How Kroger Is Using DC Spin Doctors To Fight Their Unionized Workers

In recent weeks, Kroger has faced a rash of negative news reports about its employees’ working and living conditions, drawn new scrutiny from lawmakers, and seen thousands of workers go on strike in Colorado — all as the company lobbies on union rights legislation, and bankrolls corporate trade associations trying to kill it.

Now amid the potential for congressional hearings and a federal crackdown, the grocery giant did what so many other corporate behemoths do when they’re feeling the heat: pay big bucks to run counter programming claiming it offers “great pay and great benefits” in a Beltway tip sheet read by Washington insiders.

The DC tip sheet industry, which includes daily email newsletters like Politico Playbook, Axios AM, and Punchbowl News, may seem obscure, but it serves a special purpose in media.

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Striking Massachusetts Nurses Outwait Corporate Giant Tenet

Last year’s longest-running strike came to an end in early January when nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, overwhelmingly voted to ratify their new contract and return to work.

Seven hundred nurses had walked out over dangerous staffing conditions last March—ten months ago. (See previous Labor Notes coverage from last April and August.)

In a year of health care workers organizing amid Covid surges and staffing shortages, St. Vincent nurses stood out for their willingness to strike indefinitely and for the discipline the strikers showed.

Open-ended strikes are still a rarity in health care, and Tenet was a formidable opponent: a massive for-profit health care corporation that owns 60 hospitals across the country and is valued at $8 billion.

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Coalminers On Strike For 10 Months Vow Not To Be ‘Starved Out’

About 1,100 coalminers in Alabama have entered 2022 still on strike, more than 10 months since they walked out back in April last year, making it the longest strike in the US since the Covid-19 pandemic began and the longest in Alabama’s history.

Workers started the unfair labor practice strike over claims of bad faith bargaining by Warrior Met Coal over a new union contract. In the previous contract settled in 2016, miners accepted several concessions, including a $6-an-hour pay cut and reductions in health insurance and other benefits as the mines switched employers in the wake of a bankruptcy.

The miners on strike have received support from US politicians such as Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Sherrod Brown, and received donations to their strike fund from dozens of labor unions across the US.

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Kroger Employees In Colorado Have Had Enough

On Wednesday, January 12, more than eight thousand workers at around eighty King Soopers and City Market grocery stores in Colorado went on strike after declining what the stores’ parent company, Kroger, called its “last, best, and final offer” on Tuesday. The workers, who are members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7, had voted nearly unanimously to authorize the strike earlier this month.

The King Soopers contract expired on January 8, and workers say the company — which is owned by Kroger, the country’s largest grocery chain and fourth largest private employer — has been dragging its feet at the bargaining table. Distance remains between the two sides on issues of pay, health care benefits, and worker safety — in the sense of COVID precautions as well as protections from customers

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More Than 8,000 Kroger Grocery Workers Strike In Colorado

On the heels of a new report showing significant financial insecurity, including homelessness, among workers at Kroger grocery stores, more than 8,000 of the chain’s employees in Colorado went on strike Wednesday to demand fair wages and better healthcare benefits.

Amid a recent wave of successful strikes at companies including John Deere and Kellogg’s, the work stoppage is taking place at nearly 80 King Sooper grocery stores, which are owned by the Kroger Company, across the Denver metropolitan area. According to the Colorado Sun, 10 additional stores in Colorado Springs could also go on strike in the coming weeks.

The workers’ union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, rejected the company’s “best and final offer” on Tuesday, saying the $84 billion company did not offer enough for employees to afford basic necessities.

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Fred Meyer, QFC employees In Oregon Go On Strike

A weeklong strike is underway affecting a number of Oregon grocery stores, barely a week before Christmas Day.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, representing many employees at Fred Meyer and QFC stores, confirmed early Friday morning that it is moving ahead with a walkout at stores in Portland, Bend, Newberg and Klamath Falls. The details and specifics of a walkout are complicated. While the UFCW represents roughly 10,000 Fred Meyer employees, not all stores, departments or worker categories are participating in the strike.

The union has been in labor negotiations for months with the Kroger-owned supermarket chains. Last weekend, UFCW announced its members had authorized a strike.

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Kellogg’s Strikers: We Want A Clear Path Out Of Two-Tier, Set In Stone

In contract talks with its 1,400 workers this summer, Kellogg’s proposed to remove the union logo from its cereal boxes.

It’s an indication of the company’s overall plan, said strikers on the Battle Creek, Michigan picket line this weekend. “Their long-term goal is to bust the union,” said Michelle Fulcher, a warehouse crew leader at the company’s flagship plant.

Kellogg’s workers in four states have been on strike since October 5. Their top issue is the company’s efforts to expand its two-tier system.

“Going into negotiations we had four things we were going to be hard-nosed on,” Fulcher said: “Keep our pension, keep our retiree health care, keep our health benefits, and get rid of Tier 2.”

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Columbia Student Workers Defy University’s Strikebreaking Threats

Last week saw a sharp escalation of the strike by 3,000 student workers at Columbia University in New York City, which continues in the face of strikebreaking threats by the administration. In an effort to shut down the walkout before finals, the university warned striking student workers that it might replace them in the Spring semester if they remained on strike beyond Friday, December 10.

Columbia workers rejected this attempt at economic blackmail and held out on the picket line. A poll conducted by the Student Workers of Columbia union (SWC) bargaining committee found that 87 percent of union members and nearly 77 percent of supporters of the strike wished for the strike to continue.

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Workers At Warren General Hospital Vote To Strike

Workers at Allegheny Health Network affiliate Warren General Hospital voted Saturday to strike, straining already fragile medical resources in rural northwest Pennsylvania.

The 114 nurses and health care workers, who are members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, issued a 10-day strike notice at the 87-bed hospital — the only acute care facility in the county.

The labor agreement with workers expired in September, and negotiations were scheduled to continue Monday, hospital CEO Rick Allen said.

The hospital has offered pay increases of 4.2% to over 16%, plus enhanced contributions to employees’ 403(b) retirement plan to 7.12%, Mr. Allen said.

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Columbia University Strikers Raise Hell

New York City – Thousands of striking Columbia University graduate student workers are vowing to “shut down” the campus Wednesday with a major picket line aimed at highlighting the university’s threat to fire those who are still on strike by December 10. In a year marked by labor strikes, one of the largest and most contentious is happening at one of the most elite bastions of American higher education.

The 3,000 members of the Student Workers of Columbia, members of UAW Local 2110, have been on strike since early November, seeking a livable wage, improved health and dental benefits, and stronger protections from sexual harassment and discrimination. The union and the school have been in mediation for weeks now, and the ongoing contract negotiations stretch back long before that — a tentative agreement was reached in April, but rejected by union members in May.

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Workers At Activision Blizzard Lead Week-Long Work Stoppage

On Friday, workers at video gaming company Activision Blizzard entered their fifth day of a work stoppage in response to layoffs at one of the company’s subsidiaries. The stoppage comes on the heels of revelations of sexual harassment and discrimination at Activision Blizzard and amid fierce resistance to staff unionization efforts.

The work stoppage began on Monday when quality assurance (QA) workers at Raven Software, one of the main developers behind the hit Call of Duty video game series, began being laid off. Employees are demanding that these contractors be reinstated and given full-time contracts. The exact number of workers participating in the work stoppage is unclear, but hundreds of both remote and in-person employees across studios and states participated, with many walkouts occurring virtually.

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Denying Student Workers Healthcare And A Living Wage Is Violence

New York City – On Wednesday, November 8, Columbia student workers (UAW Local 2110) held one of the largest pickets yet of their six-week strike to demand increased wages to meet costs of living, neutral third-party arbitration, and comprehensive healthcare benefits. Workers from unions throughout New York City such as the CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) at NYU, the Teamsters, and NewsGuild of New York showed up to join the picket in solidarity with the striking workers. They picketed various entrances, encouraging those who attempted to enter the university to not cross the picket line.

As a healthcare worker in New York City, I attended the picket to show my solidarity with the striking workers.

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For Want Of A Dental Plan, Erie Strayer Strike Grinds On

Many people who work hard in full time jobs take a dental plan for granted. Many people who work hard in full-time jobs assume they will get more than a 25-cent-per-hour raise each year. But a group of workers at a cement plant in Erie, Pennsylvania have spent two months on strike trying to win those basic things — and their fight is far from over. 

About 40 workers at the Erie Strayer cement factory are members of Ironworkers Local 851. The company is family-owned, and has been unionized since the 1940s. The union contract expired on April 1. The union spent months at the negotiating table, seeking a fairly modest package of gains. The company refused.

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Kellogg’s Union Workers Reject New Contract

Hundreds of striking union workers at four Kellogg’s cereal plants in the US have overwhelmingly voted to reject a tentative agreement on a five-year contract negotiated between the union and the company, extending a strike that started in early October.

Roughly 1,400 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union “have spoken”, union president Anthony Shelton said in a statement on 7 December. “The strike continues.”

The union is “grateful for the outpouring of fraternal support we received from across the labor movement for our striking members at Kellogg’s,” he added. “Solidarity is critical to this fight.”

Striking employees in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Tennessee produce products like Rice Krispies, Rasin Bran, Froot Loops, Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.

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UK Higher Education Workers Strike For Fair Pay, Working Conditions

In today’s episode of the Daily Round-up we look at the 3-day UCU strike by Higher Education workers across 58 universities in the UK to demand fair wages and job security; the re-imposition of the Migrant Protection Protocols by the U.S. and its implications for asylum seekers currently in Mexico and at the border; a report on rising hunger in the Latin America and the Caribbean region during the pandemic; and a Stand Earth report linking major brands like Nike and Adidas to cattle ranching operations fueling large-scale destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

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