2007

BAD MEDICINE FOR AMERICA

Washington, D.C. – Once again,  President Bush has chosen to turn his back on America’s uninsured children by vetoing a new version of a health care bill that would have expanded coverage to 10 million children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  Despite broad public support for this legislation, the president has made it clear  that health and well-being of America’s children is not a priority.

While President Bush and his followers bicker with Congress over SCHIP funding and eligibility issues, America’s families are struggling to balance the high cost of housing, food, fuel and education with health care plans that include high out-of-pocket premiums, deductibles and co-payments.  These flawed health care plans are proving to be too expensive for millions of Americans to afford, and many families with young children are being forced to join the growing population of Americans who are uninsured.

A majority of voters believe that no American should be denied access to health care.  It is our hope that Congress will listen to the voters who put them in office and override this veto.  We also hope that President Bush and his followers are held accountable for putting big business before the millions of families who are simply trying to survive without coverage.  The UFCW will continue to fight for health care reform so that all Americans and their children have access to a healthier future.

 

AFL-CIO and UFCW Welcome New Worker Safety Rule

(Washington, Nov. 14) – – The AFL-CIO and UFCW today welcomed OSHA’s announcement that the agency will finally issue the rule requiring employers to pay for personal protective safety equipment – a measure that will prevent tens of thousands of workplaces injuries every year.

“”It is unfortunate that nine years have passed since the rule was proposed, and that it took a lawsuit by the unions and Congressional intervention before the Bush Administration would act,”” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “”America’s working men and women deserve the proper equipment to keep them safe on the job, each and every day, and we will thoroughly review this rule to make sure it protects them.””

“”Workers have spoken out for this rule and now Congress and the courts have forced the DOL to act. Our members will be watching to see this rule is enforced in every workplace,”” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President. “”Workers should no longer be required to dip into their own pocket to keep themselves safe from harm at work.””

Both the litigation and the FY 2008 Labor-HHS funding bill set a deadline of November 30, 2007 for final action by OSHA.

This rule is a basic requirement that codifies OSHA’s long-standing policy that it is the employer’s responsibility to pay the cost of protecting workers from safety and health hazards. The rule makes clear that employers must pay for hard hats, goggles, face shields, chemical resistant suits, and other required safety equipment. It does, however, include some exemptions from the employer payment requirements, most notably for safety shoes and prescription safety glasses that can be worn off the job.

The AFL-CIO and UFCW will be reviewing the rule in detail to determine if it provides workers with the level of protection that is needed and required by law.

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For more information about workplace safety and personal protective equipment, click here.

Meatpacking Corporate Power Threatens Jobs and Communities

(Washington, DC) – Today, the nation’s largest meatpacking worker union announced its support for an effort to ban meatpacking corporations from owning livestock   The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) supports a key provision of the Farm Bill (S.2302) that would preserve the structure that keeps food production a stable industry in America’s heartland and protect jobs for hundreds of thousands of workers in the U.S.

A handful of meatpacking corporations dominate the beef and pork industries.  Meatpacking companies have used the changing landscape to own as much livestock as possible.  As a result, farmers have lost business.  In the pork industry, when meatpackers own the hogs from birth to slaughter they can move livestock and production to wherever they can find the cheapest land and labor.

Workers, communities and the environment have paid the price for these disruptions.  Giant hog feedlots with lagoons of hog waste sprung up overnight and overwhelmed the environment and water tables in parts of the country where hog production didn’t exist thirty years ago. Giant processing plants were built near the feedlots to employ a workforce that is beholden to the industry.   Workers at processing plants located in places like Iowa and South Dakota lost their jobs when plants were shuttered and never reopened.

Left unchecked and unregulated, every meatpacking producer will attempt to operate the same way – moving livestock and production to maximize profits, no matter how many jobs and local economies are destroyed in the process.  UFCW’s experience is that meatpacking corporations which own livestock push down wage and benefits levels for all workers in the industry.

U.S. Senators are considering a provision, Section 10207. Prohibition on Packers Owning, Feeding, or Controlling Livestock as part of the 2007 Farm Bill.  This provision would preserve the open market approach to meat production and protect workers and communities from further disruption and exploitation at the hands of giant meatpacking companies.  The UFCW joins more than 200 organizations, including the National Farmers’ Union, in supporting the ban on packer ownership of livestock.

In a full-page ad in today’s issue of Roll Call, UFCW members pointed out that when meatpacking companies own all levels of production, the stability of processing jobs are at risk.

The UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers in the meat packing and food processing industries, including workers at Hormel, Tyson, Cargill and Smithfield Foods.