Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Your Healthcare
What is the union trying to get for us?
Your union is negotiating for a contract with better wage increases, reinstatement of hazard pay, and keeping workers’ affordable employee-controlled union health care; but overall, your union is fighting for a good and fair contract that protects and expands your pay and benefits and reflects the hard work and value that you bring to the company.
Your local proposed a wage package that would give all employees hazard pay back permanently for as long as the pandemic threatens your health and safety, along with annual wage increases at the current progression scales to make sure workers can continue to move up to the top wage rate.
To protect your health care, your local has also offered to look into multiple health care fund ideas that you still have a voice in. However, Kroger only wants a company-controlled plan so they can have total control of your health care and push costs onto you.
Overall, Kroger has refused to counter our proposal and wants to end your control over health care, as well as move Kroger workers into pay levels that can freeze raises for most workers, making it harder to get pay increases.
What is happening with contract negotiations?
We are determined to protect you and negotiate in good faith. Contrary to what Kroger may say, negotiations have not concluded.
Your local union is legally challenging Kroger’s move to force their Last WORST and Final offer onto workers, including forcing all South Central participants into their company-controlled, costlier K Plan, and we are still meeting with Kroger to push for a contract you deserve.
What if I signed up for South Central and the company K Plan? Will I have to pay double?
You will not have to pay for two health care plans. Right now, Kroger has forced all Houston South Central participants into their company-controlled K Plan without your consent, even though there are members in Dallas, Louisiana, and Arkansas who are still in South Central and the fund is still operating. We are legally challenging Kroger’s move to bypass your bargaining team and force you onto a healthcare plan that will cost you more.
While Kroger continues to contribute to the South Central Fund on behalf of the workers in Louisiana, Arkansas and other parts of Texas, they are refusing to contribute on behalf of the Houston workers. Instead, Kroger is forcing a new, costlier plan onto Houston workers by bullying you into thinking their current healthcare fund is no longer operational.
It is simply wrong for Kroger to propose changing your health care, without your vote, in the middle of a pandemic.
Once we reach an agreement on health care, you will be the first to know, and vote on it.
Enrollment for your current South Central health care and Kroger’s K Plan have both ended.
Why is Kroger changing our health care and refusing hazard pay in the middle of a pandemic?
Even though Kroger has made billions in profit because of your hard work, they are implementing their company-controlled health care to force you and your family into a plan that costs you more, and them less. It’s that simple.
Additionally, Kroger refuses to reinstate your hazard pay, while implementing wages that steal your progression increases and moves everyone into frozen levels, without your vote.
Why is Kroger saying we won’t have our current South Central health care starting 1/1/21?
UFCW Kroger members in Dallas, Louisiana, and Arkansas signed up for South Central during open enrollment. The fund is still a working fund with money going into it. Kroger continues to contribute to the South Central Fund on behalf of the workers in Louisiana, Arkansas and other parts of Texas, but is refusing to contribute on behalf of the Houston workers. Instead, Kroger is forcing a new, costlier plan onto Houston workers by bullying them into thinking their current healthcare fund is no longer operational.
Kroger has chosen to force only Houston Kroger workers onto their company-controlled healthcare plan that has not been vetted or proven to work.
Every other major UFCW local union that represents Kroger workers throughout the country still operates with the same type of health care fund that you had, South Central. There is no reason for Kroger to move you into a different plan, without your consent, other than sheer greed.
Kroger is trying to bully Houston workers into thinking they only have one option – their option, in an attempt to eventually force ALL workers throughout the country onto a costlier health care plan that they have sole control over.
It is unacceptable that Kroger is changing your health care plan and coverage in the middle of a pandemic, especially when the change will push more costs onto you and make it more expensive for you to use your health care.
What is the difference between the current South Central health care fund and the company’s K Plan?
The biggest difference is cost and control – you lose control, and your health care inevitably costs will go up.
Under the company’s plan, Kroger will have complete control of the fund and how benefits are distributed, and it will be a much smaller plan with just Houston-area employees.
Under South Central, any decisions made about your health care are determined by a board of trustees from both your union and the company, so that there is a fair balance when it comes to making changes that impact your health care.
With the company’s K Plan, they will have absolute control to make any cuts in benefits or increases in costs – without any input by you.
What are the key failings of Kroger’s K Plan?
Here are the facts. It will increase costs for you – your deductibles, emergency room and urgent care visits. Also, prescriptions; and other out of pocket expenses will increase at a rate that you have no control over:
#1: Higher Out-Of-Pocket Maximums
Your current plan: $4,000 - $9,000
Kroger’s plan: $7,900 - $31,600
#2: Higher Prescription Costs
Your current plan: $5 for generic, $5 - $125 for mail order, and $50 + 20% for specialty prescriptions
Kroger’s plan: $10 - $40 for generic, up to $250 for mail order, and up to $400 for specialty prescriptions
#3 More Costly Emergency Room Visits
Your current plan: $100 + co-insurance
Kroger’s plan: $300 + co-insurance
Here are some additional facts:
Under Kroger’s K Plan, you may be forced to find a new doctor in the middle of a pandemic.
Your dental benefits will be limited to $2,000 per year, whether in or out-of-network as opposed to now, where your benefit amount is unlimited.
Your vision benefits will be cut in half – you will only receive $150 every 24 months as opposed to $150 every 12 months.
Your eligibility will now be based on weekly averages as opposed to monthly and Kroger has not provided information regarding if any current participants would be kicked off their health care under Kroger’s new eligibility requirements, and if so, how many.
Your dependent will be dropped from your plan if you don’t verify them to Kroger within 120 days.
Out-of-network preventative coverage care is not covered.
If you need high tech imaging (MRI’s, CAT scans, etc.), the cost will have to meet the “target price” that Kroger sets, meaning you are now responsible for finding cheaper services to save Kroger money
Why is Kroger saying they can’t afford our current health care or hazard pay?
Kroger has seen a surge in profits this year, with the pandemic bringing in over $2 billion in the first three quarters of last year. Kroger has given more than half of that profit to shareholder payouts, top executive compensation packages, and stock buybacks.
This hardly seems like a time when there should be concerns about a funding shortage, especially when it comes to something as critical as health care during a national and global health crisis like COVID -19.
Kroger could easily afford higher company contribution rates that reflect the hours you have worked during this crisis, making sure stores stay open and our communities and customers are served.
The hard work and sacrifices you are making by showing up to work every day during a pandemic deserve to be rewarded. You have earned and deserve affordable health care and there is no reason the company cannot help with that.
Simply put, Kroger can improve your current health care fund, restore your hazard pay, and agree to a contract that protects and expands your benefits, but they would rather find ways to push costs onto you in order to keep more profit and control for them.
fact is that Kroger’s K Plan is all about shifting costs to you.
I am a part time employee and not eligible for healthcare and everything I have seen is about healthcare – how is this impacting me?
We have seen a dramatic increase in COVID cases in our members. Between December 27th and January 9th there have been nearly 200 new COVID cases in the Houston area. We need Kroger to enforce safety standards to keep workers safe.
Kroger also wants to make it harder for workers to get pay increases by freezing certain levels of the wage progression scale, and still will not reinstate hazard pay even when the pandemic continues to get worse.
In 2020 Kroger profited from over $2.6 billion during the first three quarters of 2020, doubling their profits from the same period in 2019. Kroger has the resources to do right by those who have been on the frontlines making them profitable.
This is why we are reaching out to you – we need to put pressure on Kroger to come back to the negotiation table and bargain in good faith with us.