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April 30, 2009

WALMART WORKERS HOLD HISTORIC NATIONAL ORGANIZING MEETING

Washington, DC – Walmart workers from across the nation are converging today on Capitol Hill for a National Organizing Meeting to brief Senators about wages, benefits and the Employee Free Choice Act. Nearly 100 Walmart workers from 17 states are participating in the event. As part of their campaign for a union voice on the job, they will urge lawmakers to level the playing field for working people by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.

“I made the trip into Washington DC to stand with my fellow Walmart workers and to urge my Senators to pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” said Dominique Sloan a Dallas, Texas, Walmart worker. “We need change in this country. All you have to do is look at how all the money goes to CEOs. But when it comes to workers, it’s always the same, no health care or health care that’s too expensive and low wages. We need to change that.”

The National Organizing Committee is made up of Walmart workers from Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Despite Walmart’s well-documented history of anti-working family activities, workers say they are excited by the election of Barack Obama, excited that the President says it’s not too much to ask Walmart to pay decent wages and provide good health care, and excited that the Employee Free Choice Act can help bring the change that helps workers and makes Walmart live up to its responsibilities.

“I have three boys, and I had to get Florida Kids Care to cover their medical,” says Cheryl Guzman, a Walmart worker from Miami. “It’s either you eat, or you have medical coverage, that’s not right. That’s why I’m part of Walmart Workers for Change.”

Ten workers recently shared their stories in a new video, released earlier this week. Workers from the National Organizing Committee will be available to the press today after a Capitol Hill briefing at 10 a.m., in 328 Russell Senate Office Building.

Walmart Workers for Change is a new campaign made up of thousands of Walmart workers joining together to form a union and negotiate better benefits, higher wages, and more opportunity for a better future. The campaign is a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).  The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers nationwide, with nearly one million working in the supermarket industry. Many of UFCW members also work at national retail stores such as Bloomingdales, Macys, H&M, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Saks Fifth Avenue, RiteAid, CVS, and Syms.

April 28, 2009

Food and Commercial Workers Applaud Decision to Hold Bruno

BIRMINGHAM, AL – Today’s decision by US Bankruptcy Judge Benjamin Cohen to uphold the contract between Bruno’s Inc. and more than 2,000 workers represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Union 1657 opened the door to a fresh start for the Bruno’s name. Lone Star Funds, a private-equity firm based in New York that purchased Bruno’s in the late 1990s, had asked Judge Cohen to void the contract, which would have enabled a new owner to take over the stores without honoring the commitments made to thousands of hourly employees.
“We are delighted with Judge Cohen’s decision, which will help keep thousands of good jobs in Alabama and Florida,” said Elaise Fox, president of UFCW Local 1657. “By requiring Bruno’s to honor its promises, the court ensured that Bruno’s workers will be essential players in the revitalization of this celebrated company.”
Bruno’s assets are scheduled to be sold at auction on April 29th. Last week, members of UFCW Local 1657 took steps to authorize a strike in the event that Judge Cohen voided the contract. Today, the union announced that, while many members supported the authorization, no strike would be called.
Fox continued: “The company’s attempts to evade accountability made perfectly clear that Bruno’s workers needed to look after themselves. Bruno’s workers were prepared to do exactly that, with many of them supporting a strike if the contract was voided. Fortunately, such serious measures weren’t necessary, and UFCW members will stay on the job serving Bruno’s customers.”
UFCW Local 1657, based in Birmingham, represents more than 3,500 grocery and health care workers in Alabama and Florida.
April 23, 2009

THOUSANDS OF WALMART WORKERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY UNITE TO CALL FOR A VOICE IN THE WORKPLACE

Washington, DC – Walmart Workers for Change, a new campaign of thousands of Walmart’s 1.3 million associates across the country who are standing up and demanding a voice in the workplace, today released a new video that highlights the sorts of anti-worker tactics they are facing from the world’s largest retailer.

“The associates are afraid,” said Cynthia Murray, a Walmart associate in Laurel, Maryland.  “They’re intimidated, and they are afraid.  My family and other families have paid the price for freedom.  And when you tell me I can’t talk about a union, you’re taking my freedom from me.”

Workers in more than 100 stores in 15 states across the country have joined together and signed union representation cards, citing a lack of respect from the company, as well as poverty-level wages and sub-par benefits as reasons they need a union voice on the job.

Despite Walmart’s long and well-documented history of anti-worker activities, associates say they are emboldened by the election of Barack Obama and the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress.

The campaign comes at a time when workers find their wages have stagnated, even as Walmart and the Walton family continue to make record profits.  Walmart’s recently released 2009 10K shows the company made $13.4 billion in profits last year.

“Walmart’s slogan is ‘Save Money, Live Better,’” said Vikki Gill, a former Walmart manager in St. Louis, Missouri.  “Walmart is saving money and living better at the associates’ expense.”

In the new video, which can be viewed at http://www.walmartworkersforchange.org/index.php/pages/articles/walmarts_war_on_workers, 10 workers from coast to coast detail the company’s response to their organizing efforts.  Dominique Sloane and Mark Moore, of Dallas, Texas, were told that their store would be closed if workers voted to organize.  In Miami, Florida, Cheryl Guzman was interrogated by a manager about who among her colleagues supported a union. Linda Haluska, of Glendale, Illinois, was called into four mandatory meetings in one week, where she and her colleagues were shown anti-union, anti-Employee Free Choice videos.

“Since we’ve started talking union, the company has been holding meetings, they’ve flown people in,” said Sloan.  “They’ve even mentioned as far as with the union, there’s a possibility that stores may close.”

Walmart Workers for Change is a new campaign made up of thousands of Walmart workers joining together to form a union and negotiate better benefits, higher wages, and more opportunity for a better future.

The campaign is a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), America’s neighborhood union.  The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers nationwide, with nearly one million working in the supermarket industry. Many of UFCW members also work at national retail stores such as Bloomingdales, Macys, H&M, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Saks Fifth Avenue, RiteAid, CVS, and Syms.

April 23, 2009

Anti-Worker Intimidation Campaign Thwarts Union Vote

(Wilson, N.C.)— Seeking dignity, respect, and a union voice on the job, and inspired by workers at Smithfield’s Tar Heel, N.C. plant, workers at Smithfield’s Wilson N.C. plant began a grassroots campaign for UFCW representation in January. On a daily basis, dozens of workers handbilled their co-workers, discussed issues in the break room and parking lot, and signed up the vast majority of employees who wanted union representation.  Workers also earned the support of dozens of community and religious leaders, including the NC NAACP.

Although the vast majority of the 550 workers signed cards indicating they wanted to be represented by the UFCW, the company demanded workers hold an election. Before the election could be held, Smithfield reverted back to the anti-worker approach they had used for many years in Tar Heel—threatening, harassing and firing people to intimidate and divide Wilson workers to keep them from coming together for a voice on the job.

The company called the police to harass workers and union organizers who were legally handbilling on public property.

They told off-duty employees that they were not allowed to distribute handbills in the employee parking lot—even though workers do have this right.

They forced workers to attend meetings at work where supervisors spread misinformation about the union.

They fired at least two vocal union supporters during the drive.

Smithfield’s behavior underscores the need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act—legislation which would let workers choose how they join a union—through signing cards, or through an election. The legislation would hold employers accountable when they use dirty, illegal tactics to intimidate workers into voting no. If Employee Free Choice were law, Wilson workers could have chosen freely, without enduring a pressure campaign on the job every day.

 

April 23, 2009

CONTRACT AGREEMENT REACHED FOR EMPLOYERS AND UFCW LOCAL 1262

CLIFTON, NJ — The Negotiation Committees comprised of nearly 100 rank-and-file UFCW Local 1262 members voted to accept a tentative contract agreement with ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Foodtown and Pathmark.  The membership will vote on the tentative agreement at meetings the week of April 27, 2009.

The contract covers nearly 30,000 Local 1262 members at ShopRite, Pathmark and Foodtown stores in New Jersey and the Western Hudson Valley Region of New York and Stop & Shop Supermarkets in New Jersey

According to UFCW Local 1262 President Harvey Whille, the Negotiation Committees accepted the tentative agreement because it did not change Health and Welfare benefits during the term of the new agreement, provides adequate funding to ensure that the Pension Fund continues to remain viable and provides a fair wage increase.

“We achieved everything we wanted going into these negotiations,” said Whille.  “First we obtained the same contract for all of our members no matter where they work.  Second, we maintained our level of benefits, which is a significant feat considering the fact that health care costs continue to increase annually and the state of the world’s investment markets.”

Local 1262 will hold four Special Union Meetings next week at which members will review the tentative agreement and then vote to accept or reject the contract.

April 22, 2009

Bruno

BIRMINGHAM, AL – On Monday evening, the membership of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1657 began taking steps to authorize a strike in the event that Bruno’s and Food World stores are sold to a company that won’t commit to rehiring workers under a new contract. Local 1657 members have already voted at several locations, and balloting in the rest of Alabama and Florida will continue throughout the week.

“Bruno’s workers have given too much to this company to have their careers and livelihoods tossed aside in a fire sale,” said Elaise Fox, president of UFCW Local 1657. “We are eager to work with any buyer that will commit to retaining a majority of current employees with fair wages and benefits. However, we will not stand idly by if a new owner uses Bruno’s self-inflicted financial woes as an excuse to pad its corporate bottom line by destroying thousands of good jobs.”

The current contract between Bruno’s and Local 1657 includes a no strike/no lockout clause. Accordingly, a strike would only be authorized in the event that US Bankruptcy Judge Benjamin Cohen rules in favor of Bruno’s motion to void the existing contract, and a new owner refused to negotiate a contract with the workers.

“”The people who work at Food World and Bruno’s are our neighbors, our congregants, and our families,” said Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, an interfaith community organization representing more than twenty congregations in the Birmingham area.  “While the absentee managers who drove this company into the ground ask for huge bonuses, the local employees that are the backbone of Bruno’s are left to fend for themselves. We all hope that a strike can be avoided, but if it comes to that our community will stand with these workers, these neighbors, through thick and thin.”

The assets of Bruno’s Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in February, are scheduled to be sold at auction on April 29. Fearing the exploitation of Bruno’s employees at the hands of a bidder that won’t protect high-quality grocery jobs, a number of community leaders and organizations have called on Bruno’s to craft an agreement that “both keeps these stores open and keeps these workers in jobs with living wages and benefits.”

Signatories to the letter (which appears below) included Alabama State Senator Phil Poole, Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot, the Jefferson County Central Labor Council, the Birmingham Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Alabama and Birmingham chapters of the NAACP, the Alabama AFL-CIO, and Greater Birmingham Ministries.

UFCW Local 1657, based in Birmingham, represents more than 3,500 grocery and health care workers in Alabama and Florida.

______________________________________________________________________

Mr. James Grady

Chief Restructuring Officer
Bruno’s Supermarkets, Inc.
1800 International Park Drive
Birmingham, AL 35243

Dear Mr. Grady:

We are writing regarding the ongoing negotiations for Bruno’s Supermarkets and our concerns about the fate of the workers at these stores.

More than two thousand of our constituents work at Bruno’s. They are the backbone of this community. They are shoppers, they are taxpayers, they are caretakers and, above all else, they are our neighbors.

To ask loyal workers to bear the brunt of Bruno’s mismanagement would cause irreparable damage to this community. Bruno’s made a promise to these workers, and it should not be allowed to renege on that promise while other options still exist. Alabama can not afford to lose thousands of good jobs: the wages and benefits earned by Bruno’s employees help support every other business in the state. The contract Bruno’s entered into is, in these challenging economic times, the only barrier between Alabamans and a race to the bottom.

We urge you to do everything in your power to find a solution that both keeps these stores open and keeps these workers in jobs with living wages and important benefits. We believe that the company, potential buyers, and the workers and their union can find a compromise that does exactly that.

We will continue to monitor this case closely. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance in resolving this situation.

Sincerely,

[Signatory individuals and organizations]

April 14, 2009

CHANGE TO WIN AND AFL-CIO UNVEIL UNIFIED IMMIGRATION REFORM FRAMEWORK

United labor movement shows importance of
addressing issue during 111th Congress

 WASHINGTON – Joseph T. Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and chair of the Change to Win Immigration Task Force, and John Sweeney, International President of the AFL-CIO, today unveiled a unified framework for comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

The joint announcement and proposal is a critical sign of support for the Administration and Congress to address immigration reform – and to ensure that it remains a priority on the legislative calendar. It is also an important sign that immigration reform is an important part of economic recovery.

“We need an immigration system that works for America’s workers,” said President Hansen. “For too long, our nation’s immigration system has fueled discrimination and exploitation of workers. It has driven down wages and working conditions. And it has failed to live up to our nation’s values. We now have an opportunity to change course. This framework is a roadmap toward real reform—reform that addresses the needs of our nation’s workers, families and communities. This framework is about moving America forward. We are a nation that respects hard work, family and the pursuit of the American Dream. Our immigration system must hold true to these principles.”

“”Our nation’s broken immigration system isn’t working for anybody –not immigrant workers who are routinely exploited by companies and not U.S. born workers whose living standards are being undermined by the creation of a new “”underclass.””  As a part of broad-based economic recovery, we need a comprehensive solution — and soon.  The development of a unified labor position, a position centered on workers’ rights, puts us on the path to a legislative solution,”” said President Sweeney.  “The labor movement will speak in one voice to address this pressing issue with Congress and the White House to create a system that protects all workers — those who work in our shadow economy and those who have full rights.”

Sweeney and Hansen also were joined by Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Arturo Rodriquez, President of the United Farm Workers (UFW), in making the announcement. Both Medina and Rodriguez have been national leaders on immigration reform and played a key role in the formation of the immigration framework.

“As we face the most serious recession since the Great Depression—as healthcare costs skyrocket, income disparity grows, and the middle class continues to shrink—the American public wants fundamental reform of economic and social policies that have benefited the few at the expense of the working majority,” said Medina “Immigration reform is no exception. Today’s unified agreement is a major step forward that will, combined with the continued leadership of President Obama, Vice President Biden and bipartisan leadership in Congress, profoundly improve the future of all workers and build a stronger American economy for our children and grandchildren.”

“Today’s unity statement is a recognition of the dire need to have immigration laws that work and work for all workers,” said President Rodriguez.  “Too many workers – both U.S. and immigrant are exploited by the current system and that needs to change.  The United Farm Workers, Change to Win and the AFL-CIO came together because we can no longer be delayed.”

President Obama recently reiterated his support for immigration reform and stated that real reform cannot be completed in a piecemeal fashion

The Unity Framework, which was developed in consultation with Former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall and the Economic Policy Institute, provides a comprehensive plan for addressing immigration reform.

“”Immigration reform is a core issue for the labor movement,”” said Ray Marshall, former Secretary of Labor.  “”I am pleased to have assisted the unions in coming together to support an approach framed around protecting workers rights.””

The labor proposal adheres to the Administration’s goals by creating a framework that deals with the critical components of reform and does it through interconnected initiatives. The proposal calls for:  (1) an independent commission to assess and manage future flows, based on labor market shortages that are determined on the basis of actual need; (2) a secure and effective worker authorization mechanism; (3) rational operational control of the border; (4) adjustment of status for the current undocumented population; and (5) improvement, not expansion, of temporary worker programs, limited to temporary or seasonal, not permanent, jobs.

In the coming weeks, representatives from labor will be meeting with key Congressional and Administration staff to discuss the framework and how best to move the issue forward. The groups have also briefed key activists and advocates about the framework and will be working closely with these vital allies in the coming months.

Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Immigration reform is a component of a shared prosperity agenda that focuses on improving productivity and quality; limiting wage competition; strengthening labor standards, especially the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively; and providing social safety nets and high quality lifelong education and training for workers and their families.  To achieve this goal, immigration reform must fully protect U. S. workers, reduce the exploitation of immigrant workers, and reduce the employers’ incentive to hire undocumented workers rather than U.S. workers.  The most effective way to do that is for all workers—immigrant and native-born—to have full and complete access to the protection of labor, health and safety and other laws.  Comprehensive immigration reform must complement a strong, well-resourced and effective labor standards enforcement initiative that prioritizes workers’ rights and workplace protections. This approach will ensure that immigration does not depress wages and working conditions or encourage marginal low-wage industries that depend heavily on substandard wages, benefits, and working conditions.

This approach to immigration reform has five major interconnected pieces:  (1) an independent commission to assess and manage future flows, based on labor market shortages that are determined on the basis of actual need; (2) a secure and effective worker authorization mechanism; (3) rational operational control of the border; (4) adjustment of status for the current undocumented population; and (5) improvement, not expansion, of temporary worker programs, limited to temporary or seasonal, not permanent, jobs.

Family reunification is an important goal of immigration policy and it is the national interest for it to remain that way.  First, families strongly influence individual and national welfare.  Families have historically facilitated the assimilation of immigrants into American life.  Second, the failure to allow family reunification creates strong pressures for unauthorized immigration, as happened with IRCA’s amnesty provisions.  Third, families are the most basic learning institutions, teaching children values as well as skills to succeed in school, society, and at work.  Finally, families are important economic units that provide valuable sources of entrepreneurship, job training, support for members who are unemployed and information and networking for better labor market information.

The long-term solution to uncontrolled immigration is to stop promoting failed globalization policies and encourage just and humane economic integration, which will eliminate the enormous social and economic inequalities at both national and international levels.  U.S. immigration policy should consider the effects of immigration reforms on immigrant source countries, especially Mexico.  It is in our national interest for Mexico to be a prosperous and democratic country able to provide good jobs for most of its adult population, thereby ameliorating strong pressures for emigration.   Much of the emigration from Mexico in recent years resulted from the disruption caused by NAFTA, which displaced millions of Mexicans from subsistence agriculture and enterprises that could not compete in a global market.  Thus, an essential component of the long term solution is a fair trade and globalization model that uplifts all workers, promotes the creation of free trade unions around the world, ensures the enforcement of labor rights, and guarantees all workers core labor protections.

1.  Future Flow

One of the great failures of our current employment-based immigration system is that the level of legal work-based immigration is set arbitrarily by Congress as a product of political compromise —without regard to real labor market needs—and it is rarely updated to reflect changing circumstances or conditions.  This failure has allowed unscrupulous employers to manipulate the system to the detriment of workers and reputable employers alike.  The system for allocating employment visas—both temporary and permanent—should be depoliticized and placed in the hands of an independent commission that can assess labor market needs on an ongoing basis and—based on a methodology approved by Congress–determine the number of foreign workers to be admitted for employment purposes, based on labor market needs.  In designing the new system, and establishing the methodology to be used for assessing labor shortages, the Commission will be required to examine the impact of immigration on the economy, wages, the workforce and business.

2. Worker authorization mechanism

The current system of regulating the employment of unauthorized workers is defunct, ineffective and has failed to curtail illegal immigration.  A secure and effective worker authorization mechanism is one that determines employment authorization accurately while providing maximum protection for workers, contains sufficient due process and privacy protections, and prevents discrimination.  The verification process must be taken out of the hands of employers, and the mechanism must rely on secure identification methodology.  Employers who fail to properly use the system properly must face strict liability including significant fines and penalties regardless of the immigration status of their workers.

3. Rational Operational Control of the Border

A new immigration system must include rational control of our borders.  Border security is clearly very important, but not sufficient, since 40 to 45 percent of unauthorized immigrants did not cross the border unlawfully, but overstayed visas.  Border controls therefore must be supplemented by effective work authorization and other components of this framework.  An “enforcement-only” policy will not work.  Practical border controls balance border enforcement with the other components of this framework and with the reality that over 30 million valid visitors cross our borders each year.  Enforcement therefore should respect the dignity and rights of our visitors, as well as residents in border communities.  In addition, enforcement authorities must understand that they need cooperation from communities along the border. Border enforcement is likely to be most effective when it focuses on criminal elements and engages immigrants and border community residents in the enforcement effort.  Similarly, border enforcement is most effective when it is left to trained professional border patrol agents and not vigilantes or local law enforcement officials—who require cooperation from immigrants to enforce state and local laws.

4. Adjustment of Status for the Current Undocumented Population

Immigration reform must include adjustment of status for the current undocumented population.  Rounding up and deporting the 12 million or more immigrants who are unlawfully present in the U.S. may make for a good sound bite, but it is not a realistic solution.  And if these immigrants are not given adequate incentive to “come out of the shadows” to adjust their status, we will continue to have a large pool of unauthorized workers whom employers will continue to exploit in order to drive down wages and other standards, to the detriment of all workers.   Having access to a large undocumented workforce has allowed employers to create an underground economy, without the basic protections afforded to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and where employers often misclassify workers as independent contractors, thus evading payroll taxes, which deprives federal, state, and local governments of additional revenue.  An inclusive, practical and swift adjustment of status program will raise labor standards for all workers.  The adjustment process must be rational, reasonable and accessible and it must be designed to ensure that it will not encourage future illegal immigration.

5. Improvement, not Expansion, of Temporary Worker Programs

The United States must improve the administration of existing temporary worker programs, but should not adopt a new “indentured” or “guest worker” initiative.  Our country has long recognized that it is not good policy for a democracy to admit large numbers of workers with limited civil and employment rights.

April 14, 2009

Food Safety, One Pistachio at a Time

April 1, 2009

>Two Weeks Left to Apply for the Scholarship

>

Scholarship Deadline Extended: Now April 15!

The UFCW Scholarship program has extended the deadline for 2009!

Your union is about more than your paycheck and benefits. The UFCW is about workers coming together to build better lives for ourselves. It’s about creating opportunity.

Apply by April 15, 2009 for your opportunity to be awarded one of the several scholarships of up to $8,000 that will be awarded to UFCW members and their dependents. Recipients will be notified June 19, 2009.

To find out more, or to apply online, visit UFCW.org/Scholarship.

If you are unable to apply online, you may request an application by writing to:
UFCW International Union, Attn: Scholarship Program, 1775 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
If you need the scholarship rules or application in another language,
please contact us (1-800-551-4010) and we will obtain assistance for you.

April 1, 2009

>Two Weeks Left to Apply for the Scholarship

>

Scholarship Deadline Extended: Now April 15!

The UFCW Scholarship program has extended the deadline for 2009!

Your union is about more than your paycheck and benefits. The UFCW is about workers coming together to build better lives for ourselves. It’s about creating opportunity.

Apply by April 15, 2009 for your opportunity to be awarded one of the several scholarships of up to $8,000 that will be awarded to UFCW members and their dependents. Recipients will be notified June 19, 2009.

To find out more, or to apply online, visit UFCW.org/Scholarship.

If you are unable to apply online, you may request an application by writing to:
UFCW International Union, Attn: Scholarship Program, 1775 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
If you need the scholarship rules or application in another language,
please contact us (1-800-551-4010) and we will obtain assistance for you.