UFCW 21 - A Voice for Working America

Summer 2013 Newsletter


In this issue:

The Big Picture: Making History Together

On August 28, grocery store workers, our families, our neighbors and customers will all be standing together for a fair contract. As part of the effort to get our employers to settle a fair contract, we are holding 38 Informational Pickets across Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap and King Counties. If this round of action does not yet move the CEOs of the big national grocery chains to reach a fair compromise, grocery store workers will press on.

History teaches us that standing together with persistence and in the pursuit of justice can make things better. It was fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, that hundreds of thousands marched in Washington DC for Jobs and Justice. That march was where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech. The people that day came from many walks of life and from many different communities. The same is true for grocery store workers here in the Puget Sound. We all come from different walks of life and from different communities too.

While our diversity makes us strong, it is also our sense of fairness and willingness to stand up for one another that binds us together in a common struggle. And the struggle to achieve a fair contract – whether it is for members at MultiCare, Providence, Group Health, Harrison or many other health care facilities or the 30,000 grocery store workers across the region from UFCW 21, UFCW 367 and Teamsters 38 – is a struggle that we can win.

“It was fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963 that hundreds of thousands marched in Washington DC for Jobs and Justice.”

Time and again over the last several years we have shown that when we stand together against attempts to undermine our health care coverage, cut our pay, and limit our rights at work, that we can push back and hold our own. We don’t win everything, but the companies that we work for don’t get everything they want either.

A belief in each other, a willingness to stand up and face our fears and work together is what allows us to overcome our fears and take action to change things for the better. The struggle for racial equality is not yet won. But significant progress has been made since that August day back in 1963.

Likewise, we made progress back in 2010 when the CEOs of the big national grocery store chains came after our health care, came after our pension, came after our pay, refused us paid sick days, and tried to split our ranks. We stuck together, and in the toughest economy since the Great Depression, members voted by 94% to authorize a strike and forced a final compromise, that while far from perfect, was something members felt proud of and passed overwhelmingly.

By standing together again, and with all the wonderful support of fellow union members, our families, our neighbors and our customers, we can achieve fairness again.

The Inside Story:
Health Care Advisory Committee –Growing Our Union

In July of 2013 our union had its third Health Care Advisory Board meeting. Our discussions were centered around the rapid consolidation of many of our healthcare facilities with Peace Health, Franciscans and Providence. The changing face of our industry means that we have to be clearer than ever in our direction as leaders in providing quality care to our community. 

With 16,000 health care members, our Health Care Advisory Board is led by key Stewards from our health care units including our former USNU 141 RN members that merged with UFCW 21 last summer and members from our recently organized units at Skagit Regional Medical Center and Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Through the Advisory Board we have focused on a handful of strategic goals (listed below) for all health care members in order to strengthen our contracts and ensure that while at work we can focus on our number one priority which is providing the highest quality of patient care to our communities.

  • Strategically coordinating all our contract campaigns so as we negotiate, we negotiate together from a position of strength.
  • Winning Union Shop language in all contracts so that we no longer have so many workplaces where workers are not members of the union. When we have all employees in all job classes represented by unions, we can build more power and bargain stronger contracts.
  • Political check off – so that we can raise extra funds to work on lobbying issues of importance like our patient safety package.
  • A fair process for workers to join the union without interference or intimidation from the employer
  • More Steward rights – Stewards are the back bone of the union and will be key to allowing our union to grow and connect with members in the workplace – especially in health care.
  • Advancing quality patient care– winning rest and meal breaks, improving staffing, enhancing safe workplaces, reducing bullying in the workplace. These are all policies where we can be primary advocates for quality patient care – after all what is good for health care workers is good for patients.

Members Stand Up for Their Rights...

Getting Back to Work

When Michelle Geddes was terminated from her job as Bakery Clerk at the Maple Valley Safeway, she knew it was wrong. And while the law allows employers to fire people without a reason, our union contract requires that employers have a legitimate reason for terminating someone. This is called Just Cause. Michelle contacted her union Rep and together fought the firing all the way to arbitration. In the end, Safeway admitted that it was unlikely they could establish just cause in an arbitration hearing and settled the grievance by providing Michelle her old job back, a cash payment, and immediate reinstatement of health benefits.

Making Change at Walmart

Gerry Paladan worked at Walmart for 6 years – showing up on time, working hard before he was unceremoniously fired. This was after he had decided to start to speak out at work about making Walmart better. Gerry has been a very active member of OUR Walmart – an organization of current and former Walmart Associates working to gain a voice on the job and get respect at work. Hundreds of community supporters joined with UFCW 21 members and others to stand together for Gerry. 

Properly Paid For On Call

When Health Care workers who are “On Call” get called back to work, our contract requires that they get paid for 3 hours of work, but only need to stay and do the work they were called in for unless there is “imminent” work coming in. Group Health however was requiring employees who were on-call to stay a full 3 hours regardless of whether or not there was work to do. A recent arbitration win determined that this was not right and required Group Health to issue back pay and stop this behavior immediately. “Now more than ever, we need to make sure we have leaders in all of our departments so we can make sure these types of issues are caught early so we can fix concerns,” said Hal Crabb in Radiology.


Winning Back Money for Our Health Care

Over the last couple of years we have won several large and important grievances against MultiCare to enforce our union contract and protect the rights and benefits of thousands of UFCW 21 members. On August 8 MultiCare complied with an arbitration decision to issue financial payment to members who had been harmed by their unilateral changes to the health plan in 2011. You may remember that MultiCare had failed to negotiate in good faith. Ultimately the Arbitration Judge had ruled in our favor saying that MultiCare had to pay members back for the excess expenses that they had paid due to those changes (plus 6% interest) now estimated to be over $700,000.

More Stewards More Power                    

As we grow as a union (now UFCW 21 has over 43,000 members in Washington and is the largest private section union), we all need more leaders in the workplace. Recently four new stewards (Hector Norzagary, Ana Salozar, Cherish Jordan, and David Portrey) were trained at Northwest Administrators as we prepare to go into bargaining. And in September there are two Health Care Steward Trainings on September 7 (Olympia) and September 28 (Kent). Contact your union Rep for details.


People Powered Politics Matter

In June, the UFCW 21 Executive Board and members hosted our 1st Seattle Mayor’s forum. The candidates were asked if they would stand with us to protect good jobs in our neighborhoods against anti-union employers like Whole Foods and Walmart and all said yes. So it is not a surprise when later Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn (one of the four giving a thumbs up) issued a letter urging Seattle City Council not to approve a mega-developer’s request to take over city property as part of a Whole Foods project because it was not in the public interest. What was a surprise was when the front runner, Senator Ed Murray (another yes from our forum), proceeded to criticize McGinn for his position. The issues of living wages and worker rights to organize propelled Mayor McGinn into the general election in November to face off against Murray.

Summer Picnics

UFCW 21 Summer Picnics in Seattle and Bremerton were a blast.

If you live in the eastern part of the state, remember the Spokane picnic:

Sunday, September 8
12:00pm – 4:00pm
Franklin Park
5301-5399 N Division St
RSVP 509-340-7369


UFCW 21 Awards Over $40,000 in Scholarships

Our scholarships were presented at the awards ceremony in June. All totaled, we provided awards for over $40,000 to 16 winners this year (8 shown here with their certificates).


This August thousands of UFCW staff and members from around the US and Canada came to Chicago, IL for the UFCW International Convention. UFCW 21 delegates included members from all the major industries.

The Benefits of Being UFCW 21 Members

Your union (UFCW 21) is the largest private sector union in the state of Washington, with 43,000 workers in grocery stores and retail, health care, and other service sector and industrial jobs. Our collective voice is what gives workers the power to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Wages: On average, union members earn about 20% more in wages than non-union workers.

Health Benefits: Union members are more likely to receive quality, affordable health benefits from their employers.

Retirement Security: Union members are far more likely than other workers to have a guaranteed pension.

Other Benefits on the Job: Union members also have more vacation days, more paid leave, and greater job security.

A Voice at Work: Union members get to negotiate with management—as equals—over wages, benefits, and other issues.

Representation: As a union member, you have the right to union representation during an investigation that could lead to discipline.

Fair Treatment: The “just cause” provision in your union contract means that management must apply discipline in a fair and consistent manner.

Your Contract: Your wages, benefits, and working conditions are spelled out in writing in a legally-binding union contract, which is bargained for and voted on by union members.

Going Green Helps Save $

More and more members are getting updated information from our union via email. Over the last five years we have added nearly 20,000 email address – allowing members to get up-to-date information quickly during contract negotiations, political campaigns, and other important times. Our new approach to communications reduced postage and printing costs while saving over 4 million sheets of paper. Be part of the solution, make sure your email address is up to date.

On the front cover: 

30,000 Grocery Store Workers Stand Together. This year, UFCW 21, UFCW 367 and Teamsters 38 members who work in grocery stores throughout Puget Sound are all in contract negotiations together. This cover photo was from one of twelve informational pickets in July. Thirty-eight additional pickets are happening on August 28. Like us on Facebook.

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