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By Adam Zuvanich

Source: Houston Public Media

UFCW Local 455, which represents more than 13,000 Kroger employees at more than 100 stores in the Houston area, is asking its members to consider authorizing a strike if the union cannot negotiate for more favorable terms with the grocery store chain.

When Houston-area Kroger employees agreed to their existing contracts in the spring of 2022, they did so more or less under duress, according to the leader of their local workers’ union. In-person negotiations had been limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which put strains on grocery stores and their employees, and the local Kroger workers also had spent more than two years in a stalemate with their company.

Now, as United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 455 tries to negotiate new contracts for its 13,000-plus members who staff more than 100 Kroger stores in the region, union president Brandon Hopkins said it hopes to undo some of the issues its members have with the current deal. And because little progress has been made on that front, he said Tuesday, Houston-area Kroger workers are again considering the possibility of going on strike.

The union has called a strike vote meeting for Thursday, when it will ask its members to authorize a potential strike if a new agreement with Kroger cannot be reached by Feb. 24, which is the expiration date of the existing contracts. Union members previously voted in favor of a strike during negotiations for the current contracts, but one did not end up materializing.

“They took advantage of our members in my view and put them through hell,” Hopkins said of prior negotiations with Kroger. “… They took too much last time, and our members are having trouble making ends meet. We have some members that are homeless. We have members living with other members because they can’t afford to get their own place.”

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