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December 27, 2006

NATIONAL GROCERY WORKER MOVEMENT UNITES WORKERS AND STRENGTHENS BARGAINING POWE


(
Washington, DC)— For the second month in a row, grocery workers across America are coming together in an unprecedented show of strength and solidarity.  With nearly half a million United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) grocery workers’ contracts up for negotiation over the next 18 months, grocery workers nationwide are supporting each other through in-store actions and other support-building activities. Workers also have a website, www.groceryworkersunited.org, which offers downloads of flyers, videos, photos and news about the grocery industry.

This is the first time that grocery workers have been united on such a scale. Their movement is growing fast, gaining momentum and generating buzz, as grocery workers nationwide gear up for bargaining in 2007.   As Javier Perez of UFCW Local 870, in Oakland, Calif., said, “National bargaining re-enforces the whole concept of what a union means. It means we all band together and struggle for what we think is right.”

Last month, supermarket workers represented by the UFCW launched the national store-to-store movement of grocery workers. Workers wore 850,000 stickers in stores over five days in November, to demonstrate unity and solidarity with other UFCW supermarket employees across the country.

Now community members are voicing their support for grocery workers’ goals: career jobs with affordable health care, and wages that pay the bills. UFCW members across the country have asked customers and the community to stand by them as upcoming contracts are negotiated. And workers have been overwhelmed by the positive response.

As Supa Tong of UFCW Local 400 in Bethesda, Md., noted, “Our customers are very supportive of the stickers. I think that they’ll support us, because we are also members of their community. If we have better wages and health care, it’s good for everyone.”

To celebrate solidarity between grocery workers and the community, UFCW members will wear a special sticker in their stores on December 27-31.   The sticker reads, “Grocery workers and community members for good jobs and affordable health care.”

“Everybody needs health care,” said Richard Waits, of Local 44 in Mt. Vernon, Wash. “Our customers support us because they are facing the same issues—paying for health care, supporting their families. Customers have told me that they’re glad we’re fighting for those things, because it helps the whole community.”

December 21, 2006

PECO POULTRY WORKERS RAISE LIVING STANDARDS WITH NEW UFCW CONTRACT

Peco poultry workers have negotiated a new contract that will bring positive changes in the lives of the approximately 230 workers at the Brookville, Miss. plant.  The contract was approved unanimously by workers this Wednesday.

As members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1991, Brookville Peco workers secured a contract that will guarantee wage raises, improved benefits, and will hold the company to more rigorous health and safety standards.

Highlights of the new agreement will include:

  • Guaranteed wage increase to $9.65/hr for those who have worked at the plant for 2 years or more;
  • An upgrade in the salary of premium jobs totaling 20-60 cents an hour;
  • Substantial pay increases for maintenance workers of 50 cents an hour for each year worked at the plant;
  • A change in health insurance plans that will eliminate deductibles and bring significant cost savings to employees;
  • Establishment of bereavement leave as opposed to funeral leave, granting workers more time to mourn the death of a loved one;
  • New safety equipment standards including additional time and stations to clean safety equipment and the required replacement of worn-out equipment by the employer;
  • Optional orientation on union membership for those interested in joining.

“UFCW members from the Peco plant stood together and demonstrated the determination necessary to win a groundbreaking contract that will improve the lives of Brookville families and benefit the local economy as poultry workers have more money to spend,” said Eddie James, President of UFCW Local 1991.  “This just shows that solidarity gives us strength at the bargaining table so that we can improve the lives of working people and their families.”

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December 18, 2006

ICE TERRORIZING IMMIGRANT WORKERS BECAUSE OF FAILED U.S. IMMIGRATION POLICY

(Washington, D.C.) – United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) members working in Swift and Company meatpacking plants are reporting that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents marched into plants Tuesday morning with military weapons, herding, segregating, and terrorizing workers. Plants and plant gates were locked down.

“”The display of force by ICE agents is totally outrageous,”” said Mark Lauritsen, International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing, and Manufacturing division of the UFCW. “”We believe they are victims of wholesale violations of worker rights. In effect, ICE is criminalizing people for going to work.””

Families have been ripped apart leaving traumatized children stranded at school waiting to be picked up. In some cases, their parents are being transported to detention centers in distant cities and denied the opportunity to call anyone to make arrangements for their children. Workers at the Swift plant in Grand Island, Neb., have been bussed to Camp Dodge, Iowa, six hours away from their families, with no guarantee of return transportation.

Workers at the Greeley Colo., plant reported that gun shots were fired. Representatives and attorneys with the UFCW, who have standing to represent these workers, have been denied access to the detained workers.

“”The workers caught in this vice are victims of a failed immigration system. It’s time for the federal government to stop victimizing workers and reform our immigration system,”” said Lauritsen. “”The last do-nothing Congress failed to produce its promised immigration reform before recess. The result is that children have been orphaned, left to sleep in strange beds and uncertain about their holiday or their future. Worksite raids with armed agents are not the answer to the nationwide call for immigration reform. America deserves a humane, systematic and comprehensive immigration policy immediately.””

UFCW local unions are working tirelessly to contact family members to protect minor children. Union representatives have been denied access to the facilities to represent workers. UFCW local unions are putting in place a system to aid the families, contacting relatives of children, setting up aid funds to supply holiday gifts and whatever long-term assistance they may need.

The UFCW represents approximately 10,000 workers at the five Swift and Company plants.

December 12, 2006

FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS SEEKS FEDERAL INJUNCTION TO END ATTACKS AGAINST WORKERS IN MEATPACKING PLANTS

Washington DC—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is seeking an immediate injunction in federal court, today, on behalf of workers employed by Swift and Company packing operations in Texas, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

The workers were subjected to a wholesale round up, including detention, by Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

“Essentially, the agents stormed the plants, many of them in riot gear, in an effort designed to terrorize the workforce,” said Mark Lauritsen, director of the UFCW Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing division.

The UFCW represents workers at the Swift and Company plants, as well as other major packers around the country.

“This kind of action is totally uncalled for,” said Lauritsen. “It’s designed to punish workers for working hard everyday, contributing to the success of their companies and communities. They are innocent victims in an immigration system that has been hijacked by corporations for the purpose of importing an exploitable workforce.”

For years, the UFCW has called for comprehensive immigration reform—reform that provides an orderly immigration process that protects worker rights, ensures good wages and benefits for all workers, and recognizes the contributions immigrants make to our society.

“We are advising all the detained workers to exercise their right to an attorney and remain silent until they confer with counsel. These actions today by ICE are an affront to decency.”

November 22, 2006

COAST-TO-COAST GROCERY WORKERS STICK TOGETHER FOR CAREER JOBS WITH HEALTH CARE

(Washington, DC)—Across the country, grocery workers want career jobs with affordable health care and are standing together to achieve their goal.  Supermarket workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) have launched a national store-to-store movement of workers supporting each other through in-store actions, a website and other support-building activities.

UFCW members at supermarkets across the country will wear stickers to work on November 21-26th, to demonstrate unity in showing their appreciation for the loyalty of the customers and communities that they serve.

The stickers are part of a larger, nationwide effort to bargain for better jobs for grocery workers. Nearly half a million UFCW grocery workers’ contracts are up for negotiation over the next 18 months, including 70,000 UFCW members in Southern California and in stores across the country and in Canada.  The website, www.groceryworkersunited.com offers workers and supporters downloads of store flyers, videos, photos and news from bargaining tables across the country.

Last month, grocery workers all along the West Coast wore stickers expressing their need for affordable, quality health care.  Now, in-store action is spreading across the entire nation as grocery workers wear this month’s sticker, which reads: “Serving Customers, Serving the Community.”

“The customers have been very supportive of the stickers,” adds UFCW Local 21 member and Safeway employee Vee Maksirisombat of Seattle, Washington. “It lets them know that we support our communities.”

“We’re all working for the same things: better benefits, better wages and job security.  If we all work together, with the support of the community, to fight for the things we need, we’ll be stronger when we bargain,” said Leroy Gardner, UFCW Local 400 member and an employee at Giant Foods in Bethesda, Maryland.

November 15, 2006

PETITION DRIVE DEMANDS PROTECTIONS FOR BROOKS AND ECKERD DRUGSTORE CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES

An intensive one hundred city and town petition drive is launching today aimed at customers and workers affected by the proposed purchase of Brooks and Eckerd drugstores by Rite Aid.  The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and UNITE HERE are concerned that the purchase will result in store closings that could negatively impact people who rely on these drugstores for employment and for access to prescription medication.

Leafleting and petitioning activity will take place Wednesday, November 15, 2006 in front of Brooks and Eckerds drugstores located in your community.  Call media contacts for locations of activities.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that transactions like this have an immediate impact on people’s lives.  The goal of the petition is not to block or permit Rite Aid from buying other drugstores.  But the proposed transaction is likely to have an impact on customers, and that impact should be reviewed by state-based officials to make sure that retirees, the disabled, and other vulnerable drugstore customers and workers are not harmed by this transaction,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President.

“We believe Brooks and Eckerd’s customers and employees are concerned about their stores being bought.  This petition gives them an opportunity to voice that concern. They are constituencies that we hope the Attorneys General will take steps to protect from the potential impact of store closings or sales,” said Bruce Raynor, president of UNITE HERE.

The transaction is already being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission, the federal agency responsible for reviewing the antitrust impact of business combinations in the retail drugstore sector.  The petition [attached] calls on the state Attorneys General to open their own investigations to add a more local level of review to the Rite Aid transaction.

State Attorney Generals’ offices often conduct parallel antitrust investigations to their federal counterparts.  In 1996, four states announced their opposition to a larger transaction that Rite Aid had proposed on antitrust grounds, effectively blocking the purchase.

Rite Aid announced on August 24, 2006 its intention to purchase over 1,800 Eckerd and Brooks drugstores for $3.4 billion from the Jean Coutu Group, Inc., a Canadian corporation.  The transaction as proposed would make Rite Aid the dominant drugstore chain in many markets throughout the eastern United States.

November 13, 2006

Statement by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Joe Hansen on Royal Ahold Intention to Sel

(Washington DC) — The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) represents approximately 84,000 Ahold workers nationwide, employed under numerous company banners including Tops, Giant, and Stop & Shop.

The sale of its New York and Pennsylvania Tops stores will affect nearly 11,000 UFCW members.

The UFCW will continue to aggressively represent our members and enforce all union contract provisions while the company seeks a buyer for its Tops stores. We will actively engage with and impress on all potential buyers the necessity that UFCW members working at Tops stores maintain their union voice and good union wages and benefits.

UFCW members working at Ahold supermarket chains are some of the best and most productive workers in the industry, making Ahold’s U.S. operations, especially Giant and Stop & Shop, the crown jewels of the company.

Supermarkets operate to serve customers and serve communities.  Grocery jobs with good wages, affordable health benefits and job security – like those that come with a union contract – are good for the local communities and economies in which they operate.

If Ahold attempts to sell its Top stores without regard for what becomes of the workers and the community post-sale, the company risks tarnishing its reputation at every banner operating in the U.S.

The UFCW is ready and eager to work with any potential buyer, one that knows and understands the dynamics of the supermarket industry.

We will not sit idly by and watch what happens and hope for the best – we will actively support the best situated and most enlightened bidders to actively engage in the bidding process for the betterment of the company, its future shareholders/owners, and for the more than 84,000 Ahold employees represented by the UFCW.

The UFCW intends to protect all Tops’ employees and the community members that make up Tops’ customer base by ensuring that their interests are well served.

UFCW local unions with members working under Ahold banners up and down the East Coast are united to take action in solidarity to support UFCW members employed by Tops.

November 13, 2006

FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS BRING FIGHT FOR HEALTH CARE, MINIMUM WAGE TO THE BALLOT BOX

(Washington, D.C.) -In the final weeks of the election, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) from across the country mobilized their co-workers, neighbors, and communities in a massive GOTV effort on behalf of pro-health care reform candidates and legislative initiatives that work for working families. UFCW members were engaged in nearly every important election across the country-from Deval Patrick’s groundbreaking election in Massachusetts to Jerry McNerney’s upset Congressional victory in Stockton, Calif. Their efforts paid off as dozens of candidates committed to health care reform and other worker issues were elected at all levels of state and local government.

“”Working families voted, and working families won,”” said Joe Hansen, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “”That’s the simple explanation for the results of Tuesday’s election.””

The UFCW’s complete grassroots effort in Iowa brought new leadership to both state legislative chambers, two new pro-worker members of Congress, and a governor who understands the issues working families face. A top-to-bottom campaign in Michigan helped to change leadership in the State House there as well as re-electing Governor Granholm and Senator Stabenow. In addition to political races, UFCW members targeted state legislative campaigns as well. Faced with the threat of right-to-work-for-less legislation in Indiana, UFCW members mobilized and helped to change the leadership in the State House to candidates who oppose that anti-worker legislation.

Working with their own local unions, and together with both Change to Win and AFL-CIO affiliated locals, UFCW members used phones, mail, literature and member-to-member canvasses not only to get out the vote, but to inform people about issues like health care, minimum wage, and the right to join a union. More than a quarter million pieces of mail were sent to UFCW members in targeted states and districts.

“”Though the election is over, our members’ work is not over,”” Hansen said. “”In January, we’ll begin holding our newly elected leaders accountable on the issues on which they were elected. Our members will leverage their hard-fought political and legislative victories to push for meaningful health care reform, to improve the economy for working people, to secure real retirement security, and to help workers gain a voice on the job.””

October 2, 2006

Food and Commercial Workers Stand for Safe Meat Industry Standards

FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS STAND FOR SAFE MEAT INDUSTRY STANDARDS

Federal Standards are Good for Consumers, Industry, and Meatpacking Workers

(Washington, DC) – Consumers deserve and expect the meat that they buy to be safe, sanitary, and produced and packaged under strict conditions. And that’s the exactly the kind of product that meatpacking workers want to deliver. Yet, a new USDA report shows that when inspection programs are left up to states, several states systematically fail to meet the most basic sanitation standards, and put the public at risk from food borne illness.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act allows states to inspect meat, but those plants are not allowed to ship product in interstate commerce. Although the state inspection programs are required to apply sanitation and health standards equal to those upheld at federally inspected plants, several state programs continually fail to meet federal USDA standards.

The USDA report details state-inspected meat plants that were allowed to continue operating despite instances of:

–unsanitary conditions, including cutting boards contaminated with residue from the previous days work;
–meat being cooked at temperatures incorrectly monitored-potentially exposing consumers to bacteria; and
–meat sold to unsuspecting customers after inspection programs were found to not meet legal standards for safety.

Despite several states failure to meet USDA standards, Congress is considering legislation that would allow meat from state-inspected plants to be sold anywhere in the country, said Michael J. Wilson, International Vice President and Director of UFCWs Legislative and Political Action Department. State inspection is not equivalent to federal inspection, and this report proves it, Wilson said.  “”In the light of the recent spinach outbreak, for Congress to move in this direction would be reprehensible.””

Relying on a series of uneven state standards is dangerous for consumers, workers, and the industry. If instances of food borne illness were to result from these poor state standards, consumers would get sick, workers would suffer from plant closures, and the whole meat industry would be impacted.

If producers want to expand beyond selling to consumers in their own state, they must be subject to federal standards. Federal USDA inspectors are sworn to uphold the public health.  Continuous inspections and high standards for sanitation mean that meat packing plants are cleaner and safer. Federal standards are good for consumers, for the meat industry, and for workers in the plants. Congress should not consider legislation which undermines the safety of our food system, Wilson said.

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For more information: Jill Cashen 202.728.4797 or email press@ufcw.org .

September 29, 2006

KROGER WORKERS AND SUPPORTERS STAND TOGETHER FOR AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE

RALEIGH-DURHAM—On Tuesday and Wednesday, UFCW Local 204 members in North Carolina ratified a new agreement with Kroger, protecting quality, affordable health care for workers and retirees. The four-year agreement covers 1700 Kroger employees. It ensures that pension benefits are secure, and that workers will receive wage increases for each of those four years.

Kroger workers in the Raleigh-Durham area stood together in a show of solidarity through two months of bargaining, making it possible to secure a good contract and successfully avoid a potential strike.

“We’re very satisfied with this contract,” said Local 204 member Nina Tilley. “I don’t think we would have an agreement like this without the support we got from the community here, and from UFCW members all over the country.”  Thousands of community and UFCW members sent emails to Kroger, urging them to continue to provide Kroger workers with quality, affordable health care. UFCW members in Kroger stores nationwide also kept abreast of the contract negotiations and offered their support.

Kroger and UFCW members differed mainly on the employees’ health care fund and the amount that employees would pay towards health care coverage. In negotiating this final contract offer, however, members were able to maintain and even improve affordable family health care.

Local 204 members voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement on September 26-27th.