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Unions Gain New Retail, Grocery Holds

New Agreements, Votes Continue Union Pushes

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Unionization efforts in the grocery and retail sectors have been gaining momentum in recent years, driven by workers' demands for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Workers deemed essential during the pandemic, such as grocery and warehouse workers, have pushed for better treatment, leading to a surge in union activities. 

In new unionization developments, workers at a Kroger automated warehouse near Detroit voted by a 3-to-1 margin to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. This move marks the first Kroger fulfillment center to unionize, with workers seeking higher wages, better health and welfare benefits, a pension, and fair work rules. This unionization effort comes as Kroger pursues a controversial merger with Albertsons, which the Teamsters oppose due to concerns about worker interests being overlooked in favor of management payouts.

CVS pharmacists at two Rhode Island stores recently voted to join The Pharmacy Guild, a new union supported by IAM Healthcare. This move follows similar unionization efforts at other CVS locations, reflecting a broader trend of healthcare workers seeking better representation and working conditions.

Several new union contracts recently closed. Grocery workers in Eastern Washington ratified a new three-year contract that includes significant wage increases and benefit improvements. The contract, covering workers at Kroger- and Albertsons-owned stores, was negotiated by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 3000. This contract was the first for UFCW 3000 since its formation from the merger of two local unions.

Workers at UNFI-owned Cub Foods stores in Minnesota, represented by UFCW Local 663, ratified a new contract to provide substantial wage increases and improved safety and pension benefits. 

These examples are part of a larger trend in the grocery and retail industries, where workers are increasingly unionizing to address wage disparities, improve benefits, and secure safer working environments. The rise in union activity is driven by a growing recognition of the need for collective bargaining to achieve fairer labor practices across the sector.

In recent decades, employers have embarked on comprehensive anti-union campaigns, utilizing professional consultants to design strategies to dissuade union votes, and implementing aggressive communication strategies to influence employee perceptions. Employers also use economic pressures, such as threats of outsourcing or closing operations, to discourage union activity.

Union membership peaked in the 1950s, with approximately one-third of the workforce unionized. Unions played a crucial role in securing higher wages, benefits, and job security for workers. This era also saw significant strikes and labor actions that helped shape labor policies and practices.

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