Subcommittees Meet to Discuss Ongoing Negotiations

Today, a subcommittee of the Kroger Houston and UFCW Local 455 bargaining parties met to discuss the current state of the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on current negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Your benefits are important – now more than ever. With this in mind, the Company and the Union agreed to make a recommendation to the South Central Trust Fund Board of Trustees to restore your health care benefits to the levels that were originally negotiated in your current contract, effective as soon as possible.

Please note: A new collective bargaining agreement still needs to be negotiated! This includes future health care benefits as well as pension benefits and wages.

The subcommittees also agreed to extend the current contract, which is set to expire on April 11, 2020 to June 13, 2020.

Due to the evolving Coronavirus pandemic, the Company and Union have not set any future dates for negotiations.

The Company and the Union appreciate your dedication and hard work throughout these extraordinary times.

Company and Union Meet to Discuss Initial Proposals

Kroger Houston and UFCW Local 455 met today to discuss and respond to each other’s initial proposals made on February 27, 2020.

The parties tentatively agreed on the following items:

  • Vacations: If an associate passes away before receiving a vacation that he/she has earned, their estate shall be paid his/her vacation.
  • General Provisions: We cleaned up outdated non-economic language.

While we made some movement in our discussions, we have significantly more bargaining to do before we reach an agreement. We believe the union’s current proposal fails to recognize the economic situation that our division faces. Their current proposal would add significant cost to our business before we even reach the financial portion of the contract, meaning your wages and benefits.

While Kroger would love to invest more dollars in operating the business, we want to make investments that will be more meaningful to you, like your hourly pay and health care benefits.

The union is also focusing on portions of our proposal that have nothing to do with your working conditions, wages or benefits. The company’s proposals on union recognition, jurisdiction and new hire orientation do not directly affect you. You can refer to our complete language proposal with explanations from February 27 by visiting our website www.krogerhoustoncba.com.

We are meeting with the Meat bargaining committee on Friday, March 13. We will keep you updated as bargaining continues. If you have any questions during this process, please talk to your store leader, or you can also email questions askhouston@kroger.com.

Company and Union to Bargain March 12-13

Kroger Houston and UFCW Local 455 are scheduled to meet later this week on March 12-13 to bargain your new contract.

In our last session, the company presented the union with an initial language proposal, which we also provided to you along with an explanation of the reasoning behind our proposed changes. Providing our specific language changes gives you the opportunity to review and discuss with your family and friends. We are bargaining in good faith – our goal is to share the facts, not rhetoric.

Labor negotiations are complicated. We will be exchanging proposals and having ongoing discussions with the union for the next several weeks. Bargaining is about working through ideas and concerns and coming to a solution that is both good for you – our associates – and the company. Keep in mind that this was our initial language proposal – we expect the union to come back with a counter proposal later this week.

We will keep you updated as bargaining continues. Please check www.krogerhoustoncba.com for updates 24/7. If you have any questions during this process, please talk to your store leader, or you can also email questions askhouston@kroger.com.

 

Company Makes Initial Language Proposal

Attached is Kroger Houston’s initial set of contract proposals that we shared with the union today.

To review our complete proposal, go to www.krogerhoustoncba.com. You can download a copy of our proposal with explanations behind each of our changes.

As you know, we continue to operate in a highly competitive, difficult market.  Our new contract will need to include changes to help Kroger and our associates be successful now and in the future.

It’s no secret, we have lost and continue to lose many good associates to competitors and other employers.  One reason is likely the higher hourly pay rate that others may offer.

Kroger would like to offer pay rate increases as part of its financial package during our negotiations.  However, many of our competitors and other employers hiring talented workers in the area simply do not have the same number of restrictions and inefficient practices that we currently have in place.

Addressing some of the restrictions and practices that other area employers do not have, will better position Kroger to offer pay rate increases to benefit our associates immediately.  We think that our associates would prefer to see the company and union negotiate changes that will help them receive rate increases more in line with other employers.  Our proposals are designed to make that happen.

Below are few of the tough changes we are proposing to meet our competitive challenges in this market.

Vacation for Part-Time Employees

  • Kroger has provided a rich vacation benefit for part-time associates, giving them up to six weeks of vacation. We are aware of no other competitor in the area providing such a significant benefit for workers who, by being part-time, already have many opportunities for time off.  Kroger believes that the costs of this benefit over time should be shifted toward our full-time associates.
  • The company is proposing that part-time employees hired after June 28, 2020 will be eligible for 2 weeks of vacation under the same rules as regular employees. This still provides a good vacation benefit for part-time employees but includes a reasonable limitation of 2 weeks.
  • This will not affect current part-time employees. Kroger is not proposing to take away their existing vacation benefits.

Changes to Scheduled Hours

  • The current contract has an inefficient requirement that at least 50% of scheduled hours must be for 40-hour week schedules and 50% for part-time hours. This provision was agreed to in the 1980s.  It doesn’t reflect the current nature of our business or the need for operational flexibility. It also doesn’t consider the reality that more and more talented and qualified associates may not want to work 40 hours a week.
  • The company is proposing to modify this dated, inefficient requirement. Having more flexibility to schedule full-time and part-time associates helps us better meet today’s business challenges and realities.  Note: Qualified full-time employees will still be given the daily and weekly schedule with the most hours by seniority.

Daily Overtime 

  • Under Kroger’s proposals, associates will continue to receive time and half pay for all hours worked in excess of the forty (40) hour workweek. However, the company is proposing to end the practice of paying overtime for hours worked in excess of a “workday.”  Such daily overtime is very uncommon, including among our competitors and other employers.
  • Note: The company will keep the requirement to pay time and a half pay for worked performed on the 7th day worked in a single workweek. Anyone who works seven straight days in a workweek would receive overtime on the 7th day, regardless of the total hours previously worked.

We look forward to working with the union on securing a new contract that will allow us to meet many of the challenges we face and to quickly move forward with a competitive package for our associates. Our next bargaining dates are March 12 and 13.

For informational purposes only.  All bargaining and negotiations have and will be conducted through the UFCW Local 455 as your exclusive bargaining representative.

Company and Union Meet to Discuss Meat Contract

Today, the company met with the union to negotiate the Meat contract.

Our division Meat Merchandiser was present to share information about the current state of our Meat business.

  • For the last several years, our Meat business in the division has been challenging.
  • We continue to identify opportunities to increase sales and product quality.
  • In 2020, we have a plan in place to replace case-ready beef with meat cutting in our stores on a variety of products. We have already rolled this out to 30 stores.
  • We will continue to roll this out to additional stores throughout the year.

While no written proposals were made or exchanged, we shared with UFCW Local 455 that our intent was to propose merging the Meat and Clerk contracts. We are proposing the merger for several reasons:

  • We recognize that staffing and coverage in an isolated department such as Meat is difficult.
  • Meat Managers and all Cutter classifications often must stock and replenish the Del wall and frozen Meat section, which can prevent them from performing the skilled work they have been trained to do.
  • Allowing the Del wall and frozen Meat section to be replenished by Clerks would give our Meat Managers and cutters the opportunity to focus on the service case with special cuts of meat and engaging our customers throughout the department.
  • It is not our intent to remove hours from the Meat department but to provide our Meat Managers and Cutters with replenishment support, so they can do what they do best – cut meat and serve our customers.
  • It is not our intent to have skilled Meat cutters and Market Managers do Clerk work, such as checking or bagging.

Negotiations are a process. We have the task of balancing the wants and needs of our associates and the needs of our customers in a very challenging and competitive environment. This requires honest discussions through which we try to find areas of agreement and work through issues when both parties disagree.

We will keep you updated as bargaining continues. Please check www.krogerhoustoncba.com for updates 24/7. If you have any questions during this process, please talk to your store leader, or you can also email questions askhouston@kroger.com.

Bargaining Committees Continue Discussions

Regular updates on the negotiation process are important. They help you stay informed while letting you focus on your work and our customers. We met with the union bargaining committee today.

We continued to have some tough conversations. We once again shared our struggles in the Houston market:

  • Sales and profit have significantly declined
  • We continue to lose market share
  • Health care costs continue to increase
  • Difficulties attracting and retaining talent

While no written or formal proposals were made or exchanged, both parties continued to have candid, meaningful conversations.

We shared with the union that we will be providing a language proposal later this week. Our proposal will include changes that address restrictive and outdated language that our competitors simply do not have and thus adds significant costs to our business, hindering our ability to compete.

In other words, any costs that can be saved with language changes will allow for more money to be invested in your total compensation, including wages, health care and pension.

We will provide specific details on our language proposals later this week. Please check www.krogerhoustoncba.com for updates 24/7. If you have any questions during this process, please talk to your store leader, or you can also email questions askhouston@kroger.com.

 

 

Bargaining Ends for the Week – More Sessions Scheduled

The bargaining committees met again today to discuss your new contract.  Our discussions today mainly focused on contract language.

The union bargaining committee had an opportunity to share feedback with the company on work schedules and hours, promotions and transfers, and managers performing bargaining unit work.

Company representatives appreciated the dialogue and shared their gratitude for the hard work you do, knowing that it’s one of the reasons customers choose to shop at Kroger.

The company also shared its position on having greater operational flexibility in the contract to run the business more efficiently.

The company respects the union membership committee’s efforts to obtain the best package for the people they represent. It is the company’s hopes that we reach an agreement that improves working conditions, benefits and compensation for our employees while maintaining our overall success both now and into the future. Bottom line: we all share the goal of a balanced and fair agreement that we hope we can reach soon.

Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled Feb. 25-27. We will be providing you with updates as soon as we have something to share. If you have any questions during this process, please talk to your store leader, or you can also email questions askhouston@kroger.com.

Negotiations with UFCW Local 455 Begin

On Tuesday, February 11, Kroger Houston and UFCW Local 455 bargaining committees met to kick-off negotiations for your new contract.

In our opening session, we emphasized that Kroger is committed to a contract that accomplishes three important goals:

  1. Provides good pay and benefits for our associates;
  2. Enables us to operate our stores to meet customer needs and
  3. Keeps our stores competitive in this changing and competitive retail environment.

Company representatives also shared some of the division’s challenges and opportunities:

  • Sales and profit in the Houston market have significantly declined
  • We continue to lose market share due to fierce competition
  • Health care costs continue to increase
  • Difficulties attracting and retaining talent

Negotiations are about meeting your needs and keeping our stores competitive. We encourage you to learn as much as you can during the process. We will provide you with straight-forward facts and information about key issues.

We will keep you up-to-date on negotiations with regular updates posted on this website, FEED and through your store leader. If you have any questions during this process, please talk to your store leader, or you can also email questions askhouston@kroger.com.

Thank you for all that you do for our customers and each other.

A Message from Joe Kelley

Dear Fellow Kroger Associate:

Soon, we will enter into negotiations with the union for your new contract. It’s as important to me as it is to you that we leave the negotiation table with a good contract, one that includes competitive pay and affordable health care benefits for you and your family. We also need an agreement that will allow Kroger to be competitive and successful in the Houston market, providing secure and stable jobs for everyone.

We have faced some tough business challenges since our last contract, including, for example, the ever-evolving needs of our customers, increased competition from new competitors as well as growing competition from aggressive online retailers, such as Amazon. Despite these challenges, I believe we can reach a good agreement. To keep Kroger Houston strong, we must make sure we are looking at every aspect of our business and always putting the customer first. To accomplish this, everyone involved in the negotiations process must work together to find common ground and solutions.

We are committed to investing in our associates by offering competitive pay and affordable, quality health care and retirement benefits.

As we enter contract negotiations, I want to make sure you are kept informed throughout the process. As negotiations progress, we will be sharing accurate and transparent information and updates through your store manager, FEED, breakroom postings and the negotiations website – www.krogerhoustoncba.com. Also, feel free to ask your store manager any questions you might have at any time during the negotiation process. This will help you make an informed decision that is best for you when given the opportunity to vote on a proposed agreement. I know the new contract is important to you – it’s important to me, too!

Thank you for your dedication and commitment to providing an exceptional, uplifting shopping experience to our customers every day. The entire Houston leadership team is very appreciative of the work you do. Thank you for making a difference.

Sincerely,

Joe Kelley

Houston Division President