Grocery Store Workers in Central Minnesota Fight for a Just Contract

Originally published in Labor Today

Over the past several months, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 663 in central Minnesota have been involved in an ongoing labor dispute with the management of several large grocery store chains. Grocery store workers in the area are struggling against the following companies: S&R Quisberg, owner of Cub Foods locations in Brainerd and Baxter, as well as the Supervalue located in Pequot Lakes, and Miners Inc., owner of the Super One stores located in Baxter and Crosby.

In the previous round of negotiations this past January, the grocery store workers of Brainerd Lakes rejected management’s offer citing that it did not account for the rise of inflation and that their wages are currently lower than that of their fellow grocery store workers in the major cities across the state of Minnesota. Additionally, the workers are fighting to eliminate the unfair pay scale that exists between members of the custodial team, whose wages are lower than that of their coworkers in other departments within the store.

Over the Christmas holiday, the members of UFCW local 663 in Brainerd Lakes went on strike to make sure their voices would be heard by management. Five grocery stores in the area encompassing 500 workers went on strike for three days, effectively shutting down the stores during the peak holiday season. This was done in response to intimidation tactics put forth by management that were designed to prevent the workers from exercising their rights as Americans. This marked the largest grocery store strike the state of Minnesota had seen in decades.

On Wednesday March 6th, negotiations between the union and management resumed. Management put forth a three year contract that includes a $1 per hour increase for full-time employees and a $0.75 increase for part-time workers at the stores at the end of the three years. While showing signs of progress, the union negotiating team rejected management’s proposal for being inadequate and still not covering the concerns laid out by the workers.

The progress made in this round of negotiations stemmed from a protest that took place on Tuesday, March 5th where over a thousand workers took to the steps of the State Capitol building in Saint Paul, Minnesota to demand better wages and benefits for grocery store and service industry workers. The event, which was organized by both the UFCW Local 663 as well as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), overshadowed an important charity event organized by the Minnesota Grocers Association. This overlap between events pressured management to show more flexibility in this round of contract negotiations, however, there was still a long way to go.

Finally, on May 2nd, 88% of the Brainerd area UFCW Local 663 members voted to approve a tentative contract put forth by management that will remain in effect until 2026. Some of the concessions won by the workers in this new contract are the following: the prohibition of forced transfers of workers to other store locations, increased PTO, pathways for part-time workers to receive health insurance benefits and pensions, as well as moving the cleaning team and courtesy workers who have been in the position for three or more years as of December 2025 onto the higher pay scale for part-time employees. These concessions won by the workers of Brainerd Lakes were due to both their collective bargaining powers and their unwillingness to settle on either of management’s first two inadequate offers. Despite some of the demands they were fighting for not coming to fruition, the months long labor struggle resulted in some real material gains and is an objective step forward. We await to see what the future will bring in the next round of negotiations upon the expiration of their current contract come 2026. Given the experience the workers have gained from this struggle, they are bound to make even more gains in the years to come.