June, 2009

>UFCW Members Take Capitol Hill by Storm

>A big thank you to all who came out to yesterday’s health care rally on Capitol Hill yesterday! UFCW members were out in force with thousands of other union members and health care advocates. Together, we sent a strong message to our representatives in Washington that the American people know what we want: a strong public health insurance option and a solution that shares responsibility among employers, individuals, insurance companies, and the government.

UFCW members came from as far away as Washington state. Here’s just a few of their stories and what they had to say:

Christie Menyard lives in South Bend, Indiana where she is a front-end supervisor at Kroger and a UFCW Local 700 mem­ber.

Before Christie was employed with Kroger, she ran her own day-care business. But when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and cancer, she closed her business to take care of him. During this time, Christie got shingles. The resulting medical bills quickly ran through her savings. Christie says, “I feel like I experienced the recession before they announced the recession. Shingles can be a deadly disease, and I feel lucky that I had a family and a little bit of money to help me get through this. I worry about people without even that help. ”

Dawn Cutler has been a Registered Nurse at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington for over 20 years.

In Dawn’s work with women and children in a large hospital birthing center, she sees that patients receive the good care they deserve. Dawn says, “We need to say no to a system that says that if you lose your job you lose your health care. As a nurse, these patients, these families, they are people to me and they deserve the best.”

Eric Lawhorn lives in Charleston, Indiana where he is a truck driver for Riverton Truckers.

When Eric was divorced and lost his health insurance, he turned to COBRA, but the out-of-pocket costs were unbearable. Eric tried to buy insurance on the open market, but was rejected because he’d had kidney stones the previous year. Eric says, “What the insurance companies are doing aren’t right, and I believe in fighting when that happens . . . What do you do? We can’t all be as healthy as an athlete.”

Vincent Germani is a produce clerk at ShopRite in Edgewater, New Jersey and has been a UFCW member since 1979.

Vincent is grateful for the good benefits he has, but worries his 19-year old daughter will lose coverage when she leaves for college as she has to maintain full-time status to be covered under his plan. Vincent been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Four years ago, Vincent had a heart attack. Vincent says, “Thanks to insurance and the union benefits the operations did not cost me. Everything was taken care of. My lost time was compensated by my disability insurance. Many people don’t have that chance. I have more of a safety net than most Americans. There are many people suffering and that’s a shame.”

Leslie Firth is a single mom from Marysville, Washington.

Leslie has worked as a pharmacy technician at Group Health for the past 16 years. In addition to her two 11 and 18-year old children, she cares for a 16-year old teen who lost her mother to cancer in January. Leslie says, “I believe I speak for my co-workers back home when I say ‘quality affordable health care for all can be done.’ We ask our nation’s leaders to make it happen. The longer we wait, the longer each one of us will be suffering for it.”

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.

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.