June, 2004

Wal-Mart’s “”Open Door”” Slams Shut for Women Workers

WAL-MART’S “”OPEN DOOR”” SLAMS SHUT FOR WOMEN WORKERSWal-Mart On Trial In The largest Sex Discrimination Lawsuit In History

“”…women working at Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men…and, that the higher one looks in [Wal-Mart] the lower the percentage of women.”” Judge Martin Jenkins in his decision granting class action status citing the “”largely uncontested descriptive statistics”” presented by the plaintiffs in the case.

The “”door”” in Wal-Mart’s much touted “”open door policy”” of personnel management does not open wide enough to let women into higher paid jobs or management positions, according to allegations contained in a suit brought against the nation’s largest private employer. Despite its denials and legal maneuvers, Wal- Mart will have to stand trial and face the charges of pervasive sex discrimination in the largest civil rights class action case in history.

Six women stood up to challenge pay and promotion practices at Wal-Mart stores across the country. Now a federal judge has certified the case—Dukes v. Wal- Mart Stores, Inc.(N.D. Cal. No C-01-2252)—as a nationwide class action sex discrimination lawsuit covering all women employees who worked a U.S. Wal-Mart store anytime since December 26, 1998. More than 1.6 million women will be represented in the lawsuit.

In issuing his decision, U. S. District Court Judge Martin Jenkins referred to the overwhelming evidence presented in the case showing a pattern of lower pay, fewer promotions and less opportunity for women at Wal-Mart in every region of the country. Expert reports relied upon in the judge’s decision exposed the reality behind Wal-Mart’s smiling face. Women who had worked longer for Wal-Mart, had higher job performance evaluations, and did the same jobs were paid less than the men they worked next to. The sexism prevalent in Wal-Mart’s management practices robbed women and their families of the pay they worked for. Wal-Mart devalued women’s work, and paid them less simply because Wal-Mart thought it could get away with it.

The 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) has been actively organizing, mobilizing and empowering women to take action to create equity in all workplaces. In instances where there was evidence of sex discrimination, the UFCW regularly refers workers to attorneys experienced in civil rights litigation. From small groups of women workers talking with each other, with the UFCW, with public interest groups and civil rights lawyers grew the legal action that Judge Jenkins described as “”historic in nature, dwarfing other employment discrimination cases before it.””

Wal-Mart has aggressively sought to suppress workers in the exercise of their rights, and has been particularly focused on dissuading workers from connecting with each other or acting as a group. Workers are repeatedly told they do not need “”third party representation”” and that Wal-Mart has an open door policy that allows workers as individuals to resolve their problems with management. Wal-Mart’s failure to address issues of sex discrimination as reflected in the Dukes case, and the success of women acting together with a strong voice and effective representation to take their case forward, however, demonstrate that Wal-Mart’s management system is fatally flawed and cannot meet the needs of a 21st century workforce.

“”An organized voice for workers is the solution for the problems—from low pay to inadequate health care, from high turnover to discrimination—at Wal-Mart. The Dukes case is an inspiration for all other Wal-Mart workers that acting together they too can bring change to the workplace,”” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President.

-30-

Inglewood Voters Say No to the Walmartization of America

Inglewood, California, Voters Reject Wal-Mart’s Effort for Expansion

Residents of Inglewood, California, stood up for American values – they said “”No,”” to the Walmartization of their community. They said “”No,”” to the Arkansas retail giant’s low wage, low benefit jobs. They said “”No,”” to a store the size of 17 football fields that would have decimated local businesses.

Voters rejected a referendum by Wal-Mart by voting 65% against a proposed Supercenter in Inglewood. Wal-Mart forced voters to the polls by refusing to accept rejection of their expansion plans by Inglewood City Council earlier this year. Wal-Mart abused the citizen referendum process by hiring people to collect signatures and force a ballot initiative – an effort that ignored zoning regulations and skirted traffic and environmental reviews. Wal-Mart was trying to buy the local political process but voters made it clear: you can’t discount democracy.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members held the line in Southern California for nearly 5 months fighting back demands by the supermarket employers that would have eliminated health benefits for workers. Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons used Wal-Mart’s low-road benefit package as an excuse to lower the standards for supermarket workers in California. Customers stood behind the strikers throughout the work-stoppage and now those same people sent Wal-Mart the message that they are willing to fight for good jobs with good benefits.

“”Wal-Mart’s arrogance blinded them to the fact that voters and consumers will not accept a giant retailer cramming low-wage, low benefit jobs in every community. Voters in Inglewood told Wal-Mart to respect their laws, their environmental standards and elected officials,”” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.

“”Wal-Mart is undermining living standards across the country and tried to undermine the democratic process itself,”” Hansen continued.

UFCW members in Inglewood joined with a broad citizen’s coalition of local and statewide elected officials, community organizations, and religious leaders to mobilize voters against Wal-Mart’s back-door bully tactics.

UFCW Supports Nurse Staffing for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2004

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) applauds nurses nationwide, today, on National Nurse Day, and every day, for their commitment and dedication to their patients and the nursing profession.

“The U.S. health care crisis is bringing mounting pressure on health care providers to do more and make do with less,” said UFCW International Vice President and Director of the union’s Health Care and Professional Division Greg Hamblet. “Decreasing staffing levels exponentially increases the burnout rate for nurses and puts quality patient care at risk. We need federal legislation, like Rep. Schakowsky’s, that sets mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing standards to protect patients.”

Schakowsky (D-IL) is introducing the Nurse Staffing for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2004, today. The measure establishes minimum staffing levels for different hospital units. Once minimum levels are met, the Act will require hospitals to develop staffing plans, in consultation with staff, to meet patient needs in the hospital.

A recent poll conducted by the National Consumers League and the AFL-CIO found:

• Nearly half or 45 percent of those who have had direct hospital experience in the past two years believe that their safety or that of a family member was compromised by inadequate nurse staffing levels.

• More than a third report not receiving important elements of care in a timely fashion.

• More than 75 percent support legislative action to improve nurse-to-patient staffing standards.

Schakowsky’s bill creates a framework for providing patients with the consistent quality care they deserve by establishing minimum direct care registered nurse-to-staff ratios. “Too many hospitals are resistant to establishing and enforcing safe staffing levels,”” said Hamblet. “Federal legislation on this critical issue is long overdue. We’re losing too many good nurses and putting patients at risk because of inadequate staffing levels. The UFCW is working with numerous unions on the nurse campaign to support the Schakowsky legislation, and ensure that nurses have a strong voice in establishing working conditions that allow them to provide the quality care their patients require.”