Nebraskans Patricia Harris, Armando Martinez, and Jorge Angel – all UFCW members – were on Capitol Hill to share their experience about having a union at work and to urge their elected officials to support the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.
“I know that having a union makes the difference because I have worked in places where employees were harassed and threatened when they tried to join a union,” Martinez said:
When I started working at the Hormel Foods plant in Freemont in 1998, UFCW Local Union 22 already represented the workers. All I needed to do was sign up to show I wanted to join.
Harris, Angel, and Martinez are urging Senators Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) to support the the Employee Free Choice Act. They are just a few of the hundreds of UFCW members and other workers from across the country who visited the halls of Congress to speak with their elected officials and urge passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Many of the workers have experienced firsthand the disappointment of being unable to join a union, despite the fact that a majority of they and their co-workers wanted to join one. Darlene Bruzio and her co-workers at Giant Eagle grocery store in Pennsylvania lost their union election, despite having majority support at work, because of employer interference. She said:
When you have more 80% support like we did at my store and still lose an election, you know that the system is broken. Congress has to realize that and pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
Another grocery worker, James Satler, is a former Fresh and Easy worker from California who says he was fired for trying to organize a union at his workplace:
I believe that if Congress really cares about fixing the economy, it should pass Employee Free Choice because it will allow us to have better wages and benefits. Our economy is stronger when more American workers have more money to spend.
Satler, along with Celia Cisneros and Diane Garcia, say they were fired for trying to form a union at their California workplaces. They are in town to urge Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to support the Employee Free Choice.
“I noticed a lot of things that weren’t right at work and I called the union for help,” Garcia, a Pomona resident, said of her experience trying to form a union several years ago at Big Saver:
The company did not like the fact that we were trying to form a union and they did everything they could to prevent unionization. In the end, they fired me.
Cisneros’ experience is no different. Despite being a model worker for several years at Foster Farms, the Lindsay resident was fired when she became too involved with the union. She said:
I worked there for seven years without having one point against me. But when I became a vocal supporter of the union, they fired me and cut my medical insurance. I have a family to take care of. Fortunately, the union helped me get my job back.
UFCW Local 700 member Rick Jackson, a grocery worker in Indiana, was there to urge Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) to support the bill.
“The union helped me and I know that having a union at work makes a difference,” said Jackson, a meat manager from Huntington.
Yolanda Abreu from Las Cruces, New Mexico was there to speak on Employee Free Choice. “When my coworkers and I tried to form a union at Albertsons, the company responded with threats and harassment.” She continued:
Managers held mandatory meetings bashing the union, threatened workers with loss of benefits, and offered preferential treatment to those who promised to oppose the union. Even after three elections and a year of waiting, we still face a company across the table that has little legal incentive to negotiate a contract quickly or fairly. There is no better proof that the current system is broken, and that workers need the Employee Free Choice Act to protect their right to join a union of their choosing.
Abreu is urging Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM) to support the bill. This is just the first step for her and other UFCW members and workers across the country, who have pledged to continue to contact their members of Congress, as well as write letters and blogs, sign cards, and take an active role in urging passage of Employee Free Choice.
WASHINGTON, DC – UFCW members from across the country visited the halls of Congress today to speak with their elected officials and to urge passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. The workers, who have tried to join the UFCW, came to Washington to share their stories about forming a union in the workplace and to urge their elected representatives in Congress to make the passage of Employee Free Choice a priority.
The action comes on the heels of the introduction earlier this month of the legislation in both the Senate and the House.
“I believe that if Congress really cares about fixing the economy and rebuilding the middle class, it should pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” said James Satler, a former Fresh & Easy grocery worker from California. “The economy should work for everyone, not just CEOs.” Satler was fired for attempting to organize a union at his workplace.
Despite having majority support at work, Darlene Bruzio and her co-workers at Giant Eagle in Pennsylvania lost their union election because of employer interference. “When you have more than 80% support for joining a union, like we did at my store, and still lose an election, you know that the system is broken,” Bruzio said. “Members of Congress should stop the corporations that are gaming the system by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.”
While most workers’ stories heard in Congress today highlight the intimidation and harassment workers face when trying to form a union, Armando Martinez, a Hormel Foods worker from Nebraska, shared a positive experience of getting a voice on the job without intimidation. “I know that having a union makes the difference because I have worked in places where employees are threatened when they try to get a voice on the job,” Martinez said. “When I started working at the Hormel Foods plant in Freemont, the UFCW already represented the workers. All I needed to do was sign up to show I wanted to join the union—all without any intimidation or harassment from the company.”
Sixty million workers say they would join a union if they could. With Employee Free Choice, workers, not employers, will decide how to form a union. Workers will have the option of majority sign up in addition to a secret ballot election. The Free Choice legislation will establish meaningful penalties for employers who break the law and harass or fire workers for wanting a union. Finally, Employee Free Choice will ensure that workers gain a first contract through a provision that calls for binding arbitration if workers and management cannot reach an agreement within 120 days.
Photos of today’s event are available. Media inquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.