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    UFCW Blog

September 29, 2006


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.

September 26, 2006


(Washington, D.C.) – Yesterday, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) lauded the recommendations of the Citizens Health Care Working Group (CHCWG) which shows remarkable consensus among Americans for public policy that ensures all Americans, regardless of their financial resources or health status, have affordable health care coverage. UFCW members are on the frontlines of the struggle for affordable health care for working families. Today’s report outlines what millions of working families already know – the health care system is at the tipping point and Americans want significant change to happen now.

UFCW International President Joe Hansen has served on the 15-member CHCWG since its inception in 2005. Created by an act of Congress, the CHCWG has created an historic national dialogue among Americans about their experience with the nation’s health care system.

“”I’m proud of the work we have done together as the Working Group by engaging a broad cross-section of Americans to weigh in on the health care crisis. Washington gridlock has prevented meaningful reform in the past and now the mandate is clear: Americans demand immediate and significant action,”” said Joe Hansen.

Over the past year, the CHCWG engaged the American public in groundbreaking national dialogue on health care across 37 states with more than 35,000 responses on the internet. The message was clear, and consistent with national polls: Americans want health care for all; they want the delivery system fixed, they want waste eliminated, and they are willing to pay their fair share as long as the government and businesses do the same.

The report details America’s strong desire for comprehensive health care reform and sense of urgency that changes happen immediately. The CHCWG recommendations will be presented to Congress and the President and urge action in 2007 to pass legislation that will ensure all Americans have affordable health care by 2012. The Working Group also provided immediate steps that can and should be taken to provide security for American families and access to services in their communities.

As health care costs continue to rise out of control and the number on uninsured rises, the employer based health care system is crumbling. Responsible employers shoulder a heavier burden of health care costs due to companies like Wal-Mart that refuse to pay its fair share. Companies like Wal-Mart cut costs by making basic coverage too expensive for their workers only make the problem worse.

The CHCWG recommendations provide lawmakers with a road map for fixing the system.

“”The American people want fundamental reform that brings quality health care coverage for everyone. Obviously we can’t solve the health care crisis at the bargaining table. We need a national solution to this national crisis,”” continued Hansen.

To read more about the CHCWG recommendations to Congress and the President, log on to www.ufcw4healthcare.org

September 25, 2006

Coalition Calls on USDA to Revise Bird Flu Plan

Washington, DC – A broad coalition of stakeholder groups issued a statement today criticizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan for responding to a U.S. outbreak of bird flu and called for revisions to adequately protect the public and poultry farmers.  The coalition charged that the USDA does not acknowledge the risk posed by common poultry industry practices in the emergence and spread of highly-pathogenic avian influenza.
“”The USDA is incorrectly focusing its attention on small and free-range poultry farmers,”” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.
The USDA does not address industry practices that increase the risk of spreading avian influenza. “”Not only are big poultry producers housing hundreds of thousands of birds, they’re moving birds, feed, and supplies and even poultry waste to be used as fertilizer or to be fed to other animals,”” explained Hauter.
  “”Poultry workers and growers would be among the first exposed to an outbreak but USDA does not ensure appropriate protective equipment, specialized sanitation, training, human flu vaccinations and whistleblower protections for workers who detect and report sick birds “” said Mark Lauritsen of the United Food & Commercial Workers.
The plan does not address the potentially huge economic impacts for small processors and the vulnerability of the many workers at large plants if quarantines or depopulation eliminate the supply of poultry. “”The current USDA plan provides for compensation of the large poultry companies that own birds. Meanwhile, workers and farmers who contract with the companies are left completely vulnerable and stand to lose their entire livelihood,” said Andrea Whiteis, National Poultry Justice Alliance Director.
The coalition representing consumers, organic, minority and family farmers, ranchers, animal welfare advocates, contract poultry growers, poultry workers, unions, environmentalists, religious groups, social justice organizations and concerned citizens called on USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to take the following steps:
  • Protect the health and livelihoods of all poultry workers and growers;
  • Follow the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) euthanasia guidelines when destroying flocks;
  • Improve procedures for venting, dust control, and transportation and disposal of bird carcasses and waste; and
  • Extend testing, enforce immediate quarantines, and notify the facilities’ neighbors if disease is detected.
The complete statement is available online at http://www.fwwatch.org/food/avian-flu/usda-should-revise-avian-flu-plan-coalition-statement or as a pdf file including the list of signatory contact information at http://www.fwwatch.org/food/avian-flu/Avian%20Flu%20Coalition%20Statement.pdf
September 1, 2006


(Durham, NC) – On Tuesday, August 29th, 2006, at 2:30 p.m., United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 204 members working at Kroger stores in the Raleigh-Durham area joined with local community leaders and supporters in asking Kroger to stop attacking workers’ health care. A press conference and neighborhood walk were held near the Durham Kroger on Highway 54.

Supporters like Barbara Zeltner of the North Carolina Council of Churches and Reverend Nelson Johnson of the Southern Faith and Labor Alliance, as well as Kroger workers and members of UFCW Local 204, got the chance to speak out on how Kroger’s plans to raid employee health care funds would hurt local communities.

“”I think the customers have a right to know how Kroger really treats their employees,”” said Monique Wilkerson, a local Kroger employee. Wilkerson has worked for Kroger for ten years but says that the last two have been difficult, with a young child at home and the strain of the long hours she has to work. “”Customers don’t realize that we work every holiday but Christmas, we work long hours, overnight sometimes, we have to do several jobs at once since we’re so understaffed–and now Kroger wants to take away the one thing they do well, our health care benefits. It’s just not right.””

Under Kroger’s current proposal, the company would take money out of workers’ health care funds and force workers to pay over $1.4 million to make up the difference.   Workers would have to choose between health care and things like rent, food, and other basic necessities.

Members of UFCW Local 204 have been attempting to negotiate a new contract with Kroger for over a month. Workers are frustrated by Kroger’s failure to put forth any reasonable proposals after weeks of bargaining.  UFCW members have made numerous fair and equitable proposals that would benefit both the company and workers, but Kroger has rejected these.  UFCW members are currently into the second day of a new bargaining session with Kroger.

UFCW members and supporters wanted to participate in the walk because they wanted to let their neighbors know what Kroger was up to.   “”The company?s not being fair to us, and they’re not being fair to the community,”” said 12-year Kroger employee Nina Tilley.  “”This affects everybody.  The people who shop here will still get charged the same or more, and now their families and neighbors will have less because they?ll be paying more for health care.””