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Cub employees will strike Friday and Saturday at 33 Twin Cities area stores ft

Shoppers for an Easter Sunday party at 33 Cub locations Friday and Saturday will find striking workers seeking higher wages as compensation for their frontline efforts during the pandemic.

“We want to get paid for what we’ve been through in the last five years,” Jill Craig said during a news conference Wednesday outside the Maple Grove grocery store on N. Wedgewood Lane, where she works.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 663 announced Tuesday night that nearly 95 percent of the vote was in favor of a first-time strike by 3,000 unionized employees at 33 Cub stores owned by United Natural Foods, Inc., (UNFI).

Cub and the union’s current contract expired on March 4. After submitting an offer on March 21, company negotiators were surprised that the union did not negotiate before April 11, the next scheduled meeting. Laura Daly, Cub’s general counsel, said she believes the union intends to stop grocery shopping before the holidays.

“We remain ready, willing and able to return to the bargaining table at any time, day or night, any day since March 21, and the union has not been willing to re-engage,” Daly said. “So at this point, I never want to say never, but we think the union intends to go ahead with the strike plan.”

Cub is prepared to implement contingency plans to ensure continued availability of products and services during the strike.

The employees said Wednesday that they want fair compensation for their work during the pandemic. That included experiencing mandatory masking, separation from medically vulnerable family members, and fear during the riots following the police killing of George Floyd.

Union officials said they are seeking a wage increase of $4 an hour spread over two years on average, compared to the $2.75 Cub is offering. The union also wants to avoid what it called a regressive raise structure, where part-time employees who work 15-hour weeks would receive raises only after 140 weeks of service.

Cub responded that the company is achieving historic pay increases. For example, a part-time employee currently earns $12.25 per hour after five years. In the second year of the company’s proposed contract, Daly said the employee would earn $18.25 per hour.

Store officials also note that a full-time handyman with five years of experience would earn $50,294 in the second year of the contract.

The grocer’s proposed change to a part-time raise structure addressed the inequity concerns of some who considered it unfair that employees who worked very little saw the same pace of pay increases as those who put in more hours, Daly said.

While inflation now poses a challenge with higher prices, the Twin Cities’ leading grocery store got a boost during the pandemic when grocery shopping and cooking at home became an even greater necessity.

In a two-year span spanning the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNFI’s retail segment saw sales increase 15%, thanks in large part to Cub. While retail stores are a small part of Providence, RI-based UNFI’s overall business, the company as a whole saw a 64% increase in net revenue to $248 million in fiscal 2022, ending March 30. of July.

UNFI, a wholesale specialist, acquired Eden Prairie-based Supervalu, including its Cub stores, in 2018. It initially wanted to sell the retail division and its Cub locations, but later decided to keep it.

Cub is undergoing another sea change. Mike Stigers, Cub’s CEO since 2019, will depart to become president of New Jersey-based Wakefern, the nation’s largest retail cooperative. His last day is May 31 and the Cub has yet to name his replacement.

Cub has a total of 79 stores (corporate and franchise) in Minnesota and one in Freeport, Ill.

As word began to spread about the strike, some Cub shoppers at the Uptown store said Wednesday they were ready to support the union.

“I probably won’t shop here if there’s a picket,” said Wendy Farrar of Minneapolis.

Another buyer, James Leighton of Minneapolis, also said he supported the strike because he “fully supports unions.” The plethora of other grocery options in the area make avoiding Cub less of a hassle.

“There’s Lunds (and Byerlys) up the street, Kowalski’s, the (Wedge Community) co-op,” said Chris Lamping of Minneapolis. “It is not so difficult.”

Star Tribune staff writer Josie Albertson-Grove contributed to this report.

Stores where employees will strike:
Apple Valley: 15350 Cedar Ave., Apple Valley

North Blaine: 12595 NE Central Ave., Blaine

South Blaine: 585 NE Northtown Drive, Blaine

West Blaine: 10881 NE University Ave., Blaine

Bloomington Lyndale: 8421 S. Lyndale Ave., Bloomington

Brooklyn Park North: 9655 N. Colorado Lane, Brooklyn Park

South Brooklyn Park: 7555 W. Broadway Ave., Brooklyn Park

Burnsville Heart of the City: 300 E. Travelers Trail, Burnsville

South Burnsville: 1750 W. County Road 42, Burnsville

Champlin: 8600 N. 114th Ave., Champlin

Chanhassen: 7900 Market Blvd., Chanhassen

South Coon Rapids: 2050 NW Northdale Blvd., Coon Rapids

Crystal: 5301 N. 36th Ave., Crystal

East Eagan: 1020 Diffley Road, Eagan

North Eagan: 1276 Town Center Drive, Eagan

West Eagan: 1940 Cliff Lake Road, Eagan

Fridley: 250 NE 57 Ave., Fridley

North Lakeville: 7435 W. 179th St., Lakeville

South Lakeville: 20250 Heritage Drive, Lakeville

West Lakeville: 17756 Kenwood Trail, Lakeville

Maple Grove: 8150 N. Wedgewood Lane, Maple Grove

Minnehaha: 4601 Snelling Ave., Minneapolis

Monticello: 216 W. Seventh St., Monticello

New Brighton: 2600 Rice Creek Road, New Brighton

North Side: 701 W. Broadway Ave., Minneapolis

Plymouth: 3550 N. Vicksburg Lane, Plymouth

Plymouth Rockford Road: 4445 N Nathan Lane, Plymouth

Rosemount: 3784 West 150th Street, Rosemount

Savage: 14075 State Hwy 13, Savage

Shorewood: 23800 MN-7, Shorewood

San Antonio: 3930 NE Silver Lake Road, San Antonio

West end of St. Louis Park: 5370 W. 16th St., St. Louis Park

Residential area: 1104 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis



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