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    UFCW Blog

June 27, 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.

June 26, 2008

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.

June 26, 2008

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.

June 4, 2008

Change and Hope for America

Washington, D.C. Last night’s victory by Senator Barack Obama was not only a magnificent moment for our nation, but an historic opportunity for working men and women to reclaim the American Dream.

Senator Obama’s campaign shows us the power that we have to change the direction of our country, and reminds us of our responsibility to reclaim our government on behalf of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of workers and their families across this great nation.

As he stands on the threshold of becoming the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, Senator Obama’s candidacy reflects our nation’s progress, but more importantly it represents the promise of a better tomorrow. A tomorrow in which all workers have their rights protected and their hard work respected.  A tomorrow that brings affordable health care, real retirement security, economic prosperity, national security and worker safety.

For the past five months, the UFCW has mobilized its 1.3 million members across the country to support Senator Obama’s candidacy, and his message of hope and change has struck a chord with UFCW members of all ages.  The UFCW will continue to mobilize, organize and energize our members to support Senator Obama and fight to regain the rights and protections that America’s workers have lost under the Bush Administration.

The past seven years of the Bush Administration have been a hard road to travel for America’s workers as they struggle to cope with the high cost of housing, health care, food, fuel and education.  The fragile state of the economy, coupled with a sense of national foreboding, has led many Americans to believe that they will never achieve the American Dream of owning a home, providing their families with health care coverage, or retiring comfortably.

While Senator John McCain now tries to distance himself from President Bush, his economic, health care and trade policies celebrate the Bush legacy of giving big tax breaks to corporations, increasing health care costs and reducing benefits, and supporting trade agreements that have devastated the economy and sent good, middle class jobs overseas.

America’s workers cannot afford another four years of a leader who values corporate interests over the well being of America’s workers and their families.  The UFCW will continue its fight to restore the American Dream by ensuring that Senator Obama becomes the next president of the United States.

June 4, 2008

UFCW Launches Campaign in Britain Against

One of America’s biggest unions, the 1.3 million-strong United Food and Commercial Workers union, today launched a UK campaign to expose “The Two Faces of Tesco.””

At a Westminster press launch chaired by Jon Cruddas MP, the union said that it is stepping up a campaign already begun in the United States to shame Tesco to talks on union recognition and employee pay and benefits.

The UFCW seeks to represent some of the lowest-paid and least secure retail workers in the USA, more than half of whom are women, and has been seeking talks with Tesco for two years since the world’s third-largest retailer announced its entry into the US grocery market. All attempts have so far fallen on deaf ears, and Tesco launched its chain of Fresh & Easy supermarkets in 2007 as non-union stores.

UFCW says that it is seeking the chance for dialogue, to build the same constructive partnership that Tesco enjoys in the UK with the shop workers’ union Usdaw, but Tesco refuses to meet.

So UFCW has brought the campaign to Britain. It believes that its new report – The Two Faces of Tesco – is a damning indictment of how Tesco operates different principles at home and abroad. The report also highlights what UFCW believes are stark contrasts between what Tesco says and what it does.

Speaking at the launch Jon Cruddas MP said:

“British companies which operate in the global marketplace should apply the highest standards in dealing with their workforce, both at home and abroad. What this dossier exposes about Tesco’s practices in the United States, in my view not only undermines Tesco’s reputation, but will also affect how people think about the fairness of British companies in general. I urge Tesco to put its stated principles and policies into practice and to start talking to these important stakeholders.”

The launch was also attended by UFCW member Jackie Gitmed, a cashier from a rival, unionised supermarket, and by UFCW’s campaigns director, Emily Stewart, who said:

“We were genuinely excited at the prospect of building a partnership with Tesco, so we are doubly appalled at the way it is behaving towards us and the many community groups which have tried and failed to meet with it.

“Tesco has a great reputation for employment rights and corporate responsibility in the UK, but this is a reputation which, in our view, is sullied by its behaviour in the USA.

“Our dossier exposes Tesco’s two faces, and we intend to campaign in Britain to show Tesco’s other face to British people, British investors and British politicians, in the hope that they will influence Tesco to stop and think again about how they conduct their business in America. We are asking for nothing more than Tesco already does here.”

Jackie Gitmed, a cashier from Ralphs Supermarket in Encino, California, with 32 years’ experience in unionised stores, added:

“We’re never going to be rich working for a grocery store, but we all deserve a shot at earning a living wage and health insurance we can afford, as well as the peace of mind to know that we won’t be let go at a moment’s notice.

“In my 32 years working with the protection of a union agreement,  I have enjoyed job security and union-negotiated healthcare and pensions benefits. Our colleagues at Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores don’t have this. I have flown from LA to London because this campaign is important. I hope it will make Tesco pay attention, so that my fellow workers in Tesco’s US stores can enjoy the benefits and opportunities they deserve.”