Contract Negotiations: We Hear You and We Are In This Together!

Tyrique Bledson, member at Mariano's 2999 (#542) Bannockburn with Paul Schaefer, Local 881 Secretary-Treasurer

Thank you to all the members at Jewel, Mariano’s, and Schnucks who have taken the time to respond to the Contract Surveys that
recently went out.

Your detailed and passionate comments and suggestions are incredible. It’s always been clear to your Union how much you care about your workplace. In reading through each and every one of the surveys many of the comments and observations echo what Sue said years ago. I want you to know that WE HEAR YOU! We hear your disappointment loud and clear in how things are being run in your workplaces. We hear your desire about wanting to make things better. Local 881 believes strongly that your Companies are LUCKY to have you working in their stores.

Back in 2017, after a long and contentious negotiation cycle, Jewel members voted and approved the current contract set to expire in summer of 2022. Shortly after ratification, there was a lot of murmuring in the stores about what was done, specifically around wages. Despite the overwhelming votes in favor of the new contract, members were not exactly thrilled with the ‘modest’ increases provided by the five-year contract. It came out loud and clear at the October Local Meeting in Alsip that year. Members were very vocal about their disappointment. Local 881 Officers present at that meeting tried to explain the difficult circumstances and tough negotiations we had just been through with the Company. It was a very intense and heated discussion.

Sue Klein from Jewel 17930 (#3192) – Orland Park, IL, stood up to speak and without apology, basically set the record straight for everyone in the room: “I didn’t realize how little the Company cared for us!”

Susan Klein, member at Jewel 17930 (#3192) in Orland Park

Sue went on to explain that she had been with Jewel for 43 years, was a Union Steward, a member of the Local 881 Executive Board, and had been present at the negotiation meetings, as a member of the rank-and-file Bargaining Committee. Having been through many contract cycles, she remembered that the Union always warned negotiations are never easy, but until she saw and heard with her own eyes and ears, she never really believed. As a long-term employee, she always hoped and believed the Company would do the right thing and take care of everyone. In reality, however, the raises suggested in the early rounds of negotiations were at best laughable and at worst like a literal slap in the face to her.

When Sue spoke about her observations during those negotiations, the hurt and disappointment in her voice was unmistakable. This woman has spent her life working faithfully at Jewel, and she got to hear firsthand how much the Company ‘appreciated’ her and her coworkers. Sue’s comments didn’t end there.

“I also couldn’t believe how hard the Union fought for us!” She talked about negotiation meetings where there were heated discussions with yelling and pounding on the tables, and many abrupt adjournments that left Sue with her jaw dropped. It was very clear to her who was fighting on her behalf and who had her best interests at heart.

To this day, Sue continues to remind her coworkers about what happened during the negotiations. When she hears people complaining, her response is simple and to the point, “If you don’t like the raise the Union got you, try living on the nickel the Company wanted to give you!”

We are proud to have Sue serving on the Bargaining Committee again this time around. After the unprecedented pandemic, Jewel will have the difficult task of looking at Sue and her now 48 years of service in the eye and telling her just how much they ‘value’ her.

 The road to a better contract needs your involvement! Your participation is critical to the negotiations process.  Whether you work at Jewel, Mariano’s, Kroger, or Schnucks, it’s important for your Company to know that you are not a passive observer! Read your contract, fill out your survey, talk to your Union Representative, show your Union pride, wear your Local 881 button, and vote on the final contract proposal!

Your Union will continue to fight like hell, pound the negotiation tables, and reject laughable increases on your behalf. We commit to working our very hardest to bring you a fair contract to review and, in the end, it will be up to the Members ONLY to approve the next contract.