August 29, 2007
Puget Sound grocery workers overwhelmingly ratify three-year contract
with grocery employers
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)-represented grocery workers in the Puget Sound area improved grocery jobs for workers and communities when they recently ratified a fair contract with their employers. These UFCW members joined members in Southern California, Texas, Toledo, and Detroit, and New England in recently ratifying good contracts with affordable, quality health care, retirement security, and wages that pay the bills.
Puget Sound grocery workers in UFCW Locals 21, 81, and 44 overwhelmingly approved their three-year contract agreement with three national grocery chains: Safeway, Supervalu (Albertsons) and Kroger (Fred Meyer and QFC).
The new three-year contract agreement includes:
An affordable, improved health care plan, with no-cost preventative care, coverage for same-sex couples and reduced waiting period for children’s coverage, wellness incentives for employees, and lower prescription costs;
Wage increases of up to $1.30 an hour over the term of the contract;
Improvements in sick leave and scheduling practices; and
Pension plan secured with no cuts for the life of the contract.
“The terms of this contract—especially the medical benefits, give me the feeling of great relief,” said Eleanor Knight, a UFCW Local 21 member working at Issaquah’s QFC. “My son and I need good health care benefits. This new plan will make a big difference in our lives.”
“From the beginning, we set very clear goals,” said Dave Schmitz, President of UFCW Local 21. “We met those goals—and more—without taking any steps backwards. There are solid wage increases, a groundbreaking health care benefits package that means better care at lower costs for members and progress on sick leave and scheduling practices.”
Community support and UFCW solidarity was instrumental in securing a fair contract. Over the past five months of negotiations, grocery employees received an outpouring of support from grocery store customers, workers, and community members throughout Puget Sound as well as throughout the country. Tens of thousands signed a pledge saying they would stand up for grocery workers, and religious leaders and elected officials showed up at stores to bolster support for workers.
“”The community stood with these workers because it was the right thing to do,” said Steve Williamson, Director of Strategic Campaigns for UFCW Local 21. ”Standing with grocery industry workers who are struggling every day to make ends meet is critical to the future of our middle class.”
The Puget Sound campaign, representing 20,000 grocery workers in Puget Sound, is part of the Grocery Workers United unity bargaining campaign. Grocery Workers United is a national movement of over 400,000 UFCW-represented grocery workers joining with each other and with community members across the country and in Canada to improve jobs in the grocery industry–one contract at a time.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 28, 2007
Las redadas de diciembre sometieron millones de miembros de la UFCW y ciudadanos de Estados Unidos a la detención masiva y otros abusos de sus derechos constitucionales
Omaha, Neb.—Miembros de la Unión de Trabajadores Comerciales y de Alimentos (UFCW por sus siglas en inglés) se juntaron con grupos de la comunidad, lideres de los derechos civiles y activistas inmigrantes para condenar el abuso y la mala conducta por parte de los agentes del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas de Estados Unidos (ICE por sus siglas en inglés). Por todo el país, los oficiales de ICE han utilizado la fuerza física injustificada para la detención ilegal de trabajadores en sus intentos a hacer cumplir con la política migratoria fracasada de los Estados Unidos.
La reunión nacional de hoy fue llevada a cabo para oír los testimonios de los trabajadores, muchos quienes fueron detenidos ilegalmente y contra su voluntad, a quienes se les negó el acceso a teléfonos, abogados y hasta el uso de los baños.
“La demostración excesiva de fuerza—conducta abusiva, y la indiferencia por los derechos y las familias de los trabajadores, suena más como algo de un país o una época lejana,” dijo el presidente de la UFCW Internacional Joe Hansen. “Desafortunadamente, ocurrieron en el centro de Estados Unidos durante nuestros tiempos. Sucedió a los trabajadores de Estados Unidos—nuestros hermanos y hermanas. Sucedió a nuestros compañeros americanos—los nativos y los inmigrantes.”
Durante las redadas, las familias, escuelas, y guarderías infantiles no pudieron ser contactadas para hacer planes para el cuidado de los niños de los trabajadores detenidos. Familias fueron divididas—sin saber dónde o cuándo tendrían la oportunidad de ver sus familiares desaparecidos.
“Nuestra unión se está levantando para hablar sobre los derechos constitucionales de nuestros miembros,” dijo Hansen. “Ellos fueron detenidos ilegalmente durante estas redadas de ICE. Hemos vencido por décadas en la lucha por los derechos de los trabajadores y no nos vamos a quedar callados mientras los agentes federales les niegan sus derechos constitucionales de la cuarta enmienda.”
La UFCW organizó la Reunión Nacional Sobre la Mala Conducta de ICE y las Violaciones de los Derechos Constitucionales de la Cuarta Enmienda de hoy para unir las voces por todo el país y para colectar las historias de los trabajadores que sufrieron durante las redadas de ICE, además de planear una trayectoria de acción para responder a estos acontecimientos.
“Cuando traté de ir a la cafetería durante la redada, los agentes de ICE me acusaron de haber intentado a escapar. Me detuvieron en esposas. Soy un ciudadano de Estados Unidos, nacido en Iowa. Mis padres viven en Mississippi. Mi gobierno me trató como un criminal y no hice nada malo. Sabía que estaban violando nuestros derechos. Lo que están haciendo en estas redadas es ilegal,” dijo Mike Graves, quien ha vivido en Estados Unidos toda su vida y trabaja en la planta de Swift and Company en Marshalltown, Iowa, y es un miembro de la UFCW Local 1149.
Más de 12,000 empacadores de carne fueron detenidos durante las redadas de ICE el 12 de diciembre del 2006. Desde entonces, muchos trabajadores en otras industrias han sido arrestados y detenidos contra su voluntad y se les negó contacto con sus familias en otras redadas subsiguientes. Millones de trabajadores quines son ciudadanos de Estados Unidos y residentes legales fueron afectados por estas redadas.
“Sólo unas pocas órdenes de detención que involucraron sólo una fracción del uno por ciento de los trabajadores detenidos durante las redadas fueron la justificación para la disrupción masiva del trabajo, familias y comunidad, además de la intimidación, miedo, y amenazas dirigidas a los trabajadores,” dijo Hansen.
“Los trabajadores fueron detenidos por agentes armados, acorralados y negados sistemáticamente sus derechos,” dijo Gabriela Flora, una organizadora en la región central del Project Voice of the American Friends Service Committee. “A los trabajadores se les negó el acceso a teléfonos, baños, y consejo legal. Los ciudadanos y residentes fueron privados de la oportunidad de salir a traer los documentos que confirmaban su estatus legal. Muchos no podían hacer planes para los niños y ancianos bajo su cuidado porque no podían hacer ningunas llamadas. La indiferencia hacia los derechos constitucionales de la cuarta enmienda representa el fracaso de una de las responsabilidades principales de nuestro gobierno.”
“Los políticos no pueden tener un doble discurso. No pueden continuar diciendo que nuestro sistema migratoria está quebrado y necesita ser reparado, y después insistir que se aplique la ley con medidas excesivas e ilegales que creen más problemas para todos—los trabajadores, las compañías, y las comunidades,” dijo Hansen.
La UFCW concluyó la reunión comunitaria nacional de hoy con la organización del “Grupo de Trabajo Nacional Sobre la Mala Conducta de ICE y la Violación de la Cuarta Enmienda Constitucional” designado para desarrollar une respuesta estratégica al incremento de las redadas por parte de ICE y otras acciones similares. El grupo documentará lo que pasó a los miembros de la unión durante las redadas, revelar el abuso y la mala conducta de ICE y presentar la evidencia al Congreso. El Grupo de Trabajo planea mostrar que las tácticas de ICE durante las redadas de diciembre del 2006 violaron las propias leyes del gobierno de Estados Unidos. El Grupo va a coleccionar otros testimonios de otros lugares de trabajo donde ocurrieron redadas, y exigirán que los altos oficiales del gobierno federal se hacen responsables.
“Trabajar no es un crimen. Los trabajadores no son criminales. Nuestros derechos constitucionales no se dejan en la puerta de la planta,” dijo el presidente Hansen. “Las historias de los trabajadores que fueron víctimas de las redadas tienen que ser escuchadas. Su experiencia debe servir como el fundamento de las audiencias del congreso. Nuestros oficiales electos tienen que hacer algo para proteger nuestros derechos constitucionales de la cuarta enmienda en el lugar de trabajo.”
August 16, 2007
Hold First National Meeting on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights
December Ice Raids Subjected Thousands of UFCW Members and U.S. citizens to Mass Detention and Other Constitutional Rights Abuses
Omaha, Neb. — Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) today joined with community groups, civil rights leaders and immigrant rights activists to condemn abuse and misconduct by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Across the country, ICE enforcement teams have used unwarranted physical force to illegally detain workers in misguided attempts at enforcing failed U.S. immigration policies.
The national meeting today was held to hear workers’ testimony, many of whom were illegally held against their will, denied access to telephones, attorneys and even bathrooms.
“”The excessive show of force—the abusive conduct, the disregard for individual rights and the lack of concern for working families—it would make you think this incident occurred in a foreign country or in a distant era,”” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen in convening the meeting. “”But, unfortunately, the ICE raids happened in America’s heartland in our times. It happened to America’s workers—to our brothers and sisters. It happened to our fellow Americans, native born and immigrant.””
Workers were denied access to telephones, bathrooms and legal counsel. Citizens and legal residents were denied the opportunity to retrieve documents to establish their legal status. Some were handcuffed and held for hours. Others were shipped out on buses.
During the raids, families, schools and day care centers could not be contacted to make arrangements for the children of detained workers. Families were left divided—not knowing where or when they might see a missing family member again.
“”Our union is standing up and speaking out about our members’ constitutional rights,”” said Hansen. “”They were illegally detained in these ICE raids. We have spent decades winning workers’ rights, and we will not sit idly by as federal agents deny them their 4th Amendment rights.””
The UFCW today sponsored the National Meeting on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights to bring together voices across the country; to collect the stories of workers who have suffered during ICE raids; and to plot a course of action on how best to respond.
“”When I tried to report to the cafeteria during the raid, ICE agents accused me of trying to run away. They held me in handcuffs. I’m a U.S. Citizen, born in Iowa. My parents live in Mississippi. My government treated me like a criminal and I didn’t do anything wrong. I knew our rights were being violated. What they’re doing in these raids is illegal,”” said Mike Graves, who has lived in the United States his entire life, works at the Marshalltown, Iowa, Swift and Company plant, and is a member of UFCW Local 1149.
More than 12,000 meatpacking workers were swept up in ICE raids on December 12, 2006. Since then, many workers in other industries have been arrested, detained against their will and denied contact with their families in subsequent raids. Thousands of workers affected by these raids are U.S. citizens and legal residents.
“”The justification, in the Swift raids, for the mass disruption of work, family and community, the bullying, the intimidation, the fear, and the threats directed at the workers, was a handful of warrants involving less than a fraction of one percent of the workers swept up in the ICE action,”” said Hansen.
“”Workers were held by armed agents, herded together and systematically stripped of their rights,”” said Gabriela Flora an organizer in the central region of Project Voice of the American Friends Service Committee. “”They were denied access to bathrooms and legal counsel. Citizens and legal residents were denied the opportunity to retrieve documents to establish their legal status. Many workers were unable to look after children and elderly family members under their care, because they were not allowed to make a phone call. The breakdown of our 4th Amendment rights represents a failure of the first order on the part of our government.””
“”Politicians cannot have it both ways. They cannot continue to say our immigration system is broken and needs fixing, then turn around and insist on excessive and illegal enforcement measures that make the problems worse for everyone—workers, business, and communities,”” said Hansen.
At the conclusion of today’s national community meeting, the UFCW organized the “”National Working Group on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights,”” designed to help develop a national strategic response to the increased number of ICE raids and enforcement actions. The group will document what happened to union members during the raids, expose abuse and misconduct and present the evidence to Congress. The Working Group intends to show that ICE agents’ tactics during raids in December 2006 were in violation of the federal government’s own rules. The Group will collect other testimony from workplace sites where other raids occurred, and will demand that higher-up authorities in the federal government be held accountable.
“”Work is not a crime. Workers are not criminals. We do not leave our constitutional rights at the plant gate,”” said Hansen. “”The stories of workers caught up in these raids must be heard. Their experience should serve as the foundation for congressional hearings. Our political leaders must do something to secure 4th Amendment rights in the workplace.””
August 14, 2007
Statement from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
(Washington, DC) – On a hot, quiet August morning in Washington, DC – when the President is on vacation and Congress at recess – the Bush Administration announced an immigration reform package that essentially mandates federal racial discrimination.
The Administration’s guidelines would throw the doors open to racial discrimination to whole classes of people by placing an undue burden on workers who sound foreign, look foreign and particularly, on the tens of millions of Hispanic and Asian-Americans who would face greater scrutiny in the workplace. It is irresponsible to toss out civil rights for the sake of political gamesmanship.
Considering the circumstances, today’s announcement smacks of nothing more than a publicity stunt aimed at terrifying immigrant workers. Further, this program lacks the support and mandate of the American people who have been demanding humane, comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the root causes of illegal immigration. This program offers no solutions, only punishments to workers.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has proven by its past behavior that it is not beyond their scope to traumatize innocent workers, including U.S. citizens, under the guise of immigration enforcement. During its raids at Swift meatpacking plants last December, all workers, including citizens, legal residents, were held by ICE agents and subjected to unlawful search and seizure. Law enforcement must uphold and defend the Constitution, not violate it.
Congress and the President promised the American people it would work toward solutions to these problems but both parties have failed. It is time for our elected leaders to get back to work – not with unauthorized, sweeping gestures like this Bush enforcement program.
More than 250,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) work in the meatpacking and food processing industries. Many of our workplaces include immigrant workers. Enforcement actions aimed strictly at workplaces like these accomplish nothing in terms of stemming the flow of workers entering the U.S. seeking the American Dream. Instead, they create huge turmoil in communities, significantly disrupt the otherwise stable production in the plant and violate the civil rights of all workers in the workplace.
The UFCW will continue to fight for reform that ensures that all working people—immigrant and native-born—are able to improve their lives and realize the American dream.
For the UFCW position on immigration go to Issues
August 10, 2007
Investigation Uncovers Startling Violations at Agriprocessors Plant
in Postville, Iowa
(Washington, DC) – Research into food safety records at one of the United States’ leading kosher meatpacking plants has unveiled startling violations. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) researchers will release documents showing a pattern of food safety issues including recalled products, mad cow related safety concerns and repeated fecal and bile contamination.
“We find the USDA safety reports on this plant alarming,” said Jim Blau, assistant director of the UFCW Strategic Resources Department. “They raise troubling concerns about this company.”
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.
Over two-hundred and fifty non-compliance records were issued by the Food Safety and Inspection Service to Agriprocessors, between January 1, 2006 and January 24, 2007. The documents revealed numerous violations that may have increased the risk to consumers of possible food-borne illnesses. Documents also show repeated problems with plant monitoring for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease.
The full report is available by request at email@example.com .
“Meat and food processing plants put dinner on the table for American families,” said Blau. “The pattern and scope of violations at Agriprocessors need to be addressed.”
August 3, 2007
Food and Commercial Workers Union Leads Nationwide Revival of Worker Bargaining Strength in Key 21st Century Industry
Innovation, career opportunities, progressive wage scales and job security along with health care and defined benefit pensions seemed to be disappearing from union contracts. Collective bargaining, in almost every industry, frequently became a struggle to slow the downward slide of benefit reductions, two-tier wages and job elimination. In a dramatic turnaround this year, the grocery workers union—the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW)—is leading a nationwide revival of worker bargaining strength that is winning contracts with unified wage progressions with the elimination of two-tier wage systems, adequately funded health benefit plans, continued defined-benefit pension plans; and innovative programs for preventive and wellness care benefits with no co-pays, no deductibles and no out-of-pocket expenses for workers.
The recent ratification of a new contract for 60,000 UFCW members in Southern California confirmed the changing dynamic in contract negotiations for grocery workers. The Southern California supermarket industry witnessed one of the longest and most bitter strikes in 2003-04 as workers walked picket lines for four and a half months in a fight to resist employer demands to eliminate affordable health care, to impose a substandard wage and benefit structure on new workers, and to rewrite contract provisions that provided worker protections. While striking workers were able to maintain much of their wage and benefit package, the employers forced provisions to severely limit wages and benefits for new employees.
The 2007 contract, reached without a strike, represents a new bargain for workers that could shape the future for retail workers. The new contract gives all employees a new opportunity for good jobs and career opportunities in an industry that is a critical source of jobs in the new service economy, particularly young workers and women. Workers won:
the elimination of tiers for health care, pension and wages;
a wage progression giving all workers regular wage advancement;
a higher average starting pay with annual wage increases;
adequate health care funding;
shorter waiting periods for benefit coverage; and,
adequate pension funding to maintain defined retirement benefit.
In a reversal of the trend to shifting health care costs to workers, the new benefit program reduces long term costs by providing preventive benefits without cost to workers.
The advances in wages and benefits come as part of a contract that protects workers from unfair or arbitrary discipline or dismissal, and provides standards for promotion, overtime and scheduling. These contract provisions are critical to workers as an antidote to retail industry practice of firing or forcing employees from their jobs in order to lower wages. Circuit City garnered national attention when it launched an assault on its workers by summarily dismissing higher paid long term employees without just cause or any opportunity to appeal. (Washington Post, 3/29/07)
The Southern California agreement follows similar recent UFCW contract settlements in New England, Houston and Dallas, Texas, Detroit, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio. Those contracts secured solid wage increases, expanded access to quality health care, and secured the financial base of health care and retirement benefit funds. UFCW grocery workers are turning supermarket jobs into career jobs through unified bargaining actions.
Other contracts impacting tens of thousands of workers are being negotiated in Northern California, the Puget Sound area of Washington State, Eugene, Oregon and St. Louis, Missouri.
The new dynamic at work shaping the 2007 round of UFCW bargaining began with a systematic program to build unity among workers, communities, consumers and local unions—the “unity bargaining” program. In every negotiation, grocery workers from across the country are enlisted to support workers in bargaining everywhere in the country. UFCW members working at Kroger in Atlanta wore stickers in their stores to show support for workers in Texas. Workers in Arizona signed up on the web site www.groceryworkersunited.org to take action to help win contracts in California.
Mobilization for contract fights is union-wide and connects with all UFCW members. Community organizations and consumers were engaged from the beginning of negotiations to provide a solid foundation of support. Every UFCW local was prepared to provide immediate financial, staff and member support for any UFCW members forced to strike.
As UFCW International President Joe Hansen said, “Any strike, any lock out involving any UFCW local union in any area becomes a national labor dispute from the first moment of the first day of the first picket line until that dispute is resolved. We are one union, one voice.”
The revival of worker bargaining strength began almost immediately following the end the 2003-04 Southern California strike/lockout. Joe Hansen, a meatcutter from Milwaukee with a lifetime of union service from organizer to International Secretary-Treasurer, was elected International President, and began a complete restructuring of the UFCW to focus on growth for worker bargaining strength. Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill was assigned as Director of Collective Bargaining and put together a strategic, “unity bargaining” program.
“We are a new union. We are a new UFCW,” declared Hansen as he directed resources toward comprehensive organizing and bargaining in the union’s core industries of retail, meatpacking and food processing.
The focus on core industry organizing was essential to the revival of collective bargaining. Worker bargaining strength in an industry depends on organizing all workers in the industry. The decades-old labor movement-wide pattern of organizing without regard to industry has sapped worker strength in negotiations even in growth industries with rising employment. Hansen pledged a different approach. “We are organizing industry-wide to build worker power. The measure of our success as a union is in the lives of our members,” Hansen told his union.
The 2007 bargaining success also reflects a change in the retail industry. Union supermarket operations maintained or expanded market share, revenue and profits. In contrast, Wal-Mart—the anti-worker scourge of the retail industry—tripped and stumbled with a barrage of bad press and bad community relations with growing consumer, worker and political resistance to the super-sized retailer’s disregard for affordable health care, living wages, sex discrimination, the exploitation of immigrant workers and community impact.
“We are moving into a post-Wal-Mart era. Low wages, high turnover and contempt for worker rights are not the way to long term growth and profits. UFCW contracts providing for an experienced, committed workforce with decent wages, benefits and treatment are the foundation for corporate success in retail,” according to Hansen.
UFCW is positioned for a major impact on the workplace and workforce of the future. The industry with the most new openings for workers over the next decade is retail. The 2007 round of negotiations in retail food give all retail workers an alternative to the instability, insecurity and inadequate wages and benefits of retail jobs. “UFCW contracts provide what retail workers want—career potential with decent wages and benefits, job security, fair treatment and a voice. UFCW contracts are the basis for organizing the retail industry,” said UFCW Collective Bargaining Director Pat O’Neill.
August 1, 2007
Community-Worker Solidarity, Regional And National Support Win The Fight For Quality, Affordable Health Care And A Living Wage For All Workers
Washington, DC—By an overwhelming majority, grocery workers in Southern California represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) ratified a fair contract agreement yesterday with the country’s largest supermarkets: Kroger, Safeway, and Supervalu.
The contract was ratified by an overwhelming margin exceeding 87%, with extremely high membership attendance at the meetings throughout Southern California. All seven United Food and Commercial Workers Local Unions recommended that grocery workers ratify the contract.
UFCW members and their union leaders in Southern California fought long and hard through six months of negotiations for this contract, and it is a major improvement over the previous one. The new four-year contract includes:
- Elimination of the unfair “two-tier” wage and benefit structure;
- Wage increases ranging between $1.65 and $6 over the life of the contract;
- All wages increases retroactive to previous contract expiration in March;
- Increased contributions to secure pension benefits;
- Significant improvements to all health care plans; and
- Necessary funding for health care guaranteed through the contract.
UFCW members owe much of what they’ve accomplished to the solidarity and strength they showed in working together to bargain for a fair contract. Seven UFCW Local Unions in Southern California all worked together in bargaining and coordinating campaign actions and strategies.
Southern California UFCW members also owe their success to the extensive support of community and religious leaders, shoppers, sister unions and UFCW members nationwide throughout the six months of negotiations in their efforts to gain improved health care coverage and fair wages.
Coordinated action with supporters and customers played a pivotal role in gaining a positive settlement. Union members, community members, religious groups, grocery workers, and supporters knocked on thousands of doors, handed out flyers, sent emails and letters of support, wrote editorials, attended rallies and marches, spoke out in churches, and signed pledge cards supporting UFCW members.
“This contract is a major step forward for grocery workers,” said Pat O’Neill, UFCW International Executive Vice President and Director of Collective Bargaining. “But it never would have happened without the solidarity of the UFCW members and their union leaders in Southern California, along with the support of the community. It just goes to show that it pays to be a member of the UFCW.”
The new contract covers approximately 65,000 workers in Southern California. Elsewhere on the West Coast, about 18,000 UFCW members in Washington and Oregon are still fighting for a fair contract with their employers. Grocery workers in Northern California will begin bargaining for a new contract later this fall.
The coordinated effort in Southern California is part of a UFCW nationwide unity bargaining program. By supporting each other regionally and nationally, as well as engaging customers and community members in their struggle, grocery workers are improving grocery industry jobs for themselves and their communities. To learn more about other bargaining campaigns, go to: www.groceryworkersunited.org.