Grateful for our successes, ready to prevail even more in the new year

by President Mark Ramos

We have much to be grateful for here at UFCW Local 1428. Our local union continues to grow its membership and we have been at the forefront of legislative and political victories for working people.

Local 1428 currently has its largest number of members in more than 15 years. It wasn’t that long ago when we had a shrinking membership, but with hard work we have grown our local union about 20% in the past few years. We continue to look for organizing opportunities and are engaged in several organizing projects at this moment.

As the president of the UFCW Western States Council, one of my responsibilities is to meet with lawmakers and advocate for legislation that not only benefits our members but all workers, whether they belong to a union or not.

This year, we succeeded in passing Senate Bill 553, a workplace violence protection law that will require employers to report violent incidents in the workplace to Cal OSHA. This data will give us evidence to craft better policies and laws to protect retail workers.

Also signed into law was Senate Bill 616, which guarantees five paid sick days for workers in California. As we learned during COVID, when workers get sick, they should be able to stay home and rest, which also helps keep their coworkers and the public safe from getting sick.

We didn’t get all of our priorities signed into law, but I’m glad Labor is committed to bringing back a bill to provide access to unemployment benefits for striking workers. We don’t plan on letting this issue go. With this being the 20th anniversary of the Southern California grocery strike and lockouts, this issue is personal to us.

Challenges ahead of us

But we have had our challenges in 2023, and we will see more challenges in 2024.

Rite Aid has filed for bankruptcy and CVS has been closing stores. These two companies have been sued for billions of dollars for overprescribing opioids. We are working with the bankruptcy court to make sure Rite Aid complies with the terms of the bargaining agreements they have with UFCW locals around the country.

No members have been laid off due to store closures at Rite Aid or CVS. We have been in conversations with Rite Aid to make sure they understand that if there are layoffs, we will enforce language in our contract to make sure no member is unduly harmed.

Next year, we have bargaining with Food4Less, Rite Aid and CVS. Staff members here at Local 1428 have just completed a six-week training program. We are using the skills they learned to engage our Food4Less members as we prepare for tough bargaining with Kroger. We are also identifying leaders and growing our strength at Food4Less, which we will use as a model for negotiations with Rite Aid and CVS.

Merger opposition continues

The UFCW continues to oppose the merger of Kroger and Albertsons. There have been community and worker listening sessions around the country with the chair of the Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General from multiple states. The UFCW has been a vocal opponent of this mega merger while making sure we fight to protect our members who will be the most vulnerable to the effects caused by a merger’s success or failure.

Growing our cannabis footprint

Our local union continues to grow our footprint in the cannabis space. We have a few cities that will be implementing cannabis ordinances, and we are engaging with many of the operators.

I want to conclude this column with a big shoutout to Mason Ruiz and Oscar Ortiz from Catalyst Cannabis in Pomona and El Monte. Mason and Oscar have been on leave from their jobs since March and have helped organize cannabis workers at several cannabis companies. They were outstanding in organizing workers at EAZE, the largest cannabis delivery company in the state. Their knowledge of the industry and their ability to speak to their peers has been commendable. For me as the president of Local 1428, it has been a pleasure to see them grow as communicators and organizers.

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Your staff at Local 1428 works hard to serve, represent, protect and grow the membership of this union. As someone who started out as a courtesy clerk 35 years ago at Alpha Beta, it is an honor to serve all of our members, in all of the industries we serve.

From all of us at UFCW 1428, we wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy, safe and successful year ahead.

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