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    UFCW Blog

March 30, 2011

ADVISORY: Walmart Organizer Joining White House Women

WHAT: Press availability with Ernestine Bassett – a Laurel, Maryland Walmart Associate who is working to organize her workplace, after her participation at Monday’s White House event on women and organizing.

Event also streaming live at 9:00am EDT, viewable at http://s.dol.gov/DP or http://whitehouse.gov/live.

WHEN: Approximately 10:30 EDT, Monday, March 28, 2011

WASHINGTON – Monday morning at 9:00am EDT, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the White House and Department of Labor are hosting a Women’s History Month forum with women workers and organizers, discussing their courageous roles in organizing their workplaces.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls will be joined by women who are currently working to organize their workplaces, including Ernestine Bassett, a Walmart Associate from Laurel, Maryland.  A significant majority of Walmart’s hourly Associates are women.

“”As a retired CWA member, I understand there is strength in numbers. I know first hand the pride that comes with being part of a union. That’s why I am committed, despite significant intimidation from my employer, to winning that same respect for my fellow associates at this county’s largest private employer, Walmart,”” said Bassett.

On March 25, 1911, one hundred years ago, 146 garment workers – most of them young women and girls – died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City.  A seminal event in the United States labor movement, public pressure after the fire spurred critical and long overdue workplace safety reforms. This compelling history highlights the critical need to ensure worker safety and labor standards for all workers. It is also a story of women who were seeking to improve their workplaces and lives by organizing– the same action many women are taking up today in the workplace.

The White House event is not open to the press, but Ernestine Bassett will be available for interviews after the discussion.

Jennifer Stapleton, Assistant Director of the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Making Change at Walmart campaign said, “”Ernestine Bassett is a profile in courage – working to organize her store despite intimidation by her employer, Walmart.  The role of our campaign, Making Change at Walmart, is to stand with workers like Ernestine, who are organizing for respect in the workplace.  We’re looking forward to her participation and the discussion.”

Contact:
Casie Yoder – (202) 223-3111 x1451 / cyoder@ufcw.org

March 29, 2011

Making Change at Walmart Statement on Dukes: Supreme Court Must Rule to Ensure Equality in the Workplace

Jennifer Stapleton, Assistant Director of the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Making Change at Walmart campaign, issued the following statement in response to this morning’s Supreme Court proceedings in the Walmart Stores v. Dukes case:

“This morning, before the U.S. Supreme Court, legal representatives for the more than one million women of Dukes v. Walmart Stores stood up for the right to fairly challenge the years of inequality these women experienced in the workplace.

“Making Change at Walmart stands with all Walmart associates as they strive to secure the respect in the workplace they deserve.  However, Walmart’s response to this case – that the company is too big for justice – threatens not only the rights of the women of Dukes, but the rights of all workers, male and female, who seek fair treatment and respect at work.

“Making Change at Walmart is committed to the idea that all workers should receive equal treatment. Walmart’s promotion practices stood in the way of this goal – resulting in women being paid less and promoted at lower rates than their male colleagues. The Supreme Court must rule to uphold the certification of the women plaintiffs as a class, allowing the case to move forward as a class action lawsuit. A jury can then consider the merits of the charges brought against Walmart.”

About Making Change at Walmart:
Making Change at Walmart seeks to promote the American values of equality, dignity and respect in the workplace. The campaign is making change by working directly with Walmart Associates to claim the respect on the job they deserve, holding Walmart corporate managers accountable to hourly employees and the public for their practices and joining with community leaders in major cities across America to make sure that any new jobs offered by Walmart meet strong standards for healthy, growing communities.

March 28, 2011

UFCW Applauds White House, Department of Labor Event Celebrating Women Organizers

(Washington, D.C.) – This morning, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the White House and Department of Labor hosted a forum with women workers and organizers, discussing their courageous roles in organizing their workplaces.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, were joined by women who are currently working to organize their workplaces, including Ernestine Bassett, a Walmart Associate from Laurel, Maryland.

“We are still fighting to provide adequate working conditions for all women and men on the job, ensure that no person within our borders is exploited for their labor, and uphold collective bargaining as a means to give workers a seat at the tables of power,” said President Obama in a proclamation released at the event.

“At today’s event, the Administration made it very clear that it values the role unions play in building the middle class in this country,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “We thank them for standing with courageous women who are currently trying to improve their lives by organizing their workplaces.”

“Walmart is the largest private employer in this country,” said Patrick O’Neill, UFCW Director of Organizing. “Their practices set the standard for the retail industry. We are pleased that the White House and Department of Labor gave a Walmart associate the chance to testify about the intimidation she and her coworkers face when trying to exercise their legal rights to organize for respect on the job.”

“I am committed, despite significant intimidation from my employer, to winning respect for my fellow associates at Walmart,” said Ernestine Bassett. “We are organizing to ensure safety and a better life for all Walmart associates.”

To watch the event online, visit:

March 23, 2011

Global labor coalition to urge South African Competition Tribunal to reject Walmart or set conditions and standards

(Pretoria, 22 March 2011) — South African workers, together with workers’ representatives from around the globe, will assemble outside the South African government’s Competition Tribunal hearings today, demanding that it protects the local economy and reject Walmart’s unconditional entry into the country. Shareholders have accepted Walmart’s offer to acquire a 51 percent stake in South African retailer Massmart for $3.2 billion. Walmart, with sales of more than US$405 billion in 2010, is the world’s largest company, giving it substantial power to dominate the world’s global supply chains, shape the local retail sector and dictate the conditions of trade to thousands of supply firms in other sectors.

“We will tell the Competition Tribunal that we believe it is not in the best interest of South Africa for Walmart to be allowed into our country.  We will also outline the conditions that must apply in the event that the Tribunal believes differently and or otherwise rules that the company may enter. Those conditions must contain protections for workers, suppliers, and the wider South African community,” said Bones Skulu, General Secretary of the South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU).

The South African Government, through its Departments on Economic Development, Trade & Industry and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, expressed great concern about the impact of the merger of the size of the proposed Walmart / Massmart transaction on employment and competition. It has demanded that binding conditions be put in place to hold Walmart accountable to the promises it is making the South African people in relation to, amongst others, trade union rights and existing collective agreements, job security, local procurement and support for small business, respect for the rule of law and non-discriminatory practices in order to ensure that the deal does not undermine the New Growth Path that is addressing the high levels of unemployment and abject poverty in the country.

“We are urging the Competition Tribunal to take the experience of workers from around the globe under advisement as they deliberate on this vital matter,” said Christy Hoffman of UNI Global Union, the worldwide umbrella union representing 20 million workers. “In many of the countries where Walmart workers have union representation, the company cuts back on the rights of workers at every opportunity. In countries where Walmart was not forced to accept a union because it acquired a company without an organised workforce (such as the United States and Canada), Walmart employs severe tactics to silence workers and keep them from having a voice on the job. It is clear that if the Competition Tribunal takes the rights of Massmart’s workers in particular and South African workforce in general seriously, they must set conditions now to protect those rights.”

“In North America we have witnessed the devastating effect that the Walmart model has upon small businesses, suppliers, and communities,” said Michael Bride of the North American United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “We are here today to urge the South African Competition Tribunal to place the needs of South Africa’s citizens at the centre of its deliberations and ensure that if Walmart does enter the country, that it does so on a basis that will promote economic development rather than destroy it.”

To demonstrate Walmart’s devastating effects, SACCAWU in conjunction with the UFCW solicited written testimony from ten international economists and labour experts. This testimony was submitted to the Competition Tribunal. Three experts, Nelson Lichtenstein of the University of California, Sofia Scasserra of FAECYS Union in Argentina and Claudio Avarena of the CONATRACOPS union in Chile were invited to testify at the Tribunal.

“Walmart has employed a consistent business model of downward pressure on suppliers and workers throughout its history,” said Lichtenstein.  “This pressure often has a devastating effect on suppliers that sell to the company. They may see their volume go up, but their profit margins go down. Many find themselves pitted against suppliers from countries with poor labor standards such as China and Bangladesh. Ultimately, many are unable to compete and forced to either move jobs offshore or close all together.”

SACCAWU, UNI and UFCW, together with the other members of the Anti-Walmart Coalition, including COSATU, are demanding that the Competition Tribunal ensure that, should Walmart be granted the opportunity to acquire Massmart, conditions are imposed on the company that serve to make its entry more sustainable for South African suppliers and workers as well as the economic growth and development.

The Competition Act of South Africa empowers the South African Competition Commission to recommend to the Competition Tribunal the blocking or setting of binding conditions on parties in a proposed merger. The commission is charged with considering public interest factors such as the effect of a possible merger on employment, small businesses, or particular industries or geographic regions. The Tribunal on the other hand has a duty and authority to decide whether or not to accept the Commission’s recommendations. It is with this in mind that the Anti-Walmart Coalition expects and accordingly demands that the Tribunal acts responsibly and reject the proposed merger.

March 23, 2011

Union coalition welcomes decision by Competition Tribunal to stay proceedings

(Pretoria, South Africa)–The proposed entry of Walmart to South Africa via the takeover of Massmart was due to be heard this week by the Competition Tribunal.

The global coalition of unions opposed to the merger–South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU), UNI Global Union, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) of North America–came to the hearing ready to proceed today.

The South African Government then applied for a postponement in order to present evidence to challenge the economic evidence of the companies.

The Tribunal issued a ruling which would have essentially made a fair process impossible. The government would have been allowed to present its evidence in the future, but the unions would not be allowed to see or use this evidence before going forward today.

SACCAWU protested this unfair decision and asked for the hearing to be suspended while the decision was under appeal.

In a dramatic reversal, the Tribunal stayed the entire case until May 9.

“”It is only fair that all evidence be on the table before we go forward,” said Christy Hoffman, Deputy Secretary of UNI Global Union. “It was the best outcome in a difficult situation.”

“”It is paramount that a decision of this magnitude—whether to give a giant like Walmart access to the South African economy—is made with care and through due process,” said Michael Bride of UFCW. “While today’s decision was far from perfect, we applaud the Tribunal for creating a fairer process in the end.”

March 1, 2011

MAJOR WORKER ORGANIZATIONS URGE SUPREME COURT TO UPHOLD CIVIL RIGHTS AND WORKERS

Washington, DC – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), AFL-CIO, and Change to Win have filed a joint amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the plaintiffs in the Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., sex discrimination case. The full brief can be found here.

A joint statement follows:

“For more than 45 years, American workers have sought protection from the courts for equal treatment in the workplace.  Workers have joined together to remedy widespread discriminatory workplace practices through class action proceedings and by applying the nation’s civil rights standards to their workplaces.  Today, Walmart is attempting to undo that standard by claiming its female associates have no right to appeal for justice as a class.

In our amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, we ask the court to uphold the fundamental pillar of the Civil Rights Act and to ensure that the class action process remains open to workers in all industries.

Walmart is not too big for justice.  No employer should be beyond justice for its workers. Workers must have a voice in the legal process.  The cost to Walmart if it loses the suit would be a fair recompensation for billions of dollars in lost wages and benefits owed to female employees who have lost opportunities as a result of Walmart’s discriminatory actions.

With more than 1.4 million associates nationwide, Walmart has single-handedly transformed the American economy by setting workplace standards by which all other retailers and employers are forced to compete. Because Walmart’s employment practices are so influential, its female associates must be allowed to have their day in court.  We congratulate the brave women who initiated this complaint and who seek to create a Walmart workplace that treats all associates equally.”

To read the amicus brief, click here. For more information on the Dukes v. Walmart Stores case, visit www.walmartclass.com