December, 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.”

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.”

-30-

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.