benefit Connect Enrollment or see your store leader.
It’s unfortunate that your union continues to mislead you. We believe the union is desperate and continues to misrepresent the facts in order to create fear and uncertainty. Our Last, Best and Final Offer speaks for itself. Consider the following highlights:
- Wage increases for top-rate associates and department heads as outlined in our Last, Best and Final Offer were effective for the hours worked beginning October 4, 2020 and were reflected beginning with your October 15 paycheck.
- Associates will continue to progress in their current wage progression until February 7, 2021, at which point all associates will move to the new wage schedule as outlined in our offer. This is in addition to the wage increases already scheduled for this year from your prior contract.
- The extension of the ratification bonus has expired. Your union’s decision on our Last, Best and Final offer has silenced your voice and took away your decision to ratify and receive that money. Ask your union why they did not allow you to vote?
Paid Time Off
- Our proposal does not cut your paid time off. All current associates will maintain their current vacation pay and, in our Meat contract proposal, we are adding an additional week to Part-Time Meat associates’ vacation.
- Our proposal also allows associates to accumulate personal holidays more quickly.
- Our proposal increases minimum hours from 15 to 18 per week.
- Our proposal on Full-Time and Part-Time ratio does not impact the status of any current Full-Time associate.
- Health and Welfare Trust Funds – like South-Central and Memphis – are not employee-controlled as the union would have you believe. Think of it this way – did you or other Kroger associates have any control over the benefit cuts the South-Central Fund made in May 2019?
- The union cannot guarantee your benefits in a Health and Welfare Trust Fund. The company has guaranteed your benefits in a company-administered plan, including your weekly contributions and benefit plans, through the life of the contract. The company-administered plan gives you the benefits and peace of mind you deserve during a pandemic.
- The union’s recent health care proposal shifts costs to you and your co-workers. You can look at a side-by-side comparison of the company and union proposals or ask your union representative for a copy of their health care proposal.
Remember: Open Enrollment in the Kroger plan for your health care benefits, effective January 1, 2021, begins November 2 and runs through November 20.
We remain at bargaining impasse or deadlocked and continue to move forward with implementing our Last, Best and Final Offer.
Since negotiations began in February, we have been very transparent on our proposals and offers. The union continues to misinform you with incorrect information concerning our Last, Best and Final Offer and bargaining impasse. While there are many inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the union’s recent communications concerning our offer and implementation, we want to address a few with this update. Our proposals, along with detailed explanations on wages, health care and other terms, are available for you to download and review – see the Resource section.
Your union recently published a handbill comparing their proposed health care benefits through the South-Central Fund vs. benefits through our proposed company-administered plan. We’ve heard concerns from some of you and feel it is necessary to set the record straight:
- Some of the information they shared was incorrect and misleading – even on items in their own proposal.
- The union also failed to provide you with side-by-side comparisons of associate weekly contributions and co-insurance, which are two of the biggest factors determining what you will pay for your health care.
- We have also heard that the union is telling associates to enroll in the South-Central Fund for 2021 benefits. Kroger will no longer be paying for your future benefit coverage in the South-Central Fund. If you intend to have benefits in 2021 through your employer – Kroger – it is imperative that you enroll in the company-administered plan.
- Check it out for yourself. You can view the union’s and company’s health care.
The union wants to mislead you in order to protect and maintain their health and welfare trust fund, the very fund that significantly reduced your benefits in May 2019. Incorrect pieces of information as the union’s communication below shows will not help you make an informed decision. Here are the facts:
More importantly, here are the comparisons on associate weekly contributions and co-insurance, which the union failed to share:
Your union is proposing to increase the cost for your benefits
- As a matter of fact, not only is Local 455 proposing to keep your benefits in the South-Central Fund, they are proposing to significantly increase your contributions, deductibles, out of pocket maximums, etc.
- Even with these proposed changes, the union cannot guarantee that you would not experience more benefit cuts in the future by remaining in the South-Central Fund.
- You can review their full proposal here.
Questions you may want to ask the union:
- Does the union’s proposal increase weekly contributions?
- Will associates’ deductibles stay the same in the union’s proposal?
- Will associates’ out of pocket maximums increase based on their proposal?
Here are the facts of our investments in associates:
- Since March, the Kroger family of companies has invested more than $830 million across the organization to safeguard our associates and customers and reward our associates
- We provided several rounds of bonuses, premium pay and Loyalty credit above regular earnings to thank our associates for being there to meet the needs of our customers and communities during the
- By the end of 2020 the Kroger family of companies will have increased its associate wage investments across the organization by approximately $800 million—$300 million more than we had originally planned as part of our Restock Kroger initiative. Here in Houston – we are investing more than $47 million in wages with our Last, Best and Final – that’s in addition to the $8 million investment we made mid-contract in your wages in October 2019.
- As part of our continued commitment to our associates’ pensions, Kroger has proposed to invest nearly $1 billion to improve the security and stability of future retirement benefits for more than 33,000 associates across 14 divisions, including Houston Meat
Kroger believes you have waited long enough for a wage increase and deserve to be rewarded for your hard work and that you and your family deserve the peace of mind that your health care will be stable, reliable and secure with a company-administered plan. We encourage you to review and download our Last, Best and Final Offer.
We have been open and transparent, posting all our proposals with explanations, including our Last Best and Final Offer for you to download and review.
Let’s be clear: The company and union are deadlocked (at impasse) on health care.
The union has repeatedly stated that they will never agree to a contract that includes a company-administered plan. Likewise, the company has repeatedly stated that we would not agree to continue to have our associates’ health care tied to the unstable South-Central Fund and a company administered plan is the only acceptable option. We heard the union has been misstating our offer in several areas. Here are the facts:
You still have a voice in health care
· Our proposal guarantees your benefit coverage and contributions through the life of the contract
· As always, all future benefit coverage and associate contributions would be negotiated by the union
· In addition, we added language in our proposal that company and union representatives would meet quarterly to discuss issues or concerns with the company-administered plan.
Our proposed company-administered plan is backed and guaranteed by Kroger’s 136-year history
· Store leaders and office associates across the Kroger Family of Companies are also covered under a company-administered plan
· Unionized associates from other members of the Kroger Family of Companies like Delta (Little Rock), Michigan, Roundy’s and Mariano’s have a company-administered plan
We are improving wages for all associates through the life of the contract
· Over the life of the contract, hourly rates would increase for all associates ranging from $.90 to $2.45 per hour
· Department Heads would receive more money than they have ever received and at a quicker pace – $1.50 over the 3-year contract
· Ratification bonus of $600 (Department Heads), $500 (Full-Time Top-Rate) or $300 (Part Time Top-Rate)
We believe our Last, Best and Final Offer is a solid offer. It puts more money in your pocket with wage increases and provides secure, reliable, affordable health care with a company-administered plan through April 8, 2023.
We hope the union provides you an opportunity to vote. Please get all the facts, talk with your family and friends, attend the meeting for your bargaining unit, and vote if you get the chance.