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Grocery workers win historic contract from UNFI Cub, strike averted
(UFCW Local 663 news release, 4-7-23, 1:49 AM)

Grocery workers set to strike April 7-8 at 33 local Cub stores
Strike includes 3,000
UFCW Local 663 members
at UNFI-owned stores

UFCW members announce strike at Cub
UFCW Local 663 members announced a two-day Unfair Labor Practice strike set for April 7-8 outside the Maple Grove Cub store,
one of 33 UNFI-owned Cub stores that will be impacted by the strike.

April 6, 2023

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MAPLE GROVE – With a holiday weekend coming, grocery shoppers in Minneapolis and the west metro area will find union picket lines at 33 local UNFI-owned Cub stores.

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 yesterday announced a two-day “Unfair Labor Practice” strike set for April 7-8 at the 33 local Cub grocery stores which are owned by UNFI.

(For a list of the impacted stores, click here).

The strike will not impact other local Cub-branded grocery stores which are not owned by UNFI.

Workers at the UNFI-owned Cub stores have been working without a contract since March 4. They also have not had raises since 2018.

This is the first contract which UFCW Local 663 is negotiating with UNFI since the Providence, Rhode Island based company purchased the 33 local Cub stores from SuperValu in 2018.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery store workers became essential workers and continued working at great risk to themselves and their families.

Grocery stores like UNFI-Cub profited during the pandemic and now workers want to see wage increases that recognize their work and their sacrifices.

During the height of the pandemic, “they had record sales, record profits,” said Jill Craig, who was one of several UFCW Local 663 members who spoke at a news conference yesterday morning outside a UNFI-owned Cub store in Maple Grove, announcing the planned strike. Craig works at that store as head of customer service.

Craig announced that Local 663 members will be walking picket lines from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. April 7 and April 8.

“We will return to work Monday morning with pride and hope to get an agreement on Tuesday the 11th,” she added.

“We want to be treated fairly. We want to be protected. We want to be respected. And we want to get what we deserve,” Craig said.

‘We are worth more than a carton of eggs.’
—UFCW member Sue Sami

“We were here for our communities during COVID,” said UFCW Local 663 member Sue Sami, who works in the deli at the Rockford Road Cub store in Plymouth. “I am only asking for a raise.”

UNFI is offering a wage increase of only about one-half what union members are asking. In addition, company proposals seek takeaways from the workers and a change to regressive wage structures. Under company proposals, for example, part-time workers would need to work 140 weeks before getting a raise.

“We are asking for something basic, fair and right,” Sami said.

“We are worth more than a carton of eggs,” Sami added. “There is the $3.00 for a carton of eggs and they want to give us $1.25.”

“We are your neighbors. We are your friends,” Sami said. “I fed all of you. I served you.”

Working through the pandemic, “we were going home to our families… we were scared we were going to get our families sick,” another UFCW Local 663 member said.

“The company forced us to wear masks, but they wouldn’t force the customers to ear masks to protect us,” yet another UFCW Local 663 member said.

Negotiations began in January

Negotiations for a new contract between UFCW Local 663 and UNFI-owned Cub stores began in January.

After a day of in-person voting April 4, the union announced an “overwhelming” vote by members at the 33 UNFI-owned Cub stores to support a two-day “Unfair Labor Practice” strike. The union reported that 94.5 percent of members voted to support the strike.

In response to recent weeks of worker organizing and informational pickets, UFCW Local 663 president Rena Wong reported at the April 5 news conference that “the company has committed a lot of Unfair Labor Practices.”

Wong said company actions included worker surveillance, threats, intimidation, and managers sneaking in to worker Zoom meetings. She said these actions were “illegal” and “unacceptable.”

The strike involves about 3,000 workers.

It will be the first-ever strike by union workers at this group of Cub stores

In comparing UNFI to the previous SuperValu ownership, “they are really out of touch,” Wong said. “They have been just absolutely tone-deaf to the workers, to their community, and to the public who very much support these essential workers.”

Picket lines will go up early Friday morning at all 33 UNFI-owned corporate owned Cub grocery stores in the Minneapolis and west metro area.

Spokespeople for Teamsters Local 120 and Bakers Local 22 told the Labor Review that the two unions will be encouraging their members who provide deliveries to the impacted Cub stores or work at those stores to honor the UFCW Local 663 picket lines.

UFCW Local 663 president Rena Wong said members of the public can visit the UFCW Local 663 website or Facebook page to find a list of Cub grocery store locations not owned by UNFI where workers will not be on strike.

“We encourage everybody to go those union stores where members have a good contract,” Wong said.

“Now is the time to fight because we did survive the pandemic as a team and as a union,” Local 663 member Jill Craig said.

UFCW Local 663 president Rena Wong UFCW Local 663 president Rena Wong said of UNFI: “They have been just absolutely tone-deaf to the workers, to their community, and to the public who very much support these essential workers.”

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