“An opportunity for change:” Richland Fred Meyer employees successfully unionize
RICHLAND, Wash. — Approximately 250 workers at the Fred Meyer location in Richland successfully voted to unionize; an unprecedented victory that marks the first time an entire grocery store’s staff have accomplished this feat in Eastern Washington.
According to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1439, which represents 7,000 workers across the Northwest, the victorious union election overcame pushback from Fred Meyer’s parent company, Kroger, in the fight for a better work environment.
“This is an unprecedented victory, inspired by the sacrifices of essential grocery workers during the pandemic,” Jeff Hofstader, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 1439 said. “We hope this inspires other grocery workers to stand up and exercise their rights.”
Workers consistently pleaded with Kroger to improve the quality of these jobs to address high turnover and implement more consistent schedules so that workers could live more stable lives.
One of those employees is Brandyn Farrell-Parker, who has worked at the store for years.
“As management has changed there have been some aspects of working that have become more challenging than others,” Farrell-Parker said. “Like coming to work and feeling like there’s a support system for the team.”
Kroger held union-busting meetings, increased management presence with staff from across the state, and kept a steady watch on workers who engaged in unionizing efforts.
FIRST REPORT: Fred Meyer workers at Richland location file to unionize
“Management has consistently shown that they don’t want to offer assistance and when they do, it feels like it comes at our expense,” Farrell-Parker said.
He added that he pushed for the union because he believed it was “the only real way we could show we have a voice in the way that our workplace is run.”
“After working through a pandemic while struggling with understaffing and being paid less than other retail and grocery workers, I think it’s disrespectful that Kroger decided to try to scare us out of forming a union instead of respecting our decision,” Dairy Clerk Jeremy Brewer said. “Instead of addressing our concerns, my managers constantly tried to pressure us to vote against our own best interest. That’s not right.”
Now, the National Labor Relations Board tally of mail-in votes is complete and the unionized workers will begin bargaining with Kroger management to establish better working conditions.
“I’m so proud of myself and my coworkers. I support the union because employees need a way to hold Kroger accountable to their promises,” Cashier Roxanne Reynolds said.
For Farrell-Parker, it represents the start of possible change.
“There’s a good opportunity for conversations to be had about what’s important for us as workers because, at the end of the day, everyone’s voice should be heard,” Farrell-Parker said. “I hope it puts out for a lot of people there’s an opportunity for change and you just have to be willing to push for it.”
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