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UFCW Local 770 President John Grant announced his retirement in September in a powerful speech at the Local’s Executive Board Meeting. A fearless leader in the labor movement and a dear friend to many of us at SSDS, John spent 46 years as a union member fighting tirelessly for working people, from Farmer John shop steward to union President. While UFCW Local 770 has gone through many changes over the years, John’s commitment to empowering and uplifting workers across Southern California has been a constant.

In 1976, after graduating from Loyola Law School, John went to work as a meatpacker at the Farmer John plant in Vernon, California. Over his nine-years as a slaughterhouse worker and member of Local 563 of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen of North America, John served as a shop steward, picket captain, and a member of Local 563’s bargaining committee. As a rank-and-file leader, John worked to organize his co-workers, fighting against rampant racial segregation and discrimination inside the plant. Bringing workers together across racial lines, he led his co-workers out on a nine-week strike to protest the plant’s poor working conditions – an act for which he was illegally fired. As a Farmer John worker, John also served on the Labor Committee of the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association, was active in the formation of the Los Angeles Committee on Safety & Health and participated in the Southwest Voter Registration Project – all while earning a degree in Labor Studies from Los Angeles Trade Tech. In 1985, John joined the staff of the newly merged Packinghouse Local 274 as a Union Representative, which later merged with Local 770. Since holding this position, he has served as a trustee for the pension and medical benefit trusts, Director of the Packinghouse Division, General Counsel, Secretary-Treasurer and was most recently elected President of Local 770 on October 4, 2017.

John’s leadership of UFCW Local 770 has taken on numerous forms over the past four and a half decades but he has consistently demonstrated strength as a movement leader through his unique combination of intellect, humor, grace, and humility. In each of his roles, John has exemplified the labor organizer’s mantra that the union members are the union. To that end, John spearheaded efforts to create the first member-lead bargaining committees among the UFCW Southern California locals, to establish health and safety committees at each workplace, and to activate Contract Action Teams.

Moreover, under John’s leadership, UFCW Local 770, with the support of SSDS, has been instrumental in shaping labor policy at the state and local levels on behalf of working people. These accomplishments include the original Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, the Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance, developing employment regulations and model Labor Peace Agreements in the Cannabis industry; advising the State of California on issues related to worker misclassification and technological displacement; drafting model local legislation around fair scheduling; leading the fight against the expansion of grocery store displacing big box retail stores; and creating worker training and apprenticeship programs in the grocery and cannabis industries. Midway through John’s term as union President, UFCW members were finally acknowledged as front-line essential workers. As soon as the pandemic hit, Local 770 and SSDS took the lead in passing landmark legislation to protect worker health and safety, to implement hero pay, and to provide workers with supplemental paid sick leave. Moreover, the Union’s investigations into the health and safety conditions of retail stores and packinghouses at the height of the pandemic resulted in over $1 million in fines issued by Cal-OSHA.

John has spent his entire career leading the fight for social and economic justice, and we at SSDS have been honored to fight beside him. We wish John the very best in his next chapter and look forward to celebrating him at Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy’s (LAANE) City of Justice Awards Dinner on December 8, 2022.

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