nearly 100 years in the Pacific NW
UFCW Local 555: Union strong and Union proud
1859 - Oregon Becomes A State
Oregon becomes a state, adopting the motto “The Union”.
1876 - Oregon Workers Build Power
Seven unions organize in Portland, including the railroad brotherhoods with the completion of rail lines to the city.
1887 - Labor Day: “A Day Without Labor”
Oregon was the first state to set aside one day a year to honor the worker. Oregon’s legal holiday, starting in 1887, preceded the national holiday by 7 years.
1900 - Portland Labor Press Established
The Portland Labor Press is first published. It is the oldest continuously published labor newspaper in the region. The Portland Central Labor Council and Oregon State Federation of Labor make sure that the Labor Press remains a strong and active voice for unionism.
1901 - Oregon State Federation of Labor created
First convention of Oregon State Federation of Labor.
1903 - Oregon creates Labor Board
The Oregon Bureau of Labor was created by act of the legislature. The Bureau of Labor was created during a period of social and industrial change in Oregon
1914&15 - New Industry, The First World War, and Prohibition
The European War of 1914, Prohibition and the Automobile changed the landscape of Oregon labor. During the war men and women flocked to the industrial centers, seeking work in new industries. Cities swelled and small towns were practically deserted. The Prohibition law of January 1, 1915 sent many Oregon laborers packing for non-prohibition states “where they could have their
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.
1933 - The New Deal
The New Deal was an amalgam of dozens of programs and agencies created by the Roosevelt Administration to stabilize the economy and provide jobs and relief to those who were suffering. The imprint of the New Deal and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) is still very present throughout the state of Oregon. In fact, we have WPA workers to thank for the Portland International Airport (formerly called Portland Airport), The Oregon State Capitol Building, and Crater Lake National Park!
1936 - 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.
1937 - Widespread Labor Unrest
Throughout the country, there were over 400 strikes in the retail sector, and over 266 strikes in the “food
and kindred service” sector. In the state of Oregon alone, there were over 50 strikes involving over 12,000 workers in the year 1937. +website content
1939 - 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.
World War 2
The decade of the 1940’s passed swiftly. These were the war years, and a good portion of the membership was away in military service. Women entered the workforce en masse and women grocers became an accepted part of contract language. Two breaks for her in the work day was a part of the industry. Wage, price controls and rationing were the order of the times.
1952 - Pharmacy Workers Unite
The 1950s unfolded with much activity. The Pharmacists were organized, and for a time the Local was called the Food and Drug Clerks Union. A short and bitter strike occurred in 1952, with medical insurance as one of the primary issues. The cause was lost, though, when a few clerks with company insurance took a small wage increase, and forced a settlement which withheld a medical trust for the entire membership.
However, company-paid medical was a benefit whose time had come. 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.
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.
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.
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 992 of Salem and Portland’s 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.
1970 - Gender Discrimination Revealed
In 1970, State Labor Commissioner Norman Nilsen appointed an investigative committee to study gender discrimination practices in Oregon workplaces. One of the objectives was to learn what caused the high discrepancy between the numbers of men and women in executive or managerial positions. Through public hearings in Eugene, Medford, Salem, Pendleton, and Portland, the study found discrimination practices among some employers in methods of job recruitment, hiring practices, and training procedures. Other evidence pointed to employers who created pay classifications based on whether women or men performed the job. The study prompted Nilsen to create an educational program to inform employers and employees about the laws related to sex discrimination in the workplace.
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.
1973 - 1979
1973 - Dan Fortune
With the election of 1973 came a new President of REU Local 1092, Dan Fortune, a Fred Meyer employee. A long-time Union activist, Fortune defeated Swope at the polls but was ultimately to serve less than a year before he was stricken with cancer and died in office. Walt Derry, who had been Fortune’s Secretary-Treasurer, became the new President. During his term, he moved the Union office from Ankeny Street to Davis Street. This was the fourth home of the Local. The Davis Street building acted as a mini Labor Temple with extra space being rented to six labor-related groups.
1976 - Stronger Together
In response to an increasingly pro-business environment, many unions make plans to increase their bargaining power by merging to form newer, stronger unions to make sure that workers continue to have a seat at the table and a voice on the job.
1978 - The Portland Grocery Strike
The summer of 1978 will be known as the year 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
Locally in 1979, two important resolutions were passed by the membership which established “coordinated bargaining.” Nationally, the “Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen” and the “Retail Clerks International” began exploring ways to effectively merge the two unions, realizing that they’d be stronger if they worked together. The talks continued throughout the 1970’s and culminated with the Merger Agreement of 1979. In June of that year, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union was founded.
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.
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.
This 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.
Gov. Neil Goldschmidt taps Ken MacKillop president of UFCW Local 555 to Oregon Wage and Hour Commision
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.
1990 - 1995
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.
1993 - Astoria Dock Workers Strike
The children of striking workers stood on the picket line to support their mothers. The strike was quickly settled, but only through the strength of the strikers, their families, and our union.
In ’94, another strike occurred in Vancouver and Portland involving Retail Grocery, Meat, and CCK. The primary employer target of the strike was Fred Meyer, and the main issue was seniority and the right for senior employees to secure more hours than junior employees. The strike theme was “Part Time America Won’t Work!” UFCW 555 was not alone in this strike, as the Fred Meyer Teamsters at the warehouse struck Fred Meyer at the same time. Pickets on the Fred Meyer locations were staffed by both UFCW and Teamster members. A newly organized non-food unit at the Coos Bay Fred Meyer location also joined the strike. The very popular strike line daily newsletter “Freddy Front Lines” played an important role in keeping the strikers informed, and the morale high. News media and other labor organizations also wanted the daily newsletter. In fact, it took about 4 hours to fax the newsletter to all that wanted it.
1995 - 1999
1997 - 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
Early 1999 - Fred Meyer Acquired by Kroger
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.
Late 1999 - Steward Summit
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 has become very popular and continues today (now called the Leadership Conference to be more inclusive of other, non-steward, workplace leaders).
2000 - 2005
2001 - 555 Leads the Way on Healthcare Cost Savings for Union Members
As costs are escalating, it makes more sense to cut out as many middle people as you can,” said Gene Pronovost, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 in Tigard. The UFCW and two other participating unions represent workers at Albertson’s, Fred Meyer, Safeway and many smaller grocery employers. The unions will begin direct contracting on July 1. Health fund trustees, representing labor and management, hope to negotiate smaller fees, especially for hospital care, and to decrease the proportion of dollars going to administrative overhead.
Late 2001 - International Leadership from Oregon
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.
2002 - 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.
President Pronovost, Secretary-Treasurer Lin Mayes (appointed to replace Ed Clay when he retired in 2005), Recorder Mary Verpoorten, and their slate of 25 Vice Presidents made history as for the first time, all officers were unopposed in their re-election bid. President Pronovost’s re-election to a fourth term was also historic.
2007 Ashland Strike
Grocery and Meat workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 555 fought back against Safeway, Albertsons and Fred Meyer for their bargaining tactics. The issues for the workers center around wages & many have seen little increase in the last five years & and maintaining meaningful and affordable health and welfare as employers attempt to shift costs to workers and their communities. “It’s time that these companies realize that it’s our hard work making them record profits,” said UFCW 555 member and Fred Meyer employee, Tracy Painter. “It’s our sweat and tears. It’s our sacrifices. And it’s time that we get a piece of the pie!'” via Ashland Daily Tidings
2008 – A New Generation of Leadership
Union President Gene Pronovost decided to retire, and both Secretary-Treasurer Jeff McDonald and Union Representative Dan Clay both ran for the open seat. Following months of campaigning, the membership of Local 555 decided to support the campaign for change and elected Dan Clay to be president by a nearly 3-1 margin. Also elected was Clay’s running mate for Secretary-Treasurer, Jeff Anderson, and their entire slate of 25 vice-presidential candidates.
2010 - 2015
2012 - NLRB Recognises Unfair Labor Practises
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.
2014 - Cannabis Workers Rising
UFCW supports marijuana legalization efforts around the United States, as well as a bill in Congress sponsored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) that would end federal marijuana prohibition and allow states to choose whether to allow marijuana for medicinal or recreational use. “We see it as a growth industry,” Anderson said. UFCW represents workers in food, agriculture, pharmacies, and retail, and all of those industries could see job growth under marijuana legalization, Anderson said.
2015 - A New "Green" Economy
Oregon Workers Win First-Ever Cannabis-Worker Contract: Workers in Oregon have approved the first-ever union contract for cannabis workers in Oregon, joining UFCW Local 555. The contract includes a $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, and other critical worker protections.
2016 - 2019
2018 - Fair Work Week
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.
2018 - 555 Keeps Up With The Times
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
2019 - Have a Heart
Seattle-based cannabis retail chain Have a Heart opened its first Oregon store in Salem Nov. 26, and on Dec. 15 ratified a collective bargaining agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555. The agreement set wages of $15.30 an hour for budtenders and $16.30 for lead shop workers. Workers will get health and pension benefits through trusts sponsored by the international union. They’ll also get holiday pay, paid time off and bonuses, and will have standard union disciplinary rights.
Local 555 continues to grow!
We’ve merged Local 368A into Local 555, stretching our jurisdiction from Oregon and Southwest Washington to Southern Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming!
But we’re not just in numbers or shops represented. We grow in the collective wisdom that can only come from a group united toward a common goal: The wellbeing, security, and dignity of working people. Our ability to empower the working people of this country grows exponentially with every worker and ally who stands in solidarity with us.