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    UFCW Blog

May 24, 2010

MOTT

WILLIAMSON, NY, May 23, 2010  — Over 300 full time manufacturing workers at the Mott’s plant in Williamson, New York went out on strike this morning at 6:00 a.m because of painful wage cuts while the company enjoyed a record year of $555 million in profits.  The work stoppage was caused as a direct result of the Mott’s executives (a subsidiary of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group) unfair labor practices as they tried to peel away good jobs and wages, including not bargaining in good faith.  The company had publicly declared an impasse and plans to implement their last contract terms, which offered nothing but a reduction in hourly wages and drastic healthcare and pension concessions for the skilled, dedicated workforce at the Williamson manufacturing.

“The workers that were forced to strike today are the same workers who helped make Mott’s be the highly profitable company they are today, and they should not be treated like a bunch of rotten apples by overpaid executives,” said Stuart Appelbaum, national president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW.  “We understand that no one wins when there is a strike, but is very troubling and disturbing that such a profitable company as Mott’s would carve away a core relationship with their workforce all for corporate greed.  Whittling down wage and benefit standards, while exponentially increasing CEO compensation is rotten business, and frankly unAmerican!”

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU/UFCW) Local 220, which represents the workers, has been tirelessly negotiating to secure a fair and decent contract for months with Mott’s management.  Despite the company’s profitability, Mott’s/Dr. Pepper Snapple have demanded givebacks, including a $1.50 per hour wage cut for all employees, a pension elimination for future employees and a pension freeze for current employees, a 20 percent decrease in employer contributions to the 401K and increased employee contributions toward health care premiums and co-pays.

Mott’s workers overwhelmingly rejected this offer and voted in favor of authorizing their negotiating committee at RWDSU/UFCW Local 220 to call an unfair labor practice strike. The union has continued to demand that the company bargain in good faith in order to quickly reach a fair contract.

By contrast, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group President  & CEO Larry D. Young (located in Plano, Texas headquarters) has enjoyed a 113% salary increase over the last 3 years (or 28 percent each year).  Mr. Young’s total compensation for 2009 was $6,519,378

Additional, last year, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group made $555 million in profit.

Michael Leberth, president of RWDSU/UFCW Local 220 said “the company has not budged from our reasonable and dignified offer and there will be no late night negotiations.  We are tired of being juiced by such a profitable company.”

May is the highest busiest season for Mott’s apple juice and applesauce manufacturing as the demand for these parent and children favorites is highest during the summer season.

The Williamson plant is the only plant that produces Mott’s applesauce, including high margin single serve packs, with 70% of the workforce in skilled labor categories.  A labor dispute could damage the value of Mott’s family-friendly brand by associating it with corporate greed and union busting.  Additionally, the product may suffer quality issues, as the skilled workforce is not easily replaceable.  The Mott’s brand is responsible for more than $550 million worth of Dr. Pepper Snapple’s retail sales each year.

“Why would DPS, with millions in profit, risk interrupting production at a high volume plant?” asked Ira Bristol, who has worked at the plant for almost five years.  “Destroying goodwill and creating this antagonistic atmosphere will badly hurt the production system and bottom line, not to mention negatively affecting employee morale and tarnishing the Mott’s good brand around the country.”

May 21, 2010

FOOD WORKERS UNION ASKS DOJ/USDA PANEL TO INVESTIGATE WALMART

Union says examining Walmart’s pricing pressure and buying power is critical to understanding the negative effects of concentration on food workers, farmers, poultry growers, consumers, communities and local economies

Normal, Ala. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 men and women in the meatpacking and food processing industry, released the following statement today regarding the Department of Justice/USDA workshop on agriculture and antitrust enforcement issues in the poultry sector:

“We believe that these historic hearings represent an enormous opportunity to rebuild and revitalize rural America by ensuring justice and fairness for working men and women across the food industry.

“At the first DOJ/USDA hearing held in March, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack cut to the heart of this issue when he said the central focus of these workshops was to determine if the marketplace was ‘providing a fair deal for all.’

“To answer that, it is critical that the voices of individuals across the food supply chain—from workers, to growers, to farmers—be heard and for the entire industry to be closely examined. That means analyzing the industry from the farm to the shelves of our grocery stores. It means examining how big retailers, such as Walmart, are driving concentration through their enormous buying power and the pressure they impose on suppliers.

“Make no mistake about it, Walmart’s actions affect every level of our nation’s food supply chain—and they have no intention of loosening their tight chokehold on our food production and distribution systems.

“To secure its rural stranglehold, Walmart uses its enormous footprint, coupled with its pricing power, to literally dictate how whole industries must operate. They reach deep inside a company, effectively influencing every aspect of a supplier’s business operations. This inevitably leads to lower wages for workers, less money for farmers, growers and ranchers and fewer choices for consumers.

“As one industry publication recently wrote, ‘The costs of running processing businesses, from transportation to utility costs and insurance premiums, continue to increase along with pressures from retail customers to not raise prices. Leading the charge for resisting price increases is Walmart, which has informed its suppliers it will not allow price increases in the coming months.’

“Walmart’s pricing strategy leads to incredible pressure on producers, customers, competitors, farmers and workers. It squeezes workers’ wages and means less money in the pockets of hardworking poultry growers. It often drives industry concentration and leads to the elimination of healthy competition in the marketplace—on products ranging from poultry to pet food.

“If we truly want to address anti-competitive practices in agriculture, we must treat more than just the symptoms, we must treat the disease—and Walmart is the disease.

“If Walmart’s actions are not addressed, if the downward pressure they put on workers, businesses, growers and farmers is not vigorously challenged, we will continue to see a destructive race to the bottom that will destroy strong communities and wipe out good rural jobs that are the backbone of our nation.

“If we really want to rebuild our nation’s food system, if we really want to ensure that our agriculture sector is providing a fair deal for all, it is critical that the Obama Administration addresses Walmart’s unprecedented ability to hold farmers and packers captive to their pricing schemes and supply chain management practices.

“The ugly truth is that Walmart has created a system that pits workers and farmers against each other, fighting for the scraps that are left over after company executives try to wring every cent out of our nation’s food supply chain to bolster their profits. This system is devastating to rural innovation, it devalues farming economies and it destroys what were once solid, middle-class packing and processing jobs.

“We applaud the efforts of Attorney General Holder, Secretary Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Varney and look forward to rigorous enforcement against business practices that hamper competition, hurt workers, harm communities and hinder our nation’s ability to provide good, quality food to America’s kitchen tables.”

May 17, 2010

FOOD WORKERS UNION FILES FEDERAL LAWSUIT CHALLENGING ARIZONA’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAW

UFCW International President Hansen challenges Arizona law as“unconstitutional and un-American”

WASHINGTON, DC – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today joined in a lawsuit filed in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s recently passed immigration law, S.B. 1070. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Service Employees International Union and various civil rights organizations.

In addition, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will join in providing legal counsel for the suit.

UFCW International President Joe Hansen released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

“We believe S.B. 1070 is unconstitutional, un-American and that it undermines our nation’s rich immigrant history. The law effectively legalizes racial profiling and sanctions harassment and discrimination. We are filing this suit to protect the rights of our members and all workers in the state of Arizona—and to uphold the values and ideals that make our nation strong.

“The UFCW has been at the forefront of the fight for immigration reform because we have seen firsthand the devastation caused by enforcement-only strategies – we’ve seen families torn apart, we’ve seen communities destroyed and we’ve seen workers rights’ shredded. We need a comprehensive overhaul of our broken immigration system at the federal level, not regressive, racially motivated laws enacted on a state-by-state basis.”

The Complaint will advance five major allegations:

First: Under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law fully preempts state and local law in immigration matters because:

  • Immigration is an inherently federal concern;
  • The comprehensiveness of federal law fully occupies the field; and,
  • There is grave risk of conflict between federal and state law in this field.

Second: S.B. 1070 impermissibly encroaches upon the Right to Travel of the U.S. Constitution by subjecting racial and ethnic minorities traveling to Arizona to the risk of being stopped, interrogated, and detained as elements of its enforcement.

Third: S.B. 1070 violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in chilling freedom of speech and assembly because it prohibits individuals from soliciting work in a public place. The law requires law enforcement to engage in content discrimination in determining whether the speech related to obtaining work is proscribed by the law, and even if the applicable provision is content neutral, it is overbroad and vague.

Fourth: S.B. 1070 violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, requiring law enforcement to conduct investigatory stops of individuals without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, as well as providing for warrantless seizures in the absence of probable cause that crimes have been committed.

Fifth: S.B. 1070 violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, impermissibly singling out non-citizens on the basis of alienage and national origin as a primary means of enforcement.

The complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

May 11, 2010

Summer Water Can Be Dangerous in Stores and Warehouses

With rising temperatures and increased consumer demand, grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and the warehouses that supply them are moving and selling ever-increasing volumes of bottled water. When palletized, these products can pose significant risks to workers in our industry as a recent deadly tragedy illustrates.

In mid-March, a Kroger employee working in the back room of a store in Franklin, Ind. was crushed by falling pallets of water. Five days after the accident, the employee died. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the accident and fined Kroger $17,000 for unsafe working conditions. This tragic incident and others like it are preventable – especially if UFCW members and locals take action for safety today.

When you are at work or a worksite, here are some things to look for:

  • Don’t transport double stacked pallets beyond the distance necessary to remove them from a truck. Double-stacked pallets are inherently unstable, and when they have liquids (like bottled water) as cargo, they often exceed the safe weight limits for forklifts.
  • Avoid double stacking pallets when storing them.
  • Carefully monitor the stability of pallets at all times.
  • Don’t attempt to straighten pallets that have begun to shift. Unload the pallet instead.
  • Maintain a clear safety area around pallets when they are being moved.
  • All forklift operators or other powered-equipment operators must be trained and certified. This is an OSHA requirement – check for proper recordkeeping.

Palletized bottled water is especially dangerous because of the high volume moved, the heavy weight involved, and increasingly thin plastic causing cases to be unstable. In addition, the limited amount of floor space in the back of grocery stores often leads to water or other heavy unstable products, being stacked higher than safety permits.

Kroger and UFCW Indiana locals have learned from the tragic accident in Franklin and are actively working to prevent future injuries or deaths. We urge you to do the same before something similar happens in your stores.

May 6, 2010

UFCW JOINS LEADING CIVIL RIGHTS AND LABOR ORGANIZATIONS TO PROTEST ARIZONA

WASHINGTON The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today joined leading civil rights and labor organizations to announce an economic boycott of the state of Arizona. The boycott is in protest of Arizona’s new law, SB 1070, which essentially legalizes racial profiling.

TAKE ACTION: Add your name to the boycott.

Under the banner, “Boycott Intolerance,” the groups held a press conference this morning to denounce SB 1070 and pledged not to hold major conventions, conferences or other special events involving significant travel to Arizona from out-of-state.

The UFCW released the following statement about the boycott:

“Arizona’s legislation is unworkable, it is unconstitutional and it undermines our nation’s rich immigrant history and heritage. It is a recipe for racial profiling and a marked retreat from the values and ideals that make America strong.

“For our members, this issue is personal. UFCW members have seen first-hand how enforcement-only tactics fuel racial profiling—and lead to the trampling of our constitution.

“We saw it during the Bush Administration raids on our Swift plants—how Latino workers were treated, how they were profiled because of the color of their skin, how law enforcement separated workers based simply on who they believed were undocumented.

“We saw how these heavy handed tactics unfairly – and incorrectly – targeted U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. That is why we are committed to fighting this legislation – and why we are abstaining from doing business in the state of Arizona until this issue is resolved.

“But let’s be clear, the UFCW is not turning its backs on the workers of Arizona that are going to be targeted by this unjust law—we will work hard to defend their constitutional rights. We will be providing legal assistance and resources to ensure that all workers can vigorously defend their rights.

“Our country – and our communities – cannot stand by while these draconian measures are allowed to spread across our country.

“In recent years, the debate over immigration has grown increasingly polarizing. The Arizona bill is the result of that divisive debate—and the product of political expediency at its worst.

“America needs an immigration system that works for the American worker. We need to refocus this debate on real, meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform that restores the rule of law, respects the constitutional rights of all workers and recognizes the incredible role that our nation’s diversity has played—and will continue to play—in making our communities strong and vibrant.”