February 27, 2004
Today, I am pleased to join with the officers of the seven Southern California UFCW local unions in their announcement of a tentative agreement in the longest major strike in the history of the UFCW, the largest and longest strike in the history of the supermarket industry, and the first major strike of the 21st century.
It is also one of the most successful strikes in history.
After five months, the picket lines remain strong, our members remain united, and customers continue to honor the workers’ picket lines costing the supermarket conglomerates billions of dollars in revenue.
Every day, support for the fight for affordable health care grows stronger. Community and religious leaders have put their bodies on the line in acts of civil disobedience. There have been scores of arrests from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay area to Baltimore, Maryland. There are daily rallies, demonstrations, picket lines and handbilling from Seattle and Portland to Washington, DC. The Southern California supermarket strike has become a national cause.
The men and women on the picket lines are genuine heroes. Their sacrifice for affordable family health care has motivated and activated workers across the nation. I am honored to be part of their union, and I am humbled as well as inspired by their dedication, strength and selflessness.
These members will never be forgotten. They will always be honored and respected. We owe them a debt of gratitude. They have sent a message to employers everywhere that attempts to eliminate health care benefits will come at a high price. Workers will not sit idle as their families are denied health care protection. Workers will stand united and fight for health care.
In Southern California, workers were given no choice but to fight. UFCW members have never faced, nor has nay UFCW-represented employer ever made a more extreme or drastic demand—a demand that would have effectively eliminated affordable health care benefits, as did the supermarket employers in Southern California. The UFCW, its local unions and its members rose to the challenge. The employers never believed that workers could sustain a five-month strike. The employers completely underestimated the determination and fortitude of their employees.
Through their struggle, the striking and locked out workers have performed a service for the whole country. They have sounded the alarm for all of America—your health care benefits at work are at risk. If the supermarket giants—profitable, growing Fortune 50 mega-corporations—can launch an attack on health care benefits, then every employer is sure to follow. They have sounded the alarm that the American health care system is ready to collapse.
In one year, over 2 million lost health insurance. That’s over 6,000 workers a day.
The fight here has given us a national call to action.
We must have national health care reform. No one company, no one union, no industry or group of workers alone can fix the health care system. We can patch it up. We can protect our members for another contract term, but the system continues to falter, exacting an increasing cost on both workers and employers and leaving more and more families without health care.
Now is the time for action. 2004 is the year to put health care reform on the political agenda and demand that every candidate for office commits to comprehensive, affordable health insurance for every working family.
No worker should ever again be forced to choose between a paycheck and health care benefits. No worker should ever again be forced into the streets for five months to protect health care for their families.
The UFCW will lead the fight for health care reform. And, I believe, with members like our Southern California members—the UFCW will win that fight.
February 26, 2004
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
December 19, 2003
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
December 19, 2003
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.