Days Before Thanksgiving, Houston Food Workers Union May Strike at Kroger Stores while Evidence Emerges of Secret Payments




AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Insider Report) — There has been a significant increase in the number of unions striking at major U.S. companies critical to the nation's economy since Joe Biden was sworn into office. Some of the strikes earning the greatest national headlines – and potentially impacting the growing "Supply Chain" crisis spreading across the country – include union efforts at production facilities like John Deere & Company, Kellogg’s, and Nabisco workers – the latter responsible for making our beloved Oreos.
 
As these strikes continue to be supported by the Biden Administration – under the tutelage of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh (at right with President Biden) – signs are emerging that Houston union members at many  Kroger Grocery Stores are nearing a strike in order to impact American's access to groceries during one of the busiest weeks of the year – Thanksgiving.

Over the weekend, a few dozen members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 455 were reportedly picketing outside some Houston area Kroger stores, claiming the need for a “fair contract” for its members. In a Facebook post, Local 455 was calling on its members to “hold store actions at several Kroger locations throughout the next several days… to defend your union contract.”

The call to action was accompanied by photos of two individual picketers holding signs calling for a “fair contract,” and for Kroger to “Stop putting profits over your employees.” These so-called “store actions” follow a recently held vote to authorize a strike by Local 455. 

It was also reported that Kroger brought in outside workers “in preparation for a potential massive strike in over 100 Texas Grocery Stores.”

The walkout failed to materialize over the weekend.

A “Fair Contract”

Highlighting the $281 million in investment made in pay bumps and improved health care benefits, Kroger said over the weekend that the company disagrees with Local 455's perspective that the union is “standing up against Kroger’s cuts and takeaways” of health care and wages. Although Local 455 claims its members are facing cuts to their health care coverage, according to Kroger, these statements lack merit.

According to Kroger, the health care plan preferred by Local 455's members cut benefits for 1,000s of Kroger employees in 2019 and 2020 – forcing employees to pay for up to 65% of their health care costs.

Local 455 has attempted to persuade its members that their Kroger health care – which they pay less than $10 per week for according to the company – is a cut. Based on the subpar turnout at the union’s “store actions” over the weekend, it seems their members disagree and are more supportive of their Kroger health care than the union wants to acknowledge.

Personal Gluttony: Secret LLC, Secret Payments and Extravagant Salaries

But something more sinister may be at play in Houston: a father and son union duo who have used Local 455 as their personal piggy bank for big-time salaries – and secret payments to a little-known LLC company linked to the family.

William H. Hopkins – the former UFCW Local 455 president, and father of the current president William B. Hopkins – paid himself an additional $84,200 above his salary through a Texas-registered LLC corporation named Texas Labor Consultants (incorporated at his home address in 2018,) via payments spread across 2018 and 2020.  
 
On top of the additional $84,200 in payments, Local 455 paid Hopkins Sr. a salary of $750,912 in 2020, which represented one of the highest local union salaries in the nation.

William H. Hopkins retired just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning last year, earning nearly $800,000 – while Local 455 members worked additional hours to keep shelves stocked.

The extravagant salaries for the Hopkins family from Local 455 don’t stop there.

Upon William H. Hopkins’ retirement, his son, William B. Hopkins – Brandon – was made president of the local union turned family business in April 2020. His salary last year alone was $265,823 – an increase of nearly $130,000 from his 2019 salary.

A review of Local 455’s salary data located on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website for the last 20 years found that father and son have raked in almost $7,500,000.00 in salaries, paid for by dues from the company's hard working employees and members.

Fairness

It appears that the union leadership's priorities throughout the pandemic – based upon the high-level salaries of both Brandon Hopkins and his retired father – have been to increase their own salaries, while neglecting to negotiate a contract agreement with Kroger to benefit all the union's members.

And, there appears to be further questions that the members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 455 should have answered regarding the father and son team's administration of their union member funds – derived largely from Kroger employees – potentially at the expense of its members.
 
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