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    UFCW Blog

February 26, 2004

FIGHTING FOR AMERICA

Senator John Kerry will be on the picket line with UFCW members today at 1:00 p.m. at the Vons store at 710 Broadway (Lincoln & Broadway) in Santa Monica, California to highlight his commitment to national health care reform.

Access to affordable family health benefits is the issue that forced 70,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) on strike against Safeway/Vons, Ralphs/Kroger and Albertsons for more than 5 months. The Southern California supermarket strike has sounded the alarm to America that our health care system is in crisis and that all workers are at risk of losing benefits.

Striking Vons worker Cathi Shafer said, “”I’m proud to have John Kerry join our picket line today because he is committed to the principle that health care is a right—that if you work hard, you’ve earned the right to health care. This fight is about our future. We are not going to give up on our future. And John Kerry is not going to give up on the future for working families.””

Melissa Larson has been walking the picket line with her husband said, “”John Kerry put his life on the line for his country. He wasn’t afraid to fight for America. He will fight for affordable health care for America’s working families.”” John Kerry will call the striking workers American heroes for their courage and commitment to hold the line for America’s health care.

Senator Kerry was endorsed by the UFCW and the AFL-CIO last week for his commitment to worker issues like health care. UFCW members have made tremendous personal sacrifices during the 19-week battle, relying on food banks to feed their families, applying to hardship funds to keep a roof over their heads and supporting one another to keep picket lines strong. Supporters from across the country have poured millions of dollars in donations to the striking supermarket workers and mobilized thousands of supporters to actions at Safeway and Albertsons stores across the country.

February 3, 2004

Renewed Support Re-Energizes SoCal Supermarket Strike

From Portland to Philadelphia, Seattle to Washington DC and Baltimore, community members and religious leaders are rallying at Safeway stores, demanding the company end its efforts to effectively eliminate health benefits for grocery workers. Concerned community members are asking customers to help hold the line and not shop Safeway. Workers, backed by their communities, have vowed to take the fight to save health care everywhere Safeway operates.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has also launched a radio campaign in these areas. The spots, featuring two Southern California workers on strike, also ask customers to shop elsewhere, and to join the fight to save affordable health care by picketing their local Safeway store. Text of the radio spots is below.
Over 15,000 March on Northern and Southern California Safeway Stores
After nearly four months on the picket line, workers continue to stay strong in the fight to save health benefits at work. In Los Angeles, union members, grocery workers, community leaders, and clergy members gathered at the Great Western Forum and marched on a nearby Vons store. In a demonstration of solidarity, several other unions pledged generous donations to help the striking and locked-out workers in their time of need. The California Teachers Association donated $500,000 for a statewide radio campaign asking customers not to shop at the struck and locked-out chains, while the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) pledged to raise $1 million to cover the cost of health benefits for the workers who lost their health care on January 1.
At the same time, a demonstration at an Oakland Safeway drew hundreds of supporters. Several participated in a symbolic sit-in, including Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente. De La Fuente and 14 other community, religious, and labor leaders were arrested for refusing to disperse and blocking the entrance.
Community members are backing grocery workers in an unprecedented showing of support. Workers in every industry know that, if Safeway (Vons), Kroger (Ralphs), and Albertsons can succeed in effectively eliminating health benefits for their workers, then all workers’ health benefits nationwide stand to disappear.
Safeway CEO Under Pressure
Steve Burd May Be Forced to Resign
Safeway CEO Steve Burd, the mastermind behind the effort to effectively eliminate health care for working families, is feeling the heat from investors. Safeway’s business has continued to slump because of his poor management decisions, including his adamant attempts to end affordable health care. Burd’s mismanagement has led to a combined loss of over a billion dollars at Southern California Vons, Albertsons, and Kroger stores. Industry analysts are concerned that Burd’s tactics have permanently damaged the Safeway brand name, and alienated the very same workers who have made the company profitable.
The “”Grocery Workers Justice Pilgrimage”” brought nearly 300 religious leaders and workers to Burd’s home in the affluent Bay Area suburb of Alamo last week. Participants prayed outside of Burd’s gated community, asking the CEO to stop turning a blind eye to the suffering he is causing. They also brought over 10,000 messages from Southern California workers asking Burd to help save affordable family health care, instead of eliminating it.
California Attorney General Sues Grocery Chains
Mutual Aid Pact Allegedly Violates Anti-Trust Laws
California Attorney General Bill Lockyear announced Saturday a lawsuit against Safeway (Vons), Kroger (Ralphs) and Albertsons. The three chains entered into a profit-sharing pact at the start of the strike. The attorney general’s office has stated it believes the pact is in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The agreement, which has not been released to the public, is believed the have hurt customers by discouraging competitive pricing among the chains. The attorney Lockyear addressed thousands of supporters about the lawsuit at the Los Angeles rally this weekend.
TEXT OF UFCW RADIO SPOTS:
#1
Hi, I’m Maria Patris. As a breast cancer survivor, health care is a matter of life and death. Now, I and 70,000 other supermarket workers have been forced to strike because Safeway wants to take away health benefits. I’m not giving up—health care is worth fighting for. If Safeway can take away my health benefits, then Safeway could take away health benefits from families in your area.
Join us at your local Safeway store and help hold the line for affordable health care.
A message from the working men and women of the UFCW.
#2
Hi, I’m Gary Gallucci. My dream is to give my kids a better future. Now, Safeway is threatening my dream. I and 70,000 other Southern California supermarket workers have been forced to strike to save our health benefits. I’m not giving up—family health care is worth fighting for. If Safeway can take away our health benefits, Safeway could take away health benefits from families in your area.
A message from the working men and women of the UFCW.
January 29, 2004

New York Actors Stage Reading of New Play at Actor’s Gang Theater to Benefit 70,000 Striking Grocery Workers

The Three Same Guys, by playwright Joe Roland, a staged reading, one night only at The Actor’s Gang in Los Angeles, CA, on February 3, 2004, 7pm and 10pm.  Seats $50.

In the new play by playwright/actor Joe Roland the strike is fictional, the factory and the union town are fictional, the characters are fictional but the human spirit revealed in a battle for a living wage not to mention a decent life is as real and as devastating as the one being fought by the 70,000 workers on picket lines across Southern California.

According to acclaimed Director Mike Nichols (Angels in America), “”There hasn’t been a play like it since Waiting for Lefty and this one is about right this minute in America””.

The Three Same Guys will enjoy a full production at Trinity Rep in Providence, RI, in fall 2004 with Mr. Roland playing the central character, Dev.  This winter, however, Mr. Roland along with three like-minded New York actors will hit the stage scripts in hand to raise awareness as well as cash for the supermarket workers.

“Three giant corporations (Safeway, Kroger and Albertson’s) are attempting to eliminate health care benefits at work, effectively destroying affordable health care, for these workers. Says Roland, “”There is a war being waged on the working class in America. They are slowly disappearing into the ranks of the working poor….Personally I think that corporate America is taking the short view. A nation of poor, overworked, underinsured service workers can’t be good for business.

“”[But] this benefit isn’t really about the money. It’s about morale and attention. Those mothers and fathers and sons and daughters are fighting for their jobs, and for the jobs of millions of Americans, because although the American public may not be watching, you can bet your ass that American business is. I want those people on strike to know that I am paying attention, that many of us are paying attention and that we appreciate it….””

Followers of New York’s off-Broadway circuit know Roland as a founding actor of Water Theater Company, where the charter touts “”the political and social change that enlightening, artful theatre brings…We dedicate ourselves to exploring and sharing the explosive, transforming power of that human endeavor–the creative process–with all its revelations.”” Water Theater Company is proud to be presenting this special evening of theater.

For reservations call 323-782-6277, cash and checks will be accepted at the door. Admission is $50.00, please make all checks payable to “UFCW Strike Hardship Fund”.  The Actor’s Ggang is located at 6209 Santa Monica Blvd. Shows at 7 and 10 pm.

For more information on the reading, call the reservation line and leave a number where you can be reached.

January 21, 2004

Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice

Los Angeles—Affordable family health care coverage is a moral issue. It is a dominant civil rights issue of the 21st century.

 
Members of the faith and labor communities hold the line for affordable health care at Safeway’s LA office.

We are dismayed that three Fortune 50 companies—Safeway/Vons, Kroger/Ralphs, and Albertsons—led by Safeway CEO Steve Burd have forced 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers into the streets in an attempt to effectively eliminate their health care benefits.

Safeway and the other supermarkets have knowingly misled the public about the impact of their demands that would “end affordable health care” for new employees” [and] “drastically curtail covered benefits or increase employee-paid premiums to unaffordable levels” for current employees, according to health care benefits experts E. Richard Brown, PhD., and Richard Kronick, PhD.

The supermarket workers are engaged in a righteous struggle, fighting to save health care benefits, not just for their families, but all working families. After more than 100 days on the picket line, they have sacrificed everything for this cause.

Safeway/Vons and the other grocers are some of the largest and most profitable supermarkets in the world. Yet they would push dedicated, productive employees from work to welfare for their medical protection.

The supermarket workers are our friends, neighbors, and congregants. Our children ride the school bus with their children. We cannot stand idly by and witness the devastation of their families. We cannot allow the devastation of our communities that comes with the loss of family health care coverage.

We will take the cause of the supermarket workers directly to the Safeway boardroom and executive offices—wherever they may be—seeking the economic justice the workers deserve.

We urge Safeway and the other markets to deal fairly and honestly with their employees. We pray they return to the bargaining table to negotiate a just settlement.

— 30 —

For more information, contact Reverend William Jarvis Johnson, senior clergy organizer, 213-268-4821 www.cluela.org

January 12, 2004

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report from Las Vegas

Las Vegas — The nation’s largest retailer continues to violate its worker’s rights. Wal-Mart faces new complaints and will have to defend itself before an NLRB judge for its illegal intimidation, harassment, and retaliation against workers organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For three years, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club workers in Las Vegas have been working to organize for a voice on the job and better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Continually breaking the law to silence them, Wal-Mart’s “”Peoples Division”” has systematically suppressed workers’ legal right to exercise a democratic free choice for union representation.

Larry Allen, a former Wal-Mart Supercenter produce clerk at their Eastern & Serene office in Henderson, Nevada, was fired after giving testimony to the NLRB and spending two of his vacation days to speak alongside Democratic presidential candidates in a forum on health care at the UFCW Convention in San Francisco in August 2003. His dismissal followed a well-documented track record of intimidation and coercion at the Eastern & Serene Supercenter.

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered a hearing to begin February 10, 2004. The case charges that Wal-Mart managers:

Ø Prohibited employees from talking about the union and distributing information in break rooms and on store property;

Ø Made employees feel that they were under surveillance for union activities;

Ø Asked employees to spy on co-workers on behalf of the company;

Ø Refused to allow union representatives on the property;

Ø Confiscated union literature from employees and threatened workers with reprisals for accepting literature;

Ø Asked the police to remove union organizers from the property;

Ø And illegally fired Larry Allen for his pro-union support.

Wal-Mart’s attempt to use Mr. Allen as an example to intimidate other employees underscores the company’s discriminatory policies. The NLRB complaint states that Wal-Mart has been “”interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees”” in the exercise of their rights.

Larry Allen was fired fighting for his rights. He is one of a growing number of Wal-Mart workers bravely raising their voices for the rights of all workers.

The 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) is America’s neighborhood union representing workers in neighborhood grocery stores across the country. UFCW puts dinner on the table for America’s families with members working in meatpacking and food processing. UFCW gives a voice to care with representation for nurses, medical technicians and nursing home workers.

January 8, 2004

Bush Advising Employers How to Cheat Low Wage Workers Out of Earned Pay

Working families are under attack by the Bush Administration yet again. Throughout his term, George W. Bush has consistently attacked workers by allowing federal contracts to go to companies that broke labor laws, easing enforcement of workplace laws, and proposing changes in overtime rules to drop 8 million workers from overtime eligibility – his latest attack on working America.  And for those left, Bush is telling employers how to cut overtime even further.
For almost a year, Bush claimed his overtime proposals would result in 1.3 million new workers eligible to receive overtime pay.  But with the date fast approaching when the new rules are expected to be issued, the Administration is undermining its own proposal by advising employers how to avoid it.
Buried in the proposed new regulations are suggestions for how companies can avoid overtime by “”payroll adjustments”” such as cutting base worker salaries so the additional overtime payments would bring their total pay to their old salaries, or raising salaries just to the $22,100 threshold so the workers are not overtime-eligible.
Doug Dority, UFCW International President, accused Bush of using the overtime proposals to “”feed the greed of corporate America”” and said the proposal would result in the “”largest, single pay cut for workers in history.””  Bush used the 1.3 million low-income workers as justification for forcing pay cuts on over 8 million workers whose jobs will be reclassified, making them ineligible for overtime.
The Department of Labor advice means employers are cutting pay or cutting hours.
Over 50,000 UFCW members working in retail, food processing, health care and manufacturing will suddenly be exempt from overtime if the final rule is passed in March.  In a statement before a hearing on the proposed rule changes on overtime pay eligibility, Dority said, “”While these are skilled and valuable workers, they do not have the income level or the personal control of their work to equate them for overtime pay eligibility with a supermarket executive or a medical doctor.””
By advocating pay cuts and reclassifying workers the Bush administration cheats low- wage workers out of earned pay.  “”All of them would be surprised to find that they are now ‘executives’ or ‘professionals,’ and all of them would be outraged to find out that their newly ordained status comes with a pay cut,”” said Dority.
December 19, 2003

Food Workers Union Offers Good Faith Gesture to Start Negotiations

Supermarket Employers Challenged to Match Good Faith Move with End of Lockout

In a dramatic gesture to reopen negotiations, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) announced today that its local unions would remove picket lines from distribution/warehouse facilities at Ralphs, Albertsons and Safeway/Vons.   The move coincides with the renewal of negotiations on Friday, December 19, 2003.

The lines at the distribution/warehouse facilities will be removed on Monday, December 22, 2003.

UFCW leaders from the seven local unions involved in the dispute offered their thanks and appreciation to the 8,000 Teamster members for their personal sacrifice in the fight for affordable health care.

UFCW International President Doug Dority also added his appreciation; “We have never seen such solidarity amongst workers in the supermarket industry as has been displayed by members of the Teamsters union.   On behalf of all UFCW members, we extend our thanks and best wishes for the holidays,” said Dority.

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said that “”The Teamsters will continue to honor picket lines at the retail outlets because our members know that the UFCW’s fight is our fight.””

The UFCW immediately challenged the employers to match the good faith move with an end to the lockout of workers at Ralphs and Albertsons.

The Southern California supermarket strike/lockout began on October 11, 2003 in response to employer demands for the elimination of health benefits.    Workers struck Safeway/Vons; Ralphs and Albertsons immediately locked out workers in support of Safeway.

On November 24, 2003, the UFCW extended picket lines to the distribution/warehouse facilities of these employers and asked Teamsters to honor those picket lines.   The Teamster lines effectively shut down the supply system that had been keeping the near-abandoned stores stocked.  The stores were empty of both product and customers.

On Tuesday at a national solidarity summit, UFCW representatives from across North America pledged their support to both fund the strike and increase the level of activity targeting Safeway operations across the U.S. and Canada.

The union’s move in taking down picket lines indicates the UFCW’s commitment to the bargaining process while preparing for a long battle ahead should the employers refuse to reach a fair and equitable agreement.  UFCW local unions are presenting a comprehensive proposal as the renewed negotiations begin.  (Reminder, a news blackout continues at the request of the Federal Mediator.  No comments will be made concerning the specifics of the bargaining process.)

December 19, 2003

Bush’s Idea of Fairness–Cuts for Everybody: Tax Cuts for The Rich, Pay Cuts For The Workers

Over 8 million workers will get a pay cut as the result of the Bush’s Administration’s effort to re-write overtime pay regulations, according to Doug Dority, president of the 1.4 million United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).  In a statement before a hearing on proposed rule changes on overtime pay eligibility, Dority charged that the Bush plan would be the “”largest, single pay cut for workers in history,”” and has no rational basis except to “”feed the greed of corporate America.””
Responding to its corporate funders, the Bush Administration’s Labor Department would re-define the exempt occupational categories of   “”Executive,”” “”Administrative,”” and “”Professional”” to exempt jobs such as a lead produce clerk in a supermarket or a hospital technician from overtime pay. “”While these are skilled and valuable workers,”” said Dority, “”they do not have the income level or the personal control of their work to equate them for overtime pay eligibility with a supermarket executive or a medical doctor.””
Over 50,000 UFCW members working in retail food, food processing, health care and manufacturing would suddenly be exempt from overtime and could be required to work unlimited hours with no additional income if the Bush Administration has its way. “”All of them would be surprised to find that they are now ‘executives’ or ‘professionals,’ and all of them would be outraged to find out that their newly ordained status comes with a pay cut,”” said Dority.
“”I guess this is George W. Bush’s idea of fairness. Cuts for everybody. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Pay cuts for the workers,”” concluded Dority.
December 19, 2003

UFCW North American Summit Mobilizes Support For Southern California Supermarket Strike

Following Summit Announcement, 5,000+ Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers to be Joined by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, UFCW President Doug Dority, and 400+ UFCW Local Union Presidents from across US and Canada in historic march from Century City to grocery store in Beverly Hills

On Tuesday, December 16, 2003, 400+ UFCW local union presidents from across the country and Canada will meet in Century City to discuss ways of supporting the Southern California local unions whose 70,000 members have been on strike or locked out since October 11th.

The private meeting will begin at 8:30 AM at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. At 10:30 AM, the meeting will be open to the press.

At 12 o’clock noon, the leaders will join 5,000+ striking and locked out grocery workers on the street for a march to a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills. This will be the largest demonstration since the strike and lockout began and will send a strong message to consumers that they should not shop at Vons, Pavilions, or Albertsons this holiday season.

More details to be released on Monday.

When: Tuesday, December 16; 10:30 a.m. for Summit Meeting Announcement; 12 noon for March

What: Summit Announcement with major national leaders from Labor, Religious, Women’s, and Entertainment communities; March from the Century Plaza Hotel to a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills

Who: 5,000+ Southern California striking and locked out grocery workers, Doug Dority, President, UFCW International, John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO, Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, L.A. County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Entertainment industry celebrity activists (names TBA)Religious leaders (names TBA), Elected officials (names TBA)

Where: March will begin at the Century Plaza hotel, 2025 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, and proceed to the Pavilions store at 9467 W Olympic Blvd.

 

December 16, 2003

Are the Supermarket Employers Lying About Their Health Plan?

Health Benefits Experts Challenge Supermarket Employer Claims

Ad Campaign Launches Tuesday, December 16th.

View Ad  (pdf)

Striking supermarket workers continue to expose Safeway’s ‘big lie’ about the health care issues driving the three-month long strike in Southern California.  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) will run full-page advertisements in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Bakersfield Californian and the San Diego Union Tribune.

The ad reprints an editorial written by health benefits experts, E. Richard Brown, Director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Richard Kronick, a Professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at UC-San Diego.  Their analysis, titled “Supermarkets ‘Offer’ to End Affordable Health Care,” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 8, 2003.

“It’s time we put an end to Safeway’s big lie about the health care proposals.  Brown and Kronick explain better than anyone exactly how the supermarkets’ proposals would mean and end to health benefits in this industry,” said Doug Dority, UFCW International President.

View Ad (pdf)

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