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    UFCW Blog

July 29, 2005

UFCW Moves for a Revitalized Labor Movement, Disaffiliates from AFL-CIO

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), its local unions and its officers are committed to rebuilding worker power. We have undertaken the process to restructure and revitalize our union to meet the needs of our current and future members. For our union to succeed on behalf of our members, we must be part of a revitalized and dynamic labor movement that connects with a new generation of workers struggling in the 21st century’s global economy.

We are building on a tradition and record of success. The U.S. labor movement has brought unprecedented prosperity, broad-based political democracy, human rights and legal protections to workers and their families. The labor movement changed the world, and transformed the living standards of working families. Both the AFL and the CIO played critical roles in the success of the labor movement in bringing economic security to workers. The merged AFL-CIO was a product of that success.

Now, the world has changed, and workers’ rights and living standards are under attack. Tradition and past success are not sufficient to meet the new challenges. We, as a movement, now must change to meet the challenges confronting workers. We have an historic opportunity and obligation to organize and lead a new movement for the 21st century.

The UFCW, along with the other unions of the Change to Win Coalition, has a vision and strategy for the future. The Change Coalition prepared and presented to the AFL-CIO a comprehensive reform proposal for change. At the core of our proposal for change is the redirection of resources to rebuild worker power through strategic organizing to increase the number of unionized workers within an industry or occupation. Engaged and organized union workers in an industry constitute the foundation of worker power.

The dynamics of the new economy demand industry-wide organizing and coordinated bargaining to improve living standards, ensure affordable health care and renew respect for work and workers. Solidarity means workers in an industry standing together in their union, and supporting all other workers in their industry.

We believe in worker solidarity, and in organizing to build worker power through solidarity. On this core issue— redirecting resources to organize industry-wide for worker power— there is a fundamental difference between the Change Coalition and the AFL-CIO. We believe international and local unions are best positioned to succeed in organizing.

The UFCW and the Change Coalition unions are rapidly moving forward to develop a national organizing, bargaining and political program based on our vision and strategy for the future.

We believe workers will organize, if there is an opportunity and a strategy for them to win. Workers cannot wait for a change in the political or corporate climate to organize. In fact, the current hostile political and corporate climate is the result of a failure to organize. Organizing workers changes everything.

We believe in coordinated, strategic bargaining that mobilizes the strength of all union members in an industry around common contract goals. Workers bargaining in isolation from one another dilutes their power and divides their strength.

We believe that we must have a strong and vibrant political program connected to the needs, concerns and goals of workers, irrespective of political parties and labels. We must ensure that we are the voice of workers to politicians and elected officials– and, not the voice of politicians or any political party to workers. Politicians will find that as we grow our labor movement, we will also grow our political power.

The UFCW, in order to pursue the most effective course of action for its members and all workers in its core industries, is terminating its affiliation with the AFL-CIO effective immediately.

While our affiliation ends, our commitment to work with the AFL-CIO and unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO on issues and programs where we share common goals remains unchanged. I believe our movement is united in our basic principles and values, even if we pursue different strategies. The UFCW and its local unions will continue to fund and work with state and local federations in politics and lobbying, and for mutual support of worker struggles.

I ask you and other AFL-CIO unions to reject efforts to build barriers within our movement, and to work in cooperation with Change Coalition unions in the myriad areas where we share common goals. We can build our movement, and again change the world to bring prosperity and well-being to workers here and around the world.

July 26, 2005

Chicago, Ill.—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), along with three Change to Win coalition partners—the Service Workers, UNITE/HERE, and Teamsters—will not participate in the AFL-CIO Convention that begins tomorrow.

We are taking this historic step with our coalition partners to build a 21st century worker movement for a new generation of workers. Unions built the American middle class. We are taking this action to revitalize the labor movement to build worker power.

Unrestrained corporate power has set in motion a global race to the bottom—a race dedicated to widening the gap of inequality—eroding basic wages—eroding labor and social standards—and limiting basic democratic participation.

Our unions are changing now to win worker power in the workplace, the community, and the political process.

The Change to Win Coalition is taking the lead to engage and organize workers—and build a worker movement to raise living standards, win health care and pension security, and make government responsive to working people.

Working people can’t win a better life unless more workers belong to unions.

The world is a different place than it was a generation ago. Change to Win partners are changing to meet this new dynamic.

Our vision is clear. Our resolve is firm. The time is now to bring new hope to working families.

July 24, 2005

WAL-MART IGNORES INTERNAL INVESTIGATION FINDINGS

Statement by Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com’s campaign director on the startling new revelations from Wal-Mart’s gender discrimination lawsuit, Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores.

According to internal documents and depositions, Wal-Mart was warned that it
may have a discrimination problem and chose to do nothing about it.  Wal-Mart formed a diversity committee in 1996, but, instead of implementing the committee’s recommendations, Wal-Mart disbanded the panel.  Two years later, Wal-Mart’s gender discrimination problem actually got worse.

In fact, an internal Wal-Mart document entitled, “”Minority/Gender Pay Analysis”” dated July 21, 2000 specifically states, “”Generally, average salaries for female and minority males are below the overall average pay for most jobs.  *Average pay increases for minority males and females are generally below overall average income ratio across most jobs.””

This led Jeffrey Reeves, a former vice president for personnel at the company’s Sam’s Club unit in a January 2003 deposition, when asked about whether or not management wanted to seriously address diversity, to state, “”I would say a lot was lip service.””

“”Today, we are stunned by Wal-Mart’s blatant disregard for women and minorities.  Wal-Mart’s greed caused more than 1.6 million of its female employees to suffer.  Wal-Mart needs to stop paying, in its own employee’s words, “”lip service”” to its discrimination problems and tell the American people the truth.””

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Wal-Mart has ignored or disbanded the findings of an internal investigation.  In 2000, for example, an internal Wal-Mart audit found “”extensive violations of child labor laws and state regulations requiring time for breaks and meals.””  In just one week, the audit found 1,371 violations.  Wal-Mart chose to stop the audit and as a result children suffered.  Just 3 weeks ago, Wal-Mart was fined once again for repeated child labor violations in Connecticut.

“”Wal-Mart wants to ignore serious problems at the expense of women, children and our country.  The American public is going to hold Wal-Mart accountable for the high cost we all pay for Wal-Mart’s $10 billion in profit.””

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July 24, 2005

ENGA

WASHINGTON, DC. — El segmento de la fuerza laboral en los Estados Unidos con más probabilidades de sufrir lastimaduras o muerte en el trabajo es victima de una operación de engaño por parte de la agencia de Cumplimiento de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE por sus siglas en ingles). Oficiales de ICE se hicieron pasar por instructores de seguridad para reunir trabajadores de construcción documentados e indocumentados en Carolina del Norte usando un volante que anunciaba una reunión obligatoria de la Administración de Seguridad y Salud Ocupacional (OSHA) a principios de este mes, luego arrestaron a 48 trabajadores indocumentados que acudieron a la reunión.

“OSHA es responsable por la seguridad y salud de los trabajadores,” dijo Joe Hansen, Presidente Internacional de la UFCW.  “El que ICE haya llevado acabo una reunión falsa de OSHA para juntar y arrestar gente socava la misión de OSHA y es un retroceso en los esfuerzos federales y estatales de reducir lastimaduras y muerte de trabajadores. Después de un engaño como este, el reporte que llega a los lugares de trabajo es que no se puede confiar en OSHA. Ese tipo de percepción reduce la habilidad de OSHA para hacer trabajo critico de proteger a la fuerza laboral de los Estados Unidos.”  

Hay más de 10 millones de trabajadores nacidos en el exterior en la fuerza laboral de los Estados Unidos, lo cual es aproximadamente 15% de la fuerza laboral. Los trabajadores inmigrantes tienen las tasas mas latas de lastimaduras y fatalidades en el trabajo. Los trabajadores Hispanos sufren 69% de todas las lastimaduras y muertes en el trabajo. En la industria empacadora de carne, mas de la mitad de los trabajadores son nacidos en el extranjero, y en algunas plantas, hasta el 80% de los trabajadores son inmigrantes.  

“Esta acción inescrupulosa ha diezmado la confianza entre OSHA y los trabajadores que más dependen de la agencia,” dijo Hansen.  “Más y más a menudo, son inmigrantes quienes trabajan las industrias mas peligrosas tales como la construcción o empacadoras de carne. ¿Como puede ahora acceder OSHA a estos trabajadores en riesgo con información sobre seguridad? Para estos trabajadores, OSHA ya no significa seguridad, sino traición. La administración Bush debe denunciar este tipo de trampas que socavan la seguridad en el trabajo.” 

July 24, 2005

SAFETY SCAM THREATENS WORKERS’ LIVE

Washington, D.C. — The segment of the American workforce most likely to suffer injury or death on the job was targeted in a scam operation by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. ICE officers masqueraded as safety instructors to round up documented and undocumented construction workers in North Carolina with a flier announcing a mandatory Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) meeting, earlier this month, then arrested 48 undocumented workers who attended the meeting.

“OSHA is responsible for worker safety and health,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.  “For ICE to stage a sham OSHA meeting in order to round up and arrest people undermines OSHA’s mission, and is a step backwards for state and federal efforts to reduce worker injuries and deaths. The word being brought back to worksites, after a scam like this, is that OSHA can’t be trusted. That kind of perception diminishes OSHA’s ability to do the critical work of protecting America’s labor force.”

There are more than 10 million foreign-born workers in the US, making up about 15% of the workforce. Immigrant workers have the highest rates of on-the-job injuries and fatalities.  Hispanic workers suffer 69% of all on-the-job injuries/deaths. In the meatpacking industry, more than half of the workers are foreign-born, and in some plants, up to 80% of the workers are immigrants.

“This unscrupulous action has shattered the trust between OSHA and the workers who depend on the agency the most,” said Hansen. “More and more often, it is immigrants who work in the most dangerous industries such as construction or meatpacking.  How can OSHA reach these at-risk workers with safety information now?  To these workers, OSHA no longer means safety, but betrayal. The Bush administration must denounce the kind of trickery that undermines safety.””

July 24, 2005

United Farm Workers of America Joins Change to Win Coalition

CHICAGO, IL  —  The United Farm Workers of America (UFW) announced today that it was joining the Change to Win Coalition, the new workers organization devoted to transforming the American labor movement.

“”To realize our goal of organizing significant numbers of low-to moderate-wage Latino and immigrant workers in the face of fierce employer resistance during the next decade, we must move aggressively to apply new resources and make changes in our own organization,”” said UFW President Arturo Rodriguez.  “”We are convinced the Change to Win Coalition mirrors our commitment of finding new ways to refocus on organizing and vigorously pursue anti-worker employers.””

“”The Coalition is thrilled to have the Farm Workers join our efforts to improve the lives of millions of American workers,”” Coalition Chair Anna Burger said today.  “”This is a significant moment in American labor history.  The Union of Ceasar Chavez is the heart and soul of the labor movement, and its affiliation with our Coalition sends a powerful signal that we are on the right course.””

“”The Farm Workers represent the highest aspirations of all American workers,”” Burger said.  “”Their historic commitment to organizing low-to moderate-wage workers is the essence of the Change to Win Coalition’s vision of giving hope to millions of workers seeking the American Dream.””

The Change to Win Coalition was formed on June 15, 2005 to marshal the collective strength of its unions (listed below) to develop and implement strategies to bring the labor movement into the 21st century.  Since its inception, two additional unions, the Carpenters and the Farm Workers, have joined the original five.  The Change to Win Coalition unions represent nearly 6 million workers.

July 24, 2005

Koch’s Foods Workers to Hold Election to Gain a Voice on the Job

Seven hundred and fifty workers at two Koch’s Foods poultry processing units in Morristown,   Tennessee have filed a petition for a union election to be conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  Workers at the Morristown plant approached the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1995, seeking a voice on the job.  Workers have been organizing at the plant for the past month. A majority of workers at the two units have signed UFCW union authorization cards.

“UFCW currently represents Koch’s Foods workers at two plants in Mississippi,” said George J. Saleeby, International Vice President and Director of UFCW Region 3. “Koch’s workers in the Morton and Forest plants are able to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions.  The workers in Morristown came to us because they also want a voice on the job.””

The U.S. government requires workers and the union of their choice to have at least 30% of their co-workers sign union authorization cards in order to file for a NLRB election. During an election, eligible workers at the location vote for or against the petitioning union. When a union is voted in by 50% plus one person, both the company and union sit down to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract for the workers and to improve workplace conditions.