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    UFCW Blog

August 20, 2003

Organizing Movement Grows Among Wal-Mart Workers

Worker efforts to get a voice on the job at Wal-Mart stores in North America are gaining ground. Canadian Wal-Mart workers in Thompson, Manitoba, narrowly lost their efforts to get a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) – 61 to 54. The election signals a growing movement of workers ready to stand up for a better future at Wal-Mart.

The Thompson, Manitoba, vote was the first opportunity for an entire store of Wal-Mart workers to vote as a group. Several recent union elections at U.S. Wal-Mart stores have been blocked by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) due to Wal- Mart’s illegal actions to intimidate workers and suppress their efforts to get UFCW representation.

Wal-Mart used its union busting campaign in Manitoba like it has in stores across the United States – pulling out all the stops to harass, intimidate and threaten workers from exercising their fundamental democratic freedom to choose union representation. Time and time again, Wal-Mart has thumbed its nose at federal law and used illegal tactics to suppress workers’ voices – threatening to close the store, harassing union supporters, spying on worker activities or firing union supporters.

Last Saturday, Wal-Mart fired night stocker Kelvin Blackman after he appeared at a NLRB hearing about holding a union election at his Clinton, Maryland Wal-Mart store. UFCW Local 400 filed charges and Blackman’s co-workers stood behind him. Wal-Mart felt the pressure from its workers and reinstated Blackman less than 48 hours later. Wal-Mart are seeing that they aren’t alone, that they have the support of their communities and that when they stand together they can win.

Despite Wal-Mart’s scare tactics, the Manitoba workers showed real courage and demonstrated that workers across the U.S. and Canada are gaining the strength to stand up and take action for better wages, benefits and working conditions at the world’s biggest corporation.

“”The Manitoba vote shows that around the globe…in the U.S., Canada, Germany, whereever Wal-Mart operates…workers need and want a union voice to make the company live up to its promises of good wages and great working conditions,”” said Mike Leonard, UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Strategic Programs. “”Thsi is a movement that can’t be stopped. There will be more union elections at Wal-Mart and workers are going to win.””

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August 8, 2003

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report From Texas and Arkansas

Loss prevention workers investigate incidences of theft at Wal-Mart—and now the U.S. District Court is seeking to determine if Wal-Mart’s stole overtime pay from these very same workers.

Judge T. John Ward has ordered Wal-Mart to disclose time records – including time clock archive reports and associate time card swipe data, time clock punch exemption reports, punch error reports, activity logs, week-to-date hours and expense summaries, and associates charged to the 945 account/PR404 – for all workers at Arkansas and Eastern Texas Wal-Mart stores. These records will be used to determine if workers—who were permitted to work overtime – put in extra hours without compensation.

Wal-Mart is required to turn over these time records within thirty days of the order, which is dated July 30, 2003. In addition, the Court has selected fifteen Texas and Arkansas Wal-Mart stores at random which must report the identities of and documentation for in-store loss prevention associates employed form September 13, 1999 to September 13, 2002, to determine if these workers were unfairly denied overtime pay.

The fifteen cities are: Tyler, Texarkana, Mt. Pleasant, Longview, Plano, Beaumont, Marshall, Center, Sherman/Denison, and Lufkin in Texas; and Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Cabot, and Hot Springs in Arkansas.

The loss prevention associates are being represented by attorneys Michael Ace of Tyler, Tex., and Patrick M. Flynn of Houston.

Download the Order (PDF)

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For more information, contact Patrick M. Flynn at 713-861-6163 or Michael Ace at 903-595-1552

August 5, 2003

Las Vegas Wal-Mart Worker to Share Spotlight with Presidential Candidates

(Las Vegas) – Wal-Mart underestimated Larry Allen when it fired him last Friday in retaliation for his union activity. Tonight, Mr. Allen has the ear of key Democratic Presidential candidates following the AFL-CIO’s national working families Democratic presidential forum in Chicago.

Allen is joining thousands of union members on Tuesday, August 5th from 8:00-9:30 p.m. E.T. at Chicago’s Navy Pier where the candidates are responding to questions posed by workers. C-Span will broadcast the forum.

Allen is a produce clerk at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at Eastern & Serene in Henderson, Nevada. He began work there in May, 2002, and got involved in the effort to organize for a voice on the job in September.

Allen took two vacation days to attend United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Convention in San Francisco and participate in a presidential health care forum on August 1, 2003 with five Democratic presidential candidates who were critical of Wal-Mart’s inadequate health insurance. Allen spoke with reporters before the forum to give a background perspective the health care crisis.

When Allen returned to work on Friday, he was summarily fired on the pretext that he violated the company’s no-solicitation policy. He was fired “”pending investigation.”” Wal-Mart’s own policy requires a complete investigation before an employee is terminated. Wal-Mart’s labor relations’ policy dictates that no personnel action can be taken in a store with union activity without approval and involvement of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based labor relations “”people”” division.

He has always been a reliable, hard-working employee who received a good evaluation in April. His only brushes with discipline came when he confronted a co-worker who he believed was sexually harassing his wife — Allen told him to “”knock it off.”” Allen was written up. A couple months ago, a manager took him aside and told him that he really shouldn’t be passing out union cards in the break room. But federal law and Wal-Mart’s store policy protects workers from retaliation from union activity in “”non-work areas”” including break rooms.

Before his wife got a job in a union supermarket and became eligible for health insurance through her employer, Allen went without. He worked full-time at Wal-Mart but couldn’t afford to buy the company’s health plan. In January, 2003, Allen started feeling odd and sought treatment at an emergency clinic. He was in the beginning stages of having a stroke and was treated in the Intensive Care unit for five days. Health care workers saved his life, even though he couldn’t pay for their services. Luckily, he had a full recovery and suffers no effect from the stroke. He takes prescription medicine now to help prevent another incidence – medicine that would cost him more than $300 per month. Thanks to his wife’s employer-provided health insurance, he pays a small fraction of that bill $8.00. He will spend the rest of his life trying to pay back the more than $30,000 he owes to the hospital.

Wal-Mart workers in Las Vegas and across the country are standing up for a voice on the job with the UFCW. The Las Vegas workers have set up their own website — www.walmartworkerslv.com

August 4, 2003

STRIKING DOMINO WORKERS LAUNCH TRUTH SQUAD

On Sunday, January 5, 2003, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Local 392 is stepping up its pressure on Domino Sugar. Striking workers from the Domino plant in Baltimore, Maryland are forming “”Truth Squads,”” named for their commitment to speak the truth to consumers, workers, and the community about Domino’s attempts to undermine workers’ family health care and retirement security.

Workers will hold a press briefing at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 5th at UFCW Sugar Workers Local 392 at 1425 Woodall Street in Baltimore, MD.

Two Truth Squads of five workers will travel to New York and Florida over the next few weeks to reach out to workers at other American Sugar, parent company to Domino, facilities about the company’s campaign to destroy worker benefits in Baltimore.

August 4, 2003

STRIKING DOMINO SUGAR WORKERS FROM BALTIMORE

On Wednesday, January 8, 2003, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 392 member is stepping up its pressure on Domino Sugar by reaching out to sugar workers in Savannah, Georgia. Striking workers from the Domino plant in Baltimore, Maryland have formed “”Truth Squads,”” named for their commitment to speak the truth to consumers, workers, and the community about Domino’s attempts to undermine workers’ family health care and retirement security.

Two Truth Squads of five workers are traveling to New York, Florida and Georgia over the next few weeks to reach out to workers at other American Sugar, parent company to Domino, facilities about the company’s campaign to destroy worker benefits in Baltimore. The Truth Squads are also reaching out to workers at other sugar plants and related industries.

To learn more about the Domino Sugar strike in Baltimore, log on to www.ufcw.org.

August 4, 2003

DOMINO SUGAR WORKERS WIN SWEETER FUTURE

The future looks much sweeter for the 330 Domino Sugar workers in Baltimore, Md. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 392 members ratified a new three-year contract on Saturday, January 11, 2003, that ends the 35-day strike.

Workers fought back against company demands to alter their retirement plan, take away two paid holidays and increase health insurance costs. The new contract:

Protects the workers’ pension plan by maintaining current benefits and protecting the investments;

Preserves the two paid holidays, Veteran’s Day and New Year’s Eve, that the company pushed to eliminate;

Provides 2% wage increases for all workers; and

Improves the health care plan.

Over the past 35 days, none of the 330 workers crossed the picket line.

“”The Domino Sugar workers stood on the front line against corporate greed and they won,”” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Regional Director. “”Their solidarity gives hope to all working families across the country who deserve fair and decent wages and benefits for the hard work they do every day.””

Workers traveled around the country in “”Truth Squads”” to rally support for their strike from sugar workers in New York, Florida and Georgia. The Baltimore community supported workers by honoring their boycott message and by making donations to the hardship fund for workers’ families.

UFCW Local 392 President Alex Hamilton said, “”I want to thank everyone who supported us in this struggle for a fair contract. Without the generous donations of the good people of Baltimore and our UFCW brothers and sisters, our fight would have been more difficult our spirits lower.””

The UFCW is the voice for working America, with 1.4 million members in food industries — from processing to retail. The UFCW represents workers in supermarkets across the country as well as food processing, meat packing, chemical, distillery, garment and health care facilities.

August 4, 2003

RAINBOW FOODS WORKERS TO STAND UP FOR FAIRNESS

The new buyer of the Rainbow Food store—Tim Metcalf—is turning his back on long-term employees of the Wauwatosa store. Many workers have more than 20 years experience serving the supermarket-shopping public. Metcalf is refusing to retain the current employees leaving area workers with a bleak future.

Workers are planning a rally and press conference to call on customers to join their grassroots campaign to pressure Metcalf to respect the rights of current Rainbow employees.

Many of the current Rainbow employees will lose their jobs at the end of this week due to Metcalf’s greed. Workers will share their stories at the rally about Metcalf and his new management team refusing to interview long-term workers and slashing wages and benefits.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1444, Milwaukee County Labor Council, local elected officials, Jobs with Justice, local religious leaders are mobilizing the community to stand up with the long-term Rainbow Foods workers.

August 4, 2003

Statement by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

On the eve of the initiation of President Bush’s proposed Smallpox Vaccination Program for health care workers, the UFCW is asking for changes in the program to assure needed protections for workers and patients as they do their part to win the war on terrorism.

Marilyn Savage, President of the United Staff Nurses UFCW Local 141 said: “”While our nurses recognize smallpox as a potential threat, the real enemy is inadequate staffing in health care facilities to take care of patients. To lose health care workers to illness from vaccination would worsen the problem. Our hospitals are saying they need more time and information so they can make decisions about this vaccination program. Let’s give them the time.””

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that as many as 42 of every 1 million people inoculated will suffer severe side effects from the vaccination. One or two will likely die. The vaccine is made from live virus and could be dangerous particularly for pregnant women, children younger than 1, people with skin conditions and anyone with a weakened immune system from chemotherapy, organ transplants or HIV.

Health care workers need more education about smallpox, the risks of vaccination, the current lack of compensation for medical expenses or lost income for any health care worker who suffers severe side effects from the vaccine.

“”Our members are ready to do their part but in return they’re asking for more information and protection. It’s not right for the Bush Administration to offer protection from liability to hospitals but no protection for injury or lost income for individual health care workers, “”says President Doug Dority.

August 4, 2003

Wal-Mart Bull Buster

FACT: Wal-Mart consistently refuses to divulge wage rates when challenged for data by journalists and researchers. Yet it doesn’t hesitate to make outrageous claims about good wages and benefits without proving it with facts.

Wal-Mart workers are paid an average wage of $7.62/hour based on BLS data.

The BLS Employment and Earnings Survey lists average earnings by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code. Wal-Mart is part of SIC Code 5331 for Variety Stores along with other major companies like Costco, K-Mart, Target, and Dollar General.

Wal-Mart dominates 56% of the discount store industry sales. The Chain Store Guide reported that in this industry in 2002, Wal-Mart (including its Sam’s Club stores) had $168.5 billion in U.S. sales out of $303.9 billion in total industry sales. Therefore, BLS average wage for the industry statistically cannot vary much from the average wage and earnings for Wal-Mart workers.

 

Grocery workers are paid an average of $10.35/hour based on BLS data.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reported in 2002 that United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union-represented workers in the supermarket industry earned 31% more than their non-union counterparts. Women have a 33% advantage with UFCW representation.

IWPR research showed that UFCW-represented supermarket workers are two-and-a-half times as likely to have pension coverage than non-union workers and twice as likely to have health insurance coverage than retail food workers without union representation.

August 4, 2003

WHOLE FOODS CAMPAIGN GROWS

Workers at the nation’s largest natural food supermarket chain are building a movement for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Workers at the store in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, filed for Labor Board election to join UFCW Local 400 on January 31, 2003. The election date has not been set.

Workers in Madison, Wisconsin kick-started the national movement by voting for UFCW Local 1444 representation on July 15, 2002. Despite Whole Foods’ stall tactics, the workers continue to bargain with them and are working toward reaching a first contract.

The Madison campaign leaders launched a website, www.wholeworkersunite.org where workers from the 142 Whole Foods stores can connect with each other and learn about taking action for a better workplace.

“”Whole Foods workers across the country saw the Madison workers stand up and realized that they could take action to make their workplace better, too. The movement is growing,”” said xxxxxx

The campaign is building momentum around the country, with Whole Foods workers connecting via the website and email to learn more about organizing for a real voice on the job.

“”Whole Foods promotes itself as a great place to work, yet management fights worker efforts to organize with a vengeance. Workers deserve to have real representation, protection and a say over workplace issues,”” said.

The UFCW represents 1.4 million members at the nation’s major supermarket, food processing and meatpacking companies. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries.