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December 20, 2010

STATEMENT BY UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION PRESIDENT JOE HANSEN ON SENATE

Washington DC – Today, 41 U.S. Senators obstructed the passage of the Dream Act and sent a message to the rest of the world that politics trumps fundamental American principles of fairness, opportunity, and justice. They rejected bipartisan legislation that, had it been passed, would have provided undocumented young women and men who were brought to the U.S. as young children with a pathway to U.S. citizenship if they attend college or perform military service. Every Republican Senator, except Senator Lugar, as well as Democratic Senators Max Baucus, Kay Hagan, Ben Nelson, Mark Pyror, and Jon Tester walked away from their responsibilities to lead.

The unique fabric of American society – hard work, entrepreneurship, loyalty to country, ingenuity and invention – stitched together by generations of immigrants will continue to endure regardless of this disheartening vote. The dreams of young people will not be checked, and the UFCW will continue to fight for a broad and bipartisan coalition to restore the American Dream and pass the Dream Act.

December 16, 2010

Union Declares Victory Over Walmart in Free Speech Battle

MONTREAL, QUEBEC– The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) is declaring victory in an 18-month free speech battle with Walmart that concentrated on the labor rights website www.walmartworkerscanada.ca. In June 2009, the world’s largest retailer filed a motion with the Quebec Superior Court for an injunction against the popular and long-standing website maintained by UFCW Canada citing trade-mark infringement.

On Dec. 15 a confidential settlement was achieved that does not affect the continued existence of www.walmartworkerscanada.ca and its long-established commitment to communicating with Walmart workers in Canada about their rights.

“”This is a huge victory for Walmart workers and their ability to freely communicate on the internet,”” said UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley from the Superior Court house within moments of the settlement win for www.walmartworkerscanada.ca, which will continue to be dedicated to helping Walmart workers to empower themselves and improve their lives through collective bargaining.

“”Despite the best efforts of the world’s largest corporation to dictate the terms of online communication, www.walmartworkerscanada.ca will remain an excellent labor rights resource, and will proudly continue a seven year tradition of serving Walmart Associates as a place where they can learn about their rights, and how to exercise those rights as workers in Canada,”” added Hanley. “”Today’s victory also ensures that www.walmartworkerscanada.ca will remain a safe and familiar place for Walmart workers to freely share their experiences with other Associates across the country without any fear of reprisal.””

UFCW Canada has been leading the campaign to help Walmart Associates exercise their rights as workers in Canada for over a decade.

December 16, 2010

UFCW Statement on the Proposed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement

Washington DC – The recently announced proposed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement represents a small, but not insignificant, step forward on U.S. global trade agreements.

UFCW and its members would like to recognize Ambassador Ron Kirk and his team for the improvements they negotiated to the Bush agreement of 2007. In particular, the Administration insisted on meaningful changes in the automobile sector that will help American autoworkers and manufacturers achieve a more level playing field. Also, academics estimate that the Korean agreement will create over 20,000 jobs in the U.S meat export producing sectors that employ hundreds of thousands of UFCW members.

All U.S. global trade agreements should seek primarily to assure that the U.S. remains a leader on fair global trade, to restore manufacturing, and to get American workers back on the job. This proposed agreement makes improvements on each of those fronts. Looking ahead, we must work for a fairer global trade structure that benefits workers as much as business.

December 11, 2010

Stewards: Keeping Our Food Supply Safe

 

Food workers across the country are on the front lines of food safety. The work we do every day determines whether or not the country’s food supply will be safe. That is a responsibility we take seriously as UFCW stewards. The fact is, union plants are safer plants, and safer plants produce safer food. Having a voice on the job, and having stewards in the workplace, assures that we produce only the safest food.
Our union contract means we can speak out if we see something going wrong or jeopardizing food quality, without having to fear negative consequences – so only the highest quality food leaves our plants. It also means we can slow down the breakneck pace of production, and ensure proper staffing – factors that reduce on-the-job injuries and even further improve food safety. Workers who don’t have a union sadly do not have those same assurances.
“I see it as our duty to speak up if we see something going wrong in the plant. If we don’t make food safety our number one priority, everyone suffers. Bad food puts our families, and everyone’s families at risk. It also put our jobs on the line. If the public turns against our industry, it’s our jobs that get destroyed,” said Joel Elder, a UFCW Local 38 steward who has worked at ConAgra for 22 years.
It’s our responsibility as stewards to make sure that our coworkers feel comfortable enough at work to come forward and speak up if they see something unsafe going on. We must, above all, see to it that all of our brothers and sisters in the industry understand the high stakes of food safety and take seriously their active role in ensuring the quality of food we produce.
As stewards, as leaders, our responsibilities don’t end at the plant gates. The UFCW is leading our industry in pushing for food safety legislation at the federal level and at home in our states. We have to be active in that process so our lawmakers know we stand behind stronger food safety laws. Because we know that union plants produce safer food, we should also be involved in organizing more workplaces throughout our industry. The more food workers that come together in our union, the more power we can build at the bargaining table and the more leverage we will have to push for stronger food safety legislation. That will make food safer for all Americans. That’s something we can make happen by getting involved in organizing with our union.
“I’m proud to be part of a union that takes leadership in our industry, a union that looks out not only for those of us in the plant, but for everyone in our communities by making sure our food is safe,” said Elder. “One of the best ways I know to keep working to make our food even safer is to reach out to our colleagues in non-union plants and show them everything they have to gain by joining together with us in the UFCW.”
To learn more about how our union is working to ensure worker safety and food safety, visit www.FairnessForFoodWorkers.org.

November 3, 2010

PUT AMERICA BACK TO WORK FIRST

WASHINGTON – In stark contrast to 2008, the election of 2010 will be remembered because the results were fueled not by hope, but by anger, frustration, and fear. Working people have lost jobs, homes, and life savings. Young people have delayed college, and older workers are postponing retirements.

Empty and inflammatory rhetoric that derides health reform as “Obamacare” and demonizes leaders as socialists will not right the imbalance in our economy or help working people make ends meet. Our politics must rise to the challenges we face and provide sensible legislative measures that ensure a foundation for secure and stable communities.

When our new Congress convenes in January, will Republican lawmakers continue to obstruct the legislative process—as they have over the last two years—and continue to walk away from their responsibility to help govern? Or will they join with President Obama in an effort to put America back to work?

Working families have been losing ground for three decades. Household income has stagnated.  Productivity is up, but wages are down. Hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs have been shipped overseas. And many of our elected leaders, complicit with Wall Street greed, stood by and let bankers make and break the rules, and when their house of cards collapsed working families paid the price.

All elected leaders should take on their responsibilities to govern and turn immediately to the pressing issues confronting working America with bold ideas, creativity, and solutions. To move forward, our country needs a national agenda that begins with an honest conversation about restoring fairness to our economy, and generating good-paying jobs that keep families secure and America strong.

We need an agenda that, in the short term, provides security for the unemployed with an immediate extension of unemployment benefits.

We need a dispassionate approach to legislation and policies that recognizes that service jobs—retail salesperson is one of the fastest growing jobs in America—are the future of our economy and must become middle class jobs. We need to solve our broken immigration system, which would, if reformed, pump trillions into our economy and raise living standards for workers; create a sustainable energy program, and embark on infrastructure renewal that would put millions of Americans back to work.

American democracy goes beyond an angry vote at the ballot box. Working families care about building a better America because a better America means a better future for our kids and grandkids. The UFCW pledges to work with all elected leaders who are committed to restoring balance in our economy and rebuilding our middle class.

October 29, 2010

Giant Eagle Employees and supporters to March on Headquarters

When:  Wednesday Oct. 27th 1:30 p.m.
Where:  March begins at 111 Zeta Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15238

After several months of feeling intimidated and threatened by managers, Giant Eagle employees have had enough.  Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 23, joined by a number of community organizations, will march on the corporate headquarters, to deliver support post cards signed by fellow employees at 36 stores, to say enough is enough.

“”We have the right to talk about our union, with our co-workers, with other Giant Eagle employees, with anyone we want to. This is America and we don’t check our free speech rights at the door when we take a job with Giant Eagle” said Deborah Wieloch, an employee at the Shady Side Market District Store.

Weiloch was arrested in September when she, on her day off work, went to the Waterfront Giant Eagle to talk to employees on break about their contract and other union issues.  UFCW Local 23 filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over the incident.

Weiloch’s arrest came as part of what employees see as a wave of anti-unionism on the part of Giant Eagle.

“We’ve been told we can’t wear buttons, we’ve been told not to talk about our union, we’ve been threatened with arrest or worse, being fired,” explained Jim D’Alessandro.  “It isn’t right. They are infringing on our right to free speech and violating our nation’s laws that ensure we have a right to organize and be organized. Our contract even gives us the right to talk about our union during work.”

The members of UFCW got tired of harassment from management and started a postcard campaign to tell Giant Eagle they are tired of it.

While corporate Giant Eagle has pressured workers to remain silent and tried to keep their actions out of the press, workers have received tremendous support from allies and the public.

Along with a delegation of several dozen UFCW Local 23 members taking the cards to the corporate headquarters, community groups will be on hand to show support, including ACTION United, NAACP, Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network,  Pittsburgh UNITED, and others.   A number of UFCW Local 23 members will be dressed as the Founding Fathers, complete with wigs and costumes, to reinforce the message that free speech rights are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

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October 5, 2010

JBS WORKERS IN SOUDERTON OVERWHELMINGLY CHOOSE UNION REPRESENTATION

(Souderton, PA.) – Nearly 1,200 workers at the JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, voted today to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776.

“I am delighted that we stood together and made the right choice to form a union,” said Bernard Coneghen, who has worked at the Souderton facility for 27 years. “We had the opportunity to speak with representatives of the UFCW about the benefits of having a voice at work and were able to make an informed choice about forming a union.”

The workers’ victory today was the successful conclusion of a months-long campaign designed to give a voice to the nearly 1,200 JBS workers in Souderton, but also as part of a UFCW-led nationwide effort aimed at raising wages and benefits for all workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries.

“The outcome of this election shows that when workers get a free and fair process, they choose union representation,” said Wendell Young, IV, UFCW International Vice President and President of Local 1776.” The UFCW applauds JBS for taking the high road to allow the workers to have a free and fair process. Having a union makes it better for everyone, workers, the company, and the larger community.”

The Brazilian firm JBS, S.A. acquired the former Moyer Packing Company’s Souderton facility with the purchase of the Smithfield Beef Group in 2008.  JBS, out of respect for its workers, allowed a free and fair process for workers to decide about union representation.

“We achieved our victory because we stood together and that’s what made us strong,” said Melina Martinez, who has worked at the plant for the last six years. “Now that we have a union, we want to get right to work on a contract that protects our rights and improves our working conditions.”

By choosing UFCW Local 1776 today as their bargaining representative, workers at the JBS plant in Souderton will be joining together with 27,000 JBS workers and 250,000 meatpacking and poultry workers across the country who already enjoy the benefits of union representation with the UFCW.

UFCW Local 1776 represents thousands of packinghouse and food processing workers in Pennsylvania at plants such as Empire Kosher Poultry in Mifflintown, Cargill in Hazelton, BC Natural Chicken in Fredericksburg and Citterio USA in Freeland.

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For more information or to arrange interviews with workers, e-mail press@ufcw.org.

UFCW Local 1776 represents 24,000 members who work in southeast, northeast and central Pennsylvania, northeast Maryland and southern New York in supermarkets, drug stores, food processing plants, government services, manufacturing facilities, nursing homes, professional offices and Pennsylvania’s Wine and Spirits Shops.

September 30, 2010

FOOD WORKERS UNION APPLAUDS SENATE DEMOCRATS FOR INTRODUCING SENSIBLE COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL

WASHINGTON — United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) International President Joe Hansen released the following statement today in response to the introduction of comprehensive immigration reform legislation by Senate Democrats:

“The legislation introduced today by Senators Menendez and Leahy is an important step toward real, meaningful comprehensive immigration reform.

“As we have said, for too long, our nation’s badly broken immigration system has allowed unscrupulous employers to drive down wages and working conditions in industries across the nation, while creating an underground economy where labor laws are shredded and workers are afraid to report safety violations.

“The legislation announced today would chart a new course for our country: A course that protects workers, respects families and reflects our nation’s rich immigrant tradition.

“We applaud these Senators for offering real leadership and sensible solutions to our nation’s challenges, and we stand ready to work with them to ensure that pragmatic immigration reform becomes a reality. The labor movement has already released historic joint principles on immigration. The House has introduced a CIR bill, and now Senate Democrats have acted. It is time to roll up our sleeves and make this happen.

”It is unfortunate that Republicans across the country continue to use the issue of immigration as a tool to divide and to scapegoat. The American people want and deserve more. So rather than fabricating stories about beheadings in Arizona, let’s use this opportunity, and this legislation, to begin a level-headed debate about revamping our immigration system and revitalizing our economy.”

 

September 30, 2010

UFCW President Joe Hansen New Chair of Change to Win

WASHINGTON, DC The Change to Win (CtW) Leadership Council elected Joe Hansen, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President, as its new Chair. Hansen replaces Anna Burger who earlier had announced her retirement from CtW where she served as Chair.   Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa was elected CtW Secretary-Treasurer.

Change to Win unions, the UFCW, SEIU, the Teamsters and Farm Workers represent millions of private-sector unionized workforces in the U.S. Change to Win members work in the fastest growing industries in the country in service-sector jobs, including transportation, health care, food production and retail, among others.

The following is a statement from Joe Hansen:

“Change to Win is focused on ensuring that workers in the various service sectors have jobs with wages and benefits that can support a family. If these jobs are vital to the American economy, then service sector jobs should come with middle class wages and benefits.

“We know that a stronger labor movement is essential to the rebuilding of America’s middle class and that will be the primary focus of our work at Change to Win.

“”We will continue our strategic work building strength for workers in our core industries.

“We will continue our advocacy on key public policy issues, including labor law, pension, and comprehensive immigration reform, food safety and health care. We are also committed to working with the Administration to ensure that the purchasing power of the federal government exercises wise stewardship of taxpayer money by promoting quality, family-supporting jobs.

“We will continue close coordination with our labor partners at the AFL-CIO on public policy issues. Both labor Federations share unity of purpose to address the crisis facing American workers.

Change to Win and the AFL-CIO will work together to make sure that candidates that support working families win in November.

The Change to Win unions are more inspired than ever to stand up for workers’ rights and make the economy grow again for working families through good jobs in every community.””

James P. Hoffa, General President of the Teamsters stated: “”The United States is the first country where a majority of its citizens joined the middle class. Labor unions created that middle class. No country in the world has ever had a strong middle class without a strong labor movement. And like all social movements, the labor movement was born fighting. Our work is far from over today, and Joe Hansen is the kind of leader we need in our fight to strengthen America’s working families.”

Said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry: “”Joe Hansen’s determination to make sure that 5,000 Smithfield workers had the chance to vote for the union after 16 years is exactly the leadership we need to rededicate Change to Win to lifting wages for millions of private sector workers.””

UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said: “”I want to congratulate Joe on his new position, there is no doubt in my mind that he is the right person to move the organization forward. I’m sure that he will continue to ensure that Change To Win leads the way in developing new strategies, new programs and new efforts to effectively organize workers in the private sector.””

September 28, 2010

UFCW RELEASES NEW NATIONAL POLL IN ADVANCE OF SATURDAY

WASHINGTON – As activists, advocates and working families from across the country prepare to rally for good jobs in Washington on October 2, 2010, a new national poll conducted by Lake Research for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) shows that the American public is overwhelmingly in favor of government action that addresses income inequity and that seeks to level the playing field for all American workers.

At a near universal level of agreement, voters strongly believe our economy needs to be defined by jobs with benefits and wages that can support a family. It is exactly this message that families from across the country are coming to Washington on Oct. 2nd to deliver to Congress.

“American voters want our nation’s lawmakers to focus on creating economic policies that support and sustain good, quality jobs,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “They want politicians who will stand up to the fringe elements of our society and to stand for pragmatic solutions to our economic challenges.”

One Nation is about turning our attention to the needs of people,” said Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP. “A strong economy is only strong if it provides good jobs that support families and bring opportunity. We need to get our country moving; we need to get on common ground, we are coming together this Saturday to start this process; we are going to turn out in force this election cycle, and elect leaders who put people first.”

“The UFCW poll shows that a huge majority of Americans agree we must improve job quality, even as we focus on creating new jobs,” said Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).That’s just one of the reasons why on October 2 we’ll be joining thousands of our friends on the National Mall calling for jobs, justice, and, yes, comprehensive immigration reform.”

Over the last 30 years, workers’ wages have remained essentially stagnant, while worker productivity skyrocketed by 75 percent. For three decades, American workers have been producing more, but taking home paychecks that don’t reflect their hard work. Consequently, we see the biggest pay gap in nearly a century.

“The only way to achieve lasting economic recovery and to ensure future prosperity is to address the wage inequity crises that is plaguing our nation’s workers,” added Hansen. “If our elected officials fail to address this issue, our nation can never fully regain its financial footing.”

With so much of the cable television debate focused on the noisy fringes of our society, it seems that the aspirations and needs of the vast majority of hard-working Americans are getting drowned out by the noise and the nonsense of the extreme elements of the political debate.

The reality, as this poll shows, is that the American people want pragmatic government solutions and sensible legislative actions that address job creation and that ensure a foundation for secure and stable communities.

Voters have a clear vision of what kind of economy they want, and while they understand the current economic situation is difficult, they still believe that all jobs should pay a living wage, come with affordable, quality health care, and offer real retirement security.

The poll, taken among 700 randomly selected registered voters nationwide, shows: 

  1. Concern about the economy goes beyond the present; voters are deeply questioning the types of jobs America will have in the future. Eighty-seven percent of voters are very or somewhat concerned that America’s future jobs will be low-wage and low-benefit — including 65 percent who are very concerned.
  2. Eighty-nine percent of voters agree that economic development should result in jobs with good wages and benefits that can support a family.
  3. Eighty-four percent of voters agree that economic recovery means creating jobs with good benefits so people can afford to take care of their families, not low- wage jobs with no benefits.
  4. Eighty-four percent of voters favor requiring that government contracts go to companies that provide good paying jobs and benefits so that their employees don’t end up on welfare programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

According to the Lake poll, a majority of voters believe job growth must be good job growth. In a number of polls, Lake Research has found that a key economic frame for Americans is to have good-paying jobs—no matter what the sector.

To make that happen our elected officials must actively engage in the policy decisions that guide economic growth and job creation, and they must correct the current wage gap so that as worker productivity increases, paychecks also increase.

In addition to pushing for economic policies that address income inequality and quality job growth, the UFCW, NCLR and other civil rights organizations will be using the One Nation Working Together rally to push for comprehensive immigration reform as a key component of economic recovery and prosperity.

Study after study has shown that meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform would help bolster the economy and ensure that there is fairness and justice in America’s workplaces.

“Failure to enact immigration reform impedes our economic recovery efforts because under the current system, unscrupulous employers exploit undocumented immigrants to lower wages and working conditions for all workers,” added Murguia. “Reform that requires undocumented immigrants to come forward, pay taxes, and learn English to obtain legal status would strengthen labor standards for all, by eliminating the ability of bottom-feeding employers to rip off workers.”

The UFCW will continue working with leaders like NCLR and NAACP, as well as other labor organizations, to organize and mobilize our members and their families around key issues facing our communities—from job creation to labor law reform to immigration reform.