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November 29, 2005

UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION URGES PRESIDENT TO ADD WORKER COMPONENT TO BIRD FLU PLAN

If a bird flu pandemic were to break out in the United States, workers in America’s poultry industry would be the first to notice sick birds, the first to risk exposure to the deadly virus, and the first to sound the alarm. That’s why the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) has sent a letter to President Bush urging him to initiate coordinated protection for poultry workers on the front lines by initiating a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss worker issues and the potential pandemic.

The poultry industry is a major force in the U.S. economy, generating more than $35 billion per year in revenue. The nation’s 200,000 poultry workers produce 500 million pounds of chicken every week. We must have a plan to protect these workers-the chicken catchers and those that slaughter, process, and package the millions of chickens and turkeys that Americans eat each year.

The Bush administration has taken the first, important steps in containing a potential outbreak of bird flu by discussing and planning the control of the virus at its source-in animals.

However, if we are to avoid a pandemic, America’s plan to contain the bird flu must have a worker component. The Bush administration should consider:

–Direct contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces and objects is considered the main route of human infection. This kind of direct contact is the norm for workers in the poultry industry. A poultry worker immunization program will prevent the spread of the disease and assure the public that a meaningful step has been taken to contain the disease at its source.

–Poultry workers are in the best position to visually identify sick birds and report suspected cases of bird flu. These front line workers are the nation’s best defense against a pandemic, but they will need whistleblower protections in order to avoid discrimination and to assure that profit doesn’t override health and safety.

–Many immigrant, undocumented, or Spanish-speaking poultry workers are unaware of workplace safety regulations. This population is unlikely to ask for safety and health protections such as respirators or flu shots. Unfortunately, a recent sting operation where ICE agents posed as OSHA officials has hurt the credibility of government safety programs and further increased immigrants’ mistrust of government. We must reach out to these workers with health and safety information and we must strictly enforce a policy that prohibits sting operations that undermine OSHA credibility.

These worker issues are of paramount importance. Worker organizations, like unions, should be consulted and integrated into the effort. The UFCW stands ready to work with all interested stakeholders, including worker representatives, government agencies, and poultry companies.

November 22, 2005

NEWLY RELEASED PRICING STUDIES FIND WAL-MART CHARGING CUSTOMERS WRONG PRICE IN FOUR STATES

WakeUpWalMart.com Supporters to Distribute 1 Million ‘Wal-Mart Consumer Alert’ Flyers Beginning on ‘Black Friday’

Washington, D.C. – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com and the National Consumers League sent a joint letter to Attorneys General in all 50 states calling on them to launch a full-scale investigation into Wal-Mart’s pricing practices based on the findings of two newly released studies conducted by the University of Illinois-Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development and the University of California-Berkeley.

The two studies examined the pricing accuracy, the difference between the shelf-price and the cash register price, at Wal-Mart stores in California, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana and concluded the pricing errors at Wal-Mart stores in these 4 states failed to meet the federal standards set by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). The federal standard, set by the NIST, requires no more than 2 out 100 randomly selected items from any one store may be incorrectly priced.

The study found that almost 85% of the Wal-Mart stores in the IL, MI & IN study failed to meet the federal standard for pricing errors. In California, the results were worse with almost 87% of Wal-Mart stores failing to meet the federal standard for pricing accuracy.

In Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, Wal-Mart charged the wrong price for 6.4% of the items purchased statewide for the survey, and in California, 8.3% of the items purchased statewide.

“”Wal-Mart customers beware. Consumers shouldn’t have to gamble with the price they pay at Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart has been charging customers the wrong price by failing to meet the federal pricing standard in four of the largest states in the nation. Wal-Mart customers have a right to know whether or not they are paying the wrong price,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

In the letter to the Attorneys General, the National Consumers League and WakeUpWalMart.com suggest ways Wal-Mart could correct this potential pricing problem, including: requiring Wal-Mart to post notices at each register warning customers that they may be overcharged; requiring Wal-Mart to hire enough employees to accurately price merchandise; requiring each Wal-Mart store to hire an employee solely responsible to ensure accurate pricing; and require item pricing in its stores.

“”On behalf of all consumers, especially as we enter the Holiday shopping season, we are calling on every state to immediately investigate Wal-Mart’s pricing and scanner practices and to take appropriate action to fix this potential problem. At least in the four states studied, Wal-Mart may need to change its slogan to ‘Sometimes Low Prices’ if you are lucky,”” added Blank.

Both studies came to the following conclusion, “”A majority of Wal-Mart stores tested in this evaluation of price accuracy demonstrated errors in pricing that exceeded federally accepted standards for large retail establishments.”” In fact, 63% of the surveyed stores in California were exceeding the federal standard just based on their overcharging of customers. Furthermore, accounting for the margin of error, between 75% and 94% of Wal-Mart stores in the 3 Midwest states are failing to meet federal standards for price accuracy.

The results of the studies raise serious concerns nationally given Wal-Mart’s top-down, centralized control by its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, AR.

In addition to releasing the study, supporters of WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s largest grassroots campaign to change a corporation with over 130,000 supporters, will be mobilizing an unprecedented grassroots campaign to inform consumers about Wal-Mart’s pricing errors. Beginning on November 25th, the traditional kick-off to the Holiday shopping season, supporters will be taking part in a national consumer alert campaign with actions in 36 states and 102 cities. WakeUpWalMart.com plans to distribute more than 1 million ‘Wal-Mart Consumer Alert’ flyers and launch a multimedia effort to inform American consumers about the pricing errors found in these four states.

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Statement by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan:

“”I am very concerned about the scanning error rate for Wal-Mart as reported in the study by the University of Illinois at Chicago. My staff and I are taking a close look at these findings,”” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “”As we enter the busiest shopping season of the year, this study is a glaring reminder that all consumers must pay close attention to the pricing screen at checkout. If you think you have been overcharged, you should complain immediately to store personnel. Consumers may also complain directly to my office at 1-800-243-0618.””

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Statement by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

“”This data shows serious discrepancies between the prices posted and the amounts actually charged – meriting prompt investigation -because Wal-Mart has a legal obligation to be always accurate, not always low,”” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. “”Nothing is more fundamental to fair pricing than keeping promises about prices. Consumers should be spared a sweepstakes system when they come to the cash register. They deserve reliable, rock-solid price guarantees. The price they are given should be the price they are charged.

“”I will take appropriate action to protect consumers and assure the integrity of Wal-Mart’s prices if my investigation uncovers unacceptable price inaccuracies in Connecticut.””

November 21, 2005

WORKING FAMILIES JOIN NATIONAL MOVEMENT FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM

Union Members Join Citizens’ Health Care Working Group in First National Dialogue on Health Care in a Decade

(Washington, DC) Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) announced a national effort to engage its 1.4 million members in the first national dialogue on health care reform in a decade.  UFCW members are joining the Citizen’s Health Care Working Group by speaking up—online, at community meetings and in their workplaces—about the needs of working families in the health care system.

The Working Group, created by Congress in 2003, is mandated with engaging the public in a nationwide discussion of options for reforming America’s crumbling health care system.   To carry out that mission, citizens are encouraged to fill out an online survey and participate in a series of community meetings scheduled over the next several months in localities across the nation.

“Lawmakers and policy experts need to hear directly from working people and ordinary citizens about the reality of health care in their daily lives,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President and member of the 14-person Working Group. “The Working Group’s most important task is to facilitate and encourage every American to take advantage of this unique opportunity to help lawmakers understand the views of ordinary people on how to make quality, accessible, and cost-efficient health care available to every American.”

As part of this initiative, the UFCW has launched a website:  www.ufcw4healthcare.orgfor its 1.4 million members to fill out the Citizens Health Care Working Group’s health care survey. The union is reaching out to other labor organizations to encourage participation by their members. And as meeting sites and dates are determined, the UFCW will mobilize UFCW members—including their friends and family—to attend the community meetings occurring in their areas.

UFCW members are acutely aware of the many problems with our current health care system.  Union members have been forced to organize community support, mobilize their workplaces and walk picket lines in order to fight back against employer demands to slash or reduce health care for workers and their families.  The national health care crisis cannot be solved at the bargaining table or on the picket line—it requires a national solution.  Now, union members are prepared to help shape that solution.

“Our members have first-hand knowledge of the pitfalls of our current health care system—whether soaring costs or access to quality care—and they have valid ideas for making the system work better for all Americans,” said Hansen. “We have every intention of ensuring that their concerns and ideas receive the full weight of their due in the final recommendations prepared by the Working Group.”

Hansen is the only representative on the fourteen-member The Citizen’s Health Care Working Group from a worker organization.

November 15, 2005

WAL-MART VS. AMERICA NEWSPAPER AD OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES WAKEUPWALMART.COM’S EFFORTS DURING NATIONAL WEEK OF ACTION

Nov. 14 – Washington, D.C. – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, announced the launch of the next phase of its media campaign and its activities during Wal-Mart Week. This week, hundreds of thousands of Americans will take part in local movie screenings of Robert Greenwald’s new movie – Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. WakeUpWalMart.com also announced it has surpassed more than 125,000 Americans in all 50 states – making it one of the fastest growing social movements in America.

“”This is not just the beginning of a campaign, it is the beginning of a national movement. Wal-Mart’s record of poverty level wages, unaffordable health care and child labor violations undermines American values. When the American people know the truth, they will reject Wal-Mart’s bad business practices and join our movement to make Wal-Mart a responsible corporation,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

The message of today’s New York Times ad, and the framework for the week, is “”Wal-Mart vs. America.”” The ad shows a map of the United States being pulled apart by Wal-Mart’s Smiley Face on one side and Uncle Sam on the other side. It details the difference between Wal-Mart’s America and Our America on issues such as: poverty level wages, poor health care, gender discrimination, special interest lobbyists and child labor. The ad, also, previews upcoming events during Wal-Mart Week, stating, “”This week, in cities and towns all across the nation, hundreds of thousands of Americans are standing up to corporate greed and demonstrating the amazing power all Americans have to change Wal-Mart and America for the better.””

“”We are building the largest, most coordinated campaign in history to change Wal-Mart. With more than 125,000 supporters, in all 50 states, WakeUpWalMart.com is an unprecedented grassroots effort to educate consumers about the high cost we all pay for Wal-Mart’s greed,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com

During Wal-Mart Week, WakeUpWalMart.com supporters will hold screenings in over 140 cities and 35 states. In total, supporters of the campaign and Robert Greenwald’s movie have planned over 4000 screenings during this week of action.

WakeUpWalMart.com is building the largest grassroots movement to change a corporation in history. With over 125,000 supporters, WakeUpWalMart.com is one of the fastest growing social movements in America. Find out more about the campaign at www.WakeUpWalMart.com.

November 14, 2005

Statement of Joe Hansen, UFCW International President

Justices Agree to End the Workplace Rip-off

(Washington, DC) – Meatpacking, poultry and food processing workers finally have the backing and protection of the highest court in the land.  Today, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the position long held by workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) – that employers must pay workers for time spent obtaining required safety equipment and reporting to their work location in the plant.  The UFCW has advocated for decades that all required time is paid time.

For far too long, employers have cheated workers out of their full paycheck by refusing to pay them for the time it takes to pick up their required safety equipment such as chain mail gloves, hair nets, aprons and heavy boots.  Meat industry giants like Tyson Foods, which owns IBP, have long insisted that workers paid time does not include as much as thirty to forty minutes per day spent collecting and putting on their gear and walking to their station on the production line.

Today, the Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed that workers deserve to be paid for that time.  In reality, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had to rule on such a case speaks volumes about the greed and arrogance of employers in this country.  It wasn’t enough to cheat workers out of their wages, the meat packing industry fought for the right to continue its rip-off all the way to the highest court.

The time has finally come for the hundreds of thousands of workers to receive their rightfully due wages when they report for duty in America’s food industry workplaces.  Today’s court ruling is a tremendous victory for workers.

Click here for a copy of the ruling.

November 9, 2005

WakeUpWalMart.com Releases New 30-second Ad

First Commercial to Highlight Wal-Mart’s Growing Moral Corruption
and use Tom Delay’s “Smiley Face” Booking Photo
and Scooter Libby Indictment in Ad Campaign

Washington, D.C. – WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, launched a new 30-second advertisement that asks and answers the question “Who is the most corrupt in America?”

The dramatic spot highlights the growing number of morally corrupt scandals in America, including Rep. Tom Delay’s arrest, Scooter Libby’s indictment, and Sen. Bill Frist’s investigation and concludes none of these are as bad as Wal-Mart and CEO Lee Scott’s morally corrupt policies.

“American values and morality are being perverted by our nation’s corporate and political leaders.  The definition of corrupt is to become morally debased.  Is there anything more morally debased than a $290 billion giant like Wal-Mart having over 600,000 of its workers without company health care or being sued by more than 1.5 million women for discrimination?” said Paul Blank, campaign director WakeUpWalMart.com.

The 30-second commercial presents the specific reasons why Wal-Mart is the most morally corrupt.   The ad highlights Wal-Mart’s failure to provide affordable health care to all of its workers, its record of repeated child labor violations, and the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in history affecting over 1.5 million female employees.

The ad will also be the first in the nation to use Tom Delay’s “Smiley Face” booking photo and Scooter Libby in a national media campaign.

“To be frank, it was tough to decide who is the most morally corrupt between Tom Delay, Bill Frist, Scooter Libby, or Lee Scott?   But, Wal-Mart is the most morally corrupt because they choose to put their own greed before their own people everyday.”

The first phase of the “Who Is the Most Corrupt?” media campaign launches on over 22 websites with a collective reach of over 17 million page views daily.   The ad campaign is a prelude to next week’s grassroots actions all across the country led by WakeUpWalMart.com and its coalition partners.  As part of Wal-Mart Week, WakeUpWalMart.com and its 115,000 supporters will host movie screenings of Robert Greenwald’s movie “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” and will be taking part in an array of actions to raise public awareness about the negative effects Wal-Mart is having on its workers, their families, and the nation.

TV ad script – Most Corrupt

Corrupt.  To become morally debased.
So, who is the most corrupt in America?
Is it Congressman Tom Delay?
Senator Bill Frist?
Former Bush official Scooter Libby?
Or, Wal-Mart’s CEO, Lee Scott?
Over 600,000 Wal-Mart workers have no company health care
Wal-Mart repeatedly violated child labor laws.
And, over 1.5 million women are suing Wal-Mart for discrimination.
So, who is the most corrupt?
Lee Scott and Wal-Mart

To view this ad, click here:

http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/video/corrupt.html

November 9, 2005

Declaraciones de Joe Hansen, Presidente Internacional de la UFCW

WASHINGTON, DC – Los trabajadores de empacadoras de carne, de procesadoras avícolas y de otros alimentos, cuentan finalmente con el respaldo y protección de la corte más alta del país.  Hoy, la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Estados Unidos afirmó una postura mantenida por mucho tiempo por trabajadores y por la Union de Trabajadores de Alimentos y Entidades Comerciales (UFCW) – que indica que las empresas deben pagar a sus trabajadores por el tiempo utilizado para cumplir con requisitos de seguridad laboral, como el uso de equipos de protección personal.  Desde hace décadas que la UFCW aboca para que se le pague al trabajador por la totalidad de tiempo en el trabajo.

Hace ya demasiado tiempo que las empresas se aprovechan de sus trabajadores, y que rehúsan pagar una remuneración justa, que incluye el tiempo utilizado para recoger equipos de seguridad y protección personal de uso obligatorio en el trabajo como guantes de correo en cadena, red/malla para el pelo, delantal y botas pesadas.

Empresas gigantes de la industria de la carne como Tyson Foods, que es dueña de IBP, han insistido por mucho tiempo que el horario de trabajo remunerado excluye el tiempo que generalmente le toma a un trabajador  para recoger y ponerse equipos de seguridad obligatorios, así como para llegar al lugar especifico de la planta donde éste trabaja.  Este proceso puede tomar hasta 30 a 40 minutos cada día.

Hoy, la Corte Suprema de Justicia determinó por unanimidad que los trabajadores merecen ser pagados por ese tiempo.  El hecho que haya sido la Corte Suprema quien tuvo que decidir este tema refleja una vez más la cultura a la avaricia y a la arrogancia que afecta a las empresas de este país.  Como no bastó con estafar a sus empleados por años, las empacadoras de carne tuvieron que llegar hasta la corte más alta para luchar por el derecho a seguir estafando a sus trabajadores.

Finalmente ha llegado la hora para que cientos de miles de trabajadores reciban un pago justo al presentarse para trabajar en la industria de alimentos de Estados Unidos.  La decisión de la corte de hoy es una gran victoria para los trabajadores.

Para mayor información, contacte a Jill Cashen, 202-728-4797 o press@ufcw.org.

November 7, 2005

Strike Ends at Lakeside Packers as Workers Win First Collective Agreement

BROOKS, AB (UFCW Canada) – Lakeside Packers employees have voted to ratify a first collective agreement ending their strike against the Brooks, Alberta slaughterhouse and processing facility that began on October 12.Lakeside Packers is owned by Arkansas-based Tyson Foods.

The contract was approved by a majority of the workers in a ratification vote held in Brooks, ending a bitter three-week-old strike by members of UFCW Canada Local 401 that had successfully crippled production at the plant.

The contract includes a number of significant gains including wage increases, improvements to short-term disability benefits, union security and grievance procedures, and a requirement that all new hires become members of the union.

Lakeside Packers employs about 2,300 workers and processes about 4,000 head of cattle a day. The new collective agreement had been recommended to the membership by the Lakeside Employees Bargaining Committee and lasts until 2009.

November 4, 2005

WAKEUPWALMART.COM LAUNCHES WAL-MART WORKERS OF AMERICA (WWOA), THE FIRST NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR WAL-MART WORKERS

50 UNINSURED WAL-MART WORKERS WILL QUALIFY
FOR $200 HEALTH CARE GRANTS

Washington, DC – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, officially launched the Wal-Mart Workers of America (WWOA) – the first national association for Wal-Mart workers.  WWOA is a new and exciting step to help empower Wal-Mart Workers to join together in order to improve their working conditions, their lives and change Wal-Mart into a more responsible and moral corporation. WWOA is launching a new website, www.WalMartWorkersofAmerica.com, which will offer a national clearing house of information and services for former and current Wal-Mart workers.

As part of the initial launch of the association, the WWOA will also offer 50 uninsured Wal-Mart workers the opportunity to qualify for $200 in health care money.  The health care assistance offered by the WWOA is the product of over $10,000 raised by more than 100 grassroots Halloween fundraisers held by WakeUpWalMart.com supporters last week in 84 cities and 22 states.

“Everyday 1.3 million workers help make Wal-Mart one of America’s most profitable companies, and yet, everyday it seems Wal-Mart finds new ways to exploit these hard-working Americans.  WWOA will be a powerful tool to help Wal-Mart’s workers join together to improve their lives and make Wal-Mart change for the better,” said Paul Blank, Campaign Director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

The WWOA is being founded in response to Wal-Mart’s secret memo and the company’s troubling record of exploiting its workers. Wal-Mart’s secret memo, written by Wal-Mart Executive Vice President Susan Chambers, outlines a series of shocking recommendations, including: plans to cut costs further by reducing hours; shifting from full-time to part-time workers; pushing out senior workers; and, even cutting health care costs by dissuading unhealthy or obese people from applying. In addition, Wal-Mart has a long and well-documented record of exploiting its workers, including forcing them to work off-the-clock, discriminating against female employees and breaking child labor laws.  Both the Wal-Mart Memo and its unwillingness to substantively change how it treats its workers has led to the creation of the Wal-Mart Workers of America.

The WWOA will officially launch its first membership drive today and plans to reach out to 100,000 Wal-Mart workers within the first phase of its membership drive.  Workers will be contacted through grassroots actions and through a community-based radio and print advertising campaign.

“For the first time, all Wal-Mart workers will now have the ability to join an association, to join together, to empower each other, and to build a movement for Wal-Mart to change. Working together, Wal-Mart workers can be a new and powerful force for change. Let there be no doubt, the WWOA will finally create a ‘real open door’ for change – a door Wal-Mart will never be able to close,” said Blank

Membership to WWOA is free to all former and current Wal-Mart workers who wish to join. The WWOA will provide an array of services to members including: how to qualify for health care money; a free 1-800# help hotline to provide advice and consultation about work place issues; information about class-action lawsuits affecting Wal-Mart workers; a confidential way to be a whistleblower; information and facts about their labor rights under state and federal law; how to defend themselves under America’s labor laws; a central clearing house for recent news and stories about Wal-Mart; recent actions in the grassroots campaign to change Wal-Mart; email updates on Wal-Mart and the WWOA; and quarterly newsletters.