Working hard and belonging to a union are two components Brandon Carney feels can improve his options for raising a family and living a comfortable life. he learned from his grandfather, who was a union member, the importance of being in a union and standing up for his rights. “I enjoy being a steward because I like meeting new people and helping them any way I can,” he said.
Apprentice Food Clerk, Safeway
Access to affordable health care and job security are paramount issues for Justice Nepper and her 3-year-old daughter. “Thanks to uFCW 8, I don’t have to worry about providing for my daughter and I can concentrate on being a good mother and achieving my dream of owning a business,” she said.
Paul Supat II
Produce Clerk, Safeway
Paul Supat II knows the importance of getting accurate information from his union. Whenever he has a question, he knows his answer is a phone call away. “I feel for non-union workers who have to rely on their management for answers. They don’t know if they’re being told the truth and there’s constant fear of retaliation,” he said. Supat hopes to own a business some day and treat his workers with the level of dignity and respect uFCW 8 has for its members.
Starbucks at Safeway
Laela Cooper works part time at Safeway while she completes her course work to become a certified public accountant. She appreciates her health care coverage and job security.
“I like the union because it’s there for me if I have questions or concerns at work,” she said.
Apprentice Deli Clerk, Safeway
Weekly work hour guarantees and job security are two reasons desiree Fox is glad she is part of the union. As a mother of three, she depends on her job to raise her family. her access to a defined-benefit pension is helping her plan for the future. “I want to keep being the mom I can be to my kids and one day become a manager at Safeway,” she said.
Apprentice Deli Clerk, Safeway
Job security means a lot to dylan Farris. he also enjoys his guaranteed work hours. “I know the union has my back,” he said.
Farris wants to own a business in the gaming industry some day.
Grocery Clerk, Safeway
Matt Fenton says fair pay, equal treatment and workplace safety are just a few of the union benefits giving him piece of mind. “In one word, the union means ‘Solidarity,’” he said. “I want to do all I can to help build a good future for myself, and all of my sisters and brothers at uFCW 8.”
Deli Clerk, Save Mart
Before working at a union shop, roy Martinez didn’t know of the benefits of guaranteed work hours and unionnegotiated wage increases, but since he started working at Save Mart, he realizes the positives of being part of a union. “I appreciate my working conditions a lot more now,” he said. his goal is to become an electrician some day.
Member Ryan Hollister tends to his produce and his flock
Ryan Hollister, a Produce Manager at a Safeway store in Redding, considers himself blessed in a myriad of ways.
“I have a wonderful family, I am committed to doing God’s work and I have a good Union job,” Hollister said. “I feel I have lived a blessed life.”
In addition to working fulltime at Safeway, Hollister is pastor of the Millville Baptist Church on Millville Way, outside of Redding.
“I became born again when I was 21,” he said. “My religion eventually became a passion in my life, and I decided I wanted to share it with others.”
When he was 27, he decided to become a pastor in the Baptist Church and enrolled at Shasta Bible College. “It was a challenge to work and attend school fulltime,” Hollister said.
“My father worked in a good Union job for 54 years at Pacific Gas & Electric,” Hollister explained. “So when I was looking for a career, I knew where to look.”
Hollister said he appreciates working at a job covered by a Union contract. “I’m thankful for the strong contracts the Union has negotiated for us over the years,” he said. “They enabled me to raise my family, have great pay and benefits and look forward to a secure and dignified retirement.”
Hollister particularly values his health benefits. “A few years ago, I had a rare virus that left me partially paralyzed,” Hollister said.
“I was out for 10 months. “I was able to get treatment without having to worry about how I was going to pay for it. That’s the Union advantage.”
“but it was a calling and something I believed I really needed to do.”
After graduating in 1991, Hollister wanted to form a church of his own. He chose Millville because the town had not had a house of worship within its borders for more than 30 years.
“We started with a Bible study group of around 25 people who met weekly in our living room,” he said.
“More and more people started to come as word spread, and we saw the need to have a church building.” Hollister and his wife, Bonnie, have four adult children and he enlisted all of them in the effort.
“We didn’t want to borrow money, so we decided to raise the necessary funds ourselves,” Hollister said. “It took a while, but two years ago we had our building. We now have more than 100 people who attend our services each week.”
Hollister does the full range of pastoral work: baby dedications, baptisms, marriages, counseling and funerals. “It takes up a lot of my time outside of work,” he said. “But the ministry is a calling, so I plan to keep doing both jobs until I’m able to retire at Safeway.”
When Hollister entered the grocery industry 34 years ago, he sought out a Union job.
When he is able to find the time, Hollister hunts deer and fishes for bass in the Lassen and Modoc National Forests. He also spends as much time as he can with his
children and his toddler grandson, Wyatt. “I was able to reach two major goals in my life: work at a Union job and preach the Gospel,” he said. “What more could anyone ask?”.
Not many people are “discovered” in kindergarten, but Calvin Canepa’s artistic talents were apparent at the age of 5.
“The superintendent of the Lake Tahoe school district saw a painting I did and was impressed,” Canepa said.
“He contacted my mother and told her that she should expose me to as many outdoor scenes as possible so I
could further develop my artistic abilities.
“I had the first exhibition of my work when I was in the first grade.”
Canepa is a self-taught fine artist. He concentrates on outdoor scenes and still lifes. The area around Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada foothills serves as the subject for most of his paintings.
When Canepa isn’t painting or exhibiting his art, he works as a clerk at the Bel-Air market in Cameron Park. “When my daughter came to live with me, following the death of her mother, I needed a job with health benefits that would cover both of us,” he recalled. “I also wanted to work less than 40 hours a week so I
could have more time to concentrate on my painting. “That’s why I applied to work at Bel Air. It was a Union job and I could work less than full-time and still be eligible for benefits.
‘The only way to go’
“I also had an uncle and two cousins who were Union members and worked for Lucky. I saw how they lived a solid middle-class lifestyle, so I knew Union was the only way to go.”
Canepa works the overnight shift because it lets him paint and market his art during the day.
“Selling paintings is an up-and-down business,” Canepa said. “Having a secure Union job with benefits has been a lifesaver for me.”
His union-negotiated health benefits were especially useful when he had to have back surgery seven years ago.
“I was out of work for six months,” Canepa said. ”Everything was taken care of.
I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to pay for the surgery and could concentrate on getting better.”
Canepa’s goal is to get his art into more galleries and eventually into museums. “Having your work hang in a museum would be very prestigious,” he said.
“But showing my work in as many galleries as possible is also important, because I can sell more of my paintings.”
One of Canepa’s paintings sold for $14,000 to Bank of America and still hangs in the bank’s corporate offices.
Although he is nowhere near retirement age, Canepa plans to keep working as long as he can.
“Work sharpens my artistic abilities,” Canepa said. “Having less free time is good, because you need a sense of urgency to paint. If you have too much time on your hands, you can get lazy.
John Shannon, a retired Union meat cutter who lives in Chico, knows the Biblical story of David and Goliath well. As a matter of fact, he lived his own version of it for seven years.
When Shannon heard that Walmart wanted to build a new Super-center north of the city and expand its store in Chico into another Super-center, he decided to “fight the good fight” for his community.
“I read the reports from around the country about what happens to area businesses when Walmart Super-centers come in,” Shannon said. “It takes a few years, but small businesses close, and there are environment issues as well.
“We estimated that if Walmart was successful, it would lead to the closing of two of our seven Union supermarkets, with the loss of some 250 jobs. As a long-time Union man, I couldn’t sit back and do nothing.”
Founded community group
Shannon founded a community group called CARE: Chico Advocates for a Responsible Environment. He single handedly gathered support from Unions, environmental groups and politicians. “We hired an attorney, Brett Jolley, and an executive director, Heather Schlaff,” he said, “and they were terrific. Markets and downtown businesses that would have been hurt by a
Walmart Super-center were all members of the Chamber. Yet the Chamber was the number-one supporter of Walmart.
“Even after we showed them that only six cents of every dollar spent by a Super-center shopper would stay in the city, versus 60 cents in other stores, they wouldn’t budge and still fought us tooth and nail.”
Shannon won the battle to stop the Super-center north of the city after only two meetings of the Butte County Board of Supervisors. But the battle in the city of Chico would drag on for seven years.
“They kept delaying things until they could elect a majority of Chico City Council members who were in favor of the expansion,” he recalled. “We supported candidates who understood the real impact a Super-center would have on the area.
“Our candidates won, and after seven long years, Walmart threw in the towel.” Shannon isn’t resting on his laurels.
“If the candidates we support again prevail in the 2010 elections, I believe Walmart will finally drop its plans to expand,” Shannon said. “But we have to make sure our candidates win.
“All Union members need to come out and vote. Their votes made a difference in the past and will do so again. The outcome of this election can directly affect the economy in our city and our ability to earn a living.
Shannon vows to persevere until he is sure that Walmart’s plans are gone for good. “I’m a fighter,” he said. “It’s a good thing I’m Irish and politics is in my genes. That means I’ll keep working until we’ve seen the last of Walmart’s plan to expand into a Super-center.
“Knowing that all of the forms were done correctly really eased my mind before the surgery.”
Ehlers has since recovered and is now cancer-free. “I still feel a bit weaker than I did before the surgery, but I’m back at work and back to riding my bikes,” he said.
In his spare time, Ehlers is a motorcycle enthusiast. “I’ve been riding since I was 14 and own three bikes,” Ehlers said. “I have a BMW, a Harley and a Suzuki.
I love to ride both on-road and off-road.” His off-road riding helps him with his other leisure time pursuit >geo-caching, a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The idea is to locate hidden containers, called geo-caches, outdoors and then share experiences online.
“We go all over the countryside looking for them,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and I can use my off-road riding skills to go to remote locations.” When he isn’t riding his bikes or hunting for geocaches, Ehlers and his wife, Connie, who is also a Union member and works for Shasta County, visit with Ehlers’ two adult children and seven grandchildren.
“I like to stay active and that’s why I’m still working,” Ehlers said. “But I’m seriously thinking about retirement. “Being a Union member pays off in many ways.”
Riding to the Rescue
After his cancer diagnosis, meat cutter and motorcycle enthusiast
Steve Ehlers was ‘blown away’ by assistance from UFCW 8
When Steve Ehlers, a meat cutter at the Raley’s store on Lake Boulevard in Redding, heard he had a large cancerous tumor on his kidney, he knew his Union-negotiated health benefits would cover the costs of his care.
What he didn’t know was how to deal with the paperwork. “Whenever you get a diagnosis of cancer, it kind of leaves you numb,” Ehlers said. “You worry about your family, whether or not you’re going to survive and what you have to do after the surgery.
The last thing you need to worry about is filling out forms and dealing with paperwork.” Ehlers called his District Union Representative, Loel Yerion, for help. “I didn’t really know him well, but he was terrific,” Ehlers said. “He always returned my calls and spent a lot of time with me on the phone
helping me wade through the insurance papers. “But I still wasn’t sure I did everything right. When I mentioned my concerns to Loel, he said he would drive up to my home and walk me through it to make sure I did what I had to do.” Ehlers said he was “blown away” by that kind of personal service.
“I’ve been a member of this Union since 1963 when I started as a “cleanup boy” for Lucky,” Ehlers said. “I know the Union is there for us when we have problems on the job, and we have benefits that can’t be beat. But I never expected this kind of personal service.
When Mike Winfield, a checker at a Save Mart store on Marconi and Fulton Avenues in Sacramento, took a class in public speaking at Sacramento State university several years ago, he kept getting laughs when he made his presentations, even though he wasn’t trying to be funny.
“The teacher and my classmates said I had a funny delivery,” Winfield said. “They encouraged me to try standup comedy.” Buoyed by his classmates’ encouragement, Winfield headed to “open mike” night at Sacramento’s Laughs unlimited comedy club.
“I thought I could just go up there and be funny, so I didn’t prepare anything,” he recalled. “The set was supposed to last five minutes. I left the stage after three. The room was quieter than a library. It was the longest three minutes of my life. But it taught me a valuable lesson. You have to be prepared whenever you go on stage.” The experience was so traumatic that it took Winfield three years to get the courage to try it again.
“This time I wrote some material and went back to the same place,” Winfield said. “I was still pretty green, but it was much better. I saw what worked and what didn’t work. It was definitely something I could build on.” And build on it he did. Winfield writes all of his own material and continues to perform at comedy clubs. He is a regular guest on Good Day Sacramento and also appeared on Showtime comedy specials, Black Entertainment Television’sComic View and NBC’s Last ComicStanding.
Mike Winfield’s comedy career is a laughing matter
“I feel the door to success is opening wide,” says UFCW 8 member Mike Winfield about his comedy career.
“I feel the door to success is opening wide,” he said. “I now have professional management and recently went to New York to appear on Comedy Central’s Live in Gotham show. Things are definitely moving in the right direction.”
His comedic skills also caught the attention of a checker with whom he frequently worked.
“She said I made her laugh,” Winfield said. “So, we got married.” he and his wife, Lakisha, have three children: Datrell, 15; Michael’ Mykai, 6; and Michael’ Edward, 4. “until I can make it as a standup comic, I’m grateful that my wife and I have good union jobs,” he said.
“I have the flexibility to pursue my career in comedy, and those union-negotiated health benefits really came in handy when we had our children.” When he’s not honing his skills as a comedian, Winfield’s most important activities include being a good husband and father, as well as studying the Bible. To learn more about Winfield’s comedy career, visit his site at http://mikewinfield.com/
Injured Meat Manager knows why it’s important to work Union
When Tom Brooks was on disability and in danger of losing his health benefits, his union came to the rescue.
“When you move from temporary state disability to permanent Social Security disability, it can take years for it to be approved,” Brooks recalled. “It was during that period that I needed two extensions on my health benefits.
“That was no problem, thanks to UFCW 8. I don’t know what my
family and I would have done without those extensions, because the cost of COBRA coverage was much too expensive for us to handle.” When Brooks was injured on the job in December 2005, he was working as a Meat Manager at an Albertsons store in Pittsburg that is now closed.
“The door handle on the inside of the meat locker was broken, and to open it you had to hit it really hard,” he said.
“I had to pound it 10 times that day so I could get out. I was soon in severe pain.” Brooks tried to “tough it out” and work through the discomfort. But when the pain became unbearable, he sought medical care. “They found I broke some bones under my palm,” Brooks said. “I also injured my neck and shoulder.
In spite of two hand surgeries, I couldn’t grip a knife any more and eventually had to go on disability.”
Brooks always has been a strong supporter of his union. he served as a Steward and helped mentor new members.
“I felt it was important that our younger members know why we have a union,” he said. “My wife and many of my friends work non-union. There is no comparison in benefits, and they have no pension.
“Also, without a union to back you up, you are always at the mercy of your supervisor. And when it’s time for layoffs, seniority doesn’t count.” Brooks said he is still in constant pain and he is unable to engage in his two favorite hobbies: jewelry design and golf.
“I especially miss making jewelry,” Brooks said. “I used to cast gold and design rings, necklaces, earrings, you name it.” he spends much of his time now helping his wife, Cindy, with household chores and errands. “Because I have my union pension to go with the Social Security disability benefits, we’re doing OK financially,” he said. “I know I have that pension because I worked at a union job.”
He’s retailer of the Year - and a Union member, too
It isn’t often that a Union member wins an award from a grocery industry management organization. But it hap- pened to Susanville Super - market owner and UFCW 8 member Rick Stewart when he was chosen as the International Grocers Association’s United States Retailer of the Year.
Stewart co-owns the store with his wife, Anna. Both are Union members.
“One of the first things I did when I purchased the store in 1993 was to join the
Union,” Stewart said. “I became a member before escrow closed, even though as owner, I had the right to be excluded.
“I wanted to join because I know the bene- fits of Union membership from first hand experi-ence.”
Stewart said those benefits came in handy when he and his wife had health problems many years ago.
“We couldn’t have afforded the treatment we received, if not for our Union benefits,” he recalled. “They literally saved our lives.”
“Stewart began his career in the food industry in 1975, when at the age of 16 he went to work as a Courtesy Clerk at a Shop and Save in his native Chico.
“Following a five-year stint in the United States Navy, he returned to work at Save Mart in 1981. He rapidly rose through the ranks to become second assistant manager.
“In 1986, he was employed at a wholesaler in Oklahoma City before returning to Northern California in 1993 to purchase the Susanville store.
““It was a great opportunity for us to come home,” Stewart said. “It also was a chance to own a store with a stable staff of Union members.”
Stewart credits his staff for helping him win the award.
““I was truly humbled to be chosen for this honor,” he said. “But no one knows better than I do that the people who truly deserve this award are the employees of our store. It is their dedication and the pride they exhibit in serving our community that makes us successful.”
“Stewart said maintaining a stable staff is also one of the keys to his business success.
““When you have Union benefits, workers are more likely to make
a career in the industry and stay at a store longer,” he said. “We have one employee who has been here for 42 years and about 20 percent of our staff has been here since I purchased the business.”
Stewart looks forward to many more years of serving the community at his store, but he keeps a wary eye on the Walmart about a mile and a half down the road.
“It’s not a Supercenter,” he said. “Yet they keep expanding their grocery aisles. You always have to be concerned, but with our staff and the personal service we provide, I believe we can be here for a long time.”
Pamela Tidd remembers the not-so-good old days before the Union
Anyone who has doubts about the value of working under a union contract should talk to Pamela Tidd.
Tidd is an Accounts Receivable Analyst at Mendocino Coast District Hospital in Mendocino. She has been there since 1975 –– before the work ers were represented by UFCW 8.
“There is a world of difference now,” Tidd said. “It’s like night and day.”
When Tidd first joined the staff as a Data Processor she found that the employees were represented by an employee association. Each year the association would negotiate with hospital management for improvements in wages and benefits.
“We never got anything we wanted,” Tidd recalled. “And the wages and benefits were terrible to begin with. We basically made unlivable wages, the health insurance had high co-pays and deductibles and we didn’t get a lot of days off. You couldn’t accumulate vacation or sick time from year to year and there was no job security.”
Tidd said it all changed after the Union came in.
“Having the clout of a Union like UFCW 8 made all the difference,” she said. “When we sat down to negotiate, we had the strength and numbers of a real Union to back us up."
Not surprisingly, things improved almost immediately.
Tidd said there were significant wage improvements, annual salary increases and benefits she “couldn’t even imagine we’d have.”
“We had much better health insurance with lower co-pays and deductibles,” she said. “And for the first time, we got dental benefits and a vision plan.
“We also got an increased number of days off.”
Tidd is looking forward to retirement in a few years, so she also appreciates her unionnegotiated retirement plan.
“That would have been unheard of when I started,” she said.
Tidd said one of her major challenges is convincing newer employees that their Union made it all possible.
“They never knew what it was like to work without a Union,” she said. “So they take the pay and benefits we have for granted. I tell them at every opportunity what it was like before we had Union representation.”
When she’s not working at the hospital, Tidd has a small therapeutic massage practice that keeps her busy. She also belongs to a competitive target-shooting club.
“I enjoy going out into the woods and competing against my friends,” she said. “It’s a great way to let off steam.”
Union-negotiated health care saved Angie Howes' life — and her bank account
Angie Howes, a head clerk at Raley’s 412 in Granite Bay, began experiencing severe migraine headaches in early 2008.
“At first I thought it was related to an old injury I had in 1991,” Howes recalled. “I had shoulder, back and neck pain from a fall. But when my headache symptoms got worse, I went to my doctor.”
After a series of MRIs and other tests, she was referred to doctors at UC San Francisco Medical Center.
“I was able to see the chief of neurosurgery,” she said. “He eventually diagnosed a disorder I had from birth called Arnold-Chiari malformation.”
Arnold-Chiari malformation is a rare genetic disorder in which parts of the brain are formed abnormally. The malformations usually occur in the lower portion of the brain (cerebellum) or in the brain stem.
“Mine was at the base of my skull,” Howes said. “The doctor said the hole where my brain stem goes into the lower part of my brain was too small and that I
would need surgery to correct it.
“No one likes to hear she needs surgery of any kind, let alone brain surgery,” she said. “I was naturally quite concerned.”
One thing she was not concerned about was paying for her medical care.
“I knew our Union-negotiated health benefits would take care of it,” Howes said. “I was able to go to a top-notch hospital with the best
doctors and not have to worry about going into debt.”
Howes eventually needed a second surgery to correct complications from the first one. She spent a total of 21 days in the hospital.
“I was told that the cost for the surgeries, the hospital stay and medication was more than $300,000,” Howes said. “I only had to pay a $500 deductible. The rest was taken care of. I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have our health benefits.”
Howes and her husband, Tom, who is self-employed, have six more reasons to be grateful for her health benefits: –– their six children ages 5 - 20.
“My oldest daughter, Danaris, recently had an accident while she was away at college,” Howes said. “She had a concussion and lost some teeth. Fortunately, she is still covered under my health insurance.”
Howes has fully recovered from her illness and feels fine.
“The headaches are gone, and I can enjoy my favorite hobby –– spending time with my family,” she said.
Editor’s Note: I was in a restaurant working on this issue of Voice of Action when I heard someone congratulating a friend on her retirement. Soon everyone in the restaurant was cheering for UFCW 8 member Janie Combs, who had just hung up her apron after 33 years on the job. It was quite a moment, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to come over and congratulate her myself. Here is Janie’s story.
— Jacques Loveall
At her recent retirement celebration, Janie Combs had a surprise visit from UFCW 8-Golden State President Jacques Loveall, right. Also pictured, from left, are Combs’ friend, Robert Forsyth, and her husband, Robert Combs.
Janie Combs is grateful to God and to her Union for where she is in her life. Combs worked as a Senior Clerk at the Bel Air Market on Highway 49 in Auburn. She recently retired after 33 years with the company.
“Without my Union negotiated benefits, my husband and I would not have had the kind of life we had,” Combs said. “If we didn’t have our pension plan, I would never have been able to retire.”
Combs came to appreciate her medical benefits when her husband, Robert, was seriously injured in an auto accident several years ago.
“He drove an oil tanker and was hit head-on by a drunk driver,” she said. “He is still on disability. He needed extensive medical care and physical therapy to recover from a broken neck and other severe injuries. Thanks to our Union negotiated heath benefits, it was all covered 100 percent.”
Combs said her career began rather inauspiciously.
“My first week on the job, I placed a heavy bag of groceries on top of a beautiful birthday cake I had just bagged,” she recalled. “I was terrified that it would be my last day on the job. But I learned quickly and I’ve had a great career.”
Combs said she most appreciated her relationships with her coworkers and her customers.
‘Kind of a family’
“You become kind of a family with the people you work with, and with all of the regulars you wait on,” Combs said. “I loved talking with them about family members and what was happening in their lives.
“One of my regular customers enjoyed our interactions so much that she would always go to my register even if there were shorter lines at the others.”
Combs and her husband have moved to a small cabin they own 24 miles outside of Georgetown.
“We wanted to do it for the last five years,” she said. “Now that I’ve retired, we can finally live here.
“It’s so beautiful and serene. You can cross-country ski right out the door. And the fishing is great.”
Combs said she is spending most of her time in retirement working at her two favorite leisure activities: jewelry-making and cooking.
“I make jewelry out of beads for friends and family and for anyone else who wants to buy my creations,” Combs said. “I now do all of my cooking on our wood stove. My favorite fried chicken recipe tastes better than ever.
“We love our life in retirement. Working at a Union job helped make it all possible.”
It’s Academic Steward Erik Steinkamp fights family health problems to achieve his scholarly dreams
Erik Steinkamp knows how to work toward his dreams.
Despite family health problems, the 15-year veteran of the retail food industry managed to earn two associate
degrees in liberal arts and social sciences and a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in humanities. He earned
his master’s degree in public history in 2007.
When asked what he does in his free time, he laughs and says, “Free time? What’s that?”
Steinkamp was a member of the Contemporary World History Project, in which colleges across the United States
represent nations around the world in a coordinated study of each country’s history, culture and society. The
program was sponsored by the California International Studies Program.
“Sacramento State was the United States when I was there,” Steinkamp says. “I was honored to be one of the speakers
at the Global Forum at Stanford University.”
Aside from being a scholar, Steinkamp is also a husband, father and Steward.
“I started as a Courtesy
Clerk at Albertsons in 1991,” Steinkamp recalls. “I got promoted when I was 18 to Journeyman Clerk. I’ve worked just
about every place in the store that has to do with groceries.”
year-old son named Jack and a 1-year-old daughter named Avery. When Jack was born, Julie went through a “horrible
birth” and developed infections and medical problems that were
Steinkamp credits his and his wife’s union benefits with easing the burden of those difficult times.
What does Steinkamp plan to do with all of his degrees?
“I took an internship at Sierra College because I wanted to be a community college history professor,” he says. “But
I’m really open to anything that will allow me to help working people.”
Steinkamp is an admirer of UFCW 8-Golden State’s Union in the Schools program, in which UFCW 8 District
Representatives speak to high school classes about Union history and UFCW 8-Golden State.
“This is an extremely beneficial program,” Steinkamp says. “It’s an opportunity to educate our youth about why
Unions were formed and how they benefit society.”
Regarding his dreams and his drive to achieve them, Steinkamp remembers a quote by President Franklin Delano
“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”
Steinkamp worked at Albertsons until 1999. After brief stints at Safeway and the Schools Financial Credit Union, he applied for work at
Raley’s in 2001. He currently works at Raley’s 402 in North Highlands.
Working at school and on the job may seem hard enough, but Steinkamp also faced challenges that threatened his loved ones.
His wife, Julie, is a second-grade schoolteacher. Their children include a 4-
slow to be corrected. But just when those problems were winding down, Julie was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“She went through surgery and radiation, and then had to be quarantined because of the radiation,” he says.
“It was a definite stress on our family,” Steinkamp continues. “I took care of our son while my wife was recovering and I worked the night crew, so there wasn’t much time to sleep. But in the end, it only made us stronger as a family.”
“I like the Union because there’s a sense of security with my job,” he said. “I can’t be fired because the boss had a bad day.”
Brandy has played girls’ fast-pitch softball for eight years. “Right now, she’s on the Yuba-Sutter Sting, an ASA traveling softball team,” Kelly said.
When Kelly goes home at night, he puts his energy into his other job — as the single dad of Nicholas, 22; Chelsie, 19, and Brandy, 16.
Kelly prefers fishing. “I have a 14-foot aluminum boat that I like to take out into Bodega Bay when I can,” he said. “My best catch there was a 41-pound salmon.”
Dan Kelly’s first job in the grocery business was in Placerville, at the original store of the Raley’s chain. In the 27 years since then, he has developed a reputation for excellent customer service.
A recent customer feedback form gives testimony: “Every time [Kelly] waits on me, he goes above and beyond to make sure everything is right. [He is] one of the best clerks at this store…has a very pleasant personality and is always in a good mood…I wish all clerks were as good as he is.”
“The author of those remarks is a former professional shopper,” Kelly said, “so she has high standards as far as customer service goes. She also has a bad back, so she likes her things packaged a certain way so she can handle them.”
Dan said he treats her as he treats everyone at the store. “I try to be nice to all of my customers,” he said, “but that’s the way Tom Raley set up the store. One of his policies was to treat the customers the way you would want to be treated.”
Kelly got his start in 1981 as a meat department custodian. “The managers were really impressed with how clean the meat department was and they were looking for a night utility clerk, so I got promoted,” he recalled.
Kelly rose from that position to night clerk and finally to his current clerk position.
“When I was starting out, Raley’s sold more groceries for cheaper prices, so the work force was bigger,” he said. “Now, it’s kind of the opposite. We sell less groceries, but we make more money and things are much more customer-service oriented.
“I believe we’re leading the industry right now in customer service,” Kelly said. He has been a devoted Union member throughout his employment.
The Easons savor the California Dream, thanks to good fortune and good Union jobs. Good looks don’t hurt, either.
Left: Jason Eason flashes the smile that helped him win a national modeling contest. Below: Donnie and Freddie Eason in front of their home in the Fresno area.
Donnie and Jason Eason have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. They don’t just have Lady Luck’s number, they have her on speed dial.
In 1980, Donnie Eason left the Marines after four years in the Corps. “I was newly married and looking for a job,” he recalled. “My mother-in-law got me a job in the supermarket.”
Now, 26 years later, he is still a Union member at Save Mart in Fresno working under a contract provided by UFCW 8-Golden State and President Jacques Loveall.
“It’s a blessing to have a Union job,” Eason said. “My Union benefits are going to let me retire in three years and I’ll be able to spend more time with my grandkids.”
Freddie, Donnie’s wife of 28 years, also is a Union member, employed at Pacific Gas and Electric.
Their 27-year-old son, Jason, has had his own experience with good fortune. When he was a student at UCLA, one of his high school friends entered him, without his knowledge, in a contest for The Gap to find a new clothes model.
“Then, one day, he was just driving down the 405 in Los Angeles when he got a call on his cell phone,” Eason said.
“They said, ‘Congratulations! You’re a finalist in The Gap model contest!’ He was amazed. He said, ‘I never entered the contest!’”
Jason was among six contestants chosen from 600,000 applicants nationwide.
“He was on ‘The View’ and in Newsweek,” Eason said.
But the ride was far from over. Eason came home one day to check his messages and couldn’t believe the name he saw on his caller ID.
It was the Oprah Winfrey Show, asking if Jason would appear. “I don’t even know how they got my phone number,” Donnie said, laughing.
After the Oprah Show and The Gap modeling season ended, Jason needed a new job. A lawyer who worked with him on his modeling for The Gap was Anne Gust, who is married to Jerry Brown. Brown, a former California governor who now serves as the state’s attorney general, was mayor of Oakland at the time and helped Jason get a job as vice principal of the prestigious Oakland School of the Arts.
Then, through one of his UCLA friends, Jason got a job as a writer for Current TV, a new cable network that is partly owned by former Vice President Al Gore. “Jason knows Al first hand,” Eason said.
Jason is now a writer/producer for the Travel Channel. “He just came back from France,” Eason said, laughing. “He goes everywhere.”
Even though his son’s success has taken him far and wide, Donnie still treasures his fatherhood memories of Jason:
“In sixth grade, Jason ran track at Manchester Gate School. I was his coach. Everybody told our kids, ‘You can’t run, you’re too smart,’ because Manchester was a ‘gifted and talented’ school. But our kids just wouldn’t let each other down. Jason and his team set a record for the mile relay that still stands.”
Jason continued to run track through high school, specializing in the Open 400 and the 400 Relay.
“I always told the kids what I believe: never give up, always try hard and it can be done,” Eason said.
“I guess it worked. Jason used to run with Angela Williams, and now she’s an Olympian.”
In his spare time, Eason enjoys spending time with his family, watching baseball and fishing in the ocean.
“My best catch was a 21-inch lin cod,” he said. “But it was one inch short of the legal limit, so I had to throw it back!”
Herman DeSomber’s Retirement Plans Include More of the Same and That’s a Lot
DeSomber plans to retire from his job as a Meat Cutter at Safeway 1592 in Kings Beach. But his level of activity will hardly diminish.
“When I leave, I’ll be as busy as ever with my side businesses,” DeSomber said. “I like to be as active as possible. You know what they stay: ‘When you stop working, it’s all over.’ ”
As he looks back on his more than four decades in the industry, DeSomber said he is thankful that he has had a job with Union-negotiated benefits.
Over most summers, DeSomber paints and restores old houses. “I’ve always been handy, and I love to use my hands to build things, he said.
Herman DeSomber is joined at a restaurant by his wife, Lori, and three UFCW 8 District Union Representatives, (from left) John Micheletti, Jeff Berns and Jay Trumbull. DeSomber is recuperating from an automobile accident
He worked for Lucky/ Albertsons for 34 years. When the store he was working at closed in 2006, he moved over to Safeway
“I’ve made a good living, and now I look forward to retirement with a good pension and health insurance,” he said. “That wouldn’t have happened without the Union.”
Retirement will give him more time to complete work on the home that he and his wife purchased 20 years “It’s been a fixer-upper since day one,” DeSomber said. “I’ll now have the time to get everything done.”
He also wants to spend more time working on his computer.
“Remodeling houses gives me a chance to do both. I do about five or six houses a year.”
He and his wife, Lori, also create Santa Clauses. “We began about six years ago,” DeSomber said. “My wife decided she needed something to work on to relax her. We buy the heads and she decorates them. I build the bodies.
“We make about 40 each year. We sell them alone or as part of a scene. I also make the furniture that goes with each scene.”
The Santas range in size from four inches to four feet and sell for $60 to $80.
The DeSombers sell them during the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Valhalla Craft Faire in South Lake Tahoe. “We tried to place them in stores but got ripped off,” he said. “So the faire is the only venue where people can get them.”
If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, DeSomber also owns about 25 vending
machines, located in various businesses.
“I got into that about three years ago when someone I knew wanted to sell a couple of them,&rdquo said. “We sell sodas and hard candies such as M&Ms. I only have to restock them once a month.”
DeSomber has been in the retail food industry for 41 years.
“We have nine children between us,” he said. “I took videos of all of the kids growing up. I want to edit down each child’s footage, put it on a DVD and give it to them for Christmas.”
DeSomber said his wife would like to do more traveling when he retires, but he is not the traveling kind.
“We may wind up traveling some anyway,” he said. “After all, we have 25 grandchildren and three great grandchildren who live all over the country.”
seem an odd activity for someone who is trying to improve his health, but David Levecque isn’t an ordinary man.
When he’s not fencing, he might be flying airplanes, sailing
or riding horses. “There’s not a
sport I don’t do,” said Levecque, who has worked for Albertson’s for the past 32 years, lately as a dairy clerk at Albertson’s 7212 in Davis.
He took up fencing six years ago after his doctor told him he needed more aerobic exercise. “It was just something new, and it’s fun to do,” he said.
He trains regularly at the Davis Fencing Academy and is comfortable in the foil and saber styles of fencing.
The foil style, which requires striking the chest, is “like being a surgeon,” Levecque said, while the saber style, which focuses on the arms, head and chest, “is more like a butcher.” He has competed on more than 40 teams in Northern California and participates in local tournaments
sponsored by the Bay Cup fencing organization.
Levecque lives in Woodland with his wife, Deanna, and daughter, Lillian, who recently began fencing
with her father after accompanying him to local tournaments.
Deanna, however, prefers horseback riding to taking up arms, and while David occasionally
accompanies her, he doesn’t like the unpredictability of the animals.
Before fencing, Levecque worked
as a flight instructor and he continues
to sail during the summer.
He also enjoys the physical aspects
of working at a supermarket. “I like
working with my hands, and you’re on
your feet all day,” he said.
“You’re nice and tired by the time you get home. It keeps me healthy.”
Freis, a Produce Clerk at Vons 1754 in Fresno, has two adult children and two adult stepchildren. He takes pride in all of their accomplishments, but especially those of his stepson, Brandon Hancock.
Hancock was slated to be the starting fullback on the 2006 University of Southern California football team. Unfortunately, while working out in pre-season training camp, he tore two ligaments in his right knee. Two years ago, he had a similar injury in his left knee.
“Brandon received his degree in May and is in graduate school,” Freis said. “But he had one more year of eligibility left, so this injury ended his college playing days.”
Hancock had surgery to repair the injury and hopes to be ready for National Football League tryout camps next spring.
Freis hopes his stepson succeeds in sports, but he’s not worried about his chances in any case. Hancock had a 3.91 grade point average as an undergraduate and was chosen as a football Academic All-American. Upon graduation, he was awarded the USC Order of the Palm and Laurel. The award is presented to a student who demonstrates significant leadership ability, community involvement and academic achievement. He is also an award-winning body builder.
“Brandon is the most focused individual I know,” Freis said. “He had the two knee injuries and two other serious injuries from weight-training accidents. The determination and perseverance he demonstrated in getting back into playing shape was remarkable.” Freis first met Hancock when he began dating his mom Jeanne, whom Freis eventually married.
“Brandon was 11 years old when I met his mother and he was a pretty skinny kid,” Freis recalled. “But he played football since he was in fifth grade. When he got to seventh grade, his classmates began teasing him about his skinny legs. So Brandon began a weight-lifting program.”
Through hard work, he developed his athletic skills throughout high school. When he was a senior, he received football scholarship offers from some of the top college programs in the country, in addition to USC, such as Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Stanford. Hancock chose to play at Southern Cal because he wanted to be closer to home so his family could attend the games.
“We went to all of the games,” Freis said. “It was a tremendous experience to watch him play for a major college football program. “Brandon played with three Heisman trophy winners in his career: Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. His blocking for them helped them win the Heisman award,” Freis said.
Freis began his career in the industry in 1970 at Hanoian’s, a small family owned store in Fresno. He has been with Vons since 1983. “Vons was non-Union when I started there,” he said. “I participated in the informational picketing until the Union was recognized.”
He added: “You can’t beat the job security and other benefits you get with a Union job. When you have children, those health benefits come in handy.”
In his spare time, Freis likes to travel around the United States and fish for trout at lakes around Fresno.
After 36 years in the industry, he has no immediate plans to retire. “I like what I do and plan to continue working for the foreseeable future,” he said.
USC fullback Brandon Hancock celebrated his graduation with his mother, Jeanne, and his stepfather, UFCW 8 member Curt Freis.
District Union Rep Darin Ferguson Proud of His Kin’s Military Service
UFCW 8 District Union Representative Darin Ferguson doesn’t consider himself a worrier. Still, he admits to having been concerned for the safety of his youngest son, Jacob, who just returned from his second tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
“He drove a Humvee and came under fire several times,” Darin Ferguson said. “Then there was the danger of roadside bombs. It was obviously a matter of concern for our whole family.”
The Ferguson family has a strong military tradition. Darin’s father, Jimmie Roy Ferguson, was in the Marine Corps and his grandfather, Houston C. Ferguson, served in the Navy. Darin followed in his father’s footsteps, serving in the Marine Corps for 10 years.
In addition to Jacob, Darin and his wife Patty have three children with military experience. Their oldest, Ace, served four years in the Navy. Their daughter, Kyla, is on active duty in the Coast Guard, serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Another daughter, Meghan, served in the Air Force for six years.
“Meghan was a crew member on an RC-135 aircraft,” Ferguson said with pride. “She is one of the first women in the Air Force to complete POW survival training.”
The Fergusons’ third oldest child, Derek, would have served had he not been injured on the job while working at Safeway.
Ferguson attributes his family’s military calling to their love of country and the family-like structure of the military, as well as the discipline derived from the experience.
Darin Ferguson UFCW 8 District Union Representative
“President Loveall frequently cites the three characteristics of a good District Union Rep,” Ferguson said. “Those characteristics are compassion, commitment and courage. These are also some of the characteristics that are taught in the armed services.”
Still, the Ferguson family couldn’t wait for Jacob's return from Iraq.
“It is definitely good to see him again,” Darin Ferguson said. "That’s an understatement."
From War-Torn Yugoslavia to California’s Good Life
It isn’t easy to begin life anew in a foreign country with two small children, especially when you can’t speak the language. But UFCW 8 member Drazenka Trkulja succeeded remarkably.
Trkulja, who works at Raley’s 229 in Auburn, is a native of the former Yugoslavia. She and her two children survived more than 15 years of war, but she lost her husband, some extended family members and many friends.
“My husband was the love of my life,” Trkulja said. “It’s been more than 15 years, and I’m still not over it.”
When she arrived in the U.S. in 1997, Trkulja was determined to make a better life for herself, her daughter Nikolina, now 20, and her son Drazen, now 15. She came to Sacramento because her brother and aunt were already living there.
Soon after her arrival, friends told her that Raley’s was hiring and she decided to apply, even though she didn’t know a word of English. “I had to bring an interpreter to the interview,” Trkulja said. “After I was hired as a Produce Clerk, I kept a little paper in my pocket with some English phrases that I could read when a customer spoke to me.
Things like: ‘How are you?’ and ‘Have a nice day.’” As a single mother who worked full time, Trkulja didn’t have time for formal English instruction.
Drazenka Trkulja Raley’s Head Clerk
“I learned on the job,” she said. “My coworkers helped me a lot. They never made fun of my inability to speak the language and were supportive. I consider them family.”
To say that Trkulja is happy with her new life in the U.S. would be an understatement. “My kids have a chance for a good life and to eventually get a good job in a country free of war and ethnic conflict,” Trkulja said. “That’s why I came here, I wanted a better future for my children.”
Trkulja has found a better future for herself as well. She has received a number of promotions at Raley’s and is now a Head Grocery Clerk.
“I like my job,” she said. “I find it challenging, and I learn something new every day.” Trkulja also likes her Union benefits. “When you have a family, having good health insurance is important,” she said.
“I never have to worry about paying huge medical bills. And because we have a pension, my future is secure.” Trkulja is grateful both for the opportunity to resettle in the U.S. and to become an American citizen. “I applied for citizenship the first day I could,” she said. “My children did too. And we all passed the test on our first try. “I’m proud that I am now a citizen of this great country.”
Hide Puller Joe Mendoza credits the Union for his long employment at Harris Ranch Beef.
Joe Mendoza knows a good deal when he sees one. He has been a Union member during all of the 37 years he has worked at Harris Ranch Beef in Selma.
“The reason I have stayed so long is because we have a Union,” Mendoza explained. “We have benefits that people without a Union can only dream about.”
Mendoza is a native of Mercedes, Texas. His family moved to Selma when he was in his teens. His first job was at a small “mom and pop” grocery store.
“We worked long hours and often had to work weekends and holidays,” Mendoza said. “We had no benefits at all and never received overtime pay.”
A friend worked at Diamond Meat, the forerunner of Harris Ranch Beef. “My friend would tell me about the great benefits they had there because they had a Union,” Mendoza recalled.
When his friend told him about a job opening there, Mendoza applied and was hired. He has been with the company ever since.
He works as a Hide Puller, operating a machine that pulls hides from carcasses as they enter the plant for processing.
Mendoza became active in the Union almost immediately upon his employment. He has been on contract negotiation committees over the years and currently serves as a Steward.
He constantly encourages his coworkers to be active in the Union.
“Being active and demonstrating support for the Union leads to greater solidarity,” Mendoza said. “That keeps our Union strong.” He added: “I know we wouldn’t have benefits such as paid vacations, sick leave, health insurance and overtime pay if it wasn’t for the strength of the Union.”
Joe Mendoza Hide Puller Harris Ranch Beef
Mendoza discovered the importance of his medical benefits firsthand when his wife developed multiple myeloma, a form of cancer.
“She had to undergo 40 days of treatment,” he said. “The cost was $92,000, but I only had to pay $300. I don’t know what we would have done without my health insurance.”
Mendoza said he believes the Union will be even stronger in the future.
“The consolidation of UFCW 1288 into UFCW 8 was a great idea,” he said. “It’s the best thing we could have done because it gives us more numbers and greater bargaining power.
“I’ve had a chance to meet and talk with UFCW 8 President Jacques Loveall, and I found him to be a dynamic and highly motivated leader,” Mendoza said. After 37 years at the plant, Mendoza looks forward to retirement in a couple of years.
“I plan to spend more time with my children and grandchildren and visit places my wife and I have always wanted to see,” he said.
Reflecting on nearly four decades of working in the industry, Mendoza said he was grateful to be a member of a labor Union.
“Union is the way to go,” he said. “I hope that, in the future, through organizing, more workers in our industry will have the chance to experience the advantages that come with a Union job.”
The Road to A Better LifeUnion Points the Way to Naven Vang’s American DreamNaven Vang, a Steward at Foster Farms in Fresno, left Laos 13 years ago to escape oppression and violence and to find a better way of life
Retiree Credits Union For His Comfortable Retirement Lifestyle
UFCW 8 retiree Starr McConnell credits his Union benefits for the comfortable lifestyle that he and his wife enjoy in retirement.
“My wife, Josephine, and I both collect Union pensions,” McConnell said. “When you factor in Social Security, we’re living as well as we did when we both worked.
“We have the excellent pension we do because we were members of a Union,” McConnell continued. “With so many industries and companies eliminating or freezing their pensions, all of the members of UFCW 8 should understand how fortunate we are to have a pension like the one we currently have.”
McConnell began his career in1961. He was employed by several companies as a Meat Cutter, Meat Manager, Meat Supervisor and Buyer prior to his retirement in 1998.
Starr met Josephine in their hometown of Cortland, N.Y., when both were in their teens and worked at the same supermarket. He was a Meat Cutter and she was a Meat Wrapper.
“Being raised in the heart of the Snow Belt” in upstate New York, it shouldn’t be too hard to understand why we came to California,” McConnell said.
Both McConnells are staunch Union supporters.
“Unions give everyone a better life,” Starr said. “You have better wages, working conditions and job security than you can get in a non-Union job. But I believe the medical benefits are the most important of all.”
Nine years ago, Josephine was diagnosed with lung cancer.
McConnell said that without his Union-negotiated health insurance, the family would not have been able to afford to pay for the care Josephine needed.
Starr McConnell UFCW 8 Retiree
“Between the chemo, the radiation and the long hospital stays, including a time in the ICU, the bills came to almost a million dollars,” McConnell said. “Because of our medical coverage, we didn’t have to pay one penny.”
He added: “I can say two things without doubt: One, there is no way Jo would have recovered had it not been for the care she received. And two, the only reason we had such good coverage is because we have a Union.”
With Josephine now fully recovered, the McConnells have the time to do “whatever we want to do,” Starr said.
They visit their daughter, Deborah, frequently and Josephine makes an annual trip to visit her family in Upstate New York.
The McConnells also like to travel to Lake Tahoe to play the nickel and quarter video poker machines.
“We do it for the fun of it,” Starr said. “We know we’ll never get rich that way.”
Starr McConnell’s other passion is fishing for salmon in the Sacramento River and for trout in Pyramid Lake and other mountain lakes.
McConnell would like to see more non-Union workers become Union members in the future.
“We need to grow and organize so that we can have more clout at the bargaining table,” he said. “I’d like to see more workers get the great Union benefits my wife and I were fortunate enough to have throughout our careers.”
Tom Channel thought he had a good job when he found work as a Meat Cutter at WinCo in Elk Grove. Unfortunately, when he was unfairly fired, he wasn’t able to seek justice through a grievance and arbitration procedure.
Channel, who is married and has four children ranging in age from six months to 8 years old, had worked at WinCo for almost five years. He was months away from being vested in the company’s pension plan when he was dismissed.
“I was an exemplary employee,” he said. “I was never verbally disciplined or written up for anything in the time I was there. I was even picked for the management training program and was on track to be a supervisor.”
Channel’s troubles began when two employees got into a fight while he was in charge of his department after the manager had left for the day.
“Two guys started to verbally abuse each other,” Channel said. “I got between them before anything physical happened, and it all ended kind of quickly when the one who started it stormed out.”
Channel said he followed company procedures. He reported the incident to his store manager who subsequently spoke to employees who witnessed the incident.
The next day, Channel was called to a meeting with the store manager, the regional supervisor and a representative from the Human Resources Department.
“I thought I was going to be asked about the fight,” Channel said. “But the store manager said that ‘serious allegations’ had been made against me and that I was being let go.”
Both of the employees involved in the altercation were fired. Channel believes that one or both of them made false allegations against him because they blamed him for their dismissal.
Tom Channel Former WinCo Employee
“I know I did the right thing and followed all company procedures,” Channel said. “I believe the real reason I was let go was because I was approaching my fifth anniversary of employment and would have been vested in the pension plan.
“Very few non-management workers get vested in the plan, because the company finds a reason to fire them before their five years are up,” he continued. “It happened to a good friend of mine.”
That friend now works at FoodsCo in a position covered by a UFCW 8 contract. He suggested Channel contact the Union for help.
“UFCW 8 has been great,” Channel said. “I’ve been reporting to the Union hall and have had several weeks where I’ve gotten five days of work.”
Channel said he hopes to land a permanent Union job. “I know from firsthand experience how important it is to have a job covered by a Union contract,” he said.