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    UFCW Blog

October 26, 2007

AMERICA

Washington, D.C. – Last night, the House of Representatives gave America ’s uninsured children a second chance at a healthy future by passing a new version of a children’s health care bill, but failed to get the majority of votes necessary to overturn another presidential veto.  The new bill will cover 10 million children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and tighten eligibility in response to concerns about the previous bill. While imperfect, this new bill is a good start to addressing our country’s health care crisis, and another presidential veto will further punish the millions of children of working parents who are without coverage.

For too long, America’s workers and their children have paid the price for a broken health care system.  While workers struggle to survive on stagnant wages, more and more employers are adding to that burden by shifting the growing cost of health care coverage to workers—forcing them to pay high out-of-pocket premiums, deductibles and co-payments.  These faulty health care plans are proving to be too expensive for working men and women to afford, and in 10 million cases, many workers and  their children have nowhere to go for their basic health care needs.

This new bill is a responsible approach to ensuring that children have access to quality health care, and another veto will signal the president’s indifference to the majority of Americans who equate access to health care with the pursuit of the American Dream, our country’s destiny, and each family’s well-being and future.  The UFCW will continue to fight for health care reform so that American workers and their children are able to live healthy and productive lives and realize the American Dream.

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October 25, 2007

HARDWORKING STUDENTS

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes necessary to protect the dreams of hardworking students. The DREAM Act would have allowed children of immigrants who have grown up in the United States the opportunity to apply for citizenship if they graduate from high school and complete two years of college or military service.   Despite the support of 52 senators, the failure to advance the DREAM Act punishes hardworking students.  It is a sad day when America sends the message to young people that their talents and service are unwanted.

Each year, tens of thousands of high performing children of immigrants who were raised in the United States—including honor role students, star athletes, and aspiring teachers, doctors, lawyers and U.S. soldiers—graduate from high school.  Despite their academic achievements, they are effectively barred from contributing fully to our communities.

America cannot afford to turn its back on an educated class of promising students who have demonstrated a commitment to hard work and a strong desire to be upstanding members of our society.  Our current immigration policy has real human costs, and the UFCW will continue to fight for immigration reform that ensures that America’s workers and their children are able to improve their lives and realize the American Dream.

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October 17, 2007

LEADING KOSHER MEATPACKING PLANT DELAYS CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT

Cedar Rapids, Iowa– The United States’ leading kosher meatpacking company will appear in federal court today challenging a class action lawsuit filed against the company on behalf of its workers.

The lawsuit alleges that Agriprocessors, a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa,
has not compensated workers for the time they spend preparing for work at the beginning of the day and cleaning up at the end of it. Such compensation has recently been upheld by the Supreme Court.  Agriprocessors is trying to limit worker participation in its attempt to avoid its obligations under Iowa state law which provides that all employees are automatically plaintiffs in the lawsuit unless they sign a form indicating otherwise.  Agriprocessors is arguing that only federal law applies, which requires employees to sign a form requesting participation in the class action suit.

Working conditions and food safety at the AgriProcessors slaughterhouse have been under scrutiny in the past year.  In May of this year, over 200 workers stood up for their rights and walked out of the plant in protest of the company’s misconduct.

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.

“Essentially the company is trying to undercut the voices of hundreds of workers by delaying the lawsuit and trying to limit their right to recover unpaid wages through overwhelming them with more paperwork and red tape,” says Attorney Brian McCafferty.  McCafferty will be representing the workers today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa federal court.

For more information go to www.eyeonagriprocessors.com.

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October 9, 2007

CINCINNATI KROGER WORKERS PREPARE TO SHOW STRENGTH AND SOLIDARITY THROUGH STRIKE VOTE

Workers Taking Strike Authorization Vote to Fight Kroger’s Gaslight Era Bargaining Tactics

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 Cincinnati, where 10,000 workers are involved in negotiations with Kroger, UFCW Local 1099 members are meeting at sessions throughout the day on Wednesday, October 10, 2007, to consider the company’s latest proposals.  The workers’ bargaining committee is recommending that workers reject the proposals and vote to authorize a strike.  Meetings and times can be found at www.ufcw1099.org.

“There’s no excuse for Kroger’s behavior,” said Lennie Wyatt, UFCW International Vice President and President of Local 1099.  “This year, tens of thousands of Kroger employees have been pushed to the brink by their company and forced to vote to strike before Kroger gets serious at the bargaining table.  These hardball tactics are an insult to Kroger employees and customers.”

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—demanding devastating cuts to workers’ health care and other benefits.

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, Local 1099 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.

Across the country, Kroger workers have reached agreements – without a strike – that provide for preventative health care benefits, affordable premiums, and quality care for workers and their families.  Over the past ten months, UFCW members in Southern California, Seattle, Oregon, Detroit, Texas, and Toledo, Ohio have signed new contracts with Kroger without a work stoppage.  Cincinnati workers deserve the same.

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

October 2, 2007

FARM BILL AMENDMENT WILL WEAKEN AMERICA

Amendment will eliminate a 40-year-old protection in the federal meat and poultry inspection acts

Washington, D.C. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today joined forces with the Consumer Federation of America, Safe Tables Our Priority and other consumer and watchdog groups to oppose an amendment in the Senate Farm Bill that puts consumers and food workers at risk of foodborne illnesses.  The pending amendment will eliminate a 40-year-old protection in the federal meat and poultry inspection acts that bans state inspected meat and poultry from being sold in interstate commerce.  The amendment will also allow meat and poultry plants to forgo federal inspections and increase the risk of foodborne illnesses in the United States.

“Any notion that state inspection systems are equal to the federal system is hogwash,” said Michael J. Wilson, UFCW International Vice President and Director of Legislative and Political Action.  “States have no ability to recall tainted products, and state inspectors are not accountable to consumers in other states.  Any effort to devolve federal oversight of meat and poultry plants to states is a threat to consumer safety and will further subject food workers to unsanitary work conditions.”

For more than 100 years, the UFCW has been fighting to improve the working conditions of food workers and the safety of our food, and currently represents more than a quarter of a million workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries.  In addition to protecting the rights of food workers, the UFCW is also a founding member of the Safe Food Coalition which consists of consumer groups, groups representing victims of foodborne illnesses, and watchdog groups that are dedicated to reducing the incidence of foodborne illnesses in the United States.

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