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April 30, 2008

NATIONAL COMMISSION INVESTIGATING MISCONDUCT BY IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AGENTS HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING IN DES MOINES

DES MOINES – A recently formed national commission examining raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents held its third regional hearing today at Plymouth Church in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The goal of today’s hearing is to shine a spotlight on the government’s activities,” said commission member and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. “Our Constitution is at stake, and if our government can’t following the Constitution, that is a serious problem that must be addressed.”

The hearing focused on the impact of workplace immigration raids in Marshalltown, Iowa, Grand Island, Neb., and Greeley, Colo., and examined how the execution of these raids is part of a wider pattern of ICE misconduct occurring across the country.

“”This is our third regional hearing and the fact that at each one we are hearing similar testimony of heavy handed tactics by immigration agents, as well as examples of clear violations of workers’ constitutional rights, is deeply troubling and points to the systemic and recurring nature of these injustices,” said Joseph T. Hansen, founding chairman of the National Commission and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union president.

The hearing in Des Moines was part of a series of regional public meetings that the commission is holding to explore the execution, implications and ramifications of workplace immigration enforcement. The commission will also look into claims that ICE has engaged in violations of the 4th amendment.  After a thorough investigation, the commission will produce a public report that highlights its findings and makes recommendations about how the system should be reformed.

“Many of the misdeeds that we have heard from occurred to workers who are in this country legally; U.S. citizens who have lived in the United States their whole lives, people who were born here or who immigrated properly to this country,” added Vilsack. “That is what concerns me, and why it is critical that these activities are exposed and adequately addressed.”

To date, ICE has refused to address the concerns raised by the witnesses who have testified.

“This commission has heard from workers, from religious leaders, from elected officials at every level of government and from psychological and legal experts,” added Hansen. “For ICE to try to ignore the pain these workers have gone through, as well as the testimony of respected leaders and elected officials about the devastation and destruction these raids cause families and communities, is simply unacceptable. We will continue to draw public attention to their actions until the system is appropriately reformed.”

The national commission was created in response to a series of raids that took place at meatpacking plants in America’s heartland.  On December 12, 2006, thousands of innocent workers were detained at meatpacking plants in six states during workplace raids carried out by federal ICE agents. The UFCW represents workers at five of the plants, including Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Grand Island, Neb.

On September 12, 2007, the UFCW filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to protect the 4th amendment rights of all Americans and enjoin the government from illegally arresting and detaining workers, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, while at their workplace.

In addition to Vilsack and Hansen, a broad group of leading policy experts serves on the commission. The commission held its first hearing in Washington, D.C., on February 25, 2008, and the second hearing in Boston on April 7, 2008. Future hearings are scheduled in Atlanta, Ga., for May 29, 2008.

Civilian-driven commissions have played an important role in U.S. history. When African-Americans were arrested, beaten and killed during the civil rights movement, the tragedies fueled the McCone Commission in 1965 and the National Advisory Commission in 1968.

When Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established to investigate these unacceptable civil rights violations.

Citizen review panels are often created to help renew a commitment to rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, especially when those rights are violated by local police brutality.

 

April 23, 2008

IMPRESS USA, Inc. WORKERS IN BLOOMSBURG RATIFY NEW CONTRACT

Milton, PA—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local #38 announces the successful ratification of a new three-year contract with Impress USA, Inc. at their plant located in Bloomsburg, PA. Approximately 145 workers at this location make metal food cans for Del Monte, Simmons, and Suter food companies, among others. The new contract delivers wage increases and vacation improvements, maintains affordable health care, and makes significant improvements in overtime pay. A majority voted to ratify the contract on Sunday, April 20.

Highlights of the new agreement:

–Wages for current employees will increase by 3 ½ % per year over the term of the agreement.

–Employees will now be able to use up to 2 weeks of vacation in single day increments. Employees can earn two days of vacation for perfect attendance. Workers will be allowed to carry up to three days over to the following year, or have the days paid out.

–Employees keep affordable health care coverage with only modest increases in their premiums and no plan changes.

–The contract provides the following overtime improvements and protections:

— Workers will be paid double time on the 6th and 7th day for any work over 60 hours.

— Workers will be paid double time on the 7th day for work over 48 hours.

— When workers volunteer to work or are forced to work overtime three times in one pay period, the company cannot force them to work any more overtime in that pay period.

— When workers volunteer to work six consecutive days of overtime, then the company cannot force them to work more overtime for six days.

UFCW Local 38 represents over 1500 workers in the Milton and Bloomsburg areas. Local President Russ Baker credits the strong work ethic of the membership at the Bloomsburg Plant as the main reason the contract passed. “”Both sides recognized that it takes a cooperative effort in today’s business climate to achieve fair and balanced labor agreements,”” Baker said. I know that both the UFCW and Impress USA, Inc. hope for continued success in Bloomsburg for many years to come.””

April 15, 2008

CARGILL WORKERS IN ALBERT LEA, MN RATIFY NEW CONTRACT

Albert Lea, MN-Three hundred workers in Cargill Meat Solutions’ Albert Lea plant (formerly Schweigert Foods) have ratified a new contract which delivers wage increases, establishes a defined benefit pension plan, and makes tremendous improvements in health care-at a significant savings for workers. The workers are members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 6 and work at the meat processing plant making lunch meats, bratwursts, chicken tenders and chicken wings among other products. A majority voted to ratify the contract on Sunday, April 13, 2008.

The new contract:

–Delivers wage increases including $1.40/hr increase over the next four years-including $0.50 on January 5, 2009. The increase will bring the base rate to $13.20 by the end of the contract.

-Vastly improves health care, dental care, and prescription drug coverage. The 2008 Cargill plan will reduce individual and family deductibles; reduce the amount paid for coinsurance; reduce co-pays for preventive care; reduce co-pays for and office visits for primary care physicians and specialists; reduce the amount paid for emergency room care; lower the maximum for out of pocket expenses; eliminate the deductible and reduces co-pays for prescription drugs; and enhances the affordable family dental plan.

–Improves retirement security by establishing a new defined benefit pension plan. The plan ensures a guaranteed income of $22.50 per month, per year of service for retirees. In 2011, that amount will increase to $25.00 per month per year. Employees will still be able to make contributions to their existing 401(k) plan.

“”We are very pleased with this contract,”” says Pat Neilon, President of UFCW Local 6. “”We were able to negotiate an enormously better health plan, with significant cost savings for our members. And, the new defined benefit pension plan will be better for our members because it guarantees income in retirement and it doesn’t take any money out of workers’ pockets.”” Previously, Cargill workers could choose to contribute to a 401(k) plan with 2% company match, but only a quarter of employees took advantage of the plan.

“”With the union, we were able to negotiate a pension plan-which is especially good for the younger folks who have a chance to put a lot of years in-and you don’t have to fund it yourself out of your paycheck,”” said Richard Peterson, a 30-year employee of the Albert Lea plant. “”Not too many companies offer a pension anymore. But the pension is guaranteed and I think that’s a big deal.””

April 11, 2008

UFCW APPLAUDS HOUSE DEMOCRATS FOR STANDING UP FOR AMERICA

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a majority of House Democrats put the needs of America’s workers first by delaying consideration of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The House voted 224 to 195 to alter the “”fast track”” 90-day standard timeline for approval of trade deals negotiated by the administration until funding for domestic spending measures for America’s workers is made available—including funding to help workers who lose their jobs to international competition and an extension of unemployment benefits. House Democrats also vowed to review Colombia’s history of human rights violations, such as the killing of more than 2,500 workers and labor activists since 1991.

“”House Democrats did the right thing yesterday by standing with America’s workers,”” said Joseph T. Hansen, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “”Trade agreements must be negotiated with the benefits of working people in mind, and the UFCW will continue to oppose any trade agreements that do not reflect the interests of America’s workers and their families.””

For too long, trade agreements with other countries have failed to protect the rights of workers in the United States and around the world. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada has contributed to the loss of approximately 3 million high-wage manufacturing jobs in the United States since 1994, and stagnated worker incomes and rising inequality have accelerated in all three countries. Trade with China has also harmed American interests, and the loss of high-wage manufacturing jobs to China has forced many American workers to work for substandard wages and benefits—further endangering our country’s economic stability.

While globalization cannot be turned back, the UFCW believes that the United States must get tougher in demanding a fair trading system that puts America’s workers first, and yesterday’s House vote to delay trade with Colombia is a good first step. The UFCW will continue to fight for trade reform so that America’s workers and their families are able to realize the American Dream.

April 8, 2008

UFCW Steward Aims to Strengthen Membership in America’s Heartland

Luis Rosiles, a Tyson Foods worker and steward for Local 1546, has found his calling as an organizer in training for the UFCW’s Heartland Campaign.  Rosiles is part of a coordinated effort to target thousands of non-union packing and processing workers in the Midwest who need a voice on the job.  The new campaign is serving as a training ground for organizers like Rosiles, and the UFCW hopes to use the Heartland Campaign as a model for other UFCW organizers across the country.

Rosiles is on leave from his job as a worker at the Tyson Foods plant in Joslin, Illinois, where he served as a steward for Local 1546.  As a steward, Rosiles served as a significant link and conduit of information between union leadership and the workers at the Tyson Foods plant in Joslin, and had the advantage of knowing many of his fellow workers.  His new role as an organizer in the state of Nebraska presents the challenge of meeting and connecting with workers he has never met before and who may not be familiar with the benefits of joining a union.

“Some have a little bit of knowledge, some don’t,” said Rosiles.  “That’s what drives me—winning campaigns and helping people be united at work.

The changing demographics of the packing and processing industries have also posed a challenge for Rosiles, and many of the plants that he is working with in Nebraska have attracted immigrant workers from around the world.  Many of the immigrant workers he has approached are afraid of losing their jobs or unsure of their rights as workers in the U.S.  To counter that fear and uncertainty, Rosiles and other organizers have made a point to connect with workers outside of the workplace by visiting their places of worship and even their homes to show that the union is part of the larger community.

Rosiles believes that his experience as a steward has helped him hone his skills as an organizer, and encourages other UFCW stewards to get involved with organizing campaigns such as the Heartland Campaign in the Midwest.

“We need more leadership and people getting involved in plants,” said Rosiles.  “That’s what makes a union strong.”

For more information about the UFCW’s effort to provide workers with better wages and benefits in America’s Heartland and around the country, visit www.fairnessforfoodworkers.org.

April 8, 2008

REALIZA AUDIENCIA EN BOSTON COMISI

BOSTON – Una comisión recientemente formada para examinar las redadas conducidas por agentes del Departamento de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE, por sus siglas en ingles), realizó su segunda audiencia el día de hoy en el edificio de la legislatura estatal de Massachusetts. La audiencia se enfocó en el impacto causado en las comunidades y en los lugares de trabajo debido a las redadas migratorias en Massachusetts y en Connecticut y analizó porqué la ejecución de estas redadas ha sido parte de un patrón más amplio de abuso cometido por las autoridades del ICE en todo el país. La junta también escuchó testimonios sobre medidas antiinmigratorias en Rhode Island.

“”El testimonio el día de hoy produjo una clara y hasta trágica evidencia de la amplia devastación que estas redadas migratorias han causado en los trabajadores, sus familias, comunidades y las economías locales””, señaló Joseph T. Hansen, presidente fundador de la Comisión Nacional y presidente de la Unión de Trabajadores Comerciales y de Alimentos (UFCW, por sus siglas en inglés). “”El hecho que las heridas emocionales y económicas infligidas por los agentes de ICE siguen tan latentes, y el hecho que todavía hay muchas preguntas sin resolver mucho tiempo después que sucedieron estas redadas, resaltan la importancia de que se responsabilice a esta agencia gubernamental por sus acciones””.

Julie L. Myers, secretaria adjunta de ICE, declinó una invitación a testificar ante esta comisión.

La audiencia en Boston es parte de una serie de reuniones públicas regionales de esta comisión que tienen el propósito de investigar la ejecución de las redadas migratorias en los lugares de trabajo y las implicaciones y ramificaciones que éstas producen en las comunidades locales. Esta comisión también investigará quejas que culpan al ICE de ejecutar acciones en violación de la cuarta enmienda de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos. Después de concluir con esta ardua investigación, la comisión publicará un reporte público en el que señalará los resultados y hará recomendaciones para reformar el sistema.

“”Mientras nuestra comisión viaja alrededor del país y habla cada vez con más trabajadores y expertos, estamos encontrando patrones preocupantes de abuso que se repiten””, añadió Hansen. “”Esta comisión continuará en su búsqueda agresiva de los hechos y asegurará que éstos obtengan un despliegue completo y público””.

La comisión fue creada en respuesta a las redadas realizadas en las plantas procesadoras de carnes en los estados centrales de los Estados Unidos hace dos años. El 12 de diciembre de 2006, miles de trabajadores inocentes fueron detenidos en diferentes procesadoras de carne en seis estados durante redadas migratorias perpetradas por agentes federales del ICE. La UFCW representa trabajadores en cinco de estas plantas, incluyendo Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Iowa; y Grand Island, Neb.

El 12 de septiembre de 2007, la UFCW enjuició al Departamento de Seguridad Doméstica (DHS, por sus siglas en inglés) y al ICE con la intención de proteger los derechos que le otorga la cuarta enmienda de la Constitución a todos los estadounidenses y, al mismo tiempo, evitar que el gobierno ilegalmente arreste y detenga a trabajadores, incluyendo a ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos y residentes legales, mientras se encuentren en sus lugares de trabajo.

La comisión está integrada por un amplio grupo de expertos en leyes que incluye al ex gobernador de Iowa, Tom Vilsack. La comisión organizó su primera audiencia en Washington, D.C. el 25 de febrero de 2008. Las siguientes audiencias se realizarán en Des Moines, Iowa el 29 de abril de 2008 y en Atlanta, Georgia el 29 de mayo de 2008.

Las comisiones lideradas por civiles han desempeñado un papel importante en la historia de los Estados Unidos. Cuando estaban arrestando, matando y golpeando a los Afro-Americanos durante el movimiento de los derechos civiles, estas tragedias conllevaron a la formación de la Comisión McCone en 1965 y a la Comisión Nacional de Consejería en 1968.

Cuando los japoneses-americanos estaban siendo sometidos a los campos intermitentes durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, la Comisión de la Mudanza por la Guerra y de la Intermitencia de Civiles fue establecida para investigar estas violaciones inaceptables de derechos civiles.

Paneles de ciudadanos son creados frecuentemente para ayudar a vigorizar el compromiso a los derechos garantizados por la Constitución de los Estados Unidos, especialmente cuando éstos son violados por la brutalidad de la policía local.

April 8, 2008

NATIONAL COMMISSION INVESTIGATING MISCONDUCT BY IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AGENTS HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING IN BOSTON

BOSTON – A recently formed national commission examining raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents held its second regional hearing today in the Massachusetts State House. The hearing focused on the local impact of workplace and community immigration raids in Massachusetts and Connecticut and examined how the execution of the raids is part of a wider pattern of ICE misconduct occurring across the country. The commission also heard testimony about anti-immigration measures in Rhode Island.

“”The testimony today provided compelling and often heartbreaking evidence of the widespread devastation that immigration raids have inflicted on workers, their families, communities and local economies,”” said Joseph T. Hansen, founding chairman of the National Commission and United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union president. “”The fact that so many of the emotional and economic wounds inflicted by ICE agents remain so raw, and the fact that so many questions remain unanswered long after the raids, makes ensuring accountability for these questionable actions by a government agency that much more important.””

The head of ICE, Julie L. Myers, was invited to testify, but declined to appear before the commission.

The hearing in Boston is part of a series of regional public meetings that the commission is holding to explore the execution, implications and ramifications of workplace immigration enforcement on local communities. The commission will also look into claims that ICE has engaged in violations of the 4th amendment. After a thorough investigation, the commission will produce a public report that highlights its findings and makes recommendations about how the system should be reformed.

“”As our commission travels the country and talks to more and more workers and experts, we are seeing troubling and repeated patterns of misconduct emerging,”” Hansen added. “”This commission will continue to aggressively pursue the facts and will ensure that they get a full and complete public airing. “”

The commission was created in response to a raid that took place at meatpacking plants in America’s heartland two years ago. On December 12, 2006, thousands of innocent workers were detained at meatpacking plants in six states during workplace raids carried out by federal ICE agents. The UFCW represents workers at five of the plants, including Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Grand Island, Neb.

On September 12, 2007, the UFCW filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to protect the 4th amendment rights of all Americans and enjoin the government from illegally arresting and detaining workers, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, while at their workplace.

A broad group of leading policy experts serves on the commission, including former Governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack. The commission held its first hearing in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 2008. Future hearings are scheduled in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 29, 2008 and in Atlanta, Ga., on May 29, 2008.

Civilian-driven commissions have played an important role in U.S. history. When African-Americans were arrested, beaten and killed during the civil rights movement, the tragedies fueled the McCone Commission in 1965 and the National Advisory Commission in 1968.

When Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established to investigate these unacceptable civil rights violations.

Citizen review panels are often created to help renew a commitment to rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, especially when those rights are violated by local police brutality.

Visit www.icemisconduct.org for more information.

April 3, 2008

CHAO AND OSHA: TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

The Bush Administration’s Department of Labor in a Hurricane-Katrina-like response is visiting the Savannah, Georgia, Imperial Sugar plant today after an explosion more than three weeks ago killed 12 workers and left others critically burned.

Prior to the sugar plant explosion, OSHA ignored the recommendations of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) to issue a rule that could have reduced the possibility of the explosion here and at other sugar plants.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed a petition on February 20, 2008, with the U.S. Department of Labor demanding that OSHA issue an emergency standard on this risk.

The petition called upon OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard which requires immediate controls instituted by employers where combustible dust hazards exist. The petition also calls upon OSHA to put a new Permanent Standard in place for control of combustible dust hazards in general industry; inspect sugar processing plants; and implement a Special Emphasis Program on combustible dust hazards in a wide range of industries where combustible dust hazards exist.

The UFCW represents hundreds of workers in sugar plants around the country, including the Domino Sugar plant in Baltimore, Maryland. UFCW members at the Domino plant narrowly escaped harm last November after a combustible dust explosion rocked the facility. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents nearly 500 members who are employed at eight sugar processing facilities throughout the United States.

The explosions could have been prevented had OSHA heeded the recommendations made by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board made in November 2006. That year, the CSB conducted a major study of combustible dust hazards following three worksite catastrophic dust explosions that killed 14 workers in 2003. The CSB report noted that a quarter of the explosions that occurred between 1980 and 2005 that were identified, occurred at food industry facilities, including sugar plants.

OSHA’s Katrina-like inaction on this workplace risk follows a pattern of the agency ignoring scientific evidence and its own rule-making guidelines. By law, OSHA was supposed to respond to the CSB’s recommendations within six months.

A full copy of the petition can be downloaded here.

April 1, 2008

Change to Win Testifies Before Congress on Dangerous Patterns of Abuse by Large Corporate Employers

Safety Expert and Poultry Worker to Address Failures of Large Corporations to Protect Health and Safety of Workers In the Workplace

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Change to Win Health and Safety coordinator Eric Frumin and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) member Doris Morrow will testify as witnesses at a Senate hearing tomorrow to address the dangerous pattern of large corporations ignoring or avoiding their obligations to insure a safe workplace. The testimony will focus on serious violations at BP, McWane Corp., Cintas Corp., House of Raeford, AgriProcessors, Waste Management Inc., and Avalon Bay.

“Employers bear the primary responsibility for protecting workers, but too often, companies would rather squeeze out extra profit than save employees’ lives,” said Frumin. “The price paid by fallen workers, their families and their communities is unacceptable, and without stronger laws and enforcement, the tragic human cost of hazardous jobs continues to climb.”

As evidence shows, large corporations make calculated decisions to cut corners and disregard the risk of injury or illness to their workers in order to maximize profits. As a result, every day, sixteen workers die on the job, 134 die from work-related illnesses, and thousands more sustain workplace injuries.

Tyson poultry worker and UFCW Local 227 member Doris Morrow, who has worked at the Tyson poultry plant in Kentucky for nearly 12 years, will testify about the health and safety problems she has witnessed first hand at her workplace. Tyson is one of the largest poultry processing companies in the United States.

“There are serious safety and health problems that must be addressed to protect workers across the country,” said Morrow. “I have seen first hand the injuries of my coworkers from respiratory problems like bronchitis and pneumonia due to the cold temperatures in the plants, to back and muscular problems, sore hands, carpal tunnel and other Musculoskeletal Disorders that workers face. Yet, many of the workers in plants are afraid to complain about the work conditions because they are fearful they will lose their jobs. It is time to demand that the government and companies protect workers and prevent these injuries.”

The hearing will also address the failures of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate and remedy corporate-wide health and safety violations as a result of ineffective enforcement tools and inadequate resources. At present staffing levels, it would take OSHA 133 years to inspect every workplace under its jurisdiction. It has also been hampered by political appointees who are indifferent or hostile to the agency’s mission, and hamstrung by limits on its legal authority and available enforcement tools.

“Under the current regulatory structure, corporations make the profits while workers pay the price with their lives. Congress needs to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act to increase penalties for egregious violations and enhance OSHA’s capacity to conduct corporate-wide investigations and impose corporate-wide sanctions,” said Frumin. “America’s working families know all too well what will happen if we don’t strengthen OSHA – more workers will die because of exposure to well-documented hazards and slipshod site management, more workers will suffer crippling injuries from high production pressures and poor ergonomics and more companies will go unpunished even when knowingly putting workers in harm’s way. The time to act is now.”

The Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee hearing “Serious OSHA Violations: Strategies for Breaking Dangerous Problems” will be held Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 430.

>>>Testimony of Doris Morrow

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About Change to Win
Change to Win is a six million member partnership of seven unions founded in 2005 to represent workers in the industries and occupations of the 21st century economy. Change to Win committed to restoring the American Dream for a new generation of workers – wages that can support a family, affordable health care, a secure retirement, and the opportunity for the future. The seven affiliated unions are: Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Laborers’ International Union of North AmericaUnited Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and United Farm Workers of America.