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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.