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October 29, 2009

UFCW EXPRESSES STRONG SUPPORT FOR HOUSE HEALTH CARE BILL

WASHINGTONThe United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) released the following statement today in response to the unveiling of the House health care bill:

“For the countless hard-working families across the country suffering at the hands of our nation’s badly broken health care system, the unveiling of the House health care bill today represents a decisive milestone in the fight to ensure access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

“It ensures a strong public insurance option, makes access to insurance more affordable for families and is financed in a manner that will not tax the middle class. It also ensures responsibility from employers by making sure they pay their fair share and accountability from insurance companies so that they can no longer deny insurance to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

“It is now incumbent on all of us to continue our efforts to make certain that the framework of the House bill becomes law. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that the high priced lobbyists and defenders of the status quo cannot pollute the process with their misinformation and distortions.

“Today was an important and monumental milestone, but the hard work has just begun. We must continue to organize and mobilize our communities across the country. We must continue to educate and build nationwide support for this critical issue. Together, we can – and we will – make the dream of real health care reform a reality.”

October 21, 2009

UFCW Occupational Safety and Health Office Recommendations to Local Unions on H1N1

UFCW Occupational Safety and Health Office Recommendations to Local Unions with retail members, re: 2009 H1N1 flu

The CDC has developed Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009-2010 Influenza Season. The new guidance currently applies to any flu virus circulating during the 2009-2010 flu season, not only 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

The CDC states: It will be very hard to tell if someone who is sick has 2009 H1N1 flu or seasonal flu.

The guidance recommends that employees with flu-like illness stay home at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (100 degrees F) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating).

Workers in retail food stores have a higher than normal exposure to the public, which may put them at higher risk of contracting the flu during the 2009-2010 flu season. In line with CDCs guidance, the UFCW agrees that employers should be taking steps now to:

  • “”Protect employees health and safety
  • Limit the negative impact to the community, economy and society, and
  • Minimize disruption to business activities.””The UFCW OSH Office is making the following recommendations for employers in the retail food industry to take, at a minimum, the following steps:

    1.Refer to CDC Guidelines and CDCs Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009-2010 Influenza Season. These are available on the CDC Web site: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/business/guidance and www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.

    2.Make the flu vaccine available at no cost to employees – and encourage employees to get vaccinated for seasonal flu. With pharmacies located in supermarkets, this can be done with minimal disruption during work hours.

    3.Create policies for flexible sick leave, which provides paid time for sick employees to stay home. CDC guidance advises employers to allow employees who get sick at work with the flu to go home as soon as possible, and to advise all employees to stay home if they are sick, until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever.

    4.Provide resources to employees so they can be protected from infection: Provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, alcohol-based hand cleaner at the work station, time to use the restroom to wash hands frequently.

    5.Provide cleaning agents to cashiers to clean surfaces which are more likely to have frequent hand contact with the public.

October 20, 2009

UFCW Statement on OSHA Rulemaking on Combustible Dust

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), a union representing more than 1.3 million workers across North America, applauds the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) issuance of an Advance Notice of Public Rulemaking for combustible dust hazards in the workplace.

“”This notice is an important first step on the way to a permanent rule to ensure the safety of millions of American workers,”” said Jackie Nowell, Director of the UFCW’s Occupational Safety and Health Office. “”More than 900 workers have been killed or injured since 1980 because of combustible dust accidents. These are avoidable tragedies that must be stopped.”

The UFCW also urges OSHA to work quickly to issue a tough rule that will protect workers.

“”We can’t wait any longer,”” said Nowell, “”the time for a tough, comprehensive rule on combustible dust is now. We hope that employers, unions, and OSHA can work together to make this badly needed protection a reality.””

On February 19, 2008, immediately following the Imperial Sugar explosion in Port Wentworth, Ga. that killed 14 workers, the UFCW and  International Brotherhood of Teamsters petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for combustible dust in general industry noting that “”workers who are employed in facilities where uncontrolled combustible dust emissions are present face ‘grave danger’ of experiencing fatalities or serious injuries as a result of dust explosions and resultant fires.””

This Advance Notice is the first step toward rulemaking since that time.

October 20, 2009

UFCW Statement on OSHA Rulemaking on Combustile Dust

Rulemaking Important First Step in Explosion Prevention

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), a union representing more than 1.3 million workers across North America, applauds the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) issuance of an Advance Notice of Public Rulemaking for combustible dust hazards in the workplace.

“This notice is an important first step on the way to a permanent rule to ensure the safety of millions of American workers,” said Jackie Nowell, Director of the UFCW’s Occupational Safety and Health Office. “More than 900 workers have been killed or injured since 1980 because of combustible dust accidents. These are avoidable tragedies that must be stopped.”

The UFCW also urges OSHA to work quickly to issue a tough rule that will protect workers.

“We can’t wait any longer,” said Nowell, “the time for a tough, comprehensive rule on combustible dust is now. We hope that employers, unions, and OSHA can work together to make this badly needed protection a reality.”

On February 19, 2008, immediately following the Imperial Sugar explosion in Port Wentworth, Ga. that killed 14 workers, the UFCW and  International Brotherhood of Teamsters petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for combustible dust in general industry noting that “workers who are employed in facilities where uncontrolled combustible dust emissions are present face ‘grave danger’ of experiencing fatalities or serious injuries as a result of dust explosions and resultant fires.”

This Advance Notice is the first step toward rulemaking since that time.

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The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers in North America, with nearly 1 million working in grocery stores and 250,000 working in the meatpacking and other food processing industries.

October 16, 2009

FRED MEYER CALLS POLICE ON ITS OWN WORKERS

(HILLSBORO, OR) – Fred Meyer, one of the most profitable and popular grocery stores in Oregon, seems intent on damaging its relationship with the employees who make it so successful. According to charges filed by the workers’ union, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555, the company has interfered with workers while they have been seeking a fair contract at the bargaining table. And yesterday, the Hillsboro store manager at Fred Meyer created a scene when he called police to arrest three union representatives for talking with workers—a right guaranteed to workers under federal law.

One representative was leaving the store when he was arrested, and another, Local 555 President Dan Clay, was driving into the parking lot to find out what was going on when police arrested him.

Union workers at other stores were baffled to hear of the company’s behavior. “We meet with our reps in the store all the time,” said Anne Lilley, a Hillsboro Safeway worker and UFCW Local 555 member. “If we’re not busy, it’s easy to just step aside and take care of an issue quickly with our reps—it’s something that workers in grocery stores do every day, all across the country. I can’t believe that Fred Meyer management would raise a fuss about something so routine.”

Fred Meyer workers feel the company’s behavior has been undeserved and unacceptable. “I just don’t understand Fred Meyer’s actions right now,” said Fred Meyer employee and UFCW Local 555 member Charlotte Hardin. “I mean, we have a right to meet with our union at our workplace, and Fred Meyer knows that. Why this hostile attitude towards our union? It’s just plain disrespectful to Fred Meyer’s employees and customers.”

Hillsboro resident Linda Sears was shopping at Fred Meyer when the disruption occurred. She called the manager’s behavior “unprofessional and unnerving.”

“”Yelling at workers and their union reps,” added Fred Meyer employee and Local 555 member Karyl Feliciano, “and calling the police on our union? Why would Fred Meyer behave like that? That kind of behavior is totally disruptive to our customers, and to their shopping experience. It’s just bad for business.””

October 2, 2009

US Chemical Safety Board Fails to Recommend Safety Standards for American Workers

Savannah, GA—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today again criticized the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) for not recommending strong standards to prevent deadly explosions in food processing and other facilities that use natural gas.

The union reacted to the CSB’s safety bulletin on the deadly explosion at the ConAgra Slim Jim manufacturing facility in Garner, North Carolina the morning of June 9, 2009. The explosion killed three people, injured scores of others and severely damaged the plant.

“Once again the CSB has failed to take the most basic steps for the safety of American workers,” said Jackie Nowell, Occupational Safety and Health Director for the UFCW. “By not recommending urgent standards on fuel gas purging they leave the lives of thousands of workers at risk.”

The CSB failed to recommend changes in fire codes that would restrict the practice of purging gas piping and set criteria for performing it safely. While CSB Chairman John Bresland commended the state of North Carolina for their action to change their codes, unfortunately, the CSB did not recommend the same for national fire codes.

“If the CSB continues to fail America’s workers by not taking a stronger stand for safety, it’s time for change at the CSB,” said Nowell.

The UFCW represents more than 900 workers at the facility, and is the union for thousands of food processing workers in similar facilities nationwide.