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June 26, 2009

TAR HEEL SMITHFIELD WORKERS REACH TENTATIVE AGREEMENT

(Tar Heel, NC) – Smithfield Packing Company and the bargaining committee of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1208 reached a tentative agreement on a first contract for the workers at the Tar Heel pork processing facility. The bargaining committee and Smithfield believe the agreement provides a fair and equitable package for the workers and allows Smithfield to remain competitive in the market. Both parties look forward to a union ratification vote on June 30 and July 1, 2009.

June 26, 2009

UFCW Members Take Capitol Hill by Storm to Call for Health Care Reform

Hundreds of UFCW members from across the country flooded the halls of Congress today to tell how the health care crisis has impacted working Americans and to send a strong message to those in Washington that health care reform cannot wait.

UFCW members joined with thousands of health care advocates from other labor unions, community groups, and medical associations for one of the largest health care reform rallies in recent history. Crowds gathered in Upper Senate Park at 11:30 AM to hear Actress Edie Falco, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and other leaders in the health care reform movement speak at the event, which was hosted by Health Care for American Now (HCAN).

Following the massive rally, workers went to congressional offices and held eleven different town hall meetings to share their stories and advocate for principles key to fixing our intertwined economic and health crises including:

  • the restoration of choice and cost-controls in the insurance industry through a public health insurance option;
  • shared responsibility among individuals, employers, insurance companies, and the government;
  • the end to consideration of a tax on health benefits that would place additional stress on the already-struggling middle class.

Vincent Germani, a produce clerk at ShopRite in Edgewater, New Jersey and a UFCW member since 1979, was one of the workers who brought his story with him to Washington, DC. Though Germani has good benefits, he worries for his 19 year-old daughter who is going off to college and won’t be eligible under his plan unless she maintains full-time enrollment status at school.

“Health care is something I feel deep down inside me,” said Germani. “Things have to change and I think with Obama, we have a better chance.”

“As an employee of a successful integrated health care delivery system, it still has its challenges,” said Leslie Fitch, a single mother who travelled from Marysville, Washington for today’s rally.  Fitch has worked as a pharmacy technician at Group Health for the past 16 years. “We bargain for better wages, which is affected by ever-increasing health care costs,” Fitch continued. “I believe I speak for my co-workers back home when I say ‘quality affordable healthcare for all can be done.’  We ask our nations leaders to make it happen.  The longer we wait the longer each one of us will be suffering for it.”

Today’s rally comes at a crucial time for health care reform. As committees in the House and Senate continue to flesh out their proposals, the future of our health care system is being defined. The UFCW stands united with the other labor, health, and community organizations who represent middle class America and will work together to ensure that every American has quality, affordable health care and coverage they can count on.

 

June 18, 2009

NATIONAL COMMISSION CONDEMNS WORKPLACE IMMIGRATION RAIDS

WASHINGTON – A National Commission investigating immigration enforcement under the Bush Administration released a comprehensive new report today documenting the devastation and destruction that immigration raids had on families, workplaces and communities across the country.

The report, Raids on Workers: Destroying Our Rights, offers a critical analysis of one of the central components of the Bush Administration’s immigration strategy and provides a detailed account of how heavy handed enforcement tactics led to systemic abuse of workers’ rights and a willful disregard for the rule of law.

“This commission was formed to examine allegations of abuse and misconduct by ICE agents during the course of immigration raids,” said Joseph T. Hansen, founding chairman of the commission and president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “What we have uncovered is that during the Bush Administration ICE agents repeatedly trampled on innocent workers’ constitutional rights. These were not isolated incidents, but systemic problems that occurred in almost every region of the country. No government agency is above the law, and no worker should have to face the mistreatment and misconduct that these hardworking men and women were subjected to under the Bush Administration.”

The Commission, which is made up of former elected officials, labor leaders, academics, civil rights leaders and immigration and legal experts, spent more than a year holding regional hearings, interviewing witnesses and soliciting input from a wide range of workers, elected officials, policy experts, psychologists, and religious and community leaders.

The result is the most expansive analysis of the Bush Administration’s use of workplace raids and its total failure to address the wider problems of our nation’s broken immigration system.

Upon its creation, the commissioners set out to achieve the following objectives:

  • Conduct hearings on allegations of ICE abuse and misconduct in locations across the country;
  • Hear from workers and their families on the impact of ICE raids;
  • Hear testimony from community leaders, academics, constitutional experts and the business community;
  • Inform the public and elected officials;
  • Issue a report on the findings with a plan of action to protect workers’ constitutional rights from any future abuse;

At each hearing, clear patterns began to emerge regarding the tactics used by ICE agents and how the procedures used by these officials were compromising the rights of workers.

The testimony the Commission received revealed several disturbing patterns:

  • U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents detained for hours unable to leave even after establishing their status
  • A lack of coordination by ICE with state and local labor and child welfare agencies
  • Violations of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • The use of massive amounts of taxpayer resources and personnel to administer civil warrants
  • Repeated incidents of racial profiling and harassment
  • The human toll of immigration enforcement, including family separation and children left without proper care
  • Lasting economic and psychological devastation of communities and families in the aftermath of workplace and community raids

In addition to examining the impact of the raids, the Commission’s report lays out a clear path to a sensible, legal, and effective immigration enforcement policy that is consistent with the following objectives:

  • Target enforcement at criminal employers who abuse the immigration system and exploit an undocumented workforce;
  • Coordinate enforcement with the Department of Labor to protect workers and preserve their rights before any possible detention or processing;
  • Treat workers and their families with respect so they will be more inclined to assist in the prosecution of criminal employers, and to build trust between law enforcement and the community;
  • Vigorous oversight over ICE’s activities;
  • Stronger enforcement of existing federal labor laws;
  • Coordinated humanitarian efforts in the wake of workplace enforcement actions;
  • Enhancement of legal protections against abuse.

The Commission report also emphasized the need for passage of meaningful comprehensive immigration reform legislation – and concluded that piecemeal immigration proposals would never solve the underlying issues. The report lays out a series of elements that should be included in immigration reform legislation, including a path to earned legalization, family unification and stronger sanctions of employers that break the law.

“This report was written to ensure that there is an historical account of the Bush administration’s actions, so that former government officials cannot whitewash history,” added Hansen. “It also represents an opportunity to start a national discussion about immigration, worker rights and our core values as a nation. We hope to use this report – and its recommendations – to jumpstart a new dialogue with Congress and with the American public—about an immigration system that works for America’s workers.”

>>> Click here to download a copy of the report

>>> Click here to listen to the release

June 18, 2009

STATEMENT FROM JOE HANSEN, UFCW INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT

WASHINGTON, DC – A horrific accident took the lives of three workers and injured 41 others in an explosion and roof collapse at the ConAgra Foods Inc. facility in Garner, North Carolina, on June 9, 2009.  The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 204 represents 900 workers in that facility.

The Chemical Safety Board is conducting an in-depth investigation into the fatal explosion.  Their work will be instrumental in determining the cause of this tragic accident that took the lives of three workers and injured many more.

Over the next several months, investigators will sift through the evidence, consult with Board members, and review regulations and industry practices. The investigators will draw lessons learned from the accident and make recommendations for corrective action to make sure it can’t happen again.

Workers who survived the explosion have been active participants in the investigation, giving detailed interviews, telling their stories about what happened June 9, 2009.

The UFCW supports this important work and are proud partners in their ongoing work to prevent workplace accidents.

June 12, 2009

UFCW STATEMENT ON TRAGIC EVENT AT CONAGRA PLANT IN GARNER, NORTH CAROLINA

WASHINGTON, DC – A horrific accident took the lives of three workers and injured 41 others in an explosion and roof collapse at the ConAgra Foods Inc. facility in Garner, North Carolina, on June 9, 2009.  The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 204 represents 900 workers in that facility.

The UFCW is working closely with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency, and the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NC-OSHA), as they investigate the accident. The UFCW is providing full assistance to help shed a light on the unfortunate event. In addition, the UFCW has established a fund to assist the victims of the tragic event.

“”The Garner incident is a heartbreaking tragedy that reminds us that worker safety is of the utmost importance in the workplace,”” said Jackie Nowell, UFCW Director of Occupational Safety and Health. “”We are working with the regulatory agencies and the company to ensure that such catastrophes are prevented.””

The UFCW believes that ConAgra is stepping up to the plate by continuing to pay the employees their full salaries, indefinitely. Such measures will bring the much needed comfort to the workers while they try to rebuild their livelihoods.