May 7, 2014
Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement regarding President Obama’s visit to a California Walmart to discuss energy efficiency.
“On Friday, President Obama will stand side by side with a company known for low wages, few benefits, unreliable hours, discrimination against women, violating workers’ rights, and yes, environmental degradation. Despite promising to be a leader on climate, Walmart’s greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise. According to its own Global Responsibility Report, the company’s emissions grew 2 percent, nearly half a million metric tons, in the last year alone. In addition, Walmart still lags badly behind other large companies when it comes to renewable power, with its projects and purchases deriving only 3 percent of electricity from these sources.
“More than anything, the President’s visit sends a terrible message to workers across America. He is lending credibility to a bad actor when he should be joining the calls for Walmart to change. A federal agency—the National Labor Relations Board—is prosecuting Walmart for retaliating against workers who stand up and speak out. Taxpayers are subsidizing Walmart which pays many of its own workers so little that they must rely on food stamps and Medicaid. And at a time when there is a renewed conversation about addressing income inequality, Walmart’s business model is making the problem worse.
“After the pep rally in California, I invite the President to meet with Walmart workers who can tell him firsthand about their struggles.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.
May 7, 2014
Worthington MN: Workers at the JBS pork processing facility in Worthington, Minnesota have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. More than 1,800 union workers are employed at the facility slaughtering hogs and processing and packaging pork products and belong to UFCW Local 1161. Workers have been at the bargaining table with the company negotiating a new union contract for ten months. The company has made no offer of any wage increases, and has repeatedly proposed a health care plan that could drastically increase out-of-pocket costs for workers, while reducing coverage.
Over the last few years, JBS’s union workers across the country have negotiated with the company to keep labor costs down, making it possible for the company to thrive. Together, workers and the company have kept health care costs steady and cost-effective.
“Today, JBS is a successful, profitable, multi-national corporation that’s earning profits hand over fist,” said Mike Potter, President of UFCW Local 1161. “Working people in the plants made this success possible. Yet, the company is demanding that workers accept deep cuts to their health care coverage. Their proposed health care plan is so bad, and so potentially expensive, it could mean bankruptcy for workers who become seriously ill, or decide to have a baby. There is simply no economic need to threaten the livelihoods of these workers – the only reason for this is greed,” Potter said.
“I’ve worked at JBS for 23 years,” said Lisa Mejia who operates a whizard knife on the cut floor and is on the union’s bargaining committee. “This has always been a good job, and workers have always been able to sit down and negotiate decent wages and benefits that mean we can have a good life. But now the company is asking us to make too big a sacrifice – one that puts our families at risk. It’s just not right, and it will negatively affect hundreds of families in Worthington and across the area.”
The UFCW represents JBS workers at several other locations around the country. Workers are also at the bargaining table in Greely, Colorado; Souderton, Pennsylvania; Grand Island Nebraska where the company is proposing similar cuts to health care. Workers in Louisville, Kentucky; and Omaha Nebraska will begin negotiations in the next two months. If Worthington workers go on strike, and the dispute spreads to these other locations it could affect more than 10,000 workers.