Kowalski's to get lump of coal from labor union

Categories: 'Tis the Season

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Kowalski's will be pesented with a lump of coal from UFCW 1189 at a demonstration this afternoon
A local labor union plans to give Kowalski's Markets a lump of coal this afternoon over a contract dispute.

The union, UFCW 1189, has been negotiating its contract with Kowalski's since last January, but the two sides cannot come to an agreement on key issues. Today the union is taking its message public with a demonstration at the St. Paul Kowalski's on Grand at 4 p.m..

"I think you'll see the Grinch there. I think you'll see Santa," said Bernie Hesse, UFCW political director. "I've got a really good feeling you'll see a pile of coal there."

Months of negotiations earlier this year failed to garner an agreement between the union and the supermarket chain, so Kowalski's implemented its new contract August 1, claiming it had the legal right to do so because it had come to an "impasse" with the union.

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Bernie Hesse predicts Santa and the Grinch will be in St Paul today

UFCW responded by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board disputing that there was an impasse. The NLRB ruled October 18 that the two sides were, in fact, at an impasse, validating Kowalski's claim.

Kowalski's contract would replace the current pension system with a 401K retirement plan, a change the union rejects.

"Kowalski's has implemented a contract the union feels is substandard," says Jennifer Christensen, secretary treasurer of UFCW.

"We wouldn't be withdrawing from the pension unless it was the right thing to do," counters Mike Oase, Kowalski's vice president of operations.

Both sides saw a federal mediator on December 8, but nothing was accomplished at the meeting.

"We got back together, found out they had no interest from the get-go in our 401K plan," says Kris Kowalski Christiansen, chief operating officer of Kowalski's. "That's why we're at an impasse."

"They showed up and said, 'We're not going to sit in a room with you,'" says UFCW's Hesse. "So we said that's not really bargaining."

That fight is now spilling onto the street, as the union wants to send a message to the Kowalski family by giving them a lump a coal "for their bad behavior."

Kowalski Christiansen was at a loss for words when asked about the planned demonstration.

"I don't even know what to say about that. It's Christmas week. It's unprofessional," Kowalski Christiansen says. "I don't think that gets people anywhere. That's not how we deal with situations.

"I don't know how much that's going to get us to a solution, a lump of coal and a Grinch," she adds, "but that's the way they operate."


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11 comments
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mirame
mirame

I just learned of this Union garbage when I saw a full page ad they took out in the Villager and I was/am completely disgusted. The Kowalski's are a good family who run a great business employing local people. I work for a different MN family owned business that is union free and yes, we've had no raises in 4 years, 401k match suspended, profit sharing suspended, etc. The company wouldn't be able to continue to employ its workforce if a union was involved b/c they'd reject all of these necessary and yes, painful, cuts. Unions destroy small business for their own gain to line their own pockets. No other reason. Look what they're trying to do to in-home daycare providers for crying out loud. Stand firm Kowalskis. There are a lot of people who need jobs and who would be happy to be employed by your family business.

Mrs. Claus
Mrs. Claus

If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck,,,,,,,

Kowalski's Supporter
Kowalski's Supporter

So let me get this straight-- the union is driving customers away from the very stores that employ their members? When are unions going to realize these tactics are old, tired and bad for everyone, themselves included? I plan to continue to shop Kowalski's. They are the one store in my area that supports my community through many charitable donations and sponsorships to the schools, youth teams and groups, local civic groups and events. I don't see that kind of community support from any of the other stores. I love Kowalski's!

Union Member
Union Member

Whenwill the unions wake up and focus their efforts on gaining ground instead of harassingtheir current partners. Trader Joes, Walmart, and Target, all operate asnon-union entities. There are no benefits, no vacations, no retirement plans,and this is accomplished partly by playing games with the hours and calling everyonepart time. Kowalski's has treated their employees fairly and provide good jobs.The current pension plan is unsustainable because of simple math, to manypeople taking out, and not enough putting in. So Mr Hesse grab your santa suit, head over to Trader Joes, and organize some more people to contribute to thefund.

 

Jchris25
Jchris25

I think that pensions (and, unions) are like appendixes, which is to say vestigial and no longer necessary for a work force to operate.

Vincent
Vincent

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anonymous employee
anonymous employee

Kowalski really need to go back to the table and really bargain.  Yes their imposed contract has some good but it has more that will hurt their employees.  They always maintain that they are a family company that cares about their employees but over time they haven't acted that way and the saying goes that actions speak louder than words.  Recently the Kowalski workers voted on the imposed contract and it was a majority vote of NO but because not everyone voted (just like any vote) They seem to think that the vote wasn't fair (to them).

anonymous employee 2
anonymous employee 2

In this talk of pension plans, what gets lost are other aspects of the contract. The Kowalskis always run to the pension plan issue when they don't want to talk about the two year wage freeze they've imposed on ther workers. In addition, workers used to get 50 cents extra per hour for working on a Sunday.  That is now gone. They are also hiring a new category of employee. Prior to this contract, all new employees were put on a probationary period of 90 days. That time for this new category has been extended to one year. There is no holiday pay for that probationary period. They come in at the lowest wage level and will stay at that level (with the freeze) for two years.  I've seen these new employees thrust into departments they have no knowledge of and have to learn on the fly. If that employee doesn't work, they take them out and toss in another one.

Add to all this the cutting back on hours, and you have what I like to call "service outages". I've been the recipient of several upset (and justifiably so) customers who can't seem to find anyone to help them. One customer angrily grabbed a customer comment card, said she would fill it out at home, and left the store.

Is the pension issue important?  Absolutely. But there are other issues just as important that are not addressed in this article.  And Ms. Kowalski Christansen talks of the "unprofessional" union and their tactics. The letter we received from her after the union vote on the contract was perhaps the most unprofessional and petty pieces of corporate communication I've ever seen. It was both petulant and condescending.

Mrs. Claus
Mrs. Claus

Oh my, we are being so "unprofessional" here by giving Kowalski's a taste of  their medicine?  Yep,  being  cheap bastards and screwing your over worked and underpaid workers is really a bitter pill to swallow, ain't it?

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