July, 2004

Statement of Joe Hansen, UFCW International President, in Support of John Kerry

(Boston, Mass.) – John Kerry offers a real alternative of hope for America’s working families with a program for job growth, health care reform and homeland security. His ideas, his energy and his record of personal commitment and sacrifice for the values of working America has excited and activated workers in every region, every occupation and every industry.

John Kerry’s vision stands in stark contrast with record of the Bush Administration– more than 4 million workers have lost health insurance, real wages have gone down, millions of jobs have been lost, hundreds of thousands of workers have been needlessly injured because the ergonomic standard was repealed and millions face a pay cut because overtime law has been gutted. To say there is no difference between Bush and Kerry is to ignore the impact of Bush policies on the real lives of working families.

Ask a poultry worker crippled with repetitive motion injuries whether there is difference? Bush killed the ergonomic standard that could have prevented those injuries, while John Kerry fought on the Senate floor to keep the standard in force.

Ask a grocery store worker who was forced to strike for more than 4 months to keep health care benefits whether there is difference? Bush has done nothing except protect the interests of the drug companies and the insurance giants while everyday thousands of workers lose benefits. John Kerry has always been a fighter for health care reform and has a plan that helps protect health care benefits at work.

Ask a health care worker working long hours to support a family whether or not there is difference? George Bush re-wrote the overtime regulations to deny many health care workers overtime no matter how many hours they worked, lowering their living standards and denying them family time. John Kerry fought to protect overtime pay.

On every issue, John Kerry offers a pro-worker, pro-family, pro-America alternative to the Bush Administration. Another Bush Administration would inflict more and more suffering on working families. The election of John Kerry is the starting point for a new American dream that embraces the workforce and meets the challenges of the 21st century. For workers, voting matters, and electing John Kerry will make the difference between going forward in prosperity and security, or falling backward in economic and national insecurity. John Kerry is our best hope for the future of working America.

 

Community Mobilization Secures Health Care for ACME Workers

Health care for working families is not just a workplace concern – it’s a community concern. More than 3,000 workers at Acme Supermarkets in South Jersey faced the threat of cuts to health benefits when their contact expired at the end of April. The members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1360 reached out to local religious leaders, elected officials and union members for support that helped secure a new contract that protected health benefits for workers and their families.

Acme is owned by Albertsons, a national chain that forced tens of thousands of its Southern California workers into the streets for nearly five months to fight back against the employers’ draconian demands to eliminate health benefits for workers. Acme workers and supporters in South Jersey supported the California strike/lockout by mobilizing customers and raising public awareness of the struggle facing supermarket workers across the country.

When bargaining began in South Jersey, Acme faced a room full of religious leaders, labor supporters and other UFCW local unions along with representatives from UFCW Local 1360. The message was loud and clear: we stand united to protect health benefits for Acme workers.

“This contract proves that solidarity works. UFCW local unions working together with other unions and, most importantly, community and religious leaders made sure Acme and Albertsons understood that we will hold the line for health care,” said International Vice President and Regional Director Mark Lauritsen.

The new five-year agreement:

• Maintains health care for workers and retirees;

• Improves worker retirement benefits; and

• Increases wages, including higher starting rates for new employees

UFCW members are currently bargaining with Albertsons, Safeway and Kroger in the Pacific Northwest where the contract covering nearly 20,000 workers expires this month. In September, nearly 50,000 workers at the same three supermarket chains in Northern California will head to the bargaining table with similar resolve to hold the line for health care.