Negotiations Update: Union’s Proposal Falls Short Again

Kroger Houston and UFCW Local 455 met again this week to continue discussions. The union once again proposed a health care plan that essentially is the South-Central fund in disguise. This is the third meeting with the union since the first of the year and they continue to drag out negotiations with health care proposals that don’t meet or beat what associates now have in the company plan.

  • Local 455 wants Kroger to agree to move associates out of the company plan and back into a health and welfare trust fund that provides less stable and secure coverage while paying more on a weekly basis.
  • Moving associates to the union’s proposed plan would mean that a large group of associates currently enrolled in the company plan would have reduced benefits.
  • None of this makes logical sense.

What’s next?

We have heard that you are frustrated with how long negotiations are taking, and you just want a new contract. We want that too. However, your union continues to propose health care benefits that don’t include a secure and stable company plan. We firmly believe a company plan, which nearly 8,000 associates are already participating in, is the best and only solution and the way forward in getting a new contract.

We want to reach a new agreement. This stalemate is not good for anyone. We encourage you to ask Local 455 to drop their health care proposal to keep benefits in a health and welfare trust fund and move forward with bargaining other items of your contract so that we can reach an agreement.

What has happened up until now?

As you know, we have put our Last, Best and Final Offer with ratification bonuses on the table multiple times. It’s unfortunate that your union hasn’t provided you the opportunity to vote and ratify a new agreement so you could take advantage of those bonuses.

Since implementing our Last, Best and Final Offer, you have seen some positive changes:

  • Many associates received wage increases in October 2020
  • Health care through a company-administered plan, beginning January 1, 2021
  • Minimum hours increased from 15 hours to 18 hours per week
  • Personal holidays accumulate more quickly – on January 1, 2021, nearly 5,700 associates gained an additional personal holiday

Wage increases coming soon!

  • As a reminder, effective for hours worked beginning February 7, 2021, associates in progressions will receive a pay increase, ranging from $.40 to $2.00, depending on position.
  • Wage increases will be reflected in your February 18, 2021 paycheck.
  • Department Heads and Top-Rate associates – who received increases in October 2020 – will receive increases effective August 8, 2021.

An Update from Union Meetings this Week

This week, the company met with Local 455. During the first session, our discussions focused on COVID and our safety measures.

Your well-being continues to remain our top priority as we continue to navigate the pandemic and evaluate our safety measures. For instance, with the recent spike in cases across the city and the reduction of capacity in restaurant and bar closures, we have reinstated greeters at store entrances to clean and sanitize bascarts.

In response to the recent concerns raised by the union, we shared with them, as we have done throughout the pandemic, our safety guidelines as well as our cleaning protocols:

  • PPE provided daily to every associate
  • Enhanced daily sanitation practices
  • Deep cleaning and sanitizing the entire store by a third-party with every reported positive case
  • Plastic partitions installed at check lanes
  • Floor decals to promote social distancing

During our second session, Local 455 once again presented a health care proposal with much of the same ideas that they have proposed in the past, including a health care fund merger with other UFCW locals’ health and welfare trust funds. Their proposal still doesn’t address the company’s requirements that we shared from the start of negotiations early last year, including:

  • Secure, reliable and affordable benefits
  • Modern plan designs for better health outcomes
  • Size and scale of the Kroger Family of Companies
  • Transparency and standardization in administration

We believe the union’s proposal does not meet these requirements and is not in the best interest of our associates that are now enrolled and receiving high-quality, affordable benefits in a company-administered plan.

If you are enrolled in the company plan, we encourage you to participate in the many programs and perks that the plan offers, including the Engage app and Total Health, Total You. For more information on your health care benefits, please contact the Kroger Benefits Service Center at 1-877-373-3397.

For additional information and updates, please visit www.krogerhoustoncba.com.

Thank You and Negotiations Update

Thank you for your commitment and dedication to our customers during this holiday season. We know this year’s celebrations were different, but because of you our customers had the fresh products and goods that they needed to serve up great meals for their loved ones.

Negotiations Update: Yesterday, we met with UFCW Local 455. We continue to remain at impasse over health care. It’s unfortunate that your union didn’t come to the meeting with any new proposal to move forward.

Your union continues to propose keeping your benefits tied to a health and welfare trust fund, including the South-Central Fund. We continue to share with your union that a company plan is the best solution to provide you with stable, secure and affordable health care benefits.

As you know on January 1, 2021, more than 8,000 Houston associates will have health care benefits through a company-administered plan. We have shared details of what this plan has to offer repeatedly throughout the last six months of negotiations.

In our session yesterday, we provided your union with a full, in-depth overview of the company plan, including the great health programs offered such as Centers of Excellence, Live Health Online and the Engage app through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. We believe this plan will provide the health care benefits that you and your family deserve.

Associates that signed up for coverage should have received new company plan insurance cards and more information about the health care coverage and the additional programs that the company plan offers.

If you have questions or need more information about your company plan benefits, please call the Kroger Benefits Service Center at 1-877-373-3397.

Thank you for all you do for our customers and communities. Happy New Year!

Answering Your Questions About a Strike

On Thursday, UFCW Local 455 notified Kroger Houston that it would not allow its members to vote on our Last, Best and Final Offer with reinstated Ratification Bonus for all associates.

We have heard that many of you are disappointed with the union’s decision. We are also hearing about some union activity, including discussing the possibility of a strike with associates. We hope the union will not take this course of action.

We understand that a potential work stoppage creates uncertainties for you and your family. We want you to know your rights and options, should the union call for a strike.

What Happens if the Union Calls for a Strike?

If the union calls for a strike, you may continue to work or choose to strike. The decision is yours to make. Not the company’s, not the union’s but your decision. You should make the decision that is right for you and your family without interference or pressure from the union or the company. Your store leader has more information on your rights during a strike, including if you want to continue to work during a work stoppage. 

What if I Am Not a Member of the Union?

Texas is a Right to Work state. Some associates are not members of the union and can continue to report to work as they do today.

How Do I Get Information from the Company During a Strike?

You can receive updates through your store leader, FEED, robocalls and text messaging, if you are signed up for our Emergency Alert Notification System. You can also get information on www.krogerhoustoncba.com.

WE ARE NOT RECOMMENDING THAT ASSOCIATES RESIGN FROM THE UNION OR PURSUE ANY PARTICULAR COURSE OF ACTION IN THIS MATTER. We believe that the company has a duty to inform our associates of general rights under the law and we have attempted to do so.  The choice is yours and yours alone.

UFCW Local 455 Notifies Company on Its Refusal to Vote on Last Best Final with Reinstated Ratification Bonus

Today, UFCW Local 455 notified Kroger Houston that it would not allow its members to vote on our Last, Best and Final Offer with reinstated Ratification Bonus for all associates.

We have heard that you are frustrated with the process, concerned about the uncertainties with a work stoppage and want to have a new contract in place. We want that too! We are disappointed with Local 455’s decision.

You can and should ask the union why they are refusing once again to allow a vote on our offer with ratification bonuses?

What happens next?

You should continue to report to work as scheduled. We have heard of some union activity, including discussing the possibility of a strike with associates. We hope the union will not take this course of action.

To keep informed talk with your store leader, visit www.krogerhoustoncba.com and FEED or you can call our hotline at 713-507-4840 to ask a question.

Company Reinstates Ratification Bonus in Last, Best and Final

Offering All Associates the Opportunity to Receive a Bonus

Kroger Houston and UFCW Local 455 are meeting again this week. We have heard that you are frustrated with the process, concerned about the uncertainties with a work stoppage and want to have a new contract in place. We want that too!

To help move things forward and come to a resolution, we are once again putting our Last, Best and Final Offer on the table with an added incentive that all associates would receive a one-time ratification bonus. This is an additional $4.2 million investment in all associates.

  • $600 – Department Heads, Assistant Department Heads and Leads
  • $500 – Top-Rate Full-Time Associates
  • $300 – Top-Rate Part-Time Associates
  • $150 – All Other Associates

The union has until Thursday, December 3 at 5 p.m. to notify us that our offer with ratification bonus is fully recommended and will be put to a vote by membership.

If the union decides not to recommend our offer and allow you to vote on it, Kroger Houston will continue to address the business uncertainties of working without a contract including the potential for loss of customers and lost revenue.

What else has happened this week?

Today, we shared with Local 455 that its proposal to transfer health care benefits to the Nashville Health and Welfare Trust Fund is not a viable option because it does not meet the company’s necessary criteria to address your future health care benefits.

To date, more than 85% of those eligible to enroll for 2021 benefit coverage have done so in the company plan. Even though the union refuses to say that the company-administered plan is the best option for secure, reliable, affordable health care benefits, they have requested that we extend the enrollment period for the company-administered plan and we have agreed to do so. If you want benefit coverage effective January 1, 2021, you can still enroll in the company plan through December 11.

Questions to ask your union in the event they do not let you vote on our offer and call for a strike:

  • Why is the union refusing to allow a vote?
  • If the union calls for a work stoppage and I decide to strike, how much will my strike pay be?
  • When will my first check arrive if I work the picket line?
  • How long could a work stoppage last?

To keep informed talk with your store leader, visit www.krogerhoustoncba.com and FEED or you can call our hotline at 713-507-4840.

The union has until 5:00 p.m. CST on December 3, 2020 to let the company know if they will recommend and schedule ratification votes on Kroger’s LBFOs within a reasonable period and no later than December 12, 2020.  If we do not receive written confirmation of the union’s agreement to schedule ratification votes or if new agreements are not ratified within the timeframes above, the proposed incentives will be withdrawn.

Negotiations Update

Kroger Houston and UFCW Local 455 met again today. Unfortunately, the union continues to insist on keeping your benefits in a health and welfare trust fund. We have made it clear to the union many times that the company-administered plan is the best option for our associates to have secure, reliable and affordable health care.

We know negotiations can be stressful and filled with a lot of uncertainty, especially when the union uses actions like demonstrations and the threat of a strike to try and disrupt our business. We regret the stress these actions likely cause for you and your family.

If a strike is called, we have contingency plans in place so our stores will remain open and ready to serve customers.

You have rights during a strike. We are continuing to hear from many associates that they want to continue working if a strike or work stoppage is called. Here are some things you should know in the event of a strike and you want to work:

  • The decision to strike or work is your decision to make.
  • If you decide to work during a strike and cross the picket line, the local union could impose a fine on associates who are members of the union.
  • You can avoid such fines by effectively resigning before crossing the picket line. To do this you need to deliver your resignation to the union.
  • Your store leader has more information on your options, including information on how to withdraw from the union if that is your decision.

When making your decision to strike or work, consider this:

  • All associates will have received a pay increase by February 7, 2021.
  • Open enrollment in a Kroger health care plan for 2021 that is secure, stable and affordable for the life of the contract is currently underway.
  • Houston Meat associates recently approved a new agreement that improves the security and stability of pension benefits.

Kroger is making unprecedented investments in you. Why would anyone jeopardize that with a strike? A strike is a reckless course of action. No one wins in a strike. Do what’s right for you and your family!

Quick Update on Your Contract

Our focus continues to remain on you, providing you with more pay and securing and stabilizing your health care benefits in a company-administered plan.

In case you missed it, here are some important reminders:

  • For eligible top-rated associates, your new wages will be reflected this week in your October 15 paycheck.
  • Kroger has extended its Last, Best and Final offer, including Ratification Bonus: $300 to Top-rate PT Associates, $500 to Top-rate FT Associates, $600 to Department Heads
    • The deadline to vote and potentially receive the ratification bonus is on or before October 17.
    • If you would like to vote, make sure the union hears from you.
  • Open Enrollment for your Kroger-administered plan is November 2-20.
  • If you don’t enroll for the Kroger-administered plan, you will not have health care coverage effective January 1, 2021.
  • Our Kroger Benefits Service Center is available to take your calls and address your concerns 7 days a week at 1-877-373-3397. You can also send an email to krogerbenefits@kroger.com.

We are scheduled to meet with Local 455 this week on Oct. 15-16. You can review our Last, Best and Final Offer for Clerks and Meat.

Every Vote Counts – Including Yours!

With the upcoming elections, voting is on everyone’s mind. We respect your right to participate in the democratic process by voting, and we believe your union likely does as well.  We hope that Local 455 also supports the democratic process when it comes to allowing you to have a voice and decide whether our Last, Best and Final Offer is a good offer for you and your family.

If Local 455 does not allow you to vote on our most recent offer, a fair question is why doesn’t your union want you voting on our Last, Best and Final Offer?

The offer we have provided to Local 455 affirms our commitment in our associates:

  • Stable and secure health care benefits by moving to a company-administered plan
  • Providing wage increases for all associates, and more.

Despite the clear benefits for associates, Local 455 has refused to allow members like you the opportunity to vote on this deal.

Further, to recognize and reward your efforts and commitment to our customers and as an incentive, Kroger has extended the availability of a Ratification Bonus, ranging from $300-600 depending on position, if the offer is ratified on or before October 17, 2020.

This is a good deal – for you and for the company. The company is investing in you and your future. Don’t just take our word for it, here is what the experts have to say:

  • Kroger has proposed a significant reform to the healthcare plan offered to its employees: moving from a health and welfare trust fund plan to a company-administered plan. This may sound like a nothing burger, but in fact, strikes at the heart of affordable healthcare benefits that are reliable for families… Think about it – would you rather have your family’s healthcare benefits backed by a Fortune 25 company, or a health and welfare trust fund with a lengthy history of mismanagement, zero transparency, and a lack of accountability? – Merrill Matthews, Ph.D., Resident Scholar, Institute for Policy Innovation
  • From being one of the first companies to reward its associates with “Hero Pay” and bonuses, access to mental health services, to establishing free drive-thru COVID testing locations throughout the Houston community, to installing glass partitions, enhanced cleaning and enforcing social distancing policies early on – it is clear we need more strong corporate citizens like Kroger to step up to the challenge and be part of the solution. – Former Houston Congressman Gene Green

You can download and review our Last, Best and Final Offer for Clerks and Meat or ask your store leader for a copy.