Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America, Local 324
In 1929, 16 meat clerks in Eugene organized to form Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America Local 324. The newly formed local bargained with their employer to have a say in hiring, work hours, and wages in addition to personal protective equipment and tools for the job.
Retail Clerks International Protective Association Local 1092
In response to long hours, unfair scheduling, poor wages, and no job protection, seven grocery clerks organized to form the Retail Clerks International Protective Association Local 1092 in 1936. They had no job protection, no guaranteed breaks, no paid holidays, and no benefits. Premium pay for Sunday or night shifts was unheard of. It took nearly a year of meetings and sign-ups before the group felt able to apply for a Charter from the Retail Clerks International Association. It was finally granted on December 28, 1936.
Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America, Local 143
700 workers organized to form their union, Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America, Local 143 in Portland. On October 4, 1939, they settled their first contract with Safeway Inc., and the Oregon Meat Council. Notably, Local 143 established minimum wages, holiday pay, and a closed shop to ensure their union had the strength it would need to give workers a real voice on the job.
Pharmacy Workers Win Company-Paid Medical
In the 1957 negotiations, an Employer-paid trust for the membership finally became a reality. Also added at this time: a third week of vacation after ten years as well as a company paid sick leave. Also by the mid-50s, Journeyman Clerk’s wages had improved, becoming $1.31 per hour.
Portland Clerks Make Big Gains
Urban explosion into the suburbs was rampant by the 1960’s and the employers made the move along with their customers. Step by step, members gained benefits that helped keep more of their paychecks in their pockets. In fact, their contracts exceeded those of most labor groups. The Portland clerks gained a pension, dental care, and prescription drug benefits.
Grocery Units Begin to Merger
In the first of what would become many mergers, the grocery units of Local 1121 (Oregon City/West Linn) were merged with Local 1092 on May 1, 1963. The non-food contracts went to the Retail Mercantile Union, Local 1257. 1963 also saw the retirement of George Lightowler, a long time Union Activist, who had served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Local for an extraordinary 23 years. The leadership reins were handed to Gordon Swope, who would eventually serve the Local for eleven years: first as Secretary-Treasurer and later as President.
Retail Continues Reorganization
A major reorganization of the Retail Clerks Locals began in 1968. Local 1565, which represented clerks from Hood River to Bend, was split and merged with Local 992 of Salem and Portland’s Local 1092.
The Hood River/The Dalles area went to Local 1092 and the Bend/Redmond units were given to Salem. With this merger, Local 992 ceded representation at the Yamhill County stores to Local 1092. Also taking place in Also in 1968, Astoria/Tillamook’s Local 147 joined with 1092. The membership of the combined locals topped 6000 clerks. The reorganization was completed when Local 201, Eugene/Roseburg, merged with Local 265 of Medford and Local 1257 joined Local 1092.
REU Local 192 Grows Despite Anti-Labor Atmosphere
Under Swope’s leadership, REU Local 192 made great strides in wages, contract language, and benefits. Journeyman hourly wages went from $2.80 in 1966 to $3.92 in 1970. All this, despite President Nixon’s wage and price guidelines of the early 70s, which restricted pay increases while letting inflation run amok.
The Portland Grocery Strike
The summer of 1978 will be known as the summer of the Portland Grocery Strike. The members were out for 23 days. The emotionally charged issues were the Employers’ proposal to reduce the health benefits for retirees combined with the issue of hours. Holiday closing for grocery was lost, but time-and-a-half was negotiated for working on that holiday. REU Local 1092 was the last Local on the West Coast to give up holiday closings. Hourly wages for Journeyman Clerks rose to $7.215 per hour; “Cost of Living” contract language was paying off.
Meatcutters and Retail Workers Discuss Merger
In 1983, Local 555 begins to form in Portland. Starting in 1983, the executive officers of Meatcutter Locals 143A and 1011 met with their counterparts in the Retail Locals 1092, 303 and 942 to discuss a local merger along similar to the 1979 International Merger.
Local 555 Officially Founded
An agreement was reached and approved by the members of all the Locals. The International approved the merger, and Local 555 came into being. The Executive Board was formed from five members from each of the five merging locals.
5 Locals, 5 sets of elected officials, 5 members each on the executive board: Local 555.
Mike Hereford, Local 1092, was selected President. Bob Hogan, Local 143A, became the Secretary Treasurer. An executive committee was formed of the remaining officers (Ken Gabriel, 143A; Joe Osa, 1092; Jim McCormick, 303; Cecil Cardwell, 303; Arliene Theisen, 942; Walt Derry, 942; Keith Jons, 1011, and Craig Marlette, 1011) of the former Locals. Betty Deulen of 143A was Recording Secretary.
The combined staff was too large for the building on Davis Street, and after a careful search, the Local moved into the Crossroads Center Building in Tigard.
555 Votes for Leadership Change
1987 was a busy year, with the Portland contract open and election of officers mandated by the merger agreement. Wages were frozen for the next three years. The election campaign was a tough and bitter struggle which was waged in lunch rooms, parking lots, restaurants and corporate boardrooms. The final count was close, but the membership had decided that they wanted to change to a leadership which promised improved contracts and fiscal responsibility. Ken MacKillop, a union representative from Salem, defeated Mike Hereford for the Presidency. Kathy Morris, a 17-year veteran meat wrapper from Safeway, won a large victory over incumbent Bob Hogan (former president of Local 143A) in a run-off election.
Fred Meyer Pharmacists Strike
Gov. Neil Goldschmidt taps Ken MacKillop president of UFCW Local 555 to Oregon Wage and Hour Commission.
Grocery clerks and Meat cutters in Hood River and The Dalles approved separate three year labor contracts with Food Employers Inc, which represents Fred Meyer, Albertsons, Rosauer’s and Safeway. Retail Clerks at Fred Meyer stores throughout Portland Metro vote to accept company’s latest contract.
Fred Meyer pharmacists in Oregon and SW Washington strike for 2 months, demanding a wage increase as well as limits on the number of technicians they supervise. Pickets marched at Interstate, Division, Gateway, Beaverton and Gresham stores. Fred Meyer threatens to replace the striking workers, but they remain undeterred. Due to the labor dispute, Fred Meyer was forced to close three Portland area pharmacies and reduce operating hours in the remaining 41 pharmacies.
Union Wins Pharmacist Limitation
By January 1990, the union is successful in limiting the number of pharmacy technicians each pharmacist supervises, increasing wages and equalizing pay for all Fred Meyer pharmacists across Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Kaiser Union Reaches Tentative Agreement
Kaiser Permanente and the union representing 250 striking radiology workers reached a tentative agreement Sunday. Local 555 struck the health care company Aug. 6, principally over a company move to make workers pay a larger share of health benefit costs. Striking employees provide imaging services such as X-rays, CAT scans and ultrasounds
Fred Meyer Acquired by Kroger and Steward Summit Established
Under the deal, more than 300,000 employees would work for The Kroger Co. — though their uniforms may say Fred Meyer in Portland, King Soopers in Denver, Smiths Food & Drug Centers in Salt Lake City or Kroger in Cincinnati.
Later that year, Gene Pronovost established the first Steward Summit, held to show appreciation for all the stewards’ hard work and to continue an educational program for them. The annual summit continues today, now called the Leadership Conference to be more inclusive of other, non-steward, workplace leaders.
555 Leads the Way on Healthcare Savings and Local 555 Joins National Leadership
"As costs are escalating, it makes more sense to cut out as many middle people as you can,” said Gene Pronovost, then-president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 in Tigard. UFCW and two other participating unions representing workers at Albertson’s, Fred Meyer, Safeway and many smaller grocery employers began direct contracting on July 1. Health fund trustees, representing labor and management, negotiated smaller fees, especially for hospital care, and to decrease the proportion of dollars going to administrative overhead.
International Union President Doug Dority nominated President Pronovost to serve on the International Executive Board as a Vice President. The International Executive Board serves approximately 1.4 million members. He was confirmed by the Board and became the first International Vice President from Oregon.
Raising Standards for Working Oregonians
President Pronovost led UFCW Local 555, among other labor organizations and other proponents of the measure, to support Ballot Measure 25. A minimum wage bill that sought to raise the minimum wage in Oregon, Ballot Measure 25 also included a provision for an annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA). Local 555 successful in affecting passage of 25.
NLRB Recognizes Unfair Labor Practices
The National Labor Relations Board agreed to a settlement of an unfair labor practice charge between the management staff at the Ashland Food Co-op and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, granting workers the ability to move forward with their election. Despite the merit of the case, the co-op’s management did not admit to any of the allegations brought against it in the unfair labor practice charge filed by the UFCW Local 555 in November, 2012.
Fair Work Week Won and ClickList Organized
Under the leadership of President Dan Clay and Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Anderson, UFCW Local 555 sets a national precedent. Among many things, this bill aimed to give greater predictability to low-wage employees whose hours tend vary widely from day to day or week to week. When Fair Work Week was signed into law in July, 2018, Oregon became the first U.S. state requiring certain businesses to furnish workers with a week’s notice of their job schedules and a minimum of 10 hours rest between daily shifts.
Fred Meyer introduced a new curbside grocery service called ClickList. By June, 2018, over half of the 19 new Clicklist stores were organized into UFCW Local 555. Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Anderson believes in keeping up with the times. “Just as it’s critical for grocery stores to change with the times to offer same-day online ordering, it’s critical for Unions like 555 to watch the trends and remain alert for organizing needs and opportunities”.
Local 555 Merges with Idaho Local 368A and Wins 1-Day Strike
Local 368A merged into Local 555, stretching the jurisdiction from Oregon and Southwest Washington to Southern Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming!
When the Fred Meyer and QFC refused to budge in negotiations in the early morning of December 17th, the call was made and thousands of members courageously walked off the job and joined the picket line. The strike lasted less than 48 hours before the employers caved. Just after midnight the next day, on December 18th, a deal was struck, and the strike lines came down. Members went back to work with a tentative agreement, later ratified, that granted unprecedented wage increases, and a stronger position for workers in their workplace, for Journeypersons and Apprentices alike, was well as the abolition of the lower-paid CCK classification.