January, 2007

Statement from the UFCW on the settlement of Albertsons Off-the-Clock Class Action Lawsuit

After nearly a decade of litigation, an agreement-in-principle has been entered into for concluding the Albertsons’ off-the-clock case and distributing $53.3 among UFCW members and other workers and former workers who brought a class-action off-the- clock suit against the company. The court has given preliminary approval to the settlement and a hearing will be held on March 22, 2007, to determine the court’s final approval. Claimants will be receiving notice, within the next several weeks, of the court’s preliminary approval and the amount they would receive under the settlement upon the court’s final approval. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union had been assisting workers throughout the eleven-year process and is pleased that an agreement-in-principle has been reached.

After settling the case six years ago, litigation over the claims process has delayed justice for the thousands of workers affected by Albertsons’ practices.

The giant retail food grocer was purchased in 2006 by the Minnesota-based SuperValu chain. The new owners deserve credit for bringing this long chapter to a close and moving the process forward so that the workers’ case could be resolved.

If given final approval by the court:

· Albertsons would pay $53.3 million to be apportioned among the claimants, with individual payouts being based on information submitted in individual claims, the clarity of that information, and the timeliness of its submission;

· Payouts could occur as early as spring 2007.

The class counsels’ website, www.albsuits.com, of the law firm of Webster, Mrak & Blumberg, will be updated shortly to include a copy of the notice, and class counsel will then be available to answer any questions of claimants about the proposed resolution and individual claims. Class counsel can be contacted by claimants toll-free at 1-888-222-5729 or by email at wmb@wmblaw.net.

The UFCW represents 1.3 million members with one million working in the supermarket industry.

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AFL-CIO and UFCW Sue Bush Administration to End Eight-Year Delay on Rule Requiring Employers to Pay for Safety Equipment

(Washington, Jan. 3) – - The AFL –CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) today sued the U.S. Department of Labor over its failure to issue a standard requiring employers to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) – - a standard which has been delayed for nearly eight years.  This Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule would require employers to pay the costs of protective clothing, lifelines, face shields, gloves and other equipment used by an estimated 20 million workers to protect them from job hazards.
The lawsuit asserts that the Bush Administration’s failure to act is putting workers in danger.  By OSHA’s own estimates, 400,000 workers have been injured and 50 have died due to the absence of this rule.  The labor groups say that workers in some of America’s most dangerous industries, such as meatpacking, poultry and construction, and low-wage and immigrant workers who suffer high injury rates, are vulnerable to being forced by their employers to pay for their own safety gear because of OSHA’s failure to finish the PPE rule.
The rule was first announced in 1997 and proposed in 1999 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a ruling by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission that OSHA’s existing PPE standard could not be interpreted to require employers to pay for protective equipment.  The new rule would not impose any new obligations on employers to provide safety equipment; it simply codifies OSHA’s longstanding policy that employers, not employees, have the responsibility to pay for it.
In 1999, OSHA promised to issue the final PPE rule in July 2000.  But it missed that deadline and has missed every self-imposed deadline since.  The agency has failed to act in response to a 2003 petition by the AFL-CIO and UFCW and numerous requests by the Hispanic Congressional Caucus.  The lawsuit filed today seeks to end this eight-year delay, calling it “egregious.”
“”Nothing is standing in the way of OSHA issuing a final PPE rule to protect worker safety and health except the will to do so.  It is long overdue that the agency take action on protective equipment.  Now, we are asking the courts to force OSHA to act,”" said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President.
 “The Bush Administration’s failure to implement even this most basic safety rule spotlights how it has turned its back on workers in this country,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.  “Too many workers have already been hurt or killed.  The Bush Department of Labor should stop looking out for corporate interests at the expense of workers’ safety and health on the job.”
 The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asks the court to issue an order directing the Secretary of Labor to complete the PPE rule within 60 days of the court’s order.