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March 19, 2007

Responding to AFL-CIO, UFCW Lawsuit, Bush Administration Agrees to Issue Safety Equipment Rule for Employees

In response to a lawsuit filed by the AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the Bush Administration has agreed to issue a final rule on employer payment for personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees.  In 1999, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first proposed a PPE rule 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.

“We applaud the decision to finally issue a final rule on employer payment for their employees’ protective equipment” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.  “This rulemaking has taken far too long.  We will be monitoring the Department of Labor’s actions to make sure they honor this commitment and issue a strong, protective rule.”

On January 3, 2007, the AFL-CIO and UFCW filed a lawsuit against the Bush Administration over its failure to finalize the payment for PPE rule.  The court ordered the Bush Administration to respond to the lawsuit by March 19.  On March 14, the Secretary of Labor filed papers with the court committing to issue a final rule in November 2007.

“This is a victory for workers who have suffered needlessly while awaiting action by the Bush Administration,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President.  “According to OSHA’s own estimates, 400,000 workers have been injured and 50 have died while the rule has been in limbo.  We expect a strong final rule this November.”

Workers in the meatpacking, poultry and construction industries, and low-wage and immigrant workers are most vulnerable to injury.

The rule was first announced in 1997 and proposed in 1999 by 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 rule proposed in 1999 did not impose any new obligations on employers to provide safety equipment; it simply codified OSHA’s 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.

March 16, 2007

WAL-MART GIVES UP ON FIGHT FOR BANK

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) is pleased that Wal-Mart has withdrawn its application for an ILC and hopes that federal and state lawmakers will now pass legislation that will prevent retailers like Wal-Mart from entering the banking business and jeopardizing the nation’s economy.

Last month, the FDIC extended the moratorium on ILCs, giving Congress another year to consider whether to prohibit companies from acquiring their own banks. There is broad-based opposition to Wal-Mart’s plans, and an unprecedented number of people have registered comments with the FDIC. Just yesterday, the New York Times reported on new evidence that suggested Wal-Mart’s ambitions in banking may extend beyond what the company publicly admits.

“”This is a big victory for consumers, communities, and working people,”” said UFCW International Vice President and Director of the UFCW Legislative and Political Action Department, Michael J. Wilson. “”It’s not everyday that Wal-Mart says ‘Uncle.’ I think that they saw the controversy growing and felt tide turning against them and made the right decision to withdraw their application. But we can’t let up the pressure. We still need Congress to close the loophole by enacting H.R. 698, the Gillmor-Frank legislation. When it comes to Wal-Mart, only the law can really protect us.””

“”Local community banks and other financial institutions are critical to economic vitality and diversity. In recent years, Wal-Mart has destroyed local businesses and dismantled local economies. If Wal-Mart’s bid for a bank had been successful, the company’s economic control in these communities would have been almost complete.””

The UFCW is part of the Sound Banking Coalition which has fought Wal-Mart’s industrial loan company (ILC) application because of its interference with the historical and necessary separation between banking and commerce. A Wal-Mart-owned bank would have put a dangerous concentration of capital in the hands of one single company.

The Sound Banking Coalition is made up of the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), the National Grocers Association (N.G.A), the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), and the UFCW.

March 12, 2007

STOP & SHOP WORKERS STAND STRONG TO SECURE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL

NEW ENGLAND—Yesterday, Stop & Shop workers represented by five United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Unions achieved a solid victory when they ratified a three-year contract agreement securing affordable, quality health care with access for all Stop & Shop workers.

With the support of community members and other employees of Dutch-owned Stop & Shop parent company Ahold, workers held firm in their resolve to improve health care accessibility, quality, and cost for part-timers as well as full-timers.  They achieved their aims, with a contract that cuts new hires’ waiting period for health care in half and requires no monthly contribution towards health care from part-timers, who make up 80 percent of the Stop & Shop workforce in New England. Full-timers will make a modest, affordable monthly contribution towards health care premiums. Workers were also able to secure good wage increases and retirement security for all Stop & Shop employees.

Coordinated action with supporters and customers was key to the workers’ success. Community members and grocery workers sent emails of support, called store managers and Stop & Shop CEO Jose Alvarez, wrote letters to the editors of local newspapers, and signed petitions promising not to shop at Stop & Shop if workers were forced to strike.

UFCW members working for Ahold companies in other areas on the East Coast posted flyers in their stores, held rallies and leafleted customers. Presidents of UFCW Local Unions representing Ahold workers attended a bargaining session with Stop & Shop to show solidarity with New England workers.

The coordinated effort in New England is part of a nationwide bargaining unity program among UFCW grocery workers. Over 400,000 UFCW grocery workers across the country and in Canada are negotiating new contracts throughout 2007.  By supporting each other regionally and nationally, as well as engaging customers and community members in their struggle, grocery workers can improve grocery industry jobs for themselves and their communities.

March 12, 2007

STOP & SHOP WORKERS STAND STRONG TO SECURE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL

NEW ENGLAND—Yesterday, Stop & Shop workers represented by five United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Unions achieved a solid victory when they ratified a three-year contract agreement securing affordable, quality health care with access for all Stop & Shop workers.

With the support of community members and other employees of Dutch-owned Stop & Shop parent company Ahold, workers held firm in their resolve to improve health care accessibility, quality, and cost for part-timers as well as full-timers.  They achieved their aims, with a contract that cuts new hires’ waiting period for health care in half and requires no monthly contribution towards health care from part-timers, who make up 80 percent of the Stop & Shop workforce in New England. Full-timers will make a modest, affordable monthly contribution towards health care premiums. Workers were also able to secure good wage increases and retirement security for all Stop & Shop employees.

Coordinated action with supporters and customers was key to the workers’ success. Community members and grocery workers sent emails of support, called store managers and Stop & Shop CEO Jose Alvarez, wrote letters to the editors of local newspapers, and signed petitions promising not to shop at Stop & Shop if workers were forced to strike.

UFCW members working for Ahold companies in other areas on the East Coast posted flyers in their stores, held rallies and leafleted customers. Presidents of UFCW Local Unions representing Ahold workers attended a bargaining session with Stop & Shop to show solidarity with New England workers.

The coordinated effort in New England is part of a nationwide bargaining unity program among UFCW grocery workers. Over 400,000 UFCW grocery workers across the country and in Canada are negotiating new contracts throughout 2007.  By supporting each other regionally and nationally, as well as engaging customers and community members in their struggle, grocery workers can improve grocery industry jobs for themselves and their communities.

March 12, 2007

DECLARACI

Washington, D.C.—Los derechos de los inmigrantes son de los trabajadores.

Miles de personas están participando en demostraciones en el país hoy para demandar una reforma racional y comprensiva de la política migratoria de los Estados Unidos.

La UFCW ha estado luchando por décadas para organizar, representar y mejorar los sueldos y condiciones de trabajo para los trabajadores inmigrantes. Algunas de las primeras industrias que utilizaron la mano de obra de inmigrantes fueron las del empaquetado de carne y del procesamiento de alimentos. Por hecho, la UFCW ha estado metida en esta lucha por cien años.

Los Estados Unidos no tiene una política migratoria que es racional. En realidad, la política de inmigración ha sido privatizada. Empleadores importan y explotan los trabajadores inmigrantes, demostrando poco respeto por la ley federal o las agencias federales encargadas con la ejecución de la ley.

Las cuestiones de inmigración en los Estados Unidos son parte de una tendencia global—la explotación general de la mano de obra. Como parte de su búsqueda para el grupo de trabajadores más explotables, corporaciones exportan trabajos—e importan trabajadores para crear un grupo de trabajadores explotables acá en nuestro propio país.

Una población de trabajadores que viven y trabajan sin derechos existe como consecuencia de la falta de estándares firmes y ejecutables en la política migratoria estadounidense. Estos trabajadores pueden ser reclutados, importados, explotados y dispuestos.

La criminalización de los inmigrantes de los Estados Unidos para remediar el fracaso de la política migratoria estadounidense—como está propuesto en H.R. 4437—es inmoral e hipócrita.

La reforma de la política migratoria tiene que ser comprensiva. Una política migratoria que es constructiva legalizaría los millones de trabajadores inmigrantes que ya están contribuyendo a nuestra economía y sociedad, a la vez que protegería los salarios y condiciones de trabajo de todos los trabajadores—algo menos que eso lastima a todos los trabajadores.

Para mayores informes contacte press@ufcw.org

March 6, 2007

UFCW STATEMENT ON NAACP ENDORSEMENT OF EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT

(Washington, DC) – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union applauds the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) endorsement of the Employee Free Choice Act.

As the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, the NAACP’s support demonstrates that the Employee Free Choice Act is an important civil rights issue. If passed, the act would clear a path for workers to have a fair chance to exercise their democratic right to choose a union. Unionized workers have better wages, benefits, working conditions and job security than workers who don’t have a union.

In calling for passage of the act, the NAACP said, “The impact of unions—ensuring that all working Americans are treated well and share in the prosperity—cannot be overstated. Despite the continuing strength and advocacy power of unions, however, some employers continue to treat workers poorly, not paying them a fair wage or providing them with necessary benefits… And some employers continue to fight the legitimate organization of unions.”

Every day, corporations harass, intimidate, threaten and even fire workers who try to form unions for better working and living standards. Corporations deny employees the freedom to decide for themselves whether to form unions. And when corporations do that, they deny working men and women the freedom to pursue a better life for themselves and their future generations.

March 6, 2007

UFCW Lauds the Protective Equipment for America

Washington, DCThe United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) applauds and supports the ‘‘Protective Equipment for America’s Workers Act,’’ introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The Act, also known as H.R. Bill 1327, sponsored by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), seeks to require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to complete its rulemaking on Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for workers.  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.

For nearly eight years, OSHA has failed to issue a standard requiring employers to pay for PPE.   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.  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.

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.

“”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 takes action on protective equipment.  The time has come to force OSHA to act,”” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President.