The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast

Meet Trevor Shanklin, a District Union Representative with the UFCW Local 8

October 11, 2019 Tom Shanklin and Traci Dority-Shanklin
The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast
Meet Trevor Shanklin, a District Union Representative with the UFCW Local 8
The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast
Meet Trevor Shanklin, a District Union Representative with the UFCW Local 8
Oct 11, 2019
Tom Shanklin and Traci Dority-Shanklin

While our podcast usually focuses on fund trustees and professionals, we thought it would be useful to get insight from someone working directly with plan participants on a daily basis.  Trevor Shanklin, union representative for UFCW Local 8, talks about how plan benefits are helping members cope with the financial challenges we all face today.  We hope you will listen in to hear this unique perspective.

Show Notes Transcript

While our podcast usually focuses on fund trustees and professionals, we thought it would be useful to get insight from someone working directly with plan participants on a daily basis.  Trevor Shanklin, union representative for UFCW Local 8, talks about how plan benefits are helping members cope with the financial challenges we all face today.  We hope you will listen in to hear this unique perspective.

Meet Trevor Shanklin, a District Representative with the UFCW Local 8

Traci Dority-Shanklin: 00:00:00 

Please forgive the sound quality on this episode, but our guess, Trevor Shanklin spends his days visiting union members at their job sites. And did the interview from his car. 

Narrator:  00:00:11

This is The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds podcast with your hosts, Tom Shanklin and Traci Dority-Shanklin, managing partners at Sisu Investment Partners.

Narrator:  00:00:23 

If you're interested in labor and union benefit funds, well, you've landed in the right place. We are a go-to source for all things, union benefit fund related, and we are going to bring you interviews with key decision-makers and fund professionals that guide these plans. They'll share their insights, experience, unique perspectives, all of the latest developments, and tips to unlock the mysteries of multiemployer benefit funds.

Narrator:  00:00:48

Time is short. So, let's get started. Please, welcome Tom and Traci.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:00:54

As you know, we started this podcast to give insights into the multiemployer pension fund world. In our business, it is easy to focus on the trustees and investment fund professionals because they are the decision makers to allowing us to manage their assets.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:01:09

But it is important for money managers to know and never forget the people their work is serving - the individual fund participant. Today, we are speaking to Trevor Shanklin. Trevor is a district union representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. And he is the direct interface with the union members that the pension funds and health and welfare funds serves.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:01:32

Welcome, Trevor, and thank you for being with us today. 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:01:36

Thank you, guys, for having me. 

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:01:38

So, Trevor, can you give us a little bit of background about what your role is with the union.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:01:44

Absolutely. So, my role as district union representative, I am the face-to face interaction with our membership. Um, my area is Sonoma and Napa counties. 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:02:00

Out here, I have approximately 30 or 32 stores anywhere from 1500 to 1600 members, depending on the time of year. And, I am sort of the front line for them in dealing with the employer. So, if they're having issues with their pay, with their benefits, um, issues in dealing with their interactions with managers, other coworkers, I'm a lot of their first call as far as navigating those problems, and looking for some type of a solution. 

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:02:36

Awesome. So, when you're interfacing with the employees and members, do you have direct conversations with them about some of their benefits, specifically their pension and/or their health benefit? 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:02:51

Absolutely. So, as far as the health benefits side of it goes, that is a major selling point of our organization. We offer a fully funded medical package, which means the members do not pay anything out of pocket for their benefits. So that is a major selling point, not only for members who are a bit older in the 40, 50, 60 range, but also for members who are younger, I think kids even as young as, as 18, 19, 20 are starting to understand the benefits that the having medical, uh, can bring.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:03:26

As far as the pension goes, that's another thing I bring up. And when it comes to our older members, uh, that is a selling point as well. Uh, as far as our younger members, that is at least in my opinion, more of a teaching moment. Because they are the ones who generally do not have the knowledge of what defined benefits in what pension plans, what that actually offers them further on down the road.

Tom Shanklin:  00:03:51

It just strikes me that there's - there's so many issues today that are in the headlines, terms of retirement security, and medical care costs and all that. Do you get a sense that the people coming into the environment today coming into the unions, do they get a sense that the union is doing a good job to provide for these things?

Tom Shanklin:  00:04:11

And I've got to believe that in this period of time where there's so much need. And so many things are being taken away, I've got to believe that the union's image is being enhanced to some degree.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:04:23

Absolutely. I think in recent years, just given the climate of the worker and, I guess, worker-large corporation interactions.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:04:33

I think you've seen unions standing up and having better views in the public eyes for what they're doing. I think our biggest challenge, because we do deal with a lot of the younger demographic. If you walk into a grocery store, you will see a fair share of high school, fresh out of high school, college, fresh out of college.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:04:53

You will see a large share of that. The membership that is, I would say 35 to 40 and older. I think they're the ones who do have a grasp of what pensions and benefits and those types of things, what that value is to them. A lot of the ones who are younger than that Safeway, Raley's, um, you know, Rocky's, whatever company is ours - is likely their first job.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:05:18

So, they may not know what it's like in anything but a union environment. So, we have people who have come, you know, we have a market share that includes employers like Walmart, and Targets, and Amazons. And you know, the people who come from those employers into ours are always the ones who I find, make a point to mention to me how much better it is working under a contract, how much easier it is for their life to have a set of rules in place that is not completely governed by the company, but is instead an agreement made between the two parties.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:05:54

So, for those who have had experience outside of our union stores, I think they have a good understanding at least of the benefit of a contract. Some of them do have a good understanding of what the pension is, but for us, I think our biggest challenge is making sure we educate those who have only ever work in our industry.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:06:13

And that's one of the things we've really been focused on is kind of teaching our younger five to 10-year membership who may have only ever worked under a union contract to benefit from all of those things that they get. 

Tom Shanklin:  00:06:26

Well, that, that brings up a good point because today we hear a lot about the gig economy, if you will. And I think that there would be opportunities, uh, given the portability of benefits within the union that, uh, you might be seeing a little more, a little more a retention of - of workers than perhaps in the nonunion environment where, you know, they, they have concerns, and you know, that that's one of the beauties of the multiemployer structure is that they can move from one grocery to another and still retain all the benefits.

Tom Shanklin:  00:06:58

So, uh, in this day and age, yeah. And just say, and age, I'm just thinking that, uh, that would be a huge advantage that you might have over other work groups. 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:07:07

Yeah. I think that is a big advantage. We don't really have a ton of movement one grocery store to the other. You know, people seem to - a lot of people seem to find which - which one they like and stay there.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:07:21

But I can definitely say that as someone being in Sonoma County, I am gratefully, I guess, you know, on the edge geographically of San Francisco, where you do see those - those gig economies, and it's, you know, sort of every man for himself. And we have people - we have a lot of people who come into our workforces who have some type of experience whether it be, you know, Doordash, Uber, any number of those things. 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:07:47

They are always - I think with those type of things, as it's sold - it's sold as this idea of, "Oh, work as much as you want to make as much as you want." But I think people are coming to realize that, you know, you really can only work so much. I mean, you can't work, you know, 18, 20 hours day in and day out, which is what it seems to me that the gig economy encourages.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:08:09

So, what is UFCW specifically doing to educate this younger membership? 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:08:17

We've been working a lot lately at our union. We utilize the - what we call shop stewards, um, as well as membership assistance courts, they are members of ours who are actually in stores. We do a lot of communications through them; provide them a lot of tools.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:08:35

So, that they can be having those smaller conversations face-to-face in the stores while our representatives are not in there. So, we may do something where we - you know, we ask them to go and find some - some younger members, some new members and basically say, "Hey, this is what a pension is. This is the things you get." 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:08:54

And generally, for us, they're members to have been around longer. They have that experience. You know, there are people who may have had a major surgery under our benefits and not gone bankrupt because of the treatment. There are people who may have parents or a relative who are currently retired under our pension plan, and can - and can vouch for, you know, what that sort of retirement independence allows for.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:09:23

So, we use, you know, because obviously when it comes to me as their representative, you know, there are some people who I can talk until I'm blue in the face, but you know, at the end of the day, I'm not their coworker. So, I can tell them all I want, but sometimes for somebody in any situation to hear it from somebody who is there in the trenches with you sort of resonates a bit more than from somebody who is, you know, appears to be on the outside of it.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:09:48

That makes a lot of sense. Has this impacted the organizing efforts that you've been involved in the higher level of education and, and attention being placed on educating them on the benefits? 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:10:03

Yeah, I absolutely think so. I think the - what's really helped with the organizing efforts is like we were talking about earlier, the disappearance of employer funded benefits, disappearance of defined benefit pensions. These are things that when we go out and we talk to people who are nonunion, these are things that they may not be educated on and surely do not have. So, for us to be able to go out and say, "This is how your benefits could be; this is how your retirement security could be. You know, this is what a contract is.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:10:37

This is the type of promise. You could be demanding from your employer". I think the increased knowledge of those, you know, only helps us in dealing with these nonunion employers. 

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:10:50

And I think Tom asked you a question regarding the younger generation. Is that resonating, is that conversation resonating for them?

Trevor Shanklin:  00:10:59

Uh, you know, I think it is. I think we, uh, I'm not always the best for the generations, but Millennials, I guess I'm a Millennial, I guess Gen Y or Gen X baby is the one after us, but they seem to have a much different opinion on, I guess, the corporate structure than previous generations had. I think they're a generation that appreciates people taking care of each other. They want to feel valued. They want something more than a, "Hey, just work as many hours as you can, as quickly as you can." They want to feel like they're getting something in return, getting some level of appreciation. And I think a contract is a great way for them to get that.

Tom Shanklin:  00:11:42

I guess you've also had a lot of help through the new efforts in social media that the union has embraced. I'm seeing more and more posts and more commentary, more dialogue out there - that can only help. 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:11:55

Absolutely. I think recently, um, I know Stop and Shop was one of them that we just had a big victory on.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:12:02

You've had quite a few teachers strikes in California recently. You know, we've had a lot of the Fight for 15 campaigns and I think worker rights to say a hot topic right now on social media. It's something that's been - has been well advertised been well covered. 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:12:20

And I think it's something that given sort of the economic environment we're in right now. I think a lot of people sympathize with the views and the workers just finally demanding what they're worth. And demanding to be taken care of. 

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:12:37

I seriously applaud the UFCW, I guess, Northern California region for all the efforts they make in the healthcare space. You mentioned that being a very big, hot button, even among the younger membership, but obviously the ones that have families.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:12:57

Is there a concern there that with rising healthcare, that rising healthcare costs that could be diminished? 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:13:06

Yeah, I think there's absolutely a concern for that. I know in our area up here in Northern California, our cost for healthcare is twice what it is down in Southern California. For those of you who are familiar with Northern California, we, you know, it's not as dense of all it is.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:13:25

You know, we do have our large cities up here. It's not as densely populated in between cities for us. If you were to look at our total compensation package, the cost of our medical makes up about one quarter of our total compensation package that a member would receive at our highest rate of the contract.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:13:44

So, I think for us, I think medical is something that we are very concerned about. I think medical's something that everybody's very concerned about. I think you'd be hard pressed right now to find anybody within a circle of friends who hasn't had some type of a - a major, major life shakeup from - from an unexpected hospital bill or something like that.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:14:04

So, I know that when it comes to the actual cost of getting and retaining medical, um, I believe for us, our medical comes in somewhere at about $1,200 a month on the open market. So, that is something that one - we use that as an advertising opportunity to say, "Look, this is the level of benefit you can get at no cost to yourself;" but Two - it's one of those things that also is in a way scary because it's, you know, medical's something that really those of us, you know, average people really have no control over.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:14:40

Great, Trevor. This was awesome. I'm going to give you one last open-ended question. Why union? 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:14:47

What I love most about it was everyone was in it for each other. My path to the union was not directly straight out of college. I went into a sales position and in the sales position, I overheard people talking about, you know, taking advantage of customers, taking advantage of other coworkers, all in the name of their own bottom line.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:15:08

For me, that, that, that just was never something that sat well with me. If I was going to do something, I wanted it to be something that I could wrap my head at night, knowing that I was doing good. And that's what I feel like the union is. The union is not, you know, yes, strong as you can and forget about everyone else.

Trevor Shanklin:  00:15:23

The union is all of us coming together. All of us working together and using our combined resources and knowledge to - to improve and help as many people as possible. And at least for me, that was - I want to say that was the biggest reason that I wanted to be union. 

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:15:39

Great. Thank you so much for your time today, Trevor.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:15:42

We really appreciate it. We appreciate what you do on behalf of the United Food and Commercial Workers members. And thank you so much for joining us. 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:15:53

Yeah. Thank you, guys, as well. I appreciate you taking the time and listening to me.

Traci Dority-Shanklin:  00:15:56

Of course, have a great day. 

Trevor Shanklin:  00:15:59

I will. 

Narrator:  00:16:01

That's it for this week's episode of The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds podcast. We would love to hear from you, and if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, head over to, and let us know. Tom and Traci, thank you for joining us. And we look forward to next time. 

Narrator:  00:16:22

For even more information and resources head over now to and get involved. The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds podcast - unlocking the mysteries of multiemployer benefit funds.