Those shopping for Easter at 33 locations on Friday and Saturday will take on striking workers seeking higher wages as compensation for their frontline efforts amid the pandemic.
Jill Craig said during a news conference Wednesday outside a Maple Grove grocery store in N.Y.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 announced Tuesday night that nearly 95 percent of the vote supported a first-time strike by 3,000 union employees at 33 food stores owned by United Natural Foods, (UNFI).
The current contract between Cub and the union expired on March 4. After making an offer on March 21, the company’s negotiators were surprised that the union would not bargain before April 11, the next scheduled meeting. Shop general counsel Laura Daley said she believes the union intends to disrupt pre-holiday grocery shopping.
“We have remained ready, willing and able to return to the negotiating table at any time, day or night, any day since March 21, and the union has not been willing to re-engage,” Daley said. “So at this point, I don’t want to say never, but we believe the union intends to go ahead with the strike plan.”
Shebl is ready to implement contingency plans to ensure continued availability of products and services during the strike.
On Wednesday, the employees said they want fair compensation for their work during the pandemic. This included mandatory masking, separation from medically vulnerable relatives, and fearlessness during the unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police.
Union officials said they wanted a $4 an hour salary increase spread over two years, on average, against the $2.75 offered. The union also wants to avoid what it called a regressive raise structure, in which part-time employees who work 15 hours a week only receive raises after 140 weeks of service.
Cobb responded by saying the company is seeing historic wage increases. For example, a part-time employee currently earns $12.25 an hour after five years. In the second year of the company’s proposed contract, Daley said the employee would be paid $18.25 an hour.
Store officials also indicate that a full-time maintenance employee with five years of experience will earn $50,294 in the second year of the contract.
Daly said the grocer’s proposed change to the part-time increase structure addressed concerns of inequality from some who felt it was unfair that employees who worked less saw the same pace of pay increases as those who put in more hours.
The union has accused Shepp of unfair labor practices, including questioning, coercive statements (such as threats) and coercive actions (such as monitoring), according to the National Labor Relations Board website. Daly did not know the details of the March 31 allegations. She is confident that the charges will be dropped. But if this is determined to be a strike that is unfair to the practice of work, the Cub cannot hire permanent replacement workers as in an economic strike for higher wages or for fewer hours.
The Twin Cities’ flagship grocer got a boost during the pandemic when grocery shopping and cooking at home became more of a necessity for most people. In a two-year period that includes the peak of the pandemic, the retail division of the United Nations Foundation (UNFI) in Providence, RI, has seen sales increase 15%, thanks in large part to the Cub.
UNFI, a wholesale business, acquired SUPERALU in Eden Prairie, including its Cub stores, in 2018. It initially wanted to sell its retail division and Cub locations, but later decided to keep them.
The cub undergoes another nautical makeover. Mike Steigers, CEO of Cub since 2019, is leaving to become president of New Jersey-based Wakefern, the nation’s largest retailer-owned co-op. His last day is May 31, and Cub is still yet to name his replacement.
Cub has a total of 79 stores (corporate and franchise) in Minnesota and one in Freeport, Illinois.
As news spread of the potential strike, some Uptown shoppers said Wednesday they were ready to support the union.
“I probably wouldn’t shop here if there was a picket line,” said Wendy Farrar of Minneapolis.
Another shopper, James Layton of Minneapolis, said he supported the strike because he was “behind the unions.”
Another shopper added that other grocery options in the area make avoiding the cub less daunting.
“There’s Lunds [& Byerlys] Up Street, Kowalski, f [Wedge Community] It’s not that hard,” said Chris Lamping of the Minneapolis Co-op.
Star Tribune writer Josie Albertson Grove contributed to this report.
Stores where employees will be hitting:
Apple Valley: 15350 Cedar Ave. Apple Valley
Blaine North: 12595 NE Central Avenue, Blaine
Blaine South: 585 Northeast Northtown Drive, Blaine
Blaine West: 10881 NE University Ave. Blaine
Bloomington Lyndale: 8421 S. Lyndale Ave., Bloomington
Brooklyn Park North: 9655 N. Colorado Lane, Brooklyn Park
Brooklyn Park South: 7555 W. Broadway Ave., Brooklyn Park
Downtown Burnsville: 300 E. Trailers Trail, Burnsville
Burnsville South: 1750 W. County Road 42, Burnsville
Champlain: 8600 N. 114th Ave. , Champlin
Chanhassen: 7900 Market Blvd. , Chanhassen
Coon Rapids South: 2050 NW Northdale Blvd. Coon Rapids
Crystal: 5301 N. 36th Ave. Crystal
Eagan East: 1020 Diffley Road, Egan
Eagan North: 1276 Town Center Drive, Eagan
Eagan West: 1940 Cliff Lake Road, Eagan
Fridley: 250 Northeast 57th Street, Fridley
Lakeville North: 7435 W. 179th St., Lakeville
Lakeville South: 20250 Heritage Drive, Lakeville
Lakeville West: 17756 Kenwood Trail, Lakeville
Maple Grove: 8150 N. Wedgewood Lane, Maple Grove
Minnehaha: 4601 Snelling Ave. , Minneapolis
Monticello: 216 W. Seventh St., Monticello
New Brighton: 2600 Rice Creek Rd, New Brighton
Northside: 701 W Broadway Ave, Minneapolis
Plymouth: 3550 N. Vicksburg Lane, Plymouth
Plymouth Rockford Road: 4445 Nathan Lane, Plymouth
Rosemount: 3784 W. 150th St., Rosemount
Savage: 14075 State Hwy 13, Savage
Shorewood: 23800 MN-7, Shorewood
St. Anthony: 3930 Northeast Silver Lake Rd., St. Anthony
St. Louis Park West End: 5370 West 16th Street, St. Louis Park
Uptown: 1104 Lagoon Ave, Minneapolis
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