Oh, what a year! As 2023 comes to a close, we can look back on one of the best years in Local 99’s history. No matter the challenge or obstacle, our members emerged better off and our union stronger.

Of course, our success in 2023 would not have been possible without our victories from the prior year. In 2022, our political SPURs (Special Project Union Representatives) worked around the clock and narrowly elected an exciting slate of pro-worker officials at the top of the ticket in Arizona, including Gov. Katie Hobbs and Atty. Gen. Kris Mayes.
We organized Arizona’s first cannabis workers union in state history, laying the groundwork for several campaigns to come, and our Local 99 stewards and activists from across the Southwest convened in Chandler for one of our best conferences yet, strengthening our foundation for the year ahead.

What a year it was!

In January, we saw Gov. Hobbs and Atty. Gen. Mayes take office and demonstrate the differences a pro-worker administration can make. Hobbs became an important backstop, using her veto pen to prevent the rights of working Arizonans from being curtailed and earning the title of UFCW Western States Council Person of the Year.

Meanwhile, Mayes launched an investigation into the still-pending $24.6-billion-dollar Kroger-Albertsons mega-merger and embarked on series of in-person listening sessions with Arizonans statewide. In every town, in every community, you made your voices clear: this merger doesn’t pass muster.

As a result of our advocacy, Mayes joined her colleagues in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington in officially opposing the merger, joining our fight to ensure that the jobs of our members at Kroger and Albertsons stores are safe and protected.

In April, we joined locals from across North America to pave the way for our union over the next half-decade. The UFCW International Convention included several workshops and discussions designed to shape our ideas and goals into a shared vision for our members, our families and our movement. There, UFCW delegates from all over the U.S. and Canada made it clear that the Kroger-Albertsons merger is wrong for working families.

Facing a pending merger and an uncertain future, we held another Stewards’ Conference to great success. We met in Kingman, Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson, and came away from each gathering with a greater appreciation for the solidarity we share as union members and our collective power to influence our future at the bargaining table.

Historic agreement

Bolstered by our stewards and activists and their leadership, we entered grocery industry negotiations clear-eyed and confident that our members’ voices would be heard. After months of preliminary discussions with industry executives, we successfully negotiated a 30-month contract three months early, which members overwhelmingly ratified. The historic agreement marked the largest contractual wage increase for Fry’s, Safeway and Smith’s employees in more than 30 years. We also successfully ratified our strongest contracts yet at Mission Foods, Flagship Sky Harbor, Ace Parking and Copper Queen Hospital.

In addition to raising the standard of living for our members, our union grew in size. We welcomed hundreds of new members to our union family. In Utah, our membership more than doubled following a successful campaign at Daily’s Premium Meats, a food processing plant near Salt Lake City, which was made possible by the diligent work of our organizing team and several SPURs from JBS.
Our Cannabis Division also grew by leaps and bounds as we welcomed workers in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to the burgeoning Cannabis Workers Rising movement. From budtenders to lab technicians to delivery drivers, this new generation of union members is deeply dedicated to its customers and careers.

As union members, cannabis workers across the Southwest are charting a new way forward in the industry that includes quality health care, living wages and respect at work.

Our fight for workers in the “Green Economy” saw great progress through actions on April 20, a popular “holiday” with cannabis consumers, and during a historic Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike in September, when workers demanded clear safety protocols, consistent scheduling and a strong voice on the job.

And let’s not forget the awesome Diamondbacks! Our MLB National League Champions and their second appearance in the World Series ever! Is another championship in store for 2024?

With 2023 in the rearview mirror, I am hopeful for the road ahead. I am grateful every day to be your union president and look forward to working together to build on our success in 2024. Thank you for a great year!