February, 2007

STATEMENT BY UFCW INTERNATIONAL UNION PRESIDENT JOE HANSEN ON A&P

Washington — The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) represents 54,000 A&P employees nationwide and nearly 29,000 Pathmark workers.

UFCW-represented employees at both companies have helped these two vital regional chains maintain strong market share, serve customers and communities.

The UFCW will continue to represent our members at both companies and enforce all union contract provisions while any possible transactions take place.

Should Pathmark decide to sell the company to A&P, the UFCW anticipates that all contracts would remain in effect.

Federal Judge Orders Labor Department to Answer for Eight-Year Delay in Requiring Employers to Pay for Safety Equipment

A United States Court of Appeals ordered the Department of Labor (DOL) to respond in 30 days to a suit requesting the court to order OSHA to implement a long-delayed standard that 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 United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the AFL-CIO sued the DOL January 3 over an eight-year delay in implementing an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule requiring employers to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE).

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 noted 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 failed to act in response to a 2003 petition by the AFL-CIO and UFCW and  requests by the Hispanic Congressional Caucus.  The lawsuit seeking to end this eight-year delay, called it “egregious.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asked the court to issue an order directing the Secretary of Labor to complete the PPE rule within 60 days of the court’s order.

Don’t Pass Up the Opportunity for Safety and Health Training

Have there been a series of injuries at your workplace? Do you need help investigating the root causes of these injuries? If an ammonia leak occurred in your plant, would you know what precautions your employer should take or what the union’s role is?
Stewards have many responsibilities, but none as important as promoting the safety and health of fellow workers. Stewards are encouraged to build on their safety skills and knowledge by taking advantage of trainings available through the UFCW International’s Occupational Safety and Health Office.
Safety and Health Office staff members develop personalized trainings to address the specific needs of stewards and local unions. They are at no cost to members or local unions because they are funded through a grant from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Trainings take place inside plants, at local union halls, or at nearby facilities. The workshops accommodate any size group, and can be facilitated in both English and Spanish. They are open to UFCW stewards, rank-and-file members, safety committee members, and local
union representatives. Depending on the needs and availability of participants, trainings can be held for any length of time from a few hours to a few days.

 

The Occupational Safety and Health Office offers workshop trainings on many topics, including:

  • Identifying safety and health hazards in the workplace
  •  Incident investigations
  •  Workplace violence prevention
  • Building a stronger union through safety and health
  •  Workers’ rights under OSHA
  •  Ergonomics
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  •  Strengthening safety committees

 

Adolph Simms is a UFCW Local 325 member working at the Bay Valley Food Processing plant in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he has been a union safety representative for almost 10 years. Simms has participated in several UFCW safety and health trainings over the years and encourages others to take advantage of them.

 

“There are many opportunities for UFCW stewards and members to participate in safety trainings. If you think about it, the union’s basic mission is to advance the quality of life for workers. If there is a serious injury on the job, that clearly diminishes the quality of life for that worker and even the worker’s family.”

 

Simms says workers best know the hazards of their jobs, and it’s really in their interest to take an active role in safety and health on the job. “As workers, we have the most to lose from an unsafe work environment. Therefore we should have the largest role and the greatest impact in promoting workplace safety.”
Safety and health workshops can also be conducted at stewards’ conferences. In addition, the UFCW International hosts an annual Train-the-Trainer program where participants not only learn about safety issues, but also develop the skills needed to train their co-workers when they return to their worksite.
Simms has also participated in a Train-the-Trainer program and says the knowledge and skills he has learned from this workshop is helpful back on the job for many reasons. “Not only have I learned a lot and taken that knowledge back to the shop floor to help other workers,
but I’m also a part of contract negotiations to make sure our safety and health issues are addressed.”
If stewards don’t think they have time to participate in safety trainings, Simms argues it might make more sense to find a union member interested in making safety and health his or her only agenda. He says that stewards can be overwhelmed with many tasks, and it may work out better to have a union worker solely devoted to safety.