November, 2011

Stand With Workers This Thanksgiving

Message from UFCW International President Joe Hansen:

When one retail worker speaks out and takes public action against unfair scheduling practices, it’s a media story. When his coworkers stand with him and speak with one voice, they’ve got a union, and that’s the best way to make real change.

Anthony Hardwick, a retail worker at a North Omaha Target store, has drawn headlines by petitioning his employer to return to traditional opening hours on Black Friday instead of pushing up the opening to Thanksgiving Day. Across the country, thousands of retail workers at stores like Target and Walmart are facing a Black Friday work schedule that leaves them with no time to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with their families.

Scheduling issues are consistently a top concern for retail workers. Many workers want more hours and a consistent, full-time schedule they can count on to support their families. But there’s a double-edged sword for workers who put in long hours and forego family time over the holiday weekend: instead of seeing a reward for their hard work and loyalty in their paychecks, many will see their hours cut back in the days following the holiday so retailers can avoid paying overtime.

Even though their on-the-job conditions are often overlooked, retail workers are the backbone of our service economy. Millions of Americans work these jobs, and retail is one of the only sectors of our economy that is growing. Retail jobs are going to define how it is to live and work in America the way that manufacturing jobs once did. It is vital that retail jobs are secure, full-time jobs that pay the bills and allow people to live a middle class life.

That’s why it matters for all of us when Anthony Hardwick has no voice to make holiday scheduling work for his family or demand fair compensation for working on a holiday. Americans know the way Anthony and his co-workers are being treated is unfair and wrong; over 175,000 people have signed a petition in support of Anthony. But for real change, Anthony’s concerns over scheduling and holiday pay need to be heard by his managers. The best way that retail workers can have a say over holiday scheduling is by sticking together in a union and negotiating for those changes directly from their employer.

The UFCW and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Council of the UFCW represent workers at grocery stores, but also at stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Modell’s and H&M. Union retail workers earn premium pay for work on holidays. Their union contract guides fair scheduling. In these stores, many workers choose to take holiday shifts that might pay time-and-a-half or double-time union wages; as opposed to workers at stores like Target or Walmart who often work holiday shifts out of fear of losing their jobs and may not earn premium pay for these grueling shifts.

We all make compromises with our time over the busy holiday season. Sometimes it is traveling to see the in-laws. Other times it is working long hours over Thanksgiving weekend so that we can provide a magical Christmas morning for our children. When retail workers are given a voice in holiday scheduling, they can respect the needs of their families; whether that need is a loved one’s presence at home or the need to earn additional income over the holidays.

Respect for the retail workers who are the heart of events like Black Friday means fair compensation for holiday hours and a voice in scheduling. When we support workers coming together to make positive changes in the workplace, we all win.

Click here to sign the petition to stand with Walmart employees and other retail workers who are sticking together to have a say over their schedules during the holidays.

Union gives back to community

from Liset Márquez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

MONTCLAIR – From packaging food for holiday distribution to helping decorate for Thanksgiving, nearly 150 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1428 were volunteering at various Inland Empire locations on Monday for a “Day of Service.”

The day of action was to thank local communities for their support during the union’s recent eight months of negotiations, said Connie Leyva, president of UFCW Local 1428.

“We wanted to give back with a day of service for our community who supported us,” she said.

In Montclair, about 18 union members occupied two classrooms at Kingsley Elementary School where they helped pack socks and toiletries for up to 100 people. They also helped pack bright yellow bags of food as well as gift certificates for shoes. Flu shots were provided for children and family members.

Ron Dietzman, the school’s assistant principal, said UFCW Local 1428 has partnered with Kingsley for nearly 15 years, providing pre-packaged meals for Thanksgiving and toys for Christmas.

“They’ve been helping us for years, and it’s fantastic,” he said.

Rachel Almazan of Rancho Cucamonga was among the volunteers at the Montclair site.

Almazan, who works for Rite-Aid and has been a union member for 39 years, has volunteered at the school site before.

“We sort of adopted this school,” she said. “We just want to give back to our community for their support.”

Almazan, who was helping hand out food, said she enjoys volunteering.

In Pomona, members also assisted in similar services for family members at Trinity United Methodist Church.

Members of UFCW Local 1428 also decorated a facility for a Thanksgiving celebration at Ability First in Claremont. Families in Ontario were able to receive food for the holidays from union volunteers who were at Feed the Children.

Grocery Contract Extended Through November 18, Members to Step up to the Table

Negotiations between Raleys, Safeway and Save Mart and UFCW Locals 5, 8 and 648 have been set through November 18, the Friday before Thanksgiving. Members from the stores will be begin participating talks on the 17th.

The objective of the unions is to negotiate an agreement that provides for the continuation of affordable family medical benefits, assures a living wage, improves hours and access to full time jobs, increases respect on the job and creates an environment where the employers will work as hard as the unions to stem the non-union threat.

The reason talks have not been moving as quickly as in the past is because of many factors. The worst economy since the great depression has brought up problems that are unprecedented and must be addressed cautiously. Healthcare is under siege due to sky rocketing costs and implementation of national coverage. And the management reps for the talks were not set until last week.

Real progress will begin when the companies back away from their plans to insist medical coverage be agreed upon before non-economic items like full time positions. This arrangement in negotiating, non-economic followed by the money items has served the parties well for over seven decades. And it will this time.