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    UFCW Blog

December 30, 2009


PITTSBURGH, PAYesterday the Pittsburgh City Council voted unanimously to enact a prevailing-wage law for service and retail jobs in publicly subsidized development. The passage of this legislation was due to a strong coalition of faith, environmental, community and labor organizations, including United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 23. Workers in building and food service, grocery store and hotel industries will benefit from this bill, including thousands of UFCW members working in those industries.
The Pittsburgh Prevailing Wage bill will make sure that collectively-bargained wage and benefit standards for workers in those industries are maintained in publicly-subsidized development. Wage standards assure pay of between $10 and $14/hr plus health insurance and other benefits to all jobs created by subsidies of over $100,000 in projects of over 25,000 square feet.
“This is a major victory for working families in Pittsburgh,” said Tony Helfer, President of UFCW Local 23. “It means developers who take our money must promise to maintain the standard wages—and that’s good for everyone: workers, business, and our community. Service and retail industry jobs like these are the jobs of the future, and yesterday the City Council voted to make sure those jobs will pay enough to raise a family and benefit our community.”
Over the past five months, the Pittsburgh UNITED coalition of labor, faith, environmental, and community groups worked tirelessly to help formulate and pass this legislation, which will have a positive impact on the city’s economic future. They knocked on doors, called their council members, gathered petition signatures, and attended numerous council hearings.
“If my tax money is going to be used to build a grocery store,” said Marc Mancini, a UFCW member and local grocery worker who worked to get the law passed, “I don’t want it used to create minimum-wage jobs that would undercut what I make and create competition that could hurt my employer while not actually helping any Pittsburghers earn a good living.”

December 22, 2009

JBS, UFCW aim to keep local students warm

JBS, UFCW aim to keep local students warm, Central Iowa Times-Republican, Dec. 7, 2009

December 15, 2009


Washington, DC — “The bill introduced today by Congressman Gutierrez and his colleagues would help create an immigration system that works for American workers.

“For too long, our nation’s immigration system has fueled exploitation, discrimination and abuse. It has allowed unscrupulous employers to drive down wages and working conditions in industries across the nation, while creating an underground economy where labor laws are shredded and workers are forced to toil in fear.

“This legislation charts a new course for our country. A course that protects workers, respects families and reflects our nation’s interests and our better instincts. It upholds our values as a nation of immigrants and embraces the vitality and diversity that are the fabric of a vibrant and strong society.

“The UFCW applauds Congressman Gutierrez and his colleagues for offering real solutions to address this important issue, and we look forward to working with him to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.”

December 11, 2009

Unity Makes the Difference for Americold Workers


Once the election results were posted, Gene Muff was relieved and happy. He knew it was a time to celebrate, because change was coming to his plant.
Muff, a member of UFCW Local 271, works at an Americold Logistics plant in Crete, Nebraska. Last summer, workers at his plant voted overwhelmingly to ratify their first ever union contract, which provides them with solid wages and benefit increases.
Muff has been involved with the UFCW since the beginning of the organizing campaign.
“I told my coworkers we needed to join the union so we would get better treatment at the plant. That when we are united we are stronger, so that way they couldn’t bully us around anymore,” he said.
After workers voted in favor of having union representation, Muff joined the bargaining committee. With the help of the UFCW, workers at the plant fought to get the best possible contract.
“During our contract negotiations, safety was a big issue, hours were a big issue,” Muff said. “We had to bargain for better wages and benefits.”
Muff explained that negotiations were difficult since “the company was very hardheaded throughout the first year. Afterwards, the company realized we weren’t going to give up. Then, they got down to business.”
With unity, strength and fortitude, workers at Americold negotiated a good first contract.
“When we ratified the contract my coworkers were very happy,” said Muff.
“When they saw the final contract for the first time, they realized that the entire wait was worth it. It was worth standing together and standing up to the company, because we made our lives much better.”
Now workers at Americold are part of the more than 250,000 workers in the poultry and meatpacking industries nationwide who have a union contract with the UFCW.
“This contract gives us wages that protect full-time, family-supporting jobs in our community,” Muff said.
The new Americold contract includes:

  • Average wage increases of $1.44/hr for the first year and an additional 30 cents per hour for the next four years;
  •  A formal system to resolve workplace issues;
  • Time and a half pay for holiday work;
  • Night shift premium wages;
  • Affordable family health coverage;
  • Job advancement opportunities based on seniority; and,
  • Funeral leave and paid vacation benefits.

“We got lower costs for health care. We got guaranteed wage increases. Now we’re able to stand up as one, and have a strong voice when we need to talk to management,” he said.
Muff said they owe this contract to the support they received from all the UFCW members across the country.
“I believe everyone in our local and in the UFCW was behind me and my fellow workers the whole time,” he said. “When we stand together we can make a very big difference.”
He added that workers at Americold support workers at other plants who are at the bargaining table. He had some advice for them:
“I would like to tell other workers who are trying to get their first contract that they should stick with it. The more you stand together the stronger you are and the better it is going to be in the long run. Your company might try to pull all different kinds of tactics on you, to make you feel like you made a bad decision in joining the union, but it’s worth it, because it can only make your life better.”

December 8, 2009

New OSHA Administrator David Michaels Confirmed

The U.S. Senate has confirmed David Michaels as the new OSHA Administrator.

Michaels was nominated by President Obama earlier this year. He is an epidemiologist and professor at the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. He has conducted many studies on the occupational exposure to toxic chemicals, and has served as assistant secretary of energy for Environment, Safety and Health.

This is the first time, since the previous administrator’s resignation in 2008 that OSHA once again has a permanent administrator.

December 8, 2009

New Study, National Ad Campaign Reminds Congress Health Care is Everybody

WASHINGTON, DC – A new study released by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) examines the Senate health care reform bill, and finds that a provision meant to hold corporations accountable actually encourages companies to duck their fair share of the costs of health care reform.

The report examines the Senate bill by looking at its impact on America’s largest and most irresponsible private employer – Walmart. As written, the employer responsibility provision—“Free Rider”—would provide no overall health care cost savings because it would:

  • Incentivize the hiring of a largely part-time workforce, and encourage reducing workers’ hours as a way to eliminate company responsibility for health care costs.
  • Force low-income Walmart employees into high-deductible, company-provided insurance.
  • Make few, if any, Walmart employees eligible for tax credits to purchase better insurance through the health insurance exchange.
  • Continue Walmart’s dependence on federal and state subsidies for Medicaid for its employees, and encourage Walmart to have even more employees dependent on Medicaid.
  • Provide little or no incentive for Walmart to provide better care to its workers.

These findings have galvanized a broad coalition of working families and their supporters to call on Senators to fix the flawed provision of the bill to ensure that President Barack Obama achieves his goal of quality, affordable health care for every American. Concerned organizations that have signed on to a comprehensive ad campaign include the Communications Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Auto Workers, the United Farm Workers, USAction, and the United Steelworkers. Beginning with full page ads in Capitol Hill publications and a national Web presence, the group will roll out print ads across the country over the next few weeks.

The findings of this report put a bright light on just how critical employer responsibility is to health care reform. With much of America’s job growth expected to be in retail over the next few years, it is clear that not including strong employer responsibility provisions will result in a part-time workforce dependent on already overburdened state programs for health care.

The complete report can be viewed online at www.fixthebill.org

December 4, 2009

Statement of the UFCW on White House Jobs Summit

Washington, DC – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union issued the following statement regarding the White House jobs summit:

“”Eight years of neglect by the Bush administration and abuse at the hands of Wall Street have left more than ten percent of America’s workforce unemployed. In convening more than 100 industry, labor, and economic leaders at today’s White House jobs summit, President Obama demonstrated his commitment to reversing this trend with firm action on behalf of working families.

“”The engine of the American economy has been and continues to be the American worker. President Obama has always understood that the ability to provide for your family is at the center of our national debates about health care, the economy, education, and infrastructure. Immediate investment in the creation of new jobs and preservation of existing ones is essential to America’s long-term economic security and role as a leader on the world stage.”

December 2, 2009

Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen to Participate in the White House Jobs Summit

(Washington, D.C.) – United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Joe Hansen will proudly represent the 1.3 million UFCW members at the White House jobs summit tomorrow.

President Obama is convening the gathering of nearly 100 key industry, union and economic leaders to explore ways to slow the loss of jobs and quicken the pace of job creation at a time when the nation’s jobless rate is at 10.2 percent, its highest point since 1983.

With one million members in the private retail sector of the economy, President Hansen will be discussing the importance of food aid assistance for unemployed Americans as well as increasing lending opportunities to retailers to expand quality food access to underserved communities.  For millions of workers in communities across the country, supermarket jobs are stable, quality jobs.

“President Obama inherited one of the most challenging economic situations in modern history.  I am proud to work with him to find solutions that will get people back to work, make sure unemployed workers have the support they need to stay healthy and that responsible employers have access to resources to stay afloat while we rebuild the economy,” said President Hansen.

December 2, 2009

Council To Consider Resolution Asking JBS To Stay In Butchertown

Council To Consider Resolution Asking JBS To Stay In Butchertown, WFPL Radio, Dec. 2, 2009

November 24, 2009

Tyson and UFCW Mark Two Decades of Workplace Safety Progress

Dakota Dunes, S.D. – The nation’s leading meat processor and the country’s largest union representing meatpacking and food processing workers have just completed the 20th year of a workplace ergonomics program that is making meat processing jobs safer.

The ground-breaking program initiated by Tyson Fresh Meats, formerly known as IBP, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, has involved workplace improvements that have helped reduce worker injuries and illnesses, such as strains and sprains.

Ergonomics, which is the science of designing the workplace to fit the worker, had not been extensively used in the meat industry until the company and union reached an agreement after an historic OSHA citation and settlement in late November 1988 followed up with the joint Tyson-UFCW program to develop a comprehensive ergonomics research program.

The program got underway in early 1989, with the company’s Dakota City, Nebraska, beef complex serving as the pilot plant, and production workers represented by UFCW Local 222, were actively involved.  Due to the success of the pilot, the program was quickly expanded to all of the company’s beef and pork plants.

Some of the key elements of the program include ongoing ergonomics training for production workers; the involvement of hourly workers as ‘ergonomic monitors;’worksite analysis and the redesign of work stations and equipment; and a medical management program focused on early detection and treatment of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Tyson and UFCW leaders believe the program has made a difference.  For example, the OSHA recordable injury and illness rate at the Dakota City plant is currently running 67 percent below the rate recorded in 1991.  Meanwhile, the current rate of injuries and illnesses at Dakota City requiring the involvement of a physician is 73 percent below 1991 levels.

“Over the past 20 years, our company has devoted millions of dollars in ergonomically designed equipment and process improvements, as well as training, which we believe have helped prevent workplace injuries and illnesses,” said Jim Lochner, chief operating officer of Tyson Foods.  “However, the real key to the success of this program has been the workers who serve as safety and ergonomics monitors.  The input we’ve received from hourly production workers and the participation of our plant and corporate management teams, have been invaluable.”

“What this program shows is that when workers have input on working conditions, when they are part of the decision-making process, you come up with a better, safer environment—and that’s good for everybody,” said UFCW Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division Director Mark Lauritsen.  “It works because everyone is involved from Tyson management to UFCW leaders, ergo monitors and production workers.”

“The union and Tyson have worked together to make this ergonomics program what it is today (and) I think we’re way ahead of the industry with our program,” said Marvin Harrington, President of UFCW Local 222, which represents workers at the Dakota City plant.  “We’re proud the program is part of our UFCW contract with Tyson.  We train UFCW members on how to identify hazards and recommend fixes.  Having both Tyson management and UFCW members engaged on detecting hazards makes for an efficient process.”

Tyson has been involved in numerous engineering projects designed to modify work stations and equipment in order to reduce physical stressors on the job.  Examples include redesigned knife handles, height-adjustable work stations, use of lighter-weight saws/power tools, hydraulic/mechanical assists to lift or separate product, lower overhead chains and conveyors to eliminate reaching over shoulder height, product diverters on conveyor lines to bring product closer to workers, comfortable/level floor surfaces, improved illumination and job rotation.   The company has also worked to reduce the vibration generated by certain tools and modified personal protective equipment to make it fit better and be more comfortable.

“We’ve implemented some major mechanical and process changes in our beef and pork plants over the years,” said Tom DeRoos, Corporate Ergonomics Program Manager for Tyson.  “This includes equipment designed to replace some of what had previously been done manually by production workers.  For example, many of our pork plants have automatic loin trimmers to remove fat from surface of the pork loins.”

Ergonomics were part of the design of Tyson’s new, multi-million dollar beef processing floor at Dakota City.  The new addition, which became operational in early 2006, includes adjustable work stations as well as a production flow designed with worker safety and health in mind.

But not all of the ergonomic improvements have involved major changes.  “Many of them have been what we call ‘quick fixes,’ which are projects that can be done in a matter of a few days,” said Dennis Golden, Training Manager/Ergonomics Liaison at Tyson’s Dakota City plant, who has been involved in the ergonomics program since its inception.  “For example, since late 1988, we’ve implemented more than 3,600 quick fixes at our Dakota City plant, making minor adjustments such as moving a gear box or relocating a knife sanitizer to make the work station more comfortable for team members.”

“I’ve been involved with the ergo program from the start as a UFCW member serving on a monitoring committee and as a union representative,” said Carmen Hacht, Local 222 Recorder.   “The key to making it work is monitors making the rounds, surveying workers, documenting the kinds of strain people are feeling, then following up and making sure that the fixes make a positive difference.”

Effective medical management is also essential to the ergonomics program. Its focus is early reporting and treatment of any workplace injuries or illnesses. “We require our team members to report all work-related injuries or illnesses, no matter how minor they believe them to be,” said DeRoos.  “By immediately assessing and treating such injuries or illnesses, we’re often able to help reduce the severity and duration.”

Tyson Fresh Meats currently operates eight beef plant and six pork plants in the United States.  In addition to Dakota City, this includes beef plants in Amarillo, Texas; Denison, Iowa; Joslin, Illinois; Emporia, Kansas; Finney County, Kansas; Lexington, Nebraska; and Pasco, Washington.  The company’s pork plants are in Logansport, Indiana; Louisa County, Iowa; Storm Lake, Iowa; Perry, Iowa; Waterloo, Iowa; and Madison, Nebraska.   The UFCW represents workers at Tyson plants in Dakota City, Joslin, Perry, Logansport and Waterloo.

About Tyson Foods, Inc.

Tyson Foods, Inc., founded in 1935 with headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, the second-largest food production company in the Fortune 500 and a member of the S&P 500. The company produces a wide variety of protein-based and prepared food products and is the recognized market leader in the retail and foodservice markets it serves.  Tyson provides products and service to customers throughout the United States and more than 90 countries.  The company has approximately 117,000 Team Members employed at more than 300 facilities and offices in the United States and around the world.  Through its Core Values, Code of Conduct and Team Member Bill of Rights, Tyson strives to operate with integrity and trust and is committed to creating value for its shareholders, customers and Team Members. The company also strives to be faith-friendly, provide a safe work environment and serve as stewards of the animals, land and environment entrusted to it.

About the UFCW

The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries, including 22,000 who work at Tyson plants.  UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. The UFCW and its predecessor unions have represented workers in the packing and processing industries for more than 100 years. Union contracts in the industry ensured equal pay for equal work for African Americans and women decades before equal pay became a larger societal goal. The UFCW has also been a leading national voice on workplace safety and health, helping spearhead protective federal legislation and OSHA regulations on waste containment, ergonomics, diacetyl, and combustible dust, among other initiatives.