June, 2008

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Joe Hansen Statement on Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart’s announcement yesterday that it would notify its employees about the EITC is another company effort to polish its image.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) believes the Earned Income Tax Credit is a valuable program for workers. And we applaud efforts that educate and encourage those eligible to apply for it.

But when the world’s largest corporation, when it has revenues in excess of $300 billion, when it has a lengthy and notorious history of shifting its employment costs onto American taxpayers, and when its employment rolls are rife with workers earning wages that put them below the poverty line, it is wrong to take the stage with that company and provide cover for its mistreatment of workers and irresponsible practices.

The facts on Wal-Mart are well documented. The company’s meager wages and benefits push workers onto government assistance programs at taxpayer expense to the tune of billions every year.

Wal-Mart is in the midst of an aggressive campaign to change its public persona. But what it needs to change are its corporate practices. Shouldn’t Wal-Mart begin by taking responsibility for its own workers?

It is more than unfortunate that there are those who would participate in this sham, and it is deeply troubling that elected officials would allow Wal-Mart to cloud their good legislative intentions.

Grocery Workers in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama Achieve Fair Agreement with Kroger Company

Grocery workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1995 have reached a tentative agreement with their employer, the Kroger Company. The agreement covers 9000 members working at 92 Kroger stores (and one freestanding pharmacy) in middle and eastern Tennessee, southern Kentucky, and northern Alabama.

UFCW Local 1995 members stuck together in solidarity through months of negotiations to achieve a fair contract with Kroger—one with affordable, quality health care, wages that pay the bills, and a secure retirement. They reached that goal with an agreement that includes:

  • Significant health care improvements for full-time and part-time workers;
  • Pension security; and
  • Significant improvements in wages in all areas of the agreement.

Workers will be meeting to vote on ratification of the agreement Saturday, June 28th through July 2nd.

Across the country in 2007-2008, UFCW members working at Kroger and other grocery stores nationwide have reached fair agreements making grocery jobs good, middle class jobs—the kind workers can raise a family on. For more on UFCW grocery negotiations across the country, please visit the Grocery Workers United website at www.groceryworkersunited.org.


UFCW Staff Testifies Before House Subcommittee on Steps to Improve Chemical Plant Safety and Security

Washington, D.C. –  John S. Morawetz, Director of Health and Safety at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s (UFCW) International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC), testified before the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection today about steps that can be taken to improve chemical plant safety and security for workers and surrounding communities in light of the recent explosion of a Goodyear plant in Houston earlier this month. The ICWUC represents more than 20,000 chemical workers in 32 states.

Morawetz, who has investigated workplace hazards, injuries and deaths since the early 1980s, testified about the industrial hazards chemical plant workers face on a daily basis, including those who work with petroleum and coal products, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals in smelters and refineries, as well as with natural gas distribution and in power plants.  He called on Congress to increase funding for the Chemical Safety Board and enforce stronger OSHA standards so that incidents linked to chemical hazards can be fully investigated and standards are followed and enforced.  He also underlined the importance of worker involvement in chemical plant security plans, as well as the need for effective training requirements, strong whistleblower protections and safer technology in this industry.

“Chemical workers know first hand how a plant works, what chemicals are used, and any particular facilities’ weaknesses,” Morawetz said.  “All these responsibilities make chemical workers the first line of defense and explain why we strongly believe vast improvements can and must be made in this nation’s chemical security.”

Morawetz also spoke about the UFCW’s commitment to improving workplace safety for all workers by enforcing existing regulations and passing stronger legislation.

“Unions have a proud history of fighting for the right to a safe workplace and for the basic right for workers to return home after a day on the job as healthy as when they left,” he said.  “From workers who are concerned about their safety and health, to union negotiators seeking health and safety contract language, to unions investigating health hazards or testifying in support of legislation, we are actively involved in making our workplaces safer.”

For a copy of Morawetz’s testimony, please contact press@ufcw.org.