May, 2007

Gerald Robert Menapace, former UFCW International Secretary-Treasurer, Passes Away

Gerald Robert “”Jerry”" Menapace, who rose from a production worker at the hog slaughter at Goetz Packing in Baltimore, Md., to the second highest office of the United Food and Commerical Workers International Union, passed away at his home on Sunday, May 27, from a heart attack.

“”The UFCW family is deeply saddened by the passing of Jerry Menapace. He was a friend and leader whose commitment to working people improved the lives of tens of thousands of working families. He was an inspiration to all of us,”" said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.

Menapace’s father, uncles, and grandfathers were all active in the United Mine Workers of America. When he was 20, Menapace joined Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen Local 149 (Now UFCW Local 27). Within two years, he became a union activist first serving as a local union representative, and later rising to the presidency of his local union. In 1974, he was elected an International Vice President of the Meat Cutters.

After the 1979 merger with the Retail Clerks International Union that formed the UFCW, Menapace became a UFCW International Vice President. In 1982, he became special assistant to the International President. He was named director of the Retail Division in 1984, and elected International Secretary-Treasurer in 1986 and re-elected in 1988.

Menapace’s leadership reflected his lifelong commitment to workers. Throughout his career he was an active champion for civil rights and social justice, deeply committed to the struggle for racial equality in Baltimore and in the entire U.S. He was a lifelong member of the NAACP.

He never forgot his commitment to workers, reminding people often that, “”the union exists solely for the benefit of members. Officers come and go. People live and die. The union goes on forever.”"

Menapace was a native of Atlas, Pa., and graduated from public schools in his hometown. He spent four years in the Navy, serving in Africa during the Korean War as a radio operator. He completed a two-year program in labor relations at Harvard University.

Menapace is survived by his wife, Jeanne Dawson and six sons—David Menapace of Waynesboro, Pa., Danny Menapace of Cumberland, Martin Menapace of Hapeville, Ga., Douglass Menapace of Phoenix, Md., Jeffrey Menapace of Hawthorne, N.J., and Steven Menapace of Bel Air; two daughters, Kathleen Menapace of Baltimore and Elizabeth Stewart of Huntington, W. Va.; a brother Robert Menapace of Northumberland, Pa.; a sister, Jacqueline Bolger of Roslyn, Pa., 17 grandchildren, and two great-granddaughters.

MEATPACKING WORKERS STAND UP FOR A VOICE ON THE JOB

(Windom, Minn.) – Meatpacking workers at PM Beef stood strong against employer intimidation to vote in favor of representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1161 on Friday, May 25, 2007.   The 500 PM Beef workers, who work in a full-scale cattle slaughtering and processing plant, sought out a voice on the job to address basic worker needs on the job – protection from dangerously fast line speeds and access to bathroom breaks.

“The PM beef workers fought hard for the opportunity to have a voice on the job.  Their victory is significant considering how difficult it is for workers to organize in the face of employer intimidation,” said Kevin Williamson, UFCW International Vice President and Director, Region 6.

The majority Latino workforce withstood a heavy-handed anti-worker campaign by the company.  Using hired gun lawyers, PM Beef pulled workers from the processing line to hold mandatory meetings with supervisors.  Workers were subjected to one-on-one meetings with plant management for a month leading up to the election date.

According to American Rights at Work, more than 78 percent of workers face these kinds of captive audience meetings when organizing a union.  Employers like PM Beef use the forced meetings to question workers about how they plan to vote, spread misinformation about the union and make workers fearful for speaking out in support of union representation.

What are rarely addressed in captive audience meetings are real solutions to the problems that inspired workers to organize.  At PM Beef, that included the company’s policy of requiring workers to pay for their own knives when one broke or became unusable on the line.

“Workers withstood one-on-one meetings with bosses to maintain their solidarity and courage to vote together for UFCW representation,” said Williamson.  “Their successful campaign will inspire other area meatpacking and other processing workers to stand up for respect and dignity on the job.”

The UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers in the meatpacking, poultry and food processing industries and has been on the frontlines of advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform (www.ufcw.org/issues/immigration).

KROGER WORKERS IN HOUSTON SHOW STRENGTH AND SOLIDARITY THOUGH STRIKE VOTE

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 Houston, where 12,700 workers are involved in negotiations with Kroger, UFCW members turned out in droves to vote by over 97% to authorize a strike against the supermarket company.

“There’s no excuse for Kroger’s behavior,” said Pat O’Neill, UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Collective Bargaining.  “By beating on their own workers, Kroger is hurting morale in the stores, and customers are changing their shopping habits in an attempt to avoid a crisis at their grocery store. Ultimately, it accomplishes little for either side at the table.”

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–threatening to chronically underfund health care and risk huge benefit cuts for workers.

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, Houston 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.

In Southern California, Seattle, Oregon, Montana, Illinois, Detroit, Toledo, and St Louis, UFCW members working in the grocery industry are also in tough negotiations with mammoth employers like Kroger and Supervalu.  Members throughout the country are unified in a nationwide movement to improve jobs in the grocery industry for workers, families, and communities.

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