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JOINT STATEMENT BY UFCW LOCALS 539 AND 876

 JOINT STATEMENT BY UFCW LOCALS 539 AND 876
 MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich., May 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Following is a joint


statement by UFCW Locals 539 and 876:
 The UFCW came to these talks on Tuesday to negotiate. It is obvious after four frustrating days that Kroger wanted the union to capitulate. We've talked for four days -- which in itself is progress, and a far cry from Kroger's full-page newspaper ads rejecting "prolonged" or "protracted" negotiations.
 Local 539's meat, deli, and seafood members tried to get serious negotiations going by making substantial modifications in its contract proposals.
 Now, except for a few issues, Locals 539 and 876 have a unified position that is fair, just, honorable, and above all, competitive for Kroger. Despite this, there is little substantive change in Kroger's demands. There is, however, a welcome change in Kroger's demeanor at the bargaining table. For the most part, the invective and cockiness were missing, but the stubbornness and insensitivity remain.
 For four days, our rank-and-file bargaining committees heard Kroger talk about every subject, except fairness for its employees. Kroger complained about competition, but its own incestuous relationship with Foodland makes Kroger its own competition.
 The truth is, every Kroger store competes with Farmer Jack. Fewer than one-third compete with Meijer's. Kroger cherry-picked items it likes from the Meijer contract, blew the competition from Meijer totally out of proportion, but never once mentioned where the Meijer contract is better than Kroger.
 Kroger, for the most part, avoided the issues of most concern to our members. Issues like full-time jobs ... the opportunity to make a career out of working at Kroger. Issues like the 470 employees working 40 hours a week, week in and week out, and still being classified "part time."
 For more than a half century, Americans who work 40 hours a week have been considered "full time" -- but not at Kroger.
 Kroger's demand to take away dependent coverage for the families of 1,140 of our members -- many of whom are female heads of households -- remains on the table.
 Kroger still demands the right to take away contractual protection for the work that means our members will have jobs. We listened to Kroger, and at times, Kroger listened to us. But Kroger still hasn't heard the sound of silent cash registers.
 Our picket lines are strong. Kroger talks about "returning union members," and counts former employees fired for insubordination and theft, whose jobs the union couldn't save in arbitration.
 Customer support is outstanding. Eighty percent of Kroger's volume is being spent elsewhere -- more than $70 million in four weeks. How do we know? Our pickets count the number of bags leaving the stores, and they know how many dollars go into every bag.
 We also receive, on a regular basis, register summaries from a couple dozen stores. We have tonnage data from the warehouse. And we see the smiles on the faces of the competition.
 Customers are supporting the Kroger workers because they are the Kroger the customer knows. And the customers won't shop at Kroger again until it's the Kroger they know -- with our members back behind the counters and at the registers. That will only happen when there's a just and fair settlement.
 We know what Kroger will do now. They may try to stampede our members into accepting what they rejected four weeks ago -- only wrapped with a new ribbon.
 Our Advisory Committee will advise the union whether there is anything worth voting on again.
 When the stampede fails, Kroger will drag out the threat of permanent replacement.
 That won't work either.
 No chain has replaced UFCW retail members with strikebreakers, and survived to brag about it. Kroger can take that promise to the bank.
 The sons and daughters of the auto workers who built this area will never -- never -- be seduced by free Pepsi into making their parents roll over in their graves.
 Never.
 We expect Kroger to dust off its 1984 threat to leave Michigan. But that old dog won't hunt any more. Neither will threatening to turn the stores into Foodlands.
 That won't happen for three reasons:
 First, because customers will see through the charade; second, because the Kroger strikers will soon begin educating consumers with the facts about Foodland; and third, because no franchise operator will buy a store with a picket line at the door -- and the picket line won't go away until our members are back on their jobs. The name on the door might change, but the jobs belong to our members.
 Kroger should ask itself what response to expect from the UFCW? The answer is: Phase Two.
 On Tuesday, leaders of the UFCW local unions with more than 100,000 Kroger members from across America will meet at the Airport Holiday Inn to develop a program of support for Michigan Kroger workers.
 Kroger is stripping its out-of-state stores of management employees and shipping them to Detroit to break our strike. That's an outrageous provocation to our local unions.
 Later in the week, UFCW locals in the mid-Atlantic area will be delivering truckloads of food for Kroger workers.
 The UFCW nationally is raising more than $200,000 to help our members meet those emergencies that always arise in a strike. And that's just a down payment.
 This is a Michigan fight with national implications.
 Kroger wants to make an example of Michigan workers to put fear into the hearts of our members before their contract negotiations. That's why Kroger strikers will be traveling to other locals to explain, worker to worker, how Kroger treats workers who ask nothing more than a just and fair contract. How Kroger thinks it's wrong for employees to want to earn a decent wage so that they can shop in the stores where they work.
 Phase Two will be Kroger's worst nightmare, but we also intend to make Mr. Pichler's dream come true. In his letter to shareholders, Mr. Pichler -- Kroger's top officer -- said in all caps: "YOUR MANAGEMENT DESIRES TO HAVE A LARGE NUMBER OF THE SHAREHOLDERS REPRESENTED AT THE MEETING."
 That's the annual meeting on May 21st in Cincinnati.
 Kroger brags that 35 percent of its stock is employee-owned. Many are walking picket lines in Michigan.
 The striker/shareholders will fill BOTH roles at the annual meeting -- carrying picket signs outside as strikers, and asking questions inside of the CEO who works for them. Questions about throwing away market share by giving customers a reason to shop elsewhere.
 They'll ask about Michigan Kroger's demands to undermine the incentive program that Mr. Pichler himself says is the motivation for "Kroger employees ... to maintain a cost-efficient, highly productive work environment."
 That's a direct quote.
 The striker/shareholders want Mr. Pichler to explain how much job "satisfaction" is there in part-time, dead-end jobs.
 Our members can't get answers to these questions at the bargaining table, so as shareholders, they'll demand answers from Mr. Pichler.
 In the final analysis, Kroger is making a grave mistake. In a business based on customer service, Kroger is taking for granted those employees who serve the customer. This charade of negotiations only compounds the disastrous management miscalculations that led to this strike.
 The UFCW regrets that these talks didn't end in a settlement. But it takes two to negotiate. Sooner or later, Kroger will be ready to negotiate. When they are, the UFCW will be there -- ready, willing and prepared to negotiate a compromise that is fair to both the employees and to Kroger.
 -0- 5/8/92
 /CONTACT: Ron Kean of UFCW, 313-585-9671/
 (KR) CO: United Food & Commercial Workers Union; Kroger Co. ST: Michigan IN: REA SU:


ML-JG -- DE033 -- 8274 05/08/92 17:10 EDT
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Date:May 8, 1992
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