Kroger, Houston-Area Union Stall Over New Labor Contract

At issue are benefit changes and the end of pandemic hazard pay.

Grocery chain Kroger and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 455 have been negotiating a new contract since February — but after more than 40 meetings, an end is still not in sight.

Some of the issues the union has with Kroger's proposed new labor contract include a new health care plan and the elimination in May of a $2-an-hour hazard pay during the pandemic. Last month, union members voted to authorize their leaders to call a strike, which could affect some 14,000 workers in Harris and surrounding counties.

Meanwhile, the president of Kroger's Houston division, Joe Kelly, has gone around the union and pitched directly to employees what he said is a good offer.

"Every frontline associate will receive an increase by Feb. 7," he told Houston Public Media. "We're raising the quality and standard of health care by moving our associates to our company's administered health care plan versus the unstable South Central Health and Welfare Trust Fund that they've been in."

The union, on its website, said the "company-controlled" health care plan is more expensive and amounts to a "backdoor wage cut."

Kelly alleged the union leadership isn't speaking for most of its members and is refusing to let them vote on Kroger's offer.

Local 455 did not respond to an email and voicemail seeking comment.

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required