Grocery store workers deserve to be valued

Ron Bieber and Roger Robinson

We don’t need to tell you that for many people in Michigan, it’s hard to make a living these days. Though we’ve seen our share of tough times, we still have one of the most talented and tireless workforces in America. And you deserve to be paid and treated fairly for what you do.

That’s what we at the AFL-CIO and UFCW 876 are here for: to fight for Michigan workers who make businesses successful so they’re able to support their families.

For decades, unions have been the gateway to the middle class for millions of workers. We’re proud of our record, but we know our work isn’t done. Far from it. Nowadays, the middle class is under pressure like never before, and their voices are being ignored by those in charge who are all too concerned with the few at the top.

Take the 63,000 people who work in grocery stores throughout Michigan. They are not who comes to mind when you think of union workers. They do not work on assembly lines or in a plant, but they are an integral part of our lives. You see them every day as they prepare food for your family to enjoy. They are your neighbors and friends. They live in your communities and work hard to make our state a better place.

You want dedicated, qualified people doing these critical jobs, because you want a safe, clean and friendly environment to buy food for your family and the medicine they need when they get ill. That’s exactly what you get at stores where UFCW 876 members work. Our members’ commitment to their jobs and their customers is second-to-none. That’s why they deserve to receive fair wages and benefits, like the professionals that they are.

When workers go above and beyond their regular schedule, they should be paid the extra wages they’ve earned. They deserve occasional time off to be with family. And when workers get sick, or their kids do, they deserve paid time off to go to the doctor and get better. After all, do you want people handling your food who aren’t feeling 100 percent?

The American Dream that we all share is that people who work hard will be rewarded and successful. That’s what the workers that you see everyday at your grocery stores deserve, too. When workers feel valued, they do a better job and work harder. It’s a win-win for companies and employees. And it’s a big win for customers, who deserve to have excellent service from a motivated and valued workforce.

So the next time you see a hard-working grocery store employee, remember that they are more than just that—they are one of your 63,000 friends and neighbors, who are working for an American dream where their hard work is rewarded. They’re working to be part of a middle class where they can save a little to maybe own a home, raise a family, take care of a sick loved one and send their kids to college, so they, too, can live the American Dream.

We all win when dedicated Michigan workers are treated fairly and with respect. With our economy improving, it’s time that companies gave a little back to the grocery store workers who helped get their businesses and their bottom lines back on track.

When our workers are rewarded for their hard work, our customers benefit, companies’ bottom lines improve and we all grow stronger together.

Roger Robinson, the co-author, is UFCW 876 president.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.