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December 19, 2003

Food Workers Union Offers Good Faith Gesture to Start Negotiations

Supermarket Employers Challenged to Match Good Faith Move with End of Lockout

In a dramatic gesture to reopen negotiations, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) announced today that its local unions would remove picket lines from distribution/warehouse facilities at Ralphs, Albertsons and Safeway/Vons.   The move coincides with the renewal of negotiations on Friday, December 19, 2003.

The lines at the distribution/warehouse facilities will be removed on Monday, December 22, 2003.

UFCW leaders from the seven local unions involved in the dispute offered their thanks and appreciation to the 8,000 Teamster members for their personal sacrifice in the fight for affordable health care.

UFCW International President Doug Dority also added his appreciation; “We have never seen such solidarity amongst workers in the supermarket industry as has been displayed by members of the Teamsters union.   On behalf of all UFCW members, we extend our thanks and best wishes for the holidays,” said Dority.

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said that “”The Teamsters will continue to honor picket lines at the retail outlets because our members know that the UFCW’s fight is our fight.””

The UFCW immediately challenged the employers to match the good faith move with an end to the lockout of workers at Ralphs and Albertsons.

The Southern California supermarket strike/lockout began on October 11, 2003 in response to employer demands for the elimination of health benefits.    Workers struck Safeway/Vons; Ralphs and Albertsons immediately locked out workers in support of Safeway.

On November 24, 2003, the UFCW extended picket lines to the distribution/warehouse facilities of these employers and asked Teamsters to honor those picket lines.   The Teamster lines effectively shut down the supply system that had been keeping the near-abandoned stores stocked.  The stores were empty of both product and customers.

On Tuesday at a national solidarity summit, UFCW representatives from across North America pledged their support to both fund the strike and increase the level of activity targeting Safeway operations across the U.S. and Canada.

The union’s move in taking down picket lines indicates the UFCW’s commitment to the bargaining process while preparing for a long battle ahead should the employers refuse to reach a fair and equitable agreement.  UFCW local unions are presenting a comprehensive proposal as the renewed negotiations begin.  (Reminder, a news blackout continues at the request of the Federal Mediator.  No comments will be made concerning the specifics of the bargaining process.)

December 19, 2003

Bush’s Idea of Fairness–Cuts for Everybody: Tax Cuts for The Rich, Pay Cuts For The Workers

Over 8 million workers will get a pay cut as the result of the Bush’s Administration’s effort to re-write overtime pay regulations, according to Doug Dority, president of the 1.4 million United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).  In a statement before a hearing on proposed rule changes on overtime pay eligibility, Dority charged that the Bush plan would be the “”largest, single pay cut for workers in history,”” and has no rational basis except to “”feed the greed of corporate America.””
Responding to its corporate funders, the Bush Administration’s Labor Department would re-define the exempt occupational categories of   “”Executive,”” “”Administrative,”” and “”Professional”” to exempt jobs such as a lead produce clerk in a supermarket or a hospital technician from overtime pay. “”While these are skilled and valuable workers,”” said Dority, “”they do not have the income level or the personal control of their work to equate them for overtime pay eligibility with a supermarket executive or a medical doctor.””
Over 50,000 UFCW members working in retail food, food processing, health care and manufacturing would suddenly be exempt from overtime and could be required to work unlimited hours with no additional income if the Bush Administration has its way. “”All of them would be surprised to find that they are now ‘executives’ or ‘professionals,’ and all of them would be outraged to find out that their newly ordained status comes with a pay cut,”” said Dority.
“”I guess this is George W. Bush’s idea of fairness. Cuts for everybody. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Pay cuts for the workers,”” concluded Dority.
December 19, 2003

UFCW North American Summit Mobilizes Support For Southern California Supermarket Strike

Following Summit Announcement, 5,000+ Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers to be Joined by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, UFCW President Doug Dority, and 400+ UFCW Local Union Presidents from across US and Canada in historic march from Century City to grocery store in Beverly Hills

On Tuesday, December 16, 2003, 400+ UFCW local union presidents from across the country and Canada will meet in Century City to discuss ways of supporting the Southern California local unions whose 70,000 members have been on strike or locked out since October 11th.

The private meeting will begin at 8:30 AM at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. At 10:30 AM, the meeting will be open to the press.

At 12 o’clock noon, the leaders will join 5,000+ striking and locked out grocery workers on the street for a march to a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills. This will be the largest demonstration since the strike and lockout began and will send a strong message to consumers that they should not shop at Vons, Pavilions, or Albertsons this holiday season.

More details to be released on Monday.

When: Tuesday, December 16; 10:30 a.m. for Summit Meeting Announcement; 12 noon for March

What: Summit Announcement with major national leaders from Labor, Religious, Women’s, and Entertainment communities; March from the Century Plaza Hotel to a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills

Who: 5,000+ Southern California striking and locked out grocery workers, Doug Dority, President, UFCW International, John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO, Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, L.A. County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Entertainment industry celebrity activists (names TBA)Religious leaders (names TBA), Elected officials (names TBA)

Where: March will begin at the Century Plaza hotel, 2025 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, and proceed to the Pavilions store at 9467 W Olympic Blvd.

December 16, 2003

Are the Supermarket Employers Lying About Their Health Plan?

Health Benefits Experts Challenge Supermarket Employer Claims

Ad Campaign Launches Tuesday, December 16th.

View Ad  (pdf)

Striking supermarket workers continue to expose Safeway’s ‘big lie’ about the health care issues driving the three-month long strike in Southern California.  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) will run full-page advertisements in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Bakersfield Californian and the San Diego Union Tribune.

The ad reprints an editorial written by health benefits experts, E. Richard Brown, Director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Richard Kronick, a Professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at UC-San Diego.  Their analysis, titled “Supermarkets ‘Offer’ to End Affordable Health Care,” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 8, 2003.

“It’s time we put an end to Safeway’s big lie about the health care proposals.  Brown and Kronick explain better than anyone exactly how the supermarkets’ proposals would mean and end to health benefits in this industry,” said Doug Dority, UFCW International President.

View Ad (pdf)

December 11, 2003

Corporal John Miller, Annapolis Police Dept, Testifies on Overtime Regulations

STATEMENT OF CORPORAL JOHN MILLER, ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT, LOCAL 400, UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION (UFCW)

BEFORE THE  DEMOCRATIC POLICY COMMITTEE HEARING ON PROPOSED REGULATORY CHANGES TO OVERTIME EXEMPTIONS IN THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT

Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today. I am currently an officer in the Annapolis Police Department, and have been a police officer for over 17 years. I am also a veteran, having served four years active duty in our nation’s Air Force. Presently, I am a Staff Sergeant in the District of Columbia National Guard, where I perform Homeland Security and other public safety duties. I am accompanied today by my fellow officer, John Lee, who has 10 years of service at the Annapolis Police Department. Both of us are members of Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

As a Corporal and supervisor for the Annapolis police, my principal duty is public safety. I have helped provide escort protection for the President and Vice President and other dignitaries when they visit Annapolis or the Naval Academy. I have also protected the public during demonstrations at the state capitol and performed various other public safety functions, such as DWI patrols and traffic enforcement. Like most other police officers, much of the time I spend performing these duties is on overtime. Like every other police department, we could not function without the flexibility of overtime. And eliminating overtime pay for our first responders would have a devastating impact on our department’s ability to perform vital public safety functions.

Most police and other first responders cannot afford to perform overtime work without overtime pay, and would be extremely resistant to working unpaid overtime. Forced unpaid overtime would seriously compromise public safety as well as undermine officer morale and department structure. Public safety departments faced with the possibility of unpaid overtime would likely demand even more hours from first responders, further straining morale and undermining job performance. In addition, officers will have less time to volunteer for National Guard duty, further compromising the effective strength of our armed forces.

Like many police officers, overtime pay constitutes approximately 20% of my total income. For some officers in our department, overtime pay is 25-30% of their income. If I were to lose that pay, it would radically change my family life. We would have to move into a different home, as we could no longer afford the mortgage on our present home. Already, I have to live about an hour’s drive from Annapolis in order to find affordable housing. I’m sure our new home would be even farther, and our 19 year old son and 16 year old daughter would be forced to change schools. If I were to lose that pay, my son’s college plans would be endangered, and so would my daughter’s. Family vacations and many other things that are part of a middle-class lifestyle would be out of the question.

Like any other police officer, I am proud of the work I do. Working in our state capitol, I feel a sense of comradery with your own Capitol Hill Police. Like them, we work hard and willingly take risks to assure that the public and public officials — such as yourselves — are safe and secure in their homes, offices, schools and on the road. Paid overtime work takes us away from our families, but allows us to do our job and to afford many of the things that make our families’ lives better. I know I speak for many first responders everywhere when I say I am extremely disappointed that our government would reward our hard work and public service with a massive pay cut. I implore you to do everything in your power to assure that the Department of Labor does not issue regulations that would take away our overtime pay.

Thank you again for this opportunity.

December 11, 2003

Doug Dority Statement on Overtime Regulations

Statement of Doug Dority
International President
United Food And Commercial Workers International Union

Presented at the Hearing on Proposed Regulatory Changes to Overtime Exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act Before the Democratic Policy Committee

December 11, 2003

On behalf of the 1.4 million members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), I want to thank you for this opportunity to voice the concerns, the anger and the outrage of working families across the United States over the largest, single pay cut for workers in history.

The Bush Administration, through its revised overtime regulations, proposes to cut the pay of more than 8 million working families for no other reason than to feed the greed of corporate America.

These families do the extra work to earn the extra pay to save for a home of their own, to give their kids a chance at college, to make the rent and car payments, or may be just have a little extra for a vacation or Christmas presents.

The Bush pay cut has no basis in law, in economics or in addressing the real needs of working families.

The law providing for overtime pay has not changed. Workers need for family and personal time has not changed.  And the need for working families to put in extra hours to earn a little more pay to make ends meet has not changed.  And another thing has not changed—the greed that wants endless work for limited pay.

The Bush Administration would take us back to the 19th century while claiming it wants to “”modernize”” the regulations.

I will tell you there is nothing “”modern”” about long hours and low pay. The Retail Clerks Union, one of the unions that make up the UFCW, was formed over a century ago, specifically because retail store owners required around-the-clock hours without pay. In fact, one of the first demands of the Retail Clerks Union was an end to the practice of requiring clerks to sleep overnight in the stores.

It took almost 50 years before the law was passed that limited work hours and established overtime pay. The law worked. Restrictions on hours created more jobs. Overtime pay helped working families move into the middle class.

Today we see a job gap—the economy goes up but the number of jobs stays the same. Today we see a pay gap—real income goes up at the top but drops out of the bottom for workers. So, the logical step would be to strengthen enforcement of overtime laws.

But the Bush Administration turns logic on its head, and instead proposes to re-write the rules in a way that takes away overtime pay eligibility from millions of workers. Employers could require an increasing number of employees to work unlimited hours without overtime pay. Employers would not only pocket the money that should have gone into workers’ paychecks, employers can steal the time that belongs to families, to communities and to workers themselves.

The Bush pay cut is an assault on working families—it reduces their income and takes away their time together.

The Bush Administration would re-define “”Executive,”” Administrative,”” and “”Professional”” — the limited job categories that have always been exempt from overtime pay—to include a wide range of workers—from a lead produce clerk in a supermarket to a technician in a hospital—that have always been eligible for overtime pay. While these are skilled and valuable workers, they do not have the income or personal control of their work as do the supermarket executive and the medical doctor. To lump skilled labor into exempt job categories simply to deny them overtime is just wrong, and must be stopped.

Bush’s Department of Labor claims that the intent is only to make the rules simpler and easier to apply. The real impact is to make it simpler and easier for employers to declare jobs exempt from overtime pay.

The UFCW represents workers in retail food, food processing, health care and manufacturing. We estimate that 50,000 of our members would fall under the new definitions for exempt job categories. All of them would be surprised to learn they are now “”executives”” or “”professionals.”” They would be outraged when they find out that their new status actually means a pay cut.

I guess this is George W. Bush’s idea of fairness—cuts for everybody. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Pay cuts for the workers.  Of course, the wealthy wind up with more than they deserve, and the workers get less than they need.

It is time we took a stand against greed. We ask your help in making sure that workers get the pay for the hours they work, including their overtime pay. Thank you for this opportunity to voice concerns of working Americans.

December 9, 2003

Holding the Line for Health Care: Support Builds with Labor Movement Contributions

Today, Southern California supermarket workers’ fight to hold the line for health care in the supermarket industry got a major boost with sizeable contributions from  the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) and the American Income Life Insurance Company (AIL).   The 70,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union have been on strike since October 11, 2003 against Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons.

 
 UFCW International President Doug Dority holding the line at a Safeway store in Washington, DC, joined IUE-CWA President Edward Fire and AIL Vice President Jules Pagano.

IUE-CWA President Edward Fire met with strikers on the picket lines at a Washington, DC, Safeway store and presented his union’s $100,000 contribution to the Hold the Line for Health Care Strike Fund.

“We stand in full support of the UFCW members’ fight to maintain health care benefits.   We fought this same battle with General Electric earlier this year and employers across the country continue the attack on system of health care at work. We need a national public policy solution so that workers and their families no longer have to walk the streets to maintain access to health care,” said Fire.

As the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America, the IUE-CWA represents 80,000 manufacturing workers including 14,000 workers at General Electric.

Roger Smith, President, American Income Life, along with Jules Pagano, Vice President, and Hugh Walsh, Assistant Vice President, presented strikers with a $10,000 contribution from AIL and pledged to contribute $10,000 per month for the duration of the strike.

“”AIL, a wall to wall union company, feels we have a responsibility to support working families and we are proud to support the UFCW in this national fight to hold the line for health care,”” said Jules Pagano, AIL Vice President.

AIL is a nationally recognized insurance carrier that provides services and policies to labor unions and working families.  Headquartered in Waco, Texas, American Income is licensed in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) also pledged a $15,000 contribution to the Hold the Line for Health Care Strike Fund.  TCU President Robert Scardelletti also sent a letter to all TCU local unions encouraging additional contributions.

-30-

December 4, 2003

Entertainment Industry Unions & Celebrities to Join Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers on Picket Line

For immediate release Dec. 2, 2003

UFCW Locals 770 and 1442, AFL-CIO, CLC

As mediated negotiations continue…

Los Angeles, CA (12/2/03)  On Thursday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m., AFTRA, SAG, and other entertainment industry unions will join striking and locked out grocery workers on the picket line at Pavilions in Burbank. Highlights include:

  • SAG President Melissa Gilbert
  • AFTRA President John Connolly
  • Representatives of IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Actors Ed Asner (“Elf”), Esai Morales (“NYPD Blue,” “American Family”), Ingrid Oliu (“Real Women Have Curves”), Mitch Ryan (“Liar Liar”), Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”), Soledad St Hilaire (“Real Women Have Curves”), and Richard Thomas (“The Walton’s,” PAX’s “”Just Cause””) – all actors’ appearances tentative subject to film scheduling.
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal will perform.
  • Participants are being asked to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the children of UFCW workers for the holidays.

What:

  • Press conference and rally of entertainment industry unions in support of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Holiday toy drive for children of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Musical entertainment

Who:

  • SAG, AFTRA, IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Celebrity actors
  • Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal
  • Striking and locked out grocery workers

Where:

Pavilions, 1110 West Alameda St., Burbank (near Main Street)

When:

Thursday, December 4, 2003, 11:00 a.m.

(picketing begins at 10:30 a.m.; press conference/rally starts at 11:30 a.m.)

December 4, 2003

Entertainment Industry Unions & Celebrities to Join Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers on Picket Line

For immediate release Dec. 2, 2003

UFCW Locals 770 and 1442, AFL-CIO, CLC

As mediated negotiations continue…

Los Angeles, CA (12/2/03)  On Thursday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m., AFTRA, SAG, and other entertainment industry unions will join striking and locked out grocery workers on the picket line at Pavilions in Burbank. Highlights include:

  • SAG President Melissa Gilbert
  • AFTRA President John Connolly
  • Representatives of IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Actors Ed Asner (“Elf”), Esai Morales (“NYPD Blue,” “American Family”), Ingrid Oliu (“Real Women Have Curves”), Mitch Ryan (“Liar Liar”), Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”), Soledad St Hilaire (“Real Women Have Curves”), and Richard Thomas (“The Walton’s,” PAX’s “”Just Cause””) – all actors’ appearances tentative subject to film scheduling.
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal will perform.
  • Participants are being asked to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the children of UFCW workers for the holidays.

What:

  • Press conference and rally of entertainment industry unions in support of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Holiday toy drive for children of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Musical entertainment

Who:

  • SAG, AFTRA, IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Celebrity actors
  • Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal
  • Striking and locked out grocery workers

Where:

Pavilions, 1110 West Alameda St., Burbank (near Main Street)

When:

Thursday, December 4, 2003, 11:00 a.m.

(picketing begins at 10:30 a.m.; press conference/rally starts at 11:30 a.m.)

December 4, 2003

California Congressman Challenges Safeway

Congressman Tom Lantos (CA-12) has challenged Safeway’s claims that the company is only seeking modest changes in employee health benefits in the Southern California supermarket strike.

In a letter to Safeway CEO, Steve Burd, the California congressman went straight to the heart of the matter:

“”I have reviewed Safeway’s benefit funding proposal for new hires…on your company’s web site. Your proposal will not provide any substantial benefits for new employees…it is obvious your intent is to eliminate health benefits in the future.””

Safeway and two supermarket operators have waged a misinformation campaign designed to convince workers and the public that the grocery giants were only asking that current employees make a modest co-payment of $5 to $15 a week for comprehensive health benefits. The Lantos letter stripped away the facade from the companies campaign:

“”You conveniently ignore the impact of segregating new hires from current employees (a key component of the companies’ proposals is to eliminate any meaningful benefits for new employees)…As employees are replaced, the funding base will shrink until benefits ( for current employees) have to be cut or co-pays increased well beyond $5 to $15 a week.””

Both new and current employees would ultimately wind up with excessive co-pays, scaled back benefits and finally the effective elimination of benefits. Lantos directly challenged the veracity of company statements on the impact of Safeway’s proposal, “”Mr. Burd, it appears your company is lying to workers, consumers and the public.””

“”The bottom line,”” according to the Congressman,””is that 70,000 jobs that now come with affordable family health coverage will not come with that coverage in the future.””

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) released today the letter dated November 21, 2003. Click here to read the full text of the letter.