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    UFCW Blog

March 28, 2012


WASHINGTON, DC—Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and Chair of Change to Win, today released the following statement in response to the Inspector General’s report showing that National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Member Terence Flynn engaged repeatedly in improper conduct when he was chief counsel to Member Brian Hayes.

“These are serious allegations and I urge the appropriate Congressional Committees to launch a full investigation. The NLRB must carry out its important mission of ensuring union elections are conducted freely and fairly. Regrettably, this independent agency has consistently come under political attack from Members of Congress and candidates for President who want to make it harder for workers to organize. The fact that this effort was reportedly being orchestrated by a high-profile employee of the Board is completely unacceptable. NLRB members and staff should serve as referees, striving for the fairest possible outcome and ensuring rules are followed and enforced. This Inspector General’s report suggests Member Flynn used his prior position to choose sides, bolstering big business at the expense of workers and their fundamental rights. Congress should get to the bottom of this and hold all wrongdoers fully accountable.”

March 26, 2012

Retail Employees Work Towards a Better Economy and a Better Life

Today’s post is the first in what will be an ongoing series on the retail industry, its impact on our economy, and the opportunities and challenges its workers face.

A recent article in Good Magazine focused on telling the stories of workers in the service industry that anyone who works in the sector is all too familiar with. The piece is filled with examples of workers who are overworked, underpaid and do not have any job security or benefits. The fear of not being able to pay the bills, getting sick or getting fired at any moment is plaguing workers in an industry that will become the backbone of the American economy.

Retail jobs are growing, and they’re poised to become as important to the 21st Century American economy as manufacturing jobs once were. Yet, despite the growing demand of the service industry, retail jobs don’t always come with a path to the middle class, and instead leave workers struggling to meet their basic needs. If we want to have a middle class in America, it is crucial that millions of American retail workers have good jobs with solid work schedules, and a paycheck and benefits that pay the bills.

Make no mistake, retailers actively work to make these jobs “bad” jobs. Driven by the bottom line of profit, and emboldened by a struggling economy and a plethora of applicants, they’ve purposely created a broken system and negative working environment for workers. With the exception of a few responsible retailers whose workers have a union voice, most retail employers don’t pay a living wage. They depend on high turnover. They’re stingy with schedules in order to avoid paying overtime and providing benefits.

Retailers trap their workers in a cycle of inconsistent schedules and wages that leave them struggling to make ends meet and support their families. Many workers have to balance two or three different jobs at a time in order to make a 40 hour work week possible. The middle class cannot survive or prosper if its foundation of workers is scrambling between several jobs just to pay the bills or put food on the table.

Retailers and other service industry employers do this to send a clear message to workers: you don’t deserve good jobs. In surprising, stark contrast to the way we felt about manufacturing jobs, Americans are starting to believe retail jobs – the very foundation of our new economy – shouldn’t be decent, dependable, middle class jobs. Many workers are just grateful to have a job at all, and they expect low wages and benefits because it is part of the system that has been ingrained in them.

These workers will play a significant role in the American economy. It’s shocking to think about the consequences of a generation of workers whose primary job opportunities offer them no path to the middle class.

Many people see their retail jobs as temporary or as a stepping stone to other careers, so they don’t want to invest a lot in a position they believe will not serve them in the long run. But the fact is that many will end up staying in their service industry jobs because those will be the only opportunities available to them. That’s why retail workers need to unite and take action now to fight against the industry’s push to make retail jobs “bad jobs.”

Workers in retail can be empowered by coming together on the job, recognizing that they are a critical part of the national workforce, and demanding to share the success with profitable national and international retailers. Union workers at retailers like Macys, H&M, Modells, and Bloomingdales already know that having a union voice on the job means they’ll be compensated and treated in a way that reflects their hard work. They’re able to bargain the middle class wages and health care benefits they earn and deserve.

With a union on the job, empowered retail workers can bolster the growing service industry and re-create the modern middle class that workers had in the past, and what we certainly need now.

March 5, 2012

UFCW Releases Congressional Scorecard

WASHINGTON, DC-The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released its Congressional Scorecard for the 1st session of the 112th Congress.

Whether it was jobs or workers’ rights, each member of Congress was judged on their commitment to America’s working families. The bills that were scored each had or would have had a real-life impact on the 1.3 million members the UFCW represents in retail, grocery, and meatpacking.

“By and large, the first session of the 112th Congress was a disappointment,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “House Republicans focused on anti-worker politics instead of jobs. And the Senate, while rightly blocking many of the extreme measures passed by the House, was too gridlocked by its own archaic rules to do much more. This scorecard shows in the clearest of terms which members of Congress stood with workers and which members stood in our way.”

UFCW positively scored votes supporting the American Jobs Act, extending Trade Adjustment Assistance, and protecting the right of workers to organize. On the other hand, it penalized members who voted to dismantle workers’ rights and pass the most extreme budget in generations.

The breakdown of grades is as follows:

Senate Breakdown                         House Breakdown  

40 A’s   176
11 B’s   8
2 C’s   3
0 D’s   6
47 F’s   240

“The release of this scorecard serves to remind the entire Congress that they will be held accountable for their actions,” Hansen said. “Simply put, there are too many F’s here. We need our elected representatives to stand with workers, not corporations.  We hope that in 2012 Congress shifts away from petty partisan politics and toward creating more jobs and opportunity.”

To search interactively for a member’s score by zip code, click here.

For a pdf of the full scorecard, click here.