UFCW President Hansen Statement in Support of Making Union Organizing a Civil Right

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement regarding the Employee Empowerment Act.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to organized labor as the ‘principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.’ He believed, as we do, that union rights are civil rights. For decades, these rights have been under attack by those who want to deny workers a voice on the job. Workers are routinely fired or otherwise retaliated against for standing up and speaking out. This is against the law. But too many employers would rather pay fines under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) than allow for a process that lets workers choose a union freely and fairly. To them, these minimal penalties are not a deterrent, but the cost of doing business.

“The Employee Empowerment Act would amend the NLRA to give victims of labor discrimination the same protections available under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Currently, back pay is the only remedy available to these workers. Passage of this legislation would give victims the right to sue for compensatory and punitive damages in federal court, ensuring employers are held appropriately accountable for illegal retaliation and truly discouraging anti-union activity.

“The rise in labor discrimination hurts all Americans, but especially workers of color. Unionized African-American workers make 36 percent more than their non-union counterparts. For Latino workers, the union advantage is even greater. I urge Congress to swiftly pass this legislation which is good for workers, our economy, and builds on the successes of the Civil Rights Act.”

Smithfield’s Farmland Food Plant Workers Join UFCW Local 400

Smithfield-Farmland-Local-400Last Wednesday, more than 50 workers at Smithfield’s Farmland Food plant in Newport News, Va., voted to join UFCW Local 400, winning the election 47-5. Workers at the plant are uniting for a voice on the job. UFCW Local 400 will continue to work with Smithfield workers as they take action and address what they feel are key issues affecting workers at the plant.

Member Spotlight: Keith Phillips

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAIn this week’s member spotlight, we chatted with UFCW Local 951 member Keith Phillips, who works at Meijer in East Lansing, Michigan.

Keith has been a UFCW member for two years now, but has been a member of various unions over the years–so he knows the value of belonging to one, especially in a right-to-work state, he notes.

“I want to call it something else,” he adds slyly, alluding to the many more fitting terms for the legislation that does anything but protect someone’s actual right to work.

Before going to the United States Merchant Marine Academy as a young man, Keith attended the National School of Meat Cutting and became a journeyman meat cutter. He worked for Packer Foods in Flint, Michigan where he joined the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America in 1967 and 1968. It was during these times, Keith notes, that unions were very strong and more people were “union-minded.”

For most of Keith’s professional career, he was an environmental engineer and belonged to the Maritime Engineers Union, where he was very involved and served as a union steward and chapter president. He is also a retired U.S. Navy Commander.

After his retirement, Keith wanted to do work as a meat cutter again and was hired by Meijer, joining UFCW Local 951. Right now, Keith works as a part time meat and seafood clerk.

“I enjoy helping customers,” says Keith of his job. He enjoys to “chit-chat” with them and his coworkers, many of them veterans like him. “It’s really a social experience!” He also does volunteer work in his spare time.

Right now, Keith says he is planning to reach out to his union steward at work, because his manager tried to move him to a non-union position, which Keith refused to let happen. Now, Keith wants to file a grievance because his supervisor has not scheduled him to work for a week. “I know that my steward meat-cutter friend will help me out,” he notes.

“With a union, you have a degree of protection,” he says after refusing to switch to a non-union job.


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