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We never want to be dramatic. Drama serves no real purpose in life, especially when our jobs are concerned. We work with people who are overly dramatic or make situations worse by their actions, but we try not to be one of them.

As I told more than 300 members last month at a stewards meeting: “About every three years when we enter industry negotiations, you’ve heard me say these will be among the most difficult negotiations in our history. This year, like all of the others, that is a true statement.”

However, I continued, “These surely will be the most difficult negotiations in our history as well as the most complicated and critical to our survival.

“Make no mistake about it, the retail food industry is changing and our negotiations this year will determine the direction of the industry in Arizona as well as the Southwest for many years to come.”

With the merger of the two largest unionized grocery chains moving ahead, all eyes will be on the members of Local 99.

Local 99 members are respected by other UFCW locals and their members because of your strength and dedication to your union. You are the epitome of solidarity.

The power you demonstrate in a “right to work” state is not lost on other retail workers across the country. All eyes are on you and your negotiations.

As we head into negotiations with Fry’s, Smith’s and Albertsons/Safeway, it is especially important for all of us to remain focused on our core purpose as a union: to win the best possible contracts for our membership. We want contracts that improve the lives of our members and protect their jobs for the future.

Solidarity is crucial in every round of collective bargaining. It is even more critical this time around. The employers need to know — and appreciate — that we speak as one and we will not settle for anything less than what we deserve.

The proposed $24 billion merger between Albertsons Companies Inc., owner of Albertsons/Safeway, and the Kroger Family of Companies, which owns Fry’s and Smith’s, means more unity on the other side of the bargaining table. The prospect of both companies transitioning from competitors to a single company with one vision for the future is troubling.

This merger, should federal anti-trust regulators allow it to proceed, could affect future union contracts and jobs throughout the industry. We will face potential sales of stores, closures, loss of hours and more.

We have to keep our eye on protecting our members as this merger moves forward, whether it is completed or not. We also have to remember that one of these chains has been looking to sell.

We can’t forget what happened when Albertsons acquired Safeway back in 2014. To appease federal regulators, the merged company sold 146 Albertsons, Pavilions and Safeway stores to a small Northwestern chain called Haggen. While Haggen was a well-meaning union employer, it botched the expansion and was forced to declare bankruptcy within a year, causing thousands of workers to lose their good union jobs.

Fortunately, we were able to protect our members here in Arizona, but not all were as lucky.

Recently, the UFCW International Union took a position on the merger. This union refuses to stand by and let history repeat itself.

“We urge the Federal Trade Commission, as well as state and federal legislative bodies, to take action to block the merger altogether,” International President Marc Perrone told thousands of UFCW delegates at the recent International Convention.

“Given the lack of transparency, and the impact a merger between two of the largest supermarket companies could have on essential workers and the communities and customers they serve, the UFCW stands united in its opposition to the proposed Kroger and Albertsons merger.”

Joining the UFCW in a growing “Stop the Merger” coalition are the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Teamsters, Public Citizen, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Organization for Women and scores of other organizations and individuals.

What you can do

Regardless of what happens at the national level, our local union’s negotiating team will focus with laser intensity on ensuring our members’ job security. But we’ll need you to do your part as well.

Please stand strong with your union. Show management we mean business by wearing your union buttons and letting upper management know you stand with Local 99 all the way.

We may be contacting you with other opportunities to help with the negotiating process, so it’s important to be sure Local 99 has your current contact information. We don’t want you to miss any communications about the bargaining and our calls for action by the membership to build support for our cause. Also, stay tuned for updates on the negotiations and the proposed merger through future editions of 99Report and our website,

Standing together, we can and will prevail.