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    UFCW Blog

June 21, 2011

UFCW Statement on the Proposed NLRB Rule that would Standardize the Representation Election Process

Today’s proposed rule from the National Labor Relations Board comes down to basic fairness on the job. When workers choose to vote to form a union on the job, the vote shouldnt be plagued by delays, bureaucracy or obstacles. Working people are already struggling. And, theyre waiting and wondering when the economy will recover to a point that therell be enough stable, middle class jobs in their communities.  They shouldnt have to struggle to get a union voice on the job. They shouldnt have to wait and wonder when theyll get justice on the job.

Just ask the workers at the 2 Sisters Food Group plant in Riverside, California. When a majority decided they wanted a union voice in their workplace, their employer used the lengthy timeline of the NLRB election process to mount a vicious harassment and intimidation campaign. Instead of investing in their workforce, they hired anti-worker consultants. They distributed anti-union flyers. They forced attendance at daily anti-union meetings. They insisted on including leads who appeared to be supervisors in the unit, which workers agreed to, in order to avoid a lengthy pre-election litigation delay.

As Election Day neared, bosses escalated their campaign by hiring uniformed security guards to monitor the comings and goings of every worker. They illegally fired five workers for their union support-one just a week before the election. When the voting came, off-shift workers were forced to wait at a parking lot gate and then personally escorted one by one to the ballot box by the company CEO, then escorted off company grounds.

The harassment, intimidation and illegal firings were too much.  Workers feared for their livelihoods, and they narrowly lost their bid for a union.

Todays proposed rule is an acknowledgment that the pressure and bullying 2 Sisters workers encountered shouldnt happen in an American workplace or at an American ballot box. American workers have the right to vote on whether to form a union; and the election process should be straightforward and streamlined; it shouldnt involve long delays nor require workers to navigate a legal maze.

June 17, 2011

Food & Commercial Workers Denounce Slashing of Federal Food Safety Budget

WASHINGTON, DC—The following is a statement from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:

“Yesterday, Republicans in the House of Representatives slashed millions of dollars from the budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety programs. This bill, which not one Democrat voted for, put’s the safety of American families and food supply at risk by slashing funding for food inspections and safety.

“Americans have faced a veritable deluge of food safety problems over the last decade in products as varied as peanuts, spinach and tomatoes. The Obama administration led the charge to ensure for adequate inspection and regulation to keep our dinner table safe, but House Republicans are undoing that hard work by gutting the funding for a safer food supply. Around 48,000,000 Americans get sick from their food every year, yet House Republicans don’t see food safety as an issue worth funding.

“We work across the food industry – in meat, poultry, food processing, canning and produce – but we’re especially concerned that the new bill may cause furloughs for meat and poultry inspectors. These inspectors play a vital role in the functioning of one of America’s largest export industries. Our workers in the processing and packing industries depend on their involvement to insure a safe product for their customers. Lax inspections could also have a negative effect on American food exports at a time when our economy is already struggling. We need to fully fund the food safety bill and ensure a food supply that Americans can count on for the future.”

June 17, 2011

Food & Commercial Workers Denounce Slashing of Federal Food Safety Budget

WASHINGTON, DC—The following is a statement from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:

“Yesterday, Republicans in the House of Representatives slashed millions of dollars from the budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety programs. This bill, which not one Democrat voted for, put’s the safety of American families and food supply at risk by slashing funding for food inspections and safety.

“Americans have faced a veritable deluge of food safety problems over the last decade in products as varied as peanuts, spinach and tomatoes. The Obama administration led the charge to ensure for adequate inspection and regulation to keep our dinner table safe, but House Republicans are undoing that hard work by gutting the funding for a safer food supply. Around 48,000,000 Americans get sick from their food every year, yet House Republicans don’t see food safety as an issue worth funding.

“We work across the food industry – in meat, poultry, food processing, canning and produce – but we’re especially concerned that the new bill may cause furloughs for meat and poultry inspectors. These inspectors play a vital role in the functioning of one of America’s largest export industries. Our workers in the processing and packing industries depend on their involvement to insure a safe product for their customers. Lax inspections could also have a negative effect on American food exports at a time when our economy is already struggling. We need to fully fund the food safety bill and ensure a food supply that Americans can count on for the future.”

June 17, 2011

The UFCW, Smithfield and Food Network

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – (June 17, 2011) – Delighted to join TODAY’s 10th annual “Lend a Hand” campaign with Al Roker, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and Smithfield delivered 120,000 servings of protein to benefit Covenant House of West Virginia and other local charitable agencies at Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, 300 Leon Sullivan Way, at 7:00 a.m.

Covenant House, the final stop on the “Lend a Hand” philanthropic tour, is a multi-faceted, nonprofit organization that offers a variety of assistance services to the Charleston community.  In addition to a food pantry that provides nearly 5,000 meals annually, Covenant House services include a day shelter, community housing, housing assistance and community resource education.

“Feeding the Hungry” is a joint program of the UFCW and Smithfield to donate and help deliver 20 million servings of protein over three years to assistance organizations around the country. The partnership is designed to bring much needed assistance to the growing number of people facing hunger and food insecurity in our communities.

“Last year we fed over 6 million people and as we take our nationwide Feeding the Hungry Tour on the road for the second year, the UFCW is committed to ensuring that families across the country have the relief and the opportunities they need to weather the current economic crises,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW international president. “All across the country, UFCW members are on the frontlines of efforts to improve and strengthen their communities, and this partnership reflects their unwavering commitment to protect and advocate for families during tough times.”

“Smithfield is proud to continue the second year of our hunger relief tour.  We’re well on our way to feeding 20 million people,” said Dennis Pittman, public affairs director, Smithfield.  “We hope to continue increasing awareness and encourage individuals and companies to donate to their local food banks.”

June 16, 2011

Making Change at Walmart Stands with Walmart Associates in Bentonville, Arkansas

Washington, DC-Today, nearly 100 Walmart Associates who are part of a new associate-led organization traveled to Bentonville, Arkansas to speak out directly to company executives to ask for partnership in making change in stores across the country. The Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) provides Walmart Associates an opportunity to join together to improve working conditions, their company, their own lives and most importantly, to gain more respect on the job.

“”The Walmart Associates who traveled to Arkansas today showed tremendous courage and sent a clear message that their concerns will no longer be silenced,” said Dan Schlademan, Director of Making Change at Walmart. “”These Associates are leaders for their company and an inspiration for others who want to make change at Walmart.””

“”Making Change at Walmart is proud to stand with these Associates who care about their company and their co-workers enough to come together and try to make it better. How Walmart treats Associates has a ripple effect on the rest of the retail industry and the economy as a whole. We will stand with these Associates until we make real change at Walmart. That change will improve their lives and their company, the working conditions for the retail and grocery industry, and the future for all working people.””

June 14, 2011

STATEMENT BY UFCW PRESIDENT JOSEPH T. HANSEN REGARDING THE JOBS COUNCIL MEETING

Washington, D.C. –  The following remarks were delivered by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Joseph T. Hansen at the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness meeting in Durham, N.C. on June 13:

“I look at the work of this council as an effort to look at primarily non-legislative approaches to address the plight of the millions of unemployed or underemployed workers in this country.

“I believe we need to play to our country’s strengths.  While not as sexy as some things you will hear today, one of our country’s strengths is agriculture—directly employing over 2 million Americans.  And when you add related processing, distribution and retail jobs, that number grows to almost 4 million.

“The UFCW represents over 300,000 workers in food manufacturing—mainly in meat and poultry processing.  The U.S. meat and poultry industry directly employs 1.8 million people and pays $45.5 billion in wages and benefits.  An estimated 580,000 people have jobs in distribution of meat and poultry products, and over 1 million more retail jobs depend on the sale of meat and poultry products to the public.   The meat and poultry industry is a growing industry with growing employment.

“Exports are a significant—and increasingly important driver—of this job growth.

  • For every $1 billion in beef exports, over 12,000 jobs are created.
  • For every $1 billion in pork exports, over 13,000 jobs are created.
  • For every $1 billion in poultry exports, over 11,000 jobs are created.

“Industry economists believe that a focused governmental effort to address barriers to United States’ meat exports to Asian countries has the potential to add thousands of jobs in the U.S.  Secretary Vilsack and Ambassador Kirk have done important work in this area.  We have already begun to see results. China has started to recognize that it is in their self-interest to address their domestic food situation by cracking open their import door to U.S. meat.  As a result, food exports to China are growing strongly.

“Right now, we have additional opportunities with Russia.  Since Russia is looking to join the World Trade Organization, it is important to get their commitment to drop their various methods of blocking U.S. meat imports.  I know Ambassador Kirk and his team are aware of these issues, but I wanted to take this opportunity to stress the impact these issues have on U.S. jobs.

“Along with meat exports, I wanted to take this opportunity to stress another issue—the importance of traditional defined benefit pensions in the economic health of this country.  Virtually all economists agree that the U.S. economy needs to be rebalanced:

  • We need more national saving, investment, and new business formation; and
  • We need less debt fueled consumption.

“The continuance of defined benefit pension plans needs to be part of that rebalancing.  In 2007, public and private defined benefit pension plans had nearly $9 trillion in assets and, in the aggregate, these plans were almost fully funded.  The downturn in financial markets reduced many of the plans’ funding.  There is a consensus among labor and employers that there is a need for relief – not to change the requirement to fully fund pensions, but to extend the time frame for achieving such funding.

“Defined benefit plans have made significant investments in infrastructure in support of job generation in the U.S.  We cannot afford to lose this source of funds which help create jobs.  A well-thought out program of federal government guarantees and other financial incentives directed at pension investors could encourage such plans to invest even greater allocations to rebuilding America’s infrastructure.  We hope that the Administration and Congress can work to achieve these goals.

“Finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for keeping America’s unemployed at the top of your Administration’s priorities.  I look forward to working with the council to help you continue to create job opportunities for American workers.  Thank you.”

June 3, 2011

Advisory: Bangladeshi Labor Leader to Present New York City Pension Fund Proposal at Walmart Shareholder Meeting

WHO: Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor leader and former garment worker

WHAT: Akter will deliver NYC Pension Funds’ shareholder proposal on behalf of New York City Comptroller John C. Liu at Friday’s shareholders meeting, calling on the company to require reports on suppliers’ compliance with international human and workers rights standards.  Press availability on-site / Photo Opportunity.

WHEN: Friday, June 3, after Akter’s presentation

WHERE: Walmart Shareholders Meeting
Bentonville, AR

CONTACT:
Ryan Vanderbilt at 202.285.8227 / rvanderbilt@asgk.com
Jennifer Stapleton at 202.466.1576 / jstapleton@ufcw.org
Matthew Sweeney, Office of NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, 212-669-3747, msweeney@comptroller.nyc.gov

Bentonville, AR–Kalpona Akter, the executive director of the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity, will deliver a proposal at Walmart’s shareholders meeting Friday, calling on the nation’s largest retailer to require its suppliers around the globe to publish reports on their compliance with international standards of human and workers rights.

The proposal, put forth by New York City Controller John C. Liu and the New York City Pension Funds, will be voted on by Walmart shareholders on Friday. NYC Pension Funds hold Walmart shares valued at more than $300 million.

Akter faces years in prison or even a potential death sentence on unsubstantiated criminal charges of fomenting garment worker unrest in Bangladesh. In 2010, Bangladeshi factory owners, including a Walmart subcontractor, filed a false criminal complaint against Akter, which resulted in her being arrested, imprisoned for 30 days, and tortured.

Factory workers in the country have organized to raise the minimum wage — from 12 cents an hour to 35 cents — but have been met with backlash. Eighteen members of Congress have sent letters on Akter’s behalf to Walmart, five other U.S. retailers, and to the U.S. Trade Representative.

Online press kit at: http://www.ufcw.org/makingchange/shareholder.cfm