Local 876 Top News
Stewards Become Member Advocates

President Robinson's Article

Sec/Tres. Pedersen's Article

Recorder Christoff's Article


Stewards Become Member Advocates
Module Two Begins June 1, 2015
April 16, 2015- UFCW 876 has created an educational training opportunity to assist union stewards in being the voice of UFCW 876 in the workplace and conversely the voice of the membership. The Steward Guide 2015 Edition I, is off the press and getting into the hands of every 876 grocery and meat steward in Michigan.

"Providing stewards with the tools and resources they need to help better protect their coworkers and their contracts is essential in developing a strong membership," Roger Robinson, UFCW 876 president said. "The Steward Guide and its implementation will serve as the foundation of successful bargaining efforts going into 2017 bargaining cycle."

Stewards are required to be the liaison, moderator, advocate and educator for their coworkers and are expected to not only understand, but to also apply contractual language, company handbook criteria and have a fair grasp on federal and state law.

It's a tall order, but stewards must be prepared to speak on topics relating to: the boundaries of their rights in the workplace; educating existing members; meeting new members and the orientation process; the impact of right to work laws; recognition and application of contractual protections and the importance of filing of grievances to keep contract protections strong and relevant.

"Stewards have a very important role in providing factual information that can be utilized to resolve differences and discrepancies in assisting members in maintaining current protections," Robinson said. "The political and economic environment of this country demands unions and members work together in understanding and applying contractual language and understand state and federal law, as that is the only defense to keep protections in place."

The guide requires stewards complete a three-module training program which will result in a steward certification. Certified stewards will be eligible for additional specialized training; become a significant point person to network news or alert; and place them in consideration of union work.

Stewards will meet with their membership representatives three times in 2015, for about one hour, either one-on-one or in a regional, group setting, to review and discuss each module.

There are three segments: Role of the Steward; New Members and the Orientation Process; and Grievance Handling. The guide also provides an extensive legal guide, contract structure overview, labor terms dictionary and additional resources, reference and reading links.

Because the role of steward has been heighten due to legislative and corporate takeaways, those unable to participate or complete this program could place their stewardship in jeopardy.

"Steward (and member) activism is a necessary tool in the arsenal of maintaining current worker protections," Robinson said. "876 has continues to make improvements in every process making way for progressive and effective representation. We are counting on the stewards to do the same."


President Roger Robinson

Pension Contributions Dependent on Hours Worked
Read President Robinson's article for April 2015, click here.
The union office receives weekly calls from members who are either elated with their pension benefit upon retirement; or who are genuinely confused it is not what they had expected. After conversation, it is usually discovered there was an event or events, in their working lives that prevented them from securing the required number of monthly hours needed to earn a pension credit; which would result in a lower benefit.

These breaks in service (time not working) can happen for a variety of reasons; as significant as a major surgery or maternity leave, to as minor as consistently leaving work early. Reducing the number of hours worked in a week will reduce the number of hours required to calculate a monthly pension credit. Military leaves do not break service history and credits are earned.

The UFCW International Union-Industry Pension Fund is a defined benefit plan, which means it is funded by employer contributions as defined and protected in the contract. Becoming qualified to participate in the pension fund requires a member to: work for participating employer; become vested by having at least five years of vesting service; be at least 18 years old; and complete a minimum of 870 (trigger point for qualifying for benefits) or more hours of service during a plan year to qualify. A plan year is a 12 month period beginning July 1 and ending June 30.

Pensions are calculated on your entire work history (every hour, month and year). In order to earn a full pension credit, a participant should average: 40 hours a week; 170 hours a month and 2040 hours a year. This formula would fulfill the requirement to calculate a full credit. Falling short of this formula would reduce the amount of your pension. Contributions during any earned time off that is considered compensable absence pay (such as vacation, holiday and personal days) will be paid up to 40 hours. It is important to note the maximum number of hours that can be calculated toward a monthly contribution in one week is 40 hours. This means the employer will only contribute up to 40 hours, even if you work more. Inversely, this also means working below 40 hours during a week, will be calculated at that value. For every hour you don't work, you lose credit. The maximum credit that can be secured under certain criteria, is 45 years.

** Meat department contracts participating in this fund, calculate pensions based on status (full-time and part-time), at two different rates. Taking into consideration any status fluctuations during work history. Benefit amounts are calculated by the dividend of an appropriate unit contribution rate, AUCR. These rates do change periodically as it serves as a funding mechanism to provide future benefits, taking into consideration: investment strategies, incoming funding and anticipated number of participants in a given year.

Here is an calculation example. If the monthly, employer contribution paid on your behalf is $152 and your benefit group has an AUCR rate of $3.39, then the unit benefit value earned for a year of Future Service Pension Credit would be $44.75 in monthly benefits ($152 / $3.39 = $44.84, rounded to the nearest 25¢). Generally, a pension is payable on or after age 65. However, there are built in triggers and requirements that will initiate a pension draw: a 30 day separation from employer; or upon turning age 70.5.

Whether actively working or not, a first pension check will be calculated and mailed to the participant. Each person's pension benefit amount is dependent on so many variables, each is independent of the other. Specific benefit payments cannot simply be provided by a casual request to a union representative, as they are not authorized. And, an investigation must be conducted to determine if the person qualifies and for what amount. Only the fund office can communicate this information to the participant.

I encouraged all participants to keep their own record of hours. And, when the pension fund issues a periodic statement documenting estimated benefits, you would be better prepared to verify its accuracy. If you believe there is time missing or contributions have not been made on your behalf, call the pension office to address these discrepancies right away and file an appeal if necessary.

Participants are encouraged to begin pension paperwork six to eight months prior to their planned retirement date. This allows the participant the latitude to verify the calculation and that the amount is correct. Best practice in determining your retirement outlook, up to and including seeking professional advice for your personal situations is to contact Personal Financial Advisor Aaron Cary at 1-800-321-6406 extension #8645.


Secretary-Treasurer Dan Pedersen

Inequality Becomes Labor's Battle Cry in 2015
Read Pedersen's article for April 2015, click here.
Corporate America's polarizing agenda has taken a toll on worker protections, wages and benefits and has set off multiple, direct, worker actions across the nation.

The United Steel Workers working in oil refineries in Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, California, Kentucky, Texas and Washington are joining together to strike over unfair management, (wage and safety issues) as thousands of workers join picket lines.

Despite this monumental worker effort to bring wage inequality and life-threatening safety issues to light; refinery owners continue to engage in bad-faith bargaining, refusal to bargain over mandatory subjects, undue delays in providing the union information; impeded bargaining; and threats issued to workers if they join the strike.

This dispute is a clear demonstration of the current David and Goliath environment that exists between workers and business. It serves also as a corporate textbook on what laws can be avoided and ignored to break the middle class in the name of corporate profits. This is further supported by legislative sell outs, purchased media and a wealth of misinformation placing workers at a deficit.

U.S. Census data shows income inequality has grown significantly since the early 1970's after many years of stability. Of course there are many factors and variables that have contributed to this inequality, including technological advances and global markets to name a few. There is also additional compelling data that indicates the top one percent of income earners who once captured 10 percent of all pre-tax income (1950 - 1980)are now capturing well over 20 percent. Further data reveals these top income earners increased their income by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007.

Let's put that change into perspective. If you were to apply the income distribution model of 1979 to today, persons landing in the bottom 80 percent of income distribution would be earning $11,000 more per year than they are now. That equates to, on average, $916 more per month. The U.S. Census also reports half of the U.S. population lives in poverty or is categorized as low-income.

A direct correlation can be made between the falling density of union membership to the falling incomes of the middle class. And a study by the American Sociological Review agrees. It argues the decline of labor unions may account for one-third to more than one-half of the rise of inequality. The study also indicates the "...weakening of unions resulted in gains from productivity were taken by senior corporate executives, major shareholders and creditors. Which has also resulted in companies feeling less pressure to increase wages or on lawmakers to enact labor-friendly or worker-friendly measures." - American Sociological Review, 2014.

Labor's political power and economic interests have been greatly compromised, giving policy makers very little incentive to assist unions or balance our economy. Unions are the balancing force that keeps wages and productivity in check.

Despite the stranglehold corporations have on our economy, most union members remain oblivious to their only power to overcome this giant - organizing and existing contractual protections. If union members were familiar with their collective bargaining agreements, and actively applying language to workplace injustices regarding wages, hours, schedules and classifications, workers would be protected.

"Competition from emerging-economy exports has surely been a factor depressing wages in wealthier nations, although probably not the dominant force. More important, soaring incomes at the top were achieved, in large part, by squeezing those below: by cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions, and diverting a rising share of national resources to financial wheeling and dealing...Perhaps more important still, the wealthy exert a vastly disproportionate effect on policy. And elite priorities — obsessive concern with budget deficits, with the supposed need to slash social programs — have done a lot to deepen [wage stagnation and income inequality]." - Paul Krugman, Economist, Professor, Scholar, Columnist and Economic Science Nobel Memorial Prize winner, see insert below.


Recorder Jill Christoff

Unions Equalize Women's Wage Rates & Benefits
Read Christoff's article for April 2015, click here.
International Women's Day in March, brought multiple efforts to light in bringing greater advocacy to women' rights. These efforts to re-awaken the backlash theory of 1980, and reshape the face of feminism for a new generation is an important step in maintaining economically solid communities through protecting women.

The theme that struck me was the demand for equal pay for equal work, and how union contracts have been balancing that playing field for years. Equal pay for equal work has a long history of struggle mirrored by an equal evolution of politics and legislation.

Here's a little history. In the United States, the concept was ushered in with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that amends the Civil Rights Act, placing a statute of limitation for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination. In 2014, the President signed two executive orders on equal pay that 1) mirrored provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act, and 2) created new regulations for reporting standards on federal contractors.

Despite legislative progress making it illegal to pay men and women different wage rates for equal work (on jobs that require equal skill and equal responsibility, performed under similar working conditions) over the decades, these protections have been greatly diluted if not entirely ignored. Employers often find a loophole in the language to separate women from earning what they deserve.

Although efforts to address this injustice continue, there is good news for union women. Union women protected by a union contract are largely immune to these ongoing gender pay battles. Unionized women earn 30 percent more than their non-union counterparts; have greater access to affordable health care; have access to pension programs; and benefit from their workplace justice (grievance) procedures. - U.S. Department of Labor.

A union contract does not differentiate wage based on gender, or subject women to pay inequality. Equal pay for equal work is built into a union contract, along with bonuses, paid time off, earned vacation and other protections. These protections are available to all.

Unions have done a great deal to equalize pay within job classifications. Because some jobs have traditionally been segregated by gender, variables do exist, and jobs dominated by women tend to have lower pay than those of men. This is often true within a single bargaining unit. Overall, however, unionized women continue to exceed any measure taken for their non-union counterparts. Unfortunately, the decline of union membership greatly reduces the number of women who receive equal pay. Non-union women earn an estimated 81 percent of what men do; while unionized women earn 85 percent of what men do. - U.S. Department of Labor.

The future of equal pay and its supporting legislative influence in the real working world remains uncertain. We can continue to advocate for change, continue to voice our concern, continue to organize and for some of us, continue to support and protect our union contracts by language application. However, we cannot continue to watch our sisters be categorized as undervalued.


Executive Assistant Chris Michalakis

UFCW International Gold Internships
Read Michalakis's article for April 2015, click here.
In June 2014, the UFCW International accepted 36 promising young members from across the country into the first ever session of the UFCW GOLD Internship program, which launched in Chicago.
The UFCW GOLD Internship Program is a unique educational and hands on experience for rank and file UFCW members. The goal of the program is to educate and motivate future leaders to become UFCW member activists. Up to 40 members will be selected to participate in this seven week summer program. The program provides growth opportunities for learning and development in order to raise up future union leaders and activists.

The 2015 program will select 36 rank and file members in the United States to participate in a seven week program. The program will run from June 21 through August 5, 2015. Interns will be required to participate in the entire length of the program. During the program there will be a four week action project that interns will be individually assigned. Action projects will be assigned within one of five areas: Legislative and Political Action, Organizing, Collective Bargaining, Civil Rights, and Health and Safety.

All 2014 action projects include working on an earned sick leave ordinance in the city of Chicago, working on a Retail Bill of Rights in San Francisco, participating in the Summer for Respect, alongside Walmart workers fighting for justice on the job, and many other important projects relating to the welfare of working people. The program begins with a one week education curriculum on the fundamental elements and history of the labor movement. After the one week education program concludes, interns are assigned to a four week action project in the field.

Interns should be comfortable with being away from home and interested in travel. All interns should have a valid driver's license and be flexible with travel outside of their home area. You can learn much more about the upcoming session, and what previous GOLD participants learned from their experiences, by visiting this website: gold.ufcw.org.

Be sure to also check out the video recap of the 2014 session, where participants share their experiences and talk about what service projects they worked on. Participation requires both UFCW regional director and local UFCW president's approval for an application to be considered.
Ask your union membership representative for an application today!




Shopping On the Clock Remains Stealing Company Time
Each month the UFCW 876 Executive Board is faced with overwhelming evidence that a member has violated the company purchase policy by "grabbing a quick Coke" or "cashing a daily scratch lottery ticket" or "picking something up from the deli and using the u-scan before punching out for lunch" who was suspended; and ultimately is not awarded an arbitration due to lack of merit.

"Members must understand that these actions are a direct violation of company policy. Contract language does not provide protections for employees who steal time." Roger Robinson, UFCW 876 president said. "And, with today's surveillance technology and software capabilities, no off the clock purchase goes unnoticed." Members must remain aware of all company policies and procedures despite seniority, a clean work record, or long-standing relationships with coworkers and management.

There is a direct correlation between shopping on the clock and being comfortable in a work environment. But it is important to note, work environments do change; and what was once a non-issue can quickly turn into a violation and ultimately a termination.

"Shopping on the clock happens in every store," Robinson said. "But members can protect both their jobs and integrity by being mindful of all company policies whether they are on the floor, in the break room on even in the parking lot. It is difficult for contractual language or the grievance procedure to protect a worker who has violated a company policy, as reasonable rules and regulations are standard practice."


Protecting Full-Time Status - a Full-Time Job
March 19, 2013 - The expiration of one's full-time status can bring a great deal of stress for a member as many benefits and protections are determined by this status.

Securing, maintaining and monitoring a full-time status is the sole responsibility of each member, as most companies will only provide notification of its expiration. The company's stance is you have access to the collective bargaining agreement which fully explains the criteria surrounding a full-time qualification. However, a member can also request their status from the company if needed.

Monitoring your qualifying status can be easily done by reviewing your paycheck stub for total hours worked each week and maintaining a log in writing.

Full-time status determines eligibility for health care benefits scheduling rights, (working five, eight hour days each week) and holiday pay.
Full-time status is determined by a 12-week average of hours. For example, a Kroger member must work an average of 36 hours in a 12-week window to qualify. An easy way to maintain full time, is to secure a schedule that provides five, eight hour days consistently.

Inversely, a Kroger member would have to work 34 hours or less in a 12-week window in order to lose full-time status. These "rolling windows" or time frames determine many benefit eligibilities. It is important to note that in the Kroger contract, there are exemptions, meaning the months of June, July and August do not count toward the calculation of full-time status. However this window does not count against qualifying either.

Once a full-time status is lost, (working less than 34 hours weekly for 12 weeks) regaining it is very difficult. The grocery contract requires the acceptance of a posted job bid, possibly to another store, or making yourself completely available to work any available hours in your store on the appropriate schedule.
"It is important to know that full-time members, who are not working five, eight hour days, put their status in jeopardy." Roger Robinson, UFCW 876 president said. "The company interprets this as a choice to relinquish a full-time status, and there is absolutely no amnesty if the database supports the loss."
Once a member has lost full-time status, they are then placed into the part-time schedule and are subjected to those criteria and hire dates / seniority. This movement will create significant reductions in scheduling, benefits and hours worked.

"Full-time members who believe they have wiggle room to take time off by either leaving an hour early here or there or by taking unpaid, personal days, generally find themselves in a bad position," Robinson said. "Managing and tracking time off can get convoluted quickly. Once that perceived wiggle room becomes nearly extinguished, a legitimate emergency exceeding this window could easily result in the loss of a full-time status."

A good way to monitor and protect one's full-time status is to alert the company with a written communication as soon as any schedule is posted that contains less than 40 hours in a week. That is five, eight hour days, not any other formulation of that calculation.

This written communication serves as not only notice, but also as a sort of "holder" to freeze your full-time date with no penalty. It provides the company opportunity to correct the situation by either modifying the existing schedule right away; or locate those hours in another store (within a 25 mile radius).
Members can protect their qualifying status with this written communication, but should also immediately be followed up with a phone call to their union representative.

"There is a lot on the line when it comes to losing a full-time status," Robinson said. "Protecting this is dependent on the alertness and savvy of the member as union representatives cannot monitor every schedule and paycheck stub."
"They can, however act on scheduling issues they are made aware of. 876 look to both members and Stewards to detect and report scheduling discrepancies."


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Women's Network Donate to Local Women's Shelter

HAVEN is Oakland County's only comprehensive program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. HAVEN provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and educational programming to nearly 30,000 people each year, predominately to women and children.

The Women's Network was able to donate well over $500 of clothing, toys and grocery gift cards.

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