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    UFCW Blog

March 21, 2010

FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS LAUD PASSAGE OF SWEEPING HEALTH CARE REFORMS

Washington DC— Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed health care reforms that will better serve all Americans. Thanks to the commitment of President Obama and Democratic Members of Congress, we now have reform legislation that has eluded our nation’s grasp for a century.

 

This is an achievement that will rank among the highest in our national experience.

 

For the countless hard-working families across the country suffering at the hands of our nation’s badly broken health care system, the passage of this bill represents an unprecedented leap forward in the struggle to ensure all Americans have access to affordable health care—and makes good on President Obama’s promise to lead our country through the difficult challenges facing the American people on this issue.

 

With the passage of this bill comes an end to the worst of insurance company abuses. No longer will Americans have to fear being denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. There will be no more lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits. No more will insurance companies be allowed to retroactively cancel insurance coverage when a policy holder becomes ill.

 

Aside from reigning in insurance company greed, the bill also extends coverage to millions of Americans who would otherwise go without, reduces prescription drug costs for seniors, while encouraging employers to fulfill their obligation of providing benefits to their workers.

 

UFCW members participated in the health care debate in nearly every congressional district across the country. They made calls and wrote letters, rallied and marched, visited district offices and traveled to Washington D.C., to meet with elected representatives. UFCW members won’t forget the representatives who voted “yes” on these reforms and stood with working people and families rather than the insurance company lobbyists.

March 19, 2010

AFL-CIO, SEIU, UFCW URGE SENATE LEADERS TO MOVE COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM FORWARD

WASHINGTON, D.CToday, Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern, and President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka, sent a joint letter to Senators Lindsay Graham and Charles Schumer re-asserting labor’s unified position and unfailing commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform this spring. 

Full text of the joint letter follows.

Dear Senators Graham and Schumer:

We praise your continued leadership to reach across the aisle to craft a comprehensive fix to the broken immigration system that is prolonging the economic crisis and hurting working families.  We collectively represent over 15 million American workers, some born here and others who have migrated from elsewhere to work for this great country.  Although there are aspects of your plan that cause us concern, we view it as a work in progress, and we are confident that the details can be worked out as your framework is turned into legislation and works its way towards enactment.

Both U.S. born and immigrant  workers are badly served by our current broken immigration laws which allow employers to divide and exploit workers, are a drag on our nation’s economy, and cause unnecessary suffering.  We need to replace them with a system that levels the playing field as we fight for better wages and working conditions for all workers.

The labor movement came together about a year ago to urge passage of an immigration system that works better for America’s workers and we remain absolutely united in that goal. At that time, we explained that immigration reform must be a component of a shared prosperity agenda that raises the standard of living and quality of life of all workers.  Since then, we have rolled up our sleeves and worked hard to enact this sorely needed reform, including good faith efforts to find common ground with business and other diverse stakeholders around an immigration reform proposal that works for America.

That said, we feel strongly that it would be a mistake to enact any new employment-based visa program that does not adequately protect workers—both US and foreign-born—and that is not justified by filling established labor shortages.  We have proposed the establishment of an independent research-based commission that can accurately assess the need for foreign workers on an ongoing basis as our economy fluctuates and develops, which will satisfy the legitimate needs of employers and at the same time protect the interests of American workers   We look forward to discussing this proposal with you in the days to come.

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.  This is an instance where upholding our principles is also good for the bottom line.  It is estimated that comprehensive immigration reform would grow the economy by as much as $1.5 trillion.

We believe that a just, fair and practical compromise is very much within reach if there is political leadership and if all sides are willing to agree on a framework that:

  • Preserves the rights of all workers,
  • Accurately matches the numbers and conditions of entry of newcomers to labor shortages in our economy with the flexibility necessary to meet the legitimate needs of employers, and
  • Is consistent with American values.

On behalf of America’s workers, we request immediate congressional action and look forward to working with you as you perfect your framework and translate it into legislation.  We stand ready to meet with business to discuss future flow and unified support for a comprehensive immigration bill and we ask business leaders to join us in this call. We urge Senators and Representatives of both parties to stand up to the divisive anti-immigrant bullies who seek to shout down sensible immigration solutions that are supported by the majority of the American people.  Let’s get this done right, and let’s do it this year.

Sincerely,

Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)

Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO

Background:

AFL-CIO/Change To Win 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.

Read full framework:

 

March 12, 2010

UFCW STATEMENT ON PRESIDENT

Washington, DC – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union represents more than 250,000 men and women who work in the food processing and packing industries. Thousands of these jobs are linked to food exports.The following is the statement of UFCW International President Joseph T. Hansen:President Obama’s remarks yesterday on trade show that this Administration’s focus is where it should be—on generating new jobs. Putting some meat on his state of the union pledge to generate two million export-related jobs, the President also addressed the overvalued Chinese currency which is the world’s greatest trade distortion. By some estimates China’s manipulation of its currency is costing the United States some 1.4 million jobs and significantly harming other national economies as well. We look forward to the Administration’s continued engagement on this crucial issue.

March 11, 2010

UFCW Statement on DoJ/USDA Inquiry into Agribusiness Consolidation

Ankeny, IA – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union represents more than 250,000 men and women who work in the food processing and packing industries, each of whom has a stake in industry consolidation as both a worker and a consumer.

UFCW members and senior officials will be available for comment on Thursday and Friday, before and after the public meetings and workshops. The following is the statement of Mark Lauritsen, International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing, and Manufacturing Division of the UFCW.

“When done properly, consolidation can stabilize the marketplace, make food cheaper, and raise standards across the industry. But when workers and communities aren’t part of the equation, it’s families and local economies that suffer.

“The diverse group of voices brought to the table by the Obama administration can speak not only to how agribusiness is consolidating, but also why. Big box retailers like Walmart are making record profits on the backs of small businesses by asking suppliers to make more with less. When family farmers and packers can’t meet those unrealistic demands, they’re forced to consolidate.

“We’re long overdue for a system that considers the long-term economic implications of downward pressure from retailers and the consolidation that it causes.”

March 11, 2010

UFCW Members Celebrate New Contract with Stop & Shop

(BOSTON, MA) – On March 7, thousands of Stop & Shop supermarket workers from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut ratified new contracts with Ahold, the Dutch-owned parent company.  Highlights of the agreements between the members of the United Food and Commercial Workers and Stop & Shop include:

  • Immediate bonus pay and hourly raises over the three-year contract;
  • increased access to affordable health benefits for part-time workers; and
  • strengthening of retirement security for all workers.

Ratification of the contracts stands to benefit Stop & Shop, the workers that have made the company a market-leading success, and communities around New England. When UFCW members unanimously authorized a strike in the event an agreement could not be reached, communities around the region spoke out to keep middle-class jobs in their neighborhoods. While negotiations of this size and complexity are rarely quick or easy, the resulting agreements have secured the future of thousands of New England families as well as the region’s leading grocer.

Stop & Shop workers are represented by UFCW Locals 328, 371, 919, 1459, and 1445.

 

March 11, 2010

UFCW Members Celebrate New Contract with Stop & Shop

(BOSTON, MA) – On March 7, thousands of Stop & Shop supermarket workers from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut ratified new contracts with Ahold, the Dutch-owned parent company.  Highlights of the agreements between the members of the United Food and Commercial Workers and Stop & Shop include:

  • Immediate bonus pay and hourly raises over the three-year contract;
  • increased access to affordable health benefits for part-time workers; and
  • strengthening of retirement security for all workers.

Ratification of the contracts stands to benefit Stop & Shop, the workers that have made the company a market-leading success, and communities around New England. When UFCW members unanimously authorized a strike in the event an agreement could not be reached, communities around the region spoke out to keep middle-class jobs in their neighborhoods. While negotiations of this size and complexity are rarely quick or easy, the resulting agreements have secured the future of thousands of New England families as well as the region’s leading grocer.

Stop & Shop workers are represented by UFCW Locals 328, 371, 919, 1459, and 1445.

 

March 4, 2010

Whole Foods Shareholders Taking Action on Major Corporate Governance Overhaul

(Washington, D.C.) – When Whole Foods shareholders meet on March 8, 2010, investors will consider actions that would bring greater accountability from Board members.  The actions, supported by the most influential investor advisory group, Risk Metrics/ISS, also include a proposal to require a majority vote for shareholder proposals, rather than the current supermajority.

Investors have lost 30% or more by investing in Whole Foods over the last five years. It’s time for a change. The hard work of Whole Foods’ front line workers has been continually undermined by a CEO who is out of touch with customers and is unaccountable to investors. It’s time to reform how Whole Foods is managed and supporting shareholder proposals 3-6, as recommended by Risk Metrics/ISS, will help restore confidence in this troubled company.

Whole Foods sales are lagging in part due to the antics of its CEO who, in the past year, denounced President Obama’s health care reform efforts and publicly denied the science of climate change.

If Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey spent a little less time antagonizing his best customers and more time growing the company, all of Whole Foods’ stakeholders would be better off. The company nearly doubled the number of part-time workers this year.  Why is Mackey reducing full-time workers, the very people who add value to the shopping experience.

The proposals supported by the world’s largest shareholder advisory company include proposals to require a majority vote for shareholder proposals, rather than the current supermajority and the reversal of bylaw changes which the Board passed to make it harder for shareholders to hold Board members accountable.

Proposals 3-6 would establish much needed board accountability. The path forward for Whole Foods must involve all its stakeholders, most importantly its customers, investors and associates. Passing these proposals at the March 8th shareholder will move management in a more accountable direction, and that’s what’s needed to help turn around this troubled management.