We are two of 25,000 union grocery store workers in the Puget Sound region. Income inequality has gotten so extreme in our business that in one day, our CEO makes more money than our average coworker — his employee — earns in an entire year. This is outrageous and, with your help, we are going to do our best to change it.
The good news is that, as union workers, we have the right to sit down with our employer’s representatives and negotiate the terms of our workplaces — around pay and benefits and working conditions. Over the past decade we have made improvements. For example, through tough negotiations, we have been able to maintain a high-quality, low-cost health plan without any increases in our monthly premiums. And when we could not succeed in negotiating changes we needed, such as a big increase in wages for the lowest-paid workers and paid sick days for all, our union helped lead the passage of a statewide initiative that won those changes through the ballot box. That new law has helped over a million workers across Washington state live better.
But even with these successes, the inequalities seem to be growing. In particular, the cost of housing has gone through the roof and our hard-earned pay does not even go as far as it used to. Things need to get better. We believe that, as we negotiate improvements to our staffing, training and scheduling, we not only will get more dependable hours and be equipped to do our jobs more safely, but our customers will be better served as well.
In addition to these kinds of improvements, we are proposing significant wage increases so that we can make up for some of the falling behind and reduce inequality. In the process, we are making proposals to reduce inequity as well. We can’t make up all the gains in one negotiation, but we can push it along in a major way, and that is what we are proposing.
So how can you help? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. Do what you did back in 2013 when we almost went on strike. And because not everyone reads Real Change, in an effort to reach out to more customers, we will be holding a leaflet action in front of each QFC, Safeway, Fred Meyer and Albertsons store in our region on a day between late May and mid- June. We’ll also being going door-to-door in many neighborhoods around these stores to talk with members of the public and gain their support. Along the way, we plan on handing out tens of thousands of grocery store bags that carry our message, “Better Jobs — Better Communities” to help our customers show they stand with us.
We have stood with Real Change and its vendors over many years. Last year, UFCW 21 was one of the primary sponsors for the bright new vests for vendors so they could work safely. We partner with dozens of other organizations across the region to help improve our communities. One example of collaborating was when both of us were speakers during the May Day celebrations as we marched through Seattle and called out the need for food security, improved jobs and solidarity with workers across the globe as we fight for equity and justice.
So now, we ask that you stand with us. Please go to our websites (UFCW 21 and Teamsters Local 38) so you can follow our struggles for a fair contract. We are the workers who make our companies successful and we feel it is only fair for the wealthy CEOs to treat us with respect and fair pay for our hard work. Thank you for your support.
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