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    UFCW Blog

December 13, 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.

 

November 15, 2007

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.

November 13, 2007

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.

 

November 2, 2007

CHILDREN

 Washington, D.C. – Despite passage in the Senate yesterday and broad public support, President Bush has threatened to veto a new version of a children’s health care bill that will provide coverage to 10 million children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  This modified bill is a responsible approach to addressing America’s broken health care system, and another veto will further highlight this administration’s indifference to the plight of millions of children who are without coverage.

A majority of Americans believe that health care is a moral issue and that no American should be denied access to health care.  The president’s veto threat is another reminder of his callous disregard for the millions of American workers and their children who have nowhere to go for their basic health care needs.

More must be done to narrow the growing divide between the healthy and wealthy few and the growing population of American workers and their children who are struggling to survive without health care coverage.  The UFCW will continue to fight for health care reform so that all Americans have the coverage they need to lead healthy and productive lives.

 

 

October 26, 2007

AMERICA

Washington, D.C. – Last night, the House of Representatives gave America ’s uninsured children a second chance at a healthy future by passing a new version of a children’s health care bill, but failed to get the majority of votes necessary to overturn another presidential veto.  The new bill will cover 10 million children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and tighten eligibility in response to concerns about the previous bill. While imperfect, this new bill is a good start to addressing our country’s health care crisis, and another presidential veto will further punish the millions of children of working parents who are without coverage.

For too long, America’s workers and their children have paid the price for a broken health care system.  While workers struggle to survive on stagnant wages, more and more employers are adding to that burden by shifting the growing cost of health care coverage to workers—forcing them to pay high out-of-pocket premiums, deductibles and co-payments.  These faulty health care plans are proving to be too expensive for working men and women to afford, and in 10 million cases, many workers and  their children have nowhere to go for their basic health care needs.

This new bill is a responsible approach to ensuring that children have access to quality health care, and another veto will signal the president’s indifference to the majority of Americans who equate access to health care with the pursuit of the American Dream, our country’s destiny, and each family’s well-being and future.  The UFCW will continue to fight for health care reform so that American workers and their children are able to live healthy and productive lives and realize the American Dream.

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October 25, 2007

HARDWORKING STUDENTS

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes necessary to protect the dreams of hardworking students. The DREAM Act would have allowed children of immigrants who have grown up in the United States the opportunity to apply for citizenship if they graduate from high school and complete two years of college or military service.   Despite the support of 52 senators, the failure to advance the DREAM Act punishes hardworking students.  It is a sad day when America sends the message to young people that their talents and service are unwanted.

Each year, tens of thousands of high performing children of immigrants who were raised in the United States—including honor role students, star athletes, and aspiring teachers, doctors, lawyers and U.S. soldiers—graduate from high school.  Despite their academic achievements, they are effectively barred from contributing fully to our communities.

America cannot afford to turn its back on an educated class of promising students who have demonstrated a commitment to hard work and a strong desire to be upstanding members of our society.  Our current immigration policy has real human costs, and the UFCW will continue to fight for immigration reform that ensures that America’s workers and their children are able to improve their lives and realize the American Dream.

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October 17, 2007

LEADING KOSHER MEATPACKING PLANT DELAYS CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT

Cedar Rapids, Iowa– The United States’ leading kosher meatpacking company will appear in federal court today challenging a class action lawsuit filed against the company on behalf of its workers.

The lawsuit alleges that Agriprocessors, a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa,
has not compensated workers for the time they spend preparing for work at the beginning of the day and cleaning up at the end of it. Such compensation has recently been upheld by the Supreme Court.  Agriprocessors is trying to limit worker participation in its attempt to avoid its obligations under Iowa state law which provides that all employees are automatically plaintiffs in the lawsuit unless they sign a form indicating otherwise.  Agriprocessors is arguing that only federal law applies, which requires employees to sign a form requesting participation in the class action suit.

Working conditions and food safety at the AgriProcessors slaughterhouse have been under scrutiny in the past year.  In May of this year, over 200 workers stood up for their rights and walked out of the plant in protest of the company’s misconduct.

Agriprocessors, one of the nation’s largest kosher meat producers, runs a beef, lamb and poultry processing plant in Postville, Iowa. Agriprocessors produces products under the following brand names: Aaron’s Best, Aaron’s Choice, European Glatt, Iowa Best Beef, Nevel, Shor Harbor , Rubashkin’s, Supreme Kosher, and David’s.

“Essentially the company is trying to undercut the voices of hundreds of workers by delaying the lawsuit and trying to limit their right to recover unpaid wages through overwhelming them with more paperwork and red tape,” says Attorney Brian McCafferty.  McCafferty will be representing the workers today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa federal court.

For more information go to www.eyeonagriprocessors.com.

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October 9, 2007

CINCINNATI KROGER WORKERS PREPARE TO SHOW STRENGTH AND SOLIDARITY THROUGH STRIKE VOTE

Workers Taking Strike Authorization Vote to Fight Kroger’s Gaslight Era Bargaining Tactics

Washington, DC—Grocery workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) are fighting back against the Kroger Company’s nineteenth century bargaining tactics. Kroger seems to be operating under that century’s model of “robber baron bargaining”— pushing workers to the brink and forcing strikes, all to justify greedy demands at the bargaining table and in the community.

In Cincinnati, where 10,000 workers are involved in negotiations with Kroger, UFCW Local 1099 members are meeting at sessions throughout the day on Wednesday, October 10, 2007, to consider the company’s latest proposals.  The workers’ bargaining committee is recommending that workers reject the proposals and vote to authorize a strike.  Meetings and times can be found at www.ufcw1099.org.

“There’s no excuse for Kroger’s behavior,” said Lennie Wyatt, UFCW International Vice President and President of Local 1099.  “This year, tens of thousands of Kroger employees have been pushed to the brink by their company and forced to vote to strike before Kroger gets serious at the bargaining table.  These hardball tactics are an insult to Kroger employees and customers.”

It’s time to put an end to this kind of “crisis bargaining” where a profitable company like Kroger comes to the table making outrageous demands of its hourly workers—demanding devastating cuts to workers’ health care and other benefits.

UFCW members understand that the rising cost of health care in the U.S. is a crisis we all must face together. In previous contracts, Local 1099 members have worked diligently to lower health care costs. Workers are picking up their share. Their hard work has made Kroger the hugely profitable chain it is today.

But Kroger’s greed just keeps increasing.  The company seems intent on driving workers to the brink of a strike, and threatening to disrupt tens of thousands of consumers in an attempt to extract even more from its workforce.

Kroger can’t have it both ways.  CEO David Dillon crows to investors and the public that when Wal-Mart expands its operations, Kroger gains market share, increases sales and boosts profits. There’s no excuse, then, to claim that competition from the low-wage, no-benefit Wal-Mart should require workers to strike in order to save affordable health care.

Across the country, Kroger workers have reached agreements – without a strike – that provide for preventative health care benefits, affordable premiums, and quality care for workers and their families.  Over the past ten months, UFCW members in Southern California, Seattle, Oregon, Detroit, Texas, and Toledo, Ohio have signed new contracts with Kroger without a work stoppage.  Cincinnati workers deserve the same.

For more on UFCW negotiations across the country, please visit the Grocery Workers United website at www.groceryworkersunited.org.

October 2, 2007

FARM BILL AMENDMENT WILL WEAKEN AMERICA

Amendment will eliminate a 40-year-old protection in the federal meat and poultry inspection acts

Washington, D.C. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today joined forces with the Consumer Federation of America, Safe Tables Our Priority and other consumer and watchdog groups to oppose an amendment in the Senate Farm Bill that puts consumers and food workers at risk of foodborne illnesses.  The pending amendment will eliminate a 40-year-old protection in the federal meat and poultry inspection acts that bans state inspected meat and poultry from being sold in interstate commerce.  The amendment will also allow meat and poultry plants to forgo federal inspections and increase the risk of foodborne illnesses in the United States.

“Any notion that state inspection systems are equal to the federal system is hogwash,” said Michael J. Wilson, UFCW International Vice President and Director of Legislative and Political Action.  “States have no ability to recall tainted products, and state inspectors are not accountable to consumers in other states.  Any effort to devolve federal oversight of meat and poultry plants to states is a threat to consumer safety and will further subject food workers to unsanitary work conditions.”

For more than 100 years, the UFCW has been fighting to improve the working conditions of food workers and the safety of our food, and currently represents more than a quarter of a million workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries.  In addition to protecting the rights of food workers, the UFCW is also a founding member of the Safe Food Coalition which consists of consumer groups, groups representing victims of foodborne illnesses, and watchdog groups that are dedicated to reducing the incidence of foodborne illnesses in the United States.

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September 25, 2007

FARM BILL PROVISION WILL PUT CONSUMERS AND FOOD WORKERS AT RISK

Provision will compromise food safety by allowing states to forgo federal meat and poultry inspections

Washington, D.C. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) joined forces with the American Federation of Government Employees today to oppose a provision in the House Farm Bill that will put consumers at risk of food borne illnesses and further subject food workers to unsanitary work conditions.

The provision will eliminate a 40-year-old protection in the federal meat and poultry inspection acts that bans state inspected meat and poultry from being sold in interstate commerce.  The provision will also allow the vast majority of meat and poultry plants to forgo federal inspection in favor of more lax state inspections, which ultimately puts the health and safety of millions of consumers at risk.

“This amendment will weaken America’s food safety net, pure and simple,” said Michael J. Wilson, UFCW International Vice President and Director of Legislative and Political Action.  “Anyone who pretends that state inspection is the same as federal inspection also believes in the Tooth Fairy.  In addition, it will encourage thousands of facilities who are currently federally inspected to opt for a more ‘friendly’ state inspection.  Like a tainted piece of meat, this provision deserves the stamp of rejection.”

For more than 100 years, the UFCW has been fighting to improve the working conditions of food workers and the safety of our food, and currently represents more than a quarter of a million workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries.  In addition to protecting the rights of food workers, the UFCW is also a founding member of the Safe Food Coalition which consists of consumer groups, groups representing victims of food borne illnesses, and watchdog groups that are dedicated to reducing the incidence of food borne illnesses in the United States.

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