• Background Image

    UFCW Blog

January 31, 2008

UFCW AND CONSUMER ADVOCATES TO VOICE CONCERNS AT USDA

Washington, D.C. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) will join consumer advocates at public meetings on February 5-6 to oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (USDA FSIS) proposal to water down workplace safety and food inspection regulations at the nation’s poultry slaughter establishments. The proposal, entitled “”Public Health-Based Slaughter Inspection System”” (PHBSIS), will remove maximum line speed regulations and further subject poultry workers to dangerous workplace conditions. The proposed system also increases the risk of food-borne illnesses by weakening the on-line poultry inspection process.

The dangerous work conditions faced by workers in the poultry industry have been documented by academics, the media and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and line speeds have been linked to musculoskeletal disorders and debilitating injuries—including lacerations and amputations. Poultry workers often face physically demanding, repetitive work, during which they stand for long periods of time in production lines that move very quickly while wielding knives or other cutting instruments. They often work in extreme temperatures and make up to 40,000 repetitive cutting motions per shift. Worker safety will play no role under the PHBSIS proposal, and the new system will allow poultry slaughter establishments to run their lines with no maximum line speed—guaranteeing a rise in workplace injuries.

Line speeds have also been linked to food contamination, and the new proposal may put consumers at risk of food-borne illnesses by removing on-line FSIS inspectors who are trained to inspect bird carcasses for contaminated material—including fecal matter. Under the new system, poultry slaughter establishments will be allowed to monitor the poultry carcass inspection process themselves.

“”Over 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in an effort to shed light on the unhealthy and dangerous working conditions in meat packing plants, and it is amazing that the poultry industry would be allowed to turn back the clock and dismantle our last line of defense against workp lace injuries and food-borne illnesses,”” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “”We urge members of Congress to join the UFCW in opposing this misguided proposal in order to protect the health and safety of our workers and families.””

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 250,000 workers in the packing and processing 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 food-borne illnesses, and watchdog groups that are dedicated to reducing the incidence of food-borne illnesses in the United States.

The USDA FSIS meetings will take place on February 5-6 at 8:45 a.m. at the Key Bridge Marriott at 1401 Lee Highway in Arlington, Va.

January 29, 2008

STATE OF THE UNION IGNORES THE REAL NEEDS OF AMERICA

Washington, D.C. – President Bush’s last State of the Union address yesterday failed to produce long-term solutions to the challenges facing America’s workers as signals of an economic downturn continue to persist. In spite of his lofty rhetoric, the president was unable to gloss over his dismal seven-year legacy of failed economic policies that have favored the wealthy few, while workers and their families continue to struggle with rising heath care costs, the collapse of the housing market, stagnant wages, crumbling job security and the decline of workers’ rights. The president’s address further underlined the irrefutable fact that this administration’s fiscal folly will affect the next generation of Americans who may never realize the American Dream.

President Bush’s seven-year record of fiscal incompetence and mismanagement has had a devastating affect on American workers and their families. Over the course of his administration, America’s debt has increased to over $9 trillion and consumer confidence has plummeted. The number of uninsured Americans, including children, has increased to 47 million, and the cost of health care has risen three times faster than inflation and wages. In addition, gas prices have climbed to over $3 a gallon, state college tuition costs have increased by 40 percent and the share of mortgages entering foreclosure is at the highest level on record since 1979.

This election year, politicians of both parties are highlighting the American Dream as an attainable goal for those who are willing to work hard and play by the rules. It is our hope that the next president combines this rhetoric with real policies and initiatives that will put the needs of all Americans above corporate interests.

January 18, 2008

WHAT

(Washington, DC) – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is deeply concerned that the state of Indiana is not forthcoming with accurate information about the location of the worksite in which workers have been diagnosed with a rare neurological illness.

According to local news reports, the Indiana Department of Health is refusing to identify the name or location of the facility citing privacy concerns.  This is in stark contrast to the actions of state health officials, UFCW representatives and company officials in Minnesota where the work-related disease was first discovered.

It appears that only three meatpacking plants in the United States use an air-compression system to harvest brains from pork — QPP in Austin, Minnesota, Hormel in Fremont, Nebraska and Indiana Packers in Delphi, Indiana.   Investigators from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have identified Indiana Packers as the site of the new cases of yet unnamed the inflammatory neurological condition.

UFCW Local 700 President Joe Chorpenning said, “One can assume that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and his state government doesn’t care about regular working people that would hide information that might protect workers from neurological illness.””

When workers became stricken with the mysterious neurological illness in Austin, QPP immediately contacted the UFCW about working together to identify any risks to workers in their plant.  The UFCW knows that QPP and Hormel stopped that production line immediately upon discovery of the illness.

No cases have been found in Nebraska.  In Minnesota, NIOSH has determined there are 12 confirmed cases among the workforce at QPP.

January 17, 2008

COLORADO PREMIUM WORKERS VOTE

Greeley, CO—Meatpacking workers at Colorado Premium stood strong against employer intimidation to vote in favor of representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 on Wednesday, January 16, 2008.

Colorado Premium workers were dedicated to seeking a union to address basic worker needs on the job—protection from dangerously fast line speeds and access to bathroom breaks.  The results of the first election held on December 7, 2007 were thrown out for unlawful employer conduct. NLRB charges were then filed against Colorado Premium after the company intimidated union supporters and offered raises and other bribes to workers who voted against joining the union.

According to American Rights at Work, union elections are marred by a huge number of illegal actions nationwide. Because the penalties for violating the NLRA are so weak, employers have little incentive to avoid illegal tactics if they will succeed in intimidating workers into abandoning the union effort.

“”The Colorado Premium workers struggled for a voice on the job. Their victory did not come easy. This second election is remarkable 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.

January 11, 2008

El Tribunal Apelativo de los EEUU manda Agriprocessors a negociar un contrato con sus trabajadores en Brooklyn

(Brooklyn, NY)—Trabajadores en el centro de distribución de Agriprocessors en Brooklyn consiguieron una victoria enorme cuando El Tribunal Apelativo de los EEUU mandó la compañía a reconocer sus votos por una unión en el trabajo.

La corte decidió en favor del derecho de los trabajadores a hacerse miembros de la Unión de Trabajadores Comerciales y de Alimentos (UFCW) por medio de su reafirmación del principio antiguo que dicta que todos los trabajadores, aún los sin documentos, tienen el derecho de votar por una unión y negociar colectivamente.  La compañía se negó a negociar después que la mayoría de sus trabajadores en su centro de distribución votaron por la unión en septiembre del 2005.

Agriprocessors mantuvo que, aunque la compañía los contrató, muchos de estos trabajadores no tenían documentos, y según Agrirprocessors, no tenían el derecho de votar o ser miembros de la unión.  La Junta Nacional de Relaciones del Trabajo también mandó contra Agriprocessors, manteniendo que cada empleado y empleada, sin importar se estatus migratorio, tiene el derecho de votar por una unión y negociar colectivamente.  Después de casi tres años, Agriprocessors perdió su apelación a esta decisión en la corte federal.

A pesar de esta decisión positiva, esto es simplemente otro ejemplo del fracaso de nuestro sistema de inmigración, y más que nada, el gran fiasco del proceso de verificación de empleo.  Las leyes migratorias deben complementar, no socavar, la aplicación de las leyes laborales y de empleo.  De lo contrario, los sueldos, beneficios, y condiciones laborales de todos los trabajadores se van a  degenerar.

“Las leyes laborales de los EEUU protegen todos los trabajadores y la UFCW no dejará una compañía dirigir sus negocios fuera de la ley y aprovecharse de sus empleados,” dijo Mark Lauritsen, vice-presidente internacional y director de la División de Procesamiento, Empacado y Manufactura de Alimentos de la UFCW.  “El tribunal apelativo ha mandado un mensaje firme a Agriprocessors y otros empleadores que crean que ellos pueden ignorar la ley y negar sus trabajadores una voz por un lugar de trabajo más seguro y mejores trabajos.”

Agriprocessors es una de las compañías kosher más grandes de la nación.  La compañía produce productos bajo las siguientes marcas: Aaron’s Best, Aaron’s Choice, European Glatt, Iowa Best Beef, Nevel, Shor Harbor , Rubashkin’s, Supreme Kosher, and David’s.

January 10, 2008

AGRIPROCESSORS SLAMMED BY FEDERAL COURT FOR ILLEGALLY DENYING WORKERS A VOICE

(Brooklyn, NY) — Workers at the Agriprocessors distribution center in Brooklyn won a major victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the company to recognize their vote for a union voice at work.

The court ruled in favor of the workers’ right to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) by reaffirming the long-standing principle that all workers, undocumented or not, have the right to choose a union and bargain collectively.  The company refused to bargain after an overwhelming majority of its distribution center workers voted to join the union in September 2005.

Agriprocessors argued that, despite having hired them, many of these employees were undocumented and therefore, according to Agriprocessors, they could not vote or belong to a union.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled against Agriprocessors, maintaining that every employee, regardless of his or her immigration status, have a collective bargaining vote.  Nearly three years later, Agriprocessors lost its appeal in federal court.

Despite the positive ruling, this is just another example of our broken immigration system, specifically the abject failure of the employment verification process. Immigration law should complement, not undercut, the enforcement of labor and employment laws.  Otherwise, the wages, benefits, working conditions, and labor rights of all workers will deteriorate.

“U.S. labor law protects all workers and the UFCW will not allow any company to operate outside of the law and take advantage of its employees,” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division.  “The Court of Appeals has sent a clear message to Agriprocessors and other employers who think they can skirt the law and deny workers a voice to make their workplace safer and their jobs better.”

Agriprocessors is one of the nation’s largest kosher meat producers.  The company 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.