Joseph T. Hansen is leading the transformation of the UFCW into a growth-focused organization poised to unite the millions of North American workers who want and need a union. After four decades of union activism, Joe’s mission is essentially the same as it was when he began his career: organizing workers for power and uniting them at the bargaining table to win middle class wages, benefits, and respect on the job.
Today, Hansen stands at the helm of the broad-based worker movement to win respect for work and those who do the work. Joe is an effective voice for working people, advocating for affordable, quality health care for all; for comprehensive and humane immigration reform; and for the millions of working people who want a voice on the job. He is helping revitalize the labor movement to meet the challenges of the global economy—by delivering union jobs that provide wages that pay the bills, retirement security, and affordable health care. His leadership is bringing new hope and opportunity for workers and their families to improve their living standards and live a middle class life.
Joe began his career as a meat cutter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since that time, Hansen has been activating and empowering members. He spent more than 11 years working at his trade while serving as a volunteer organizer for his local union—Local 73 of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America. His activism helped keep Milwaukee a union town, where new grocery stores were quickly met with organizing activity. His passion for organizing led Hansen to become one of the youngest members of his local union’s executive board. Hansen was elected to serve as International Secretary-Treasurer in 1997 and International President in 2004.
Hansen has been active in the global union movement since 1994. His early experience with global unionism provided him with the foresight to realize that only global solidarity can confront global corporations. He served as president of Union Network International (UNI), an international labor organization representing 15 million workers in 900 unions in more than 100 countries from 2003, until November of 2010.
In the United States, lawmakers and opinion leaders seek his perspective and leadership on two of the most important challenges facing American workers in the 21st century—health care and immigration reform.
Hansen is the Founding National Chair of the National Commission on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights. The commission examined ICE misconduct during the Bush Administrations’ workplace raids. It presented the findings to the American people in a report that documents the terrible costs and human suffering caused by ICE misconduct and outlined key elements of needed immigration policy reforms.
In 2005, the U.S. Congress named Hansen to the 14-member Citizens’ Health Care Working Group. The panel did groundbreaking work to bring the American people together to confront the health care crisis and facilitated the direct communication of their views and concerns to lawmakers. His leadership on that the panel established Hansen as a key leader and trusted advisor to Congress and the Obama administration on the primary health care issues facing working families and the elements of comprehensive health care reform.
In September 2010, President Obama appointed Hansen to the United States Trade Representatives Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and in February 2011, President Obama appointed Hansen to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. As International President of UFCW, which represents workers in the meatpacking, food processing, poultry, food distribution and retail food sectors, Hansen is committed to ensuring that American farmers, workers, and responsible businesses and manufacturers are not locked out of these emerging growth markets. Hansen’s experience in the global union movement, and his role negotiating contracts with multi-national meatpacking, food processing, and grocery companies gives him a unique perspective and the capability to ensure the voice of working people is heard.
Recognizing that industry-wide organizing is the best way to give workers the power to raise working and living standards, Hansen is leading the UFCW through a dramatic shift in priorities as more staff and resources than ever before are dedicated to uniting workers and bringing them under a union contract.
At the core of Hansen’s leadership is the spirit and exuberance that he demonstrated as a young volunteer organizer and activist. He knows that activated members can organize, that they can build their union, and that they can confront corporate power and win. After all, Hansen did all of those things as a rank-and-file member—today he is activating and leading a new generation of workers and building a 21st century union.