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How Much Do Grocery Union Clerks Make? (Detailed)

By Ferdi Vol
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Grocery workers train to maximize profits and trade, among several other responsibilities. Labor unions form to ensure their workers' safety, see their rights, and boost the pay rates. So that leads us to the question, how much do grocery union clerks make?

A grocery clerk makes $11.89 an hour on average and between $13,500 to $35,000 annually. This rate depends on the collective bargaining agreement of the employer’s conditions and terms, along with the previous experience.

Though in some grocery stores, when a grocery clerk signs a contract with a new employer, the grocery clerk typically has to restart at the union contract's entry rate despite the previous years of experience. I’ll explain everything you need to know about their pay, so make sure to stick around till the end.

What Are the Job Duties and Rates for Grocery Clerks?

A grocery clerk on contract with a union typically has several responsibilities, which are classified. These classifications could include general merchandise clerks, pharmacy clerks, snack bars, the year department, and fuel station.

Generally, a grocery clerk will deal with the food item handling coming in the store, then unpack the food items, stock them on their respective shelves, tag the items according to their prices, stocking what should be in the freezers and display cases. Grocery clerks may also need to assist the customers who need a little help and check items out.

The United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union is one of the most well-known labor unions. They also employ the largest number of grocery clerks. The rates vary on the collective bargaining agreement, which the union and a few stores together negotiate.

Some UFCW agreements pay the clerks an hourly rate between $9.50 or more, which increases after they have completed certain work hours stated in the contract. Previous experience does matter when it comes to wages. Grocery clerks with more than five years of service can earn $18.71 and $19.80 hourly maximum.

Minimum Wage According to UFCW

According to the United Food Commercial Workers union, the minimum wage is $10.10, which is also supported by President Biden’s proposal of a new minimum rate of fifteen dollars. Unfortunately, not every store follows this rate as each store specifies its own set of minimum wages in their collective agreement. 

1.3 million members of the U.S. and Canada make the UFCW, which is grocery clerks’ main union. Among other activities, the UFCW aims to uplift its members’ living standards, reduce the gap of gender wage, and fight against discrimination. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, which might change soon.

What Does a Grocery Clerk Earn on Average?

Annually, a grocery store clerk earns about $25,483, which means it’s $2,061 every month and $476 every week. This calculation suggests an hourly rate of $11.89. In reality, what you earn might differ from a minimum of $13,500 to a maximum of $35,000.

The rate also depends on the store itself and the location of the store. Your previous years of experience usually count too, but that also depends on the agreement and terms of the stores. But generally, you’ll get paid more the more service years you have.

It is also worth mentioning that union stores sometimes do not pay more than those who aren’t in contract with a union. The contrast between the highest salary and the lowest salary leaves room for us to assume several chances for development in the grocery store industry.

The difference, being $22,000 (wow!), makes me believe that if you’re dedicated to this industry, you’ll get opportunities for promotions. You'll only have to do your best or transfer to other stores within the country's same or different area. So, now you might wonder which cities would pay you more money?

It’s undoubtedly wise to research the places that will pay you more and set your plans in that direction. Living expenses can take a chunk of your salary, so you’ll want to consider all the variables before assessing where you might make a move. Comparing the state’s average, places like Santa Monica, San Mateo, and Boston pay more on average.

Are Union Wage and Minimum Wage Correlated?

Yes, Federal minimum wage and union wages are correlated. Union wages are likely to be much more than the Federal minimum wages. The union’s minimum wages will never be lower than the Federal minimum salaries, making more sense. The union’s minimum wage currently is almost double the federal minimum.

In 1886, the unions decided to form the American Federation of Labor to promote the idea of the workers in the U.S. deserving a “proper” living wage. This salary will let the workers support their families and engage in a communal lifestyle. The union also wanted a standard of living for their workers, which is better than what they have in Europe.

We all have heard about the Great Depression. During this time, the unemployed and union employees joined hands to enable the Fair Labor Standards Act, which decided a minimum hourly wage of $0.25 (worth $4.31 today).

After the Second World War, the country prospered economically, leading the union to raise the hourly wage to $1.60 (about $11.20 today). Recently, they have been doing their best to increase the rate up to $15.00 per hour, but a few grocery stores pay more than the minimum wage already for the past several years.

Today, we have a compelling amount of state regulations and supervision that didn't exist in the last when unions had been established. Currently, there is OSHA, The National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and several other bodies of law and government supervision.

Arguably, the usefulness of unions has ceased, though they have made massive contributions in the past for the grocery store industry.

Do Non-Union Grocery Clerks Earn Less Than Union Grocery Clerks?

Not necessarily so. Typically, the non-union workers get more benefits and money than the union workers. Undoubtedly, there are a few exceptions, but when the need for employees rises, the store typically starts paying more as the evident result of competition, demand, and supply.

So, even without the probing of the UFCW, several grocery stores pay their employees very well. Because grocery store owners are experienced in business and economy, they are well-informed about the connection between motivation and reward systems of their stores.

In theory, unions advocate their employees’ welfare. However, in reality, it gets a little more difficult than that. There are several successful stores today that pay an excellent salary to their employees with incredible benefits, without being a part of the union.

Beloved and famous grocery stores like Publix, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Sam’s Club, and Target, among several others, are all non-unionized. The minimum wage that the UFCW proclaims does not determine what the top-tier grocery stores pay their employees.

You would be surprised to know that several successful stores pay an hourly rate of $15 already, besides offering other benefits. The experts of the grocery store industry claim that the sky should be your limit if you dedicate your time and effort. You won’t have to be associated with a union to be earning more and excel.

I’d advise you to know more and understand the responsibilities and positions in the grocery stores. Besides stocking food into aisles and being in charge of other food-related items, the employees also have to recommend products to customers, give tips about cooking, and know what the customers are searching for.

Grocery Stores that Pay the Most

Grocery stores like Costco, Whole Foods Market, and Target pay their employees an hourly of $15. This rate is higher than the national average hourly rate of $11.89, and it’s also considerably more than the Federal’s current hourly of $7.25.

When it comes to deciding which company will pay you the most, you’ll have to consider several other significant aspects like the benefits you’ll be getting from these companies. Besides the basic wage, you'll also be getting employee discounts, health insurance, profits, and bonuses, as well as 401K matches.

Besides, the “total wellbeing effect” also matters at the end of the day, besides the base salary. A story from progressivegrocer.com suggested that an employee could make it through college without any debts because the grocery store, where she was a part-timer, had reimbursed her tuition.

So, you’ll have to consider the benefits the companies will offer you. You’ll also want to consider where you want to be in life and where you are now. Among the highest paying grocery stores, Costco and Whole Foods Market are on the top of the lost with a starting $15 hourly wage.

By the end of 2020, Target had planned on increasing their starting rate to $15 per hour and accomplished their goal before their deadline, but Walmart still pays an hourly $11. Other stores like Trader Joe's pay an initial rate of $12.03 per hour, and Kroger is at an underwhelming starting rate of $8.15 every hour.

Trader Joe's was on the Forbes list of being the best place to work because it offers paid time off, insurance, and attractive retirement programs. You'll find Costco and Wegmans on the list as well.

The rates also depend on the positions and responsibilities of the employees. Because there are so many variations in grocery store departments, you will find a job that suits your needs.

I hope by now you have a proper idea of how much do union grocery clerks make. When choosing which store you want to work at, it’s best to go for the one that aligns with your skillset and which will enable you to make more money. Make sure to work hard, and you’ll find rewards along your way.

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The Grocery Store Academy is a blog about everything that has to do with grocery stores. This is your #1 spot to find the right information for your needs.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol has worked several years in a grocery store and has a passion for good food. He's happy to share his passion with you!
About Ferdi Vol
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