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December 15, 2004

Food and Commercial Workers Union Supports Mike Johanns’ Nomination for Secretary of Agriculture

Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) expressed its support for the nomination of Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns to take the helm at the Secretary of Agriculture.

In a letter addressed to the bipartisan leadership of the United States Senate, UFCW International President Joe Hansen stated that Governor Johanns “has all of the necessary attributes and experience to lead our nation’s Agriculture Department””.

“His innovative and compassionate leadership so impressed our locals in his state that he was endorsed by our union for reelection in his last campaign.  He earned this achievement with his efforts at outreach, inclusion, and understanding of workers—especially those in the agricultural industry,” Hansen added.

The UFCW, which represents workers in multiple areas of food production including meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and vegetables, has many interests at the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding food safety, meat and poultry inspection, international trade, contract agriculture and many others.

The UFCW stated its confidence that Governor Johanns will make decisions fairly balancing all perspectives. “That has been his history as Governor, and we look forward to working with him as Secretary of Agriculture,” declared Hansen.

“Governor Johanns has been a true leader for Nebraskans working in the meat packing and food processing industries.  He showed his commitment to fairness and equality for all workers by issuing the state’s first Worker Bill of Rights.  We were proud to work with him on that program and look forward to his leadership at the Department of Agriculture,” said Donna McDonald, President of the Omaha, Nebraska-based UFCW Local 271.

December 15, 2004

On the Unveiling of a Public Display Marking the Body Count of U.S. Losses in Iraq in the Heart of Washington, D.C.

STATEMENT OF THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION— THE UFCW

OCTOBER 13, 2004

ON THE UNVEILING OF A PUBLIC DISPLAY MARKING THE BODY COUNT OF U.S. LOSSES IN IRAQ IN THE HEART OF WASHINGTON, D.C.

 

Today, the 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) unveils a massive display in the heart of the nation’s capital marking the daily body count of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq. These are the sons and daughters of working America who are making the sacrifice at the call of their government. The UFCW— a voice for working America— will never forget the sacrifice of our service men and women, their courage and commitment, and the grief of their families.

For the families of those who have fallen, we mourn your loss. For those who have been crippled and maimed in the service of their country, we honor your heroism and support you in your struggle.

We have placed a display here at the corner of K St. NW and 18th St. NW in Washington D.C. Every day we will update the count of American losses in Iraq so that corporate lobbyists and the foreign policy think tanks that dominate the canyons of K St. NW as well as the leaders around the corner at the White House and up the hill in Congress will always remember the impact of the policies that they advocate and the decisions that they make.

In Washington, the war in Iraq may be a matter of policy and politics. In working America, the war in Iraq is a matter of life and death, human sacrifice and suffering.

The UFCW will never forget. We want to make sure that those in power never forget either.

(Approximately 40 UFCW members have been killed in Iraq. Untold hundreds of immediate family members and relatives of UFCW members have been killed or wounded in Iraq.)

The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers at neighborhood grocery stores, department stores, food processing plants, nursing homes and hospitals, and chemical and other manufacturing facilities.

 

 

December 15, 2004

Sobre la develaci

El día de hoy, la Unión Internacional, de 1.4 millones de miembros, Trabajadores Comerciales y de Alimentos Unidos (UFCW por sus siglas en inglés) develó en memorial gigantesco en el corazón de nuestra capital que lleva la cuenta de estadounidenses muertos y heridos en Irak. Ellos son los hijos e hijas de los trabajadores de América que se sacrifican ante el llamado de su gobierno. UFCW – la voz de los trabajadores – nunca olvidará el sacrificio de nuestros hombres y mujeres en las fuerzas armadas, su valor y compromiso, ni su dolor y el de sus familias.

Para las familias de aquellos que han caído, sentimos su pérdida. Para aquellos que han sido lisiados y mutilados en el servicio a su país, hacemos honor a su heroísmo y les apoyamos en su lucha.

 

Hemos puesto un recordatorio aquí en la esquina de K St. NW y 18th St. NW en Washington, D.C. Cada día actualizaremos la cuenta de pérdidas humanas estadounidenses en Irak para que los cabilderos corporativos y los eruditos de la política exterior que dominan las cañadas de K St. NW, así como los líderes a la vuelta de la esquina en la Casa Blanca y allá en el Congreso recuerden siempre el impacto de las políticas que defienden y de las decisiones que toman.

Para Washington, la guerra en Irak podrá ser un asunto de política y políticas. Para los trabajadores de América, la guerra es un asunto de vida o muerte, de sacrificio humano y de sufrimiento.

La UFCW nunca olvidará. Queremos asegurarnos que aquellos que ostentan el poder tampoco olviden.

(Aproximadamente 40 miembros de UFCW han muerto en Irak. Cientos de familiares inmediatos de miembros de UFCW han sido heridos o muerto en Irak.)

December 8, 2004

Nurses at St. John

Over 1,500 registered nurses at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center are set to strike on December 15 after giving their hospital the required 10-day notice, according to information released to the public at UFCW Local 655’s press conference on Sunday.  Union President Jim Dougherty said that after six months of negotiations, the hospital has worked hard to frustrate nurses to the point of forcing them to take this drastic action.

 
An RN speaks out against St.  John’s Mercy Medical Center at the press conference.

“The nurses at St. John’s are willing to go back to the bargaining table immediately to resolve this before December 15,” Dougherty said, “but the hospital has to be willing to enter into realistic negotiations.”  He also remarked that the hospital’s last proposal was “worse than the one rejected by the nurses by a 95 percent margin” on November 10.

The main issues involved in negotiations are centered on the nurses having a voice in the quality of care available to their patients.  For example, the hospital wants to eliminate the Professional Nurse Practice Committee, which meets monthly to discuss patient care issues, safety concerns, staffing, equipment and RN educational needs.  As an alternative proposal to the elimination, the hospital wants to control the entire committee by appointing all its members.  Currently, the union selects eight RNs to the committee while the hospital selects eight of its own members.

“(The hospital) wants to prevent independent voices from being on the committee.  Our patients deserve to have union nurses on this committee, nurses willing to stand up for their patients,” said Kathy Schleef, an RN who has worked at St. John’s for 23 years.

Dougherty said the hospital is intentionally provoking this confrontation because they don’t belive the RNs will strike.  “This is a serious miscalculation on their part.  While no one wants this strike, the RNs feel strongly that they must take a stand that allows them to be an active voice for their patients.”

Another concern of the RNs is that keeping qualified nurses at St. John’s is a crucial patient care issue.  Colleen Schmitz, a 30-year veteran at St. John’s, said the hospital’s economic and other proposals could force “a majority exodus of qualified nurses.”

Other proposals the hospital made:

• The hospital would give a three percent raise to some nurses, while others would get nothing for three years.  An alternative proposal is a two percent raise with the possibility of a four percent “merit” raise controlled entirely by the hospital.

• The hospital would have the freedom to eliminate or modify health and welfare benefits–and other benefits–as they saw fit.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was involved in negotiations, but broke off December 1 after the hospital offered a package worse than the one rejected in November.  The contract has been extended since it expired on October 22, though negotiations have been going on since early July.

“We’re trying to resolve this without a strike, and have been since July 8 when talks first started,” Dougherty added.  “The hospital could avoid this strike, if they want to.  We’ll see how much they want to on December 15.”

 

December 6, 2004

St. John’s Nurses Standing Up To Employer Attack on Patient Care Standards

Negotiations Between Registered Nurses and Hospital Break Off

Registered Nurses Prepare to Mobilize Supporters in St. Louis and
Throughout the Region

More than 1,700 registered nurses at St. John’s in St. Louis, Mo. are preparing for the fight of their lives – at a time when they would rather be helping patients fight for theirs.  Negotiations between nurses and St. John’s administrators broke off today as hospital administration continues their attack on professional nursing standards.   RNs are preparing to mobilize support from local unions in St. Louis and throughout the region whose members spend millions of health care dollars at St. John’s and other Sisters of Mercy Health System facilities.

The St. John’s RNs organized for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 in 1999 so that caregivers would have a say over important patient care issues.  Key to nurses’ contract was the establishment of the Professional Nurse Practice Committee.   Through this committee, caregivers are able to sit down with management to discuss and solve any worksite issues that negatively affects the quality of care nurses are able to provide. Nurses are also fighting to maintain professional compensation standards as key to maintaining high-quality care and a low-turnover workforce.

Now, St. John’s management is making severe demands at the bargaining table that would severely curtail the RN’s ability to continue the high quality care their patients deserve.  The hospital’s most recent proposal includes demands to:

· Eliminate the Professional Nurse Practice Committee where equal numbers of RNs and management can discuss patient care issues.

· Provide minimal wage increases, coupled with reductions in benefits and seniority protections.

Taken together, these demands would significantly threaten professional care standards and lead to turnover which would compromise patient care.

The St. John’s nurses are proud to provide some of the highest quality care in the St. Louis region. Their work sustains this thriving Level 1 Trauma center that is the hub of the local medical community.

The nurses are working hard to avoid a work action like the one they were forced to take in 2001 when picket lines went up at the hospital for 72 hours.  UFCW Local 655 is preparing, if needed, to reach out to labor unions in St. Louis, across the state of Missouri and in communities throughout the region to ask for their help.  St. John’s is part of the Sisters of Mercy Health System which operates health care facilities in Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Union members in towns served by a Sisters of Mercy facility would be asked to contact their local hospital to put pressure on the health network to do the right thing in St. Louis.

“My job is taking care of patients and I take great pride in the work that I do.  But if my employer continues to undermine my work and silences my voice over the quality of care we can provide, I’ll have no choice but to take action,” said a long-time nurse at St. Johns.  “It broke my heart to carry a picket sign outside this hospital in 2001 because I never thought my employer would force me to take such drastic action.  But I’m ready to do it again if I have to.  Our patients are that important to me.”
Negotiations between the hospital and UFCW Local 655 bargaining team have broken off and no further dates are scheduled.

“We are willing to meet with St. John’s whenever the hospital is ready to move away from its draconian demands,” said Jim Dougherty, President of UFCW Local 655.  “We are working with our nurses to determine when to give St. John’s the ten-day notice our contract requires that would end our extension and signal the beginning of a work action.”

UFCW Local 655 will be holding a mass meeting in John’s Mercy Medical Center.  RN’s should contact their union representatives or their local union for more information.

 

November 18, 2004

Food and Commercial Workers’ President Takes Action to Protect Colorado Supermarket Workers

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is taking action today to prevent three supermarket giants from forcing employees to give up their health benefit plan.  The loss of affordable health benefits could leave UFCW members and their families on the brink of economic crisis.  UFCW International President Joe Hansen announced today that he has permanently blocked the company proposals presented on November 1, 2004, from Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons.  Hansen also issued an immediate call for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services to bring the parties back to negotiations and work toward the best possible contract for Colorado supermarket workers.

“We are in a new era of national bargaining with the three supermarket giants — Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons.  Our actions today are focused on one clear goal: protecting health benefits and securing the best possible contract for supermarket workers.  We are moving to put the collective bargaining process back on track to resolve this situation without sacrificing affordable health care,” said Hansen.

In a letter to UFCW Local 7 and the three supermarket companies, Hansen wrote: “I have now completed my review… and find that the proposals to end the jointly administered health and welfare plan…and the failure to cover additional stores…under the contract…could be injurious to our members.”

The companies’ proposal to move employees to a company-controlled health insurance plan would threaten affordable health care for tens of thousands of workers.

  • Under the employer proposed company insurance, new hires would see drastic cuts in coverage and current hourly supermarket workers would face escalating premiums that would make quality family health coverage unaffordable.
  • Historically, jointly-administered union and management health benefit trust funds have provided higher quality coverage for lower costs than if the employers purchased insurance on the open market.
  • The employer demands would force workers to abandon any sense of security or voice over their health benefits and puts all control over cost and coverage into the hands of the supermarket companies.
  • Employee pension coverage also risks serious cuts under the employers’ proposal.

“UFCW members have proven that we have the strength and determination to hold the line against employer attacks on health benefits and we will do so again if we must.  But, it is my obligation to make sure we have exhausted every possible option at the bargaining table and elsewhere before asking UFCW members to sacrifice on the picket line in order to protect affordable health care,” continued Hansen.

Further, the supermarkets’ demands to deny union representation to workers at new or expanded stores could leave hundreds of new supermarket employees in our communities without job security, workplace protections or a voice on the job.

Through the federal mediation and conciliation process, the UFCW International Union has been able to reach settlements across the country including ending the four and a half month long strike in Southern California.

The 1.4 million-member UFCW is America’s neighborhood union representing workers in neighborhood grocery stores across the country. UFCW puts dinner on the table for America’s families with members working in meatpacking and food processing. UFCW gives a voice to care with representation for nurses, medical technicians and nursing home workers.

November 9, 2004

Colorado Supermarket Contract Voting Halted

 
 UFCW International President
Joe Hansen

Joseph Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), exercised his authority under Article 23(A) of the International Constitution to halt voting on the offer presented on November 1, 2004, from Safeway, King Soopers and Alberstons to more than 13,000 UFCW members represented by Wheat Ridge, Co., Local 7.

Article 23 (A) of the International Constitution gives the International President the right to review any proposed contracts prior to any membership action on the proposal.  The purpose of Friday’s action is to give the International President the opportunity to assess the potential impact of proposed contract provisions on other UFCW members across the country and to see if they meet the established objectives relating to wages, benefits and working conditions. Following the International President’s review, he could either opt to restart or suspend (cancel) Colorado member voting on the existing proposal.  In the event that voting is restarted, ballots cast prior to Friday’s action would be counted.

“The supermarket chains bargaining with Local 7 in Colorado are large national corporations. Consequently, their proposals have national ramifications for our members,” said International President Joe Hansen. “I owe an obligation to all UFCW members working in the grocery industry to fully review the current proposal to determine whether or not it would be injurious to them.”

The UFCW International Union remains hopeful that ultimately an equitable solution can be reached between the parties.

November 4, 2004

Working America Turns Out For Change

Working America turned out in unprecedented numbers to support an agenda of change. Working families are demanding a different direction for the next four years, regardless of the final vote count. From better jobs to affordable family health care, a program for the economic rebuilding of working America— a working America that has suffered massive job loss, declining wages and the rapid erosion of affordable health insurance—now has the informed, mobilized and determined grassroots base to force its way onto the political agenda for the next four years.

“”We turned out on election day, and we will not be turned around. We activated an army of working families for this election, and we are now mobilized to fight for a program to rebuild working America,”” said Joe Hansen, president of the 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Hansen congratulated the hundreds of UFCW local unions for their tireless and relentless work to register and turnout hundreds of thousands of union members, many of whom were first time voters. The UFCW is one of the largest unions overall, and one of the largest unions of working women, in most of the battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. The UFCW, the largest union of workers under age 25, also collaborated with Rock the Vote and other youth-oriented programs to help generate a record turnout of young voters.

The efforts of the UFCW and the labor movement produced results. According to early reports, union members made up a record-shattering percentage of the electorate and provided a solid foundation of voters for change. The turnout numbers indicate a growing demand among working families for government action to restore the economic standing of the working middle class.

Despite a growing economy and increased productivity, workers have seen the steady outsourcing of good jobs, the steady decline of real wages, and a steady increase in health care costs and the number of uninsured working families. The Bush Administration launched an unrelenting assault on workers from its first days in office with the repeal of the ergonomic standard in early 2001 to proposing to take away overtime pay for millions of workers in 2004. More and more workers slid into poverty over the past four years threatening the future of a working middle class America.

Hansen declared, “”Implementing a program to rebuild working America is fight for the heart and soul of our country—will we continue to be a nation were hard work brings dignity, respect and a decent standard of living; or, will we be a nation where the wealth concentrates at the top while the many who do the work fall farther and farther behind?””

The first agenda item in a program to rebuild working America, according to the UFCW leader, is health care reform. “”There is no greater threat to family economic and personal security than the loss of health insurance. Without decent health insurance, most working families are only illness away from an economic crisis that could shatter the family and dim its hopes for the future. Affordable, accessible, comprehensive health care for all working families is the foundation of restoring the working middle class.””

A rebuild working America program would, according to Hansen, also focus government investment to generate job growth, raise the minimum wage and restore workplace rights.

“”We don’t want big government, we want effective government that acts to raise living standards and provide economic opportunity for working Americans,”” Hansen said.

 

October 28, 2004

Communities Back UFCW Members

 

UFCW members aren’t alone in the fight for affordable health care, as an overwhelming percent of supermarket shoppers surveyed side with their local grocery store workers on employee concerns. The community support is echoed in two recent surveys of grocery shoppers, one conducted in Colorado and one in Washington State.

Both surveys reinforce what UFCW workers already know:  communities stand behind workers when it comes to workplace issues, especially health care.  The large majority of shoppers agree that grocery store employees “deserve to have affordable health care.”  Most shoppers (85%) believe that major supermarkets like Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway are very profitable and have a responsibility to provide workers with affordable health care benefits.

Over 80% in the Washington community said they would support workers on strike if management threatened to eliminate health care benefits.  The majority also said they would sympathize with grocery store workers on strike over the employers even if they knew very little about specific bargaining issues. Most shoppers would go out of their way to shop at another store if their local grocery store had employees on strike.

Economic studies show that when large corporations take away or reduce their employees’ health benefits, taxpayers take on the increased costs for workers because more workers are forced to utilize publicly-subsidized health services.  More than two-thirds of shoppers surveyed agree that the responsibility for health care cots would indeed float to taxpayers.  Even more shoppers agree that workers end up paying for extravagant corporate executive compensation and bonuses.

Last summer, UFCW members in the Puget Sound, Wash. area visited their local communities and informed residents about what was happening at the bargaining table during their contract negotiations.  UFCW members collected “don’t shop” pledges from the public if the employers insisted on eliminating affordable health care benefits.  They participated in marches and rallies that kept bargaining issues at the center of the public’s attention, and moved elected officials to write letters in support of grocery store workers and voice those opinions to the media. Mobilizing in neighborhoods and solidifying support among community members put key pressure on the grocery stores, ultimately helping 18,000 UFCW members in Puget Sound settle a fair contract.

The survey in Colorado was conducted by TKG Research in August and identified perceptions of worker issues, while the survey in Washington, taken by the Evergreen Research Group in January, recognized early attitudes toward grocery workers, management and possible strikes.

 

September 2, 2004

Food And Commercial Workers Leader Takes Helm Of Largest Working Women Network In The Country

Phillips Vows to Enhance Organizing Opportunities for Working Women

Long-time labor activist Susan L. Phillips was elected as the fourth National President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) on August 28, 2004.  She succeeds Gloria Johnson, who served as CLUW president since 1993 and was the group’s treasurer since CLUW’s founding in 1974.

Phillips currently directs the Working Women’s Department of the 1.4 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and serves as UFCW International Vice President.  She leads the union’s programs for mobilizing UFCW women and retirees, with major emphasis on organizing and political action.

“Susan Phillips is a dedicated leader for UFCW women and all working families. I am proud that she will share her skills, commitment and vision with union women throughout the labor movement,” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President.  “Under Susan’s leadership, I know that CLUW will make even greater gains for working women across the country,” Hansen continued.

Women are nearly half of the labor movement, and experts predict that in the next 10 years, women will be the largest single force entering the job market.

“Studies show that when women are a majority in a workplace, they are more likely than men to vote to join a union.  That’s why CLUW is needed more than ever,” Phillips observed.

“I will see that CLUW renews its efforts to advance the labor movement’s fundamental goal:  organizing the unorganized.  We will work to provide resources to the labor movement to target women workers for union organizing campaigns, and will vigorously support these campaigns directly and by mobilizing like-minded progressive groups for support,” said Phillips.

Under Phillips’s leadership, CLUW plans to make special efforts to reach out to young women, who are critically important to growing the labor movement.

“Working women have a number of key concerns for themselves and their families, including affordable health care, quality child and elder care, job security, and retirement income,” she said. “CLUW will continue to communicate with its members, other union activists, and working women – both union and nonunion – on these subjects, as well as advocating at all levels of government for progressive policies to improve the lives of  working families.””

“CLUW will build on its solid three-decade foundation of advocacy on behalf of working women to bring new energy to our founding principles:  organizing unorganized workers, increasing women’s participation in their unions, promoting affirmative action in the workplace, and mobilizing for legislative action,” Phillips noted.

“CLUW is a key component of the labor movement’s future.  We will continue to work closely with the other AFL-CIO constituency groups through the Labor Coalition for Community Action to formulate strategies, build alliances, and develop programs to strengthen and build our unions in the months and years ahead.”

Before coming to the UFCW in 1984, Phillips worked as a Legislative Representative for the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department, Public Information Director for the National Consumers League and Legislative Writer for the U.S. House of Representative’s Democratic Study Group.

In addition to CLUW, Phillips currently represents the UFCW on the boards a variety of groups, and has traveled extensively throughout the world speaking on behalf of the U.S. labor movement and teaching communications and leadership development programs to unionists abroad.

The UFCW is the nation’s largest private sector union and represents workers in industries dominated by women workers, such as retail and health care.  More than half of all UFCW members are women and nearly one third are age 25 and under.

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