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    UFCW Blog

May 30, 2012

Staying Informed and Updated on Your Plant’s Ammonia Safety Program

Several of our UFCW members who work in meatpacking, poultry and food processing plants spend their days working around refrigeration systems that use ammonia – a Highly Hazardous chemical. It is easy and important for stewards to find out if their company is complying with OSHA’s standards about how to operate safely with Highly Hazardous chemicals. The main standard is Process Safety Management (PSM). PSM gives workers and their representatives the right to ask for information about the ammonia system.

OSHA’s PSM Standard applies to most meat packing, poultry, and food processing plants. One PSM requirement is that the company must conduct an audit of their compliance every three years. Stewards can request to see the recommendations from the past two audits and find out what actions have been taken. By looking at the audit results and the follow-up stewards can see if the company is taking their PSM seriously.

“When I was sent out for training, I received a lot of information about PSM that I realized could be helpful to not only me, but also my co-workers at the plant,” said Jim Oldenburg, a steward at JBS and a member of UFCW Local 1473 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Even though every worker at the plant cannot receive specialized PSM training, workers do have the right to stay informed about their plant’s PSM program and come to their stewards with questions or concerns. To help his co-workers at the plant, Oldenburg submitted a list of PSM questions and responses to the company. These questions were developed by the Industrial Refrigeration Consortium at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

“People look to me to help them and I’m doing everything that I can for them every day. Having this information available is just one of them,” said Oldenburg.

Here are the ten questions Jim submitted to management. According to the PSM standard your company must respond adequately to your concerns. Their responses to these questions can give you a sense of the condition of your plant’s ammonia safety program. If you need help evaluating the company’s response you can email the UFCW Health and Safety Representative for Process Safety Management at bthielen@ufcw.org.

1. When was our last compliance audit?

2. Can you show me the closeout of recommendations from the last compliance audit?

3.  Can you provide me a copy of the most recent incident report and documentation that shows how we closed out recommendations/from the incident report?

4.  When was our last Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) conducted and can you show me documentation that closes out the recommendations from the last PHA?

5. How often do we certify our plant’s written operating procedures for the covered process?

6.   What training program do we have for our operators and what are the means used to verify they have understood the training?

7.   How often do we do refresher training?

8.       Based on our plant’s mechanical integrity program, what is the next piece of equipment scheduled for retirement and when is it scheduled to come out of service?

9.  What criteria do we use to evaluate contractors that work on our covered process?

10.  What was the last change made to our system and can you show me the documentation for that change?


May 18, 2012

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Releases Official App for Smartphones

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the nation’s largest grocery workers union, today announced the release of its first ever-smartphone app, designed to highlight worker voices and connect consumers with union grocery stores across the country. The app is a major development for consumers seeking to make informed choices about where they spend their shopping dollars by highlighting stores where workers are sticking together to preserve good, family-supporting jobs in our communities.

A major highlight of the app is its “Shop Union” feature, which allows anyone in the United States or Canada to locate and secure driving directions to their nearest union grocery store. If UFCW members work at a grocery store near you, the app will be able to get you there. The release of the smartphone app is just the latest element of UFCW’s ongoing program to connect with the next generation of workers.

The UFCW app also lets users receive the latest updates from UFCW members and working people everywhere, see breaking news and original video, and get information about how to take action for working families.

Already, the app is receiving positive reviews from early adopters:

“What a great app! Now I can easily stay informed on the latest union news, and always find the closest union store even when I am on the go.”

“Love the feature where I can search for the nearest union grocery store!”

“Works well and smoothly. Quick download and installation.”

“This is great for finding union grocery stores! We need to support good jobs.”

The app can be accessed from any smartphone at http://ufcwaction.org/app.

May 18, 2012

Raley’s Nob Hill Division UFCW Local 5 Members Authorize Strike by 96%

(San Jose, CA) – United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5 membersworking for Raley’s Nob Hill division have voted by a 96% margin toauthorize a strike.

Coming on the heels of Raley’s threat to submit a last, best and final offerto the union on April 30, Local 5 immediately set up meetings throughout itsjurisdiction to hold strike vote meetings. Members attended in large numbersand authorized the union’s bargaining committee to call a strike.

Subsequent to Raley’s move to scuttle bargaining the parties agreed to enterfederal mediation.

“”Raley’s actions led the union to call a strike vote in the Nob Hilldivision. When a company threatens to submit a last, best and final offer itsets off a sequence of events that inevitably lead to either accepting aterrible offer or a strike. Both options are bad, but since we alreadycancelled one strike vote in a sign of good faith to further bargaining, weweren’t going to cancel this one. This overwhelming vote will send a strongmessage to the company and hopefully move negotiations to a successfulconclusion,”” stated Ron Lind, President UFCW Local 5.

Negotiations resume with Raley’s-Nob Hill on May 18 under the auspices ofthe Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Oakland.

May 16, 2012

Statement on the Supreme Court

(Washington, DC) – UFCW International President Joseph Hansen released the following statement:

“A sharply divided Supreme Court closed the door on millions of women working at Walmart today and overturned 40 years of legal precedence in discrimination cases.  In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that Walmart’s written general discrimination policy was proof enough to overturn a lower court’s determination that Walmart women could join together to address widespread gender discrimination claims as a class.  This decision does not make any ruling on the merits of the women’s discrimination claims.

“Today’s decision is deeply disturbing.  The highest court in our nation has turned its back on collective remedy for workers facing widespread injustices.  The UFCW will continue to demand accountability from Walmart to its workers who deserve fair treatment, fair pay and respect on the job.

“Last week, thousands of Walmart workers announced the Organization United for Respect at Walmart because workers know that they are stronger as a group. Employers like Walmart have long attempted to isolate workers and prevent them from solving problems together.  This decision will not stop workers from joining together, through collective action, or prevent them from continuing to pursue their individual claims against Walmart.

The UFCW believes that Walmart is not too big for justice and will continue to hold Walmart to fair workplace standards.  Its 1.4 million associates deserve better.”

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.

May 15, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C.—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 decrying a federal judge’s decision striking down a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule updating and streamlining union election procedures.

“This wrongheaded decision is based solely on technical grounds related to the NLRB’s internal procedures and not the merits of the rule, which remain sound. The rule seeks only to protect workers’ right to a fair and timely election. I call on the NLRB to take the steps necessary to remove this procedural roadblock and restore the rule as soon as possible.”

May 10, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement:

“I commend President Obama for his support of marriage equality, and I’m proud to support him as he takes this historic stand.

“Marriage equality is an economic justice issue, and a social justice issue – and that makes it a union issue. In the UFCW, we have a long, proud history of standing up for fair and equal treatment for all workers – regardless of what they look like, where they come from, what language they speak, or who they love. These values are heartfelt. We work every day to fight discrimination and unfair treatment against LGBT people on the job. That’s why our union is a strong supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which would ensure justice in the workplace for LGBT workers. UFCW members have been negotiating equal health care coverage for same-sex couples into their union contracts all over the country for years. It’s the right thing to do, and the fair thing to do. I’m proud that the UFCW’s advocacy on behalf of families includes all families.”

May 9, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) issued the following statement today in support of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment:

“The UFCW supports the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment. This amendment will prevent the U.S. Department of Justice from using taxpayer money to raid, arrest or prosecute medical cannabis patients and providers in the states where medical marijuana is legal.

“Medical marijuana laws have been enacted to allow patients safe and legal access to appropriately produced and compliantly dispensed medical marijuana in the safest possible environment and UFCW members in the medical cannabis industry work in accordance with state laws to provide safe and effective medical treatment for persons suffering from cancer and other serious medical conditions.

“At a time when millions of hardworking Americans are out of work and still struggling to make ends meet, the use of taxpayer money for the misguided targeting and prosecution of an industry that provides Americans with good middle class jobs with benefits is counterproductive. The U.S. Justice Department should not use the fewer resources it has to focus on targeting patients and dispensaries abiding by state law. That is a problem that the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment will solve and the UFCW wholeheartedly supports it.”

May 8, 2012

Market Basket Enforcement Shows OSHA is on the Right Track

WASHINGTON – The almost $600,000 settlement announced Monday between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and DeMoulas Super Markets Inc., commonly known as Market Basket, is a step forward for the safety of retail workers everywhere. The settlement requires safety fixes at all of the company’s more than 60 stores across Massachusetts and New Hampshire, along with real safety programs for workers going forward.

“It’s critical that OSHA continues to take company-wide actions like these to protect workers,” said Jackie Nowell, Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Occupational Safety and Health Office. “Rather than addressing problems with employers like Market Basket piecemeal and leaving workers at risk – OSHA can make real changes to systematic problems that occur across an entire company.”

The enforcement action came after repeat safety violations by the company – including two serious injuries to Market Basket workers in almost-identical falls from unguarded storage areas in two different stores. Workers at Market Basket don’t have a union at their work, making it harder to stand up for safer stores.

“This new enforcement program clearly shows that when OSHA finally gets tough with bad-actor employers, workers get better protection – far faster than waiting on empty promises by corporate executives to comply with our basic safety laws,” said Nowell. “We hope the Obama Administration will continue using these new tools to give all workers – especially the many retail workers who don’t yet have a union – a safe place to work.”

May 7, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement commending the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) for returning $50,000 in Walmart gift cards.

“I commend the DNCC for doing the right thing. The allegations of bribery and corruption against Walmart are serious and there is no way to know whether these contributions are tainted. Furthermore, Walmart has a long track record of mistreating their workers, discriminating on the basis of gender, trampling on the right to organize, and fostering a race to the bottom in the retail industry that is bad for the middle class and our entire nation. Walmart is also a flagship member of the controversial right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has been linked to laws busting unions and weakening voting rights. Simply put, this is a company whose conduct flies in the face of the values we stand for as Democrats. I hope the DNCC’s decision to return these gift cards signals the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party’s relationship with Walmart.”

May 4, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C.—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 calling on National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Member Terence Flynn to resign.

“For months, Republicans have accused the NLRB of being politicized. It turns out they were right. But it’s been members of their own party playing politics. The latest Inspector General’s report detailing more leaks by Member Flynn during his time as counsel to the Board is deeply disturbing. Most egregious is the report that he may have leaked information to a top Mitt Romney advisor in hopes of getting appointed to the Board himself. Member Flynn has compromised his ability to be a fair and neutral arbiter. He should resign immediately and Congress should finally conduct a full investigation.”