Walmart Workers in Pennsylvania celebrate class-action lawsuit victory

On Jan. 24, Making Change at Walmart held a press conference in Harrisburg, Pa., to draw attention to  more than 187,000 current and former Walmart workers throughout Pennsylvania who won a $241.1-million class-action lawsuit against the retail giant.

The case originated in 2002, when former Philadelphia Walmart worker Michelle Braun filed a lawsuit against all Pennsylvania Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, alleging that the company failed to compensate workers for off-the-clock work hours and prevented employees from taking or completing their rest or meal breaks.

In 2004, Dolores Hummel, who was employed as a cake decorator at Walmart in Reading, Pa., filed a class action lawsuit presenting allegations similar to Braun’s 2002 complaint.

In 2005, the two lawsuits were combined and certification as a class action was granted by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. The “class” consisted of all current and former employees of Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2006, totaling approximately 187,000 people.

Although a jury returned a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in 2006, Walmart appealed the case for years.

The current and former Walmart workers began receiving payments last December, and the award includes $88 million in interest.

Union leaders agree that Walmart’s attempt to cheat, deny and delay millions of dollars of income earned by workers that were forced to work off the clock has finally been defeated. They said that this historic judgment provides hope and inspiration to thousands of workers who continue to be mistreated, unappreciated and undervalued at Walmarts all across America.  

German chains spark price war

Competition from no-frills grocery companies based in Germany — fast-growing Aldi and domestic newcomer Lidl — is encroaching on Walmart’s grocery business, which accounts for more than half of its revenues in the United States, analysts said.

All of these non-union companies are a direct threat to union stores.

Aldi has said it will expand its U.S. footprint to nearly 2,000 stores by the end of 2018, an increase of almost 50 percent in five years.

Both Lidl and Aldi run their stores with limited product variety and ultra-low prices. In addition to food items, Lidl also sells merchandise like apparel and home goods.

Olympic Medical Center Home Health workers ratify contract

Members of UFCW Local 21 who work at Olympic Medical Center Home Health in Port Angeles, Wash., ratified a new contract on Feb. 27. The agreement covers about 60 workers and includes wage increases, an extra floating holiday and additional education money. 

“This contract will help recruit and retain quality staff and allow members to better serve the needs of their patients,” a union official said.

Alleged discrimination at Walmart

Making Change at Walmart reported in December that Walmart stores in Virginia added an extra layer of security to hair products typically used by African Americans.

“Hair products used by non-African Americans were placed normally on shelves, while products typically used by African Americans were secured in plastic boxes that cashiers had to unseal,” a representative of the pro-union group said.

Making Change at Walmart aired a television commercial in areas near the affected stores showing packages of women’s hair dye featuring Caucasian models that were easily within reach and without plastic coverings.

UFCW celebrates 100 organizing wins in 100 days

On May 6, the UFCW announced its 100th organizing campaign win of 2016.

“UFCW’s 100 wins in 100 days reflect the frustration and economic pressure felt by hard-working people across the country as more of them look to unions for relief,” Local 99 President Jim McLaughlin observed.
Workers in 26 states have joined the UFCW this year and more than 50 percent of UFCW locals have had successful organizing drives, he said.

Fry’s project in downtown Phoenix may uncover ‘trove’ of artifacts

The long wait for a grocery store in downtown Phoenix is coming to an end, but before shoppers can begin filling their carts a potentially fascinating construction phase will take place.

The process of building a grocery store doesn’t usually generate much curiosity, but in the case of the upcoming Fry’s Food Store project, city officials are expecting a “trove of city history” to be unearthed at the development site, according to the Arizona Republic.

The land between First and Second Streets and Washington and Jefferson Streets may house an underground bomb shelter, jail cell remains and prehistoric artifacts, the newspaper reports.

The 55,000 square foot “glass cube” planned for the site would encompass the grocery store as well as parking, office and retail spaces, and high-rise apartments. It would also bring much needed fresh food options to the city center, which has been categorized as a “food desert” by public officials.

The land is scheduled to undergo an archeological investigation before building begins, and the project is expected to open in 2018

2,000 new jobs predicted in Fry’s expansion

Fry’s Food & Drug Stores, Inc., announced it plans to invest $260 million into opening seven new stores in Arizona this summer and fall.

An estimated 2,000 jobs will be created at the union-affiliated grocery chain.

Six of the larger-size Fry’s Marketplace stores are expected to open in Maricopa County. In addition, a standard-size Fry’s store is scheduled to open in Tucson.

Fry’s Marketplace stores include Starbucks coffee shops, Murray’s cheese stores, sushi bars, soup and salad bars, indoor/outdoor deli seating, gas stations and pharmacies with medical care offered in Little Clinics.