August 21, 2006
RALEIGH, N.C. — After a grueling 72 hours, contract negotiations between Kroger Company and Raleigh- Durham area grocery store workers broke off Wednesday evening. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 204 and Kroger have been at odds since negotiations began in late July, after Kroger proposed to raid employee health care reserve funds and force workers to pay $1 million from their own paychecks to cover the difference.
During the negotiations, UFCW members made several fair and equitable proposals. Kroger, however, refused to move on key issues like health care and wages, effectively ending negotiations at that time. Kroger workers were angered that the company’s negotiators appeared unable to make decisions on any of the proposals the UFCW offered.
UFCW members are hoping to schedule negotiations for Thursday and Friday of next week.
The UFCW is committed to the bargaining process and will continue to bargain with Kroger as long as it takes to secure a good contract for grocery workers in North Carolina. However, if Kroger is unwilling to provide workers with affordable health care and wage increases, a strike may become a reality.
UFCW Local 204 members voted to authorize a potential strike at the beginning of August. The threatened strike would affect 1,917 workers from 19 stores in the Raleigh-Durham area.
August 14, 2006
Washington DC—The UFCW—which represents 2,400 workers at six Heinz plants—fully endorses the Heinz management business plan for long-term growth in the food processing industry. The management plan offers the best opportunity for the kind of stable growth that will best benefit all stakeholders—employees, communities and shareholders.
The Peltz plan for re-orienting the direction of the company via a slate of Board of Directors candidates would put the company at risk by incurring excessive debt. The Peltz plan is short-sighted, narrowly gambling on a quick—but perhaps fleeting—spike in company value. The plan would disrupt key customer relationships, sell off operations, eliminate jobs, and close plants with no clear, long-term purpose of building a strong and growing company presence in the industry.
The UFCW agrees with the financial analysts who have concluded that the Peltz plan would place too much financial risk on the company without any real business plan for long-term sustainability.
The wisest and best choice for all stakeholders would be a rejection of the Peltz slate of directors at the company’s annual shareholder meeting next week in Pittsburgh. UFCW international Vice President Mark Lauritsen who heads the UFCW Manufacturing, Packing, and Food Processing Division, will attend the meeting where he will urge shareholders to cast a positive vote for the management plan that puts stability and growth over quick fix schemes.
August 3, 2006
- They would be forced to pay an extra $1.4 million out of their own paychecks towards health care.
- They would have to choose between health care and things like rent, food, and other basic necessities.
- Any wage increases workers would get under the new contract would be eaten up by the proposed increased health care costs.
July 31, 2006
NATIONWIDE EVENTS PLANNED WITH PROMINENT POLITICAL LEADERS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS FROM COAST-TO-COAST/ BUS TOUR TO VISIT 19 STATES, 35 CITIES IN 35 DAYS
Washington D.C. – WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, is taking its national movement, and headquarters, on the road in a non-stop cross-country tour hitting 19 states, 35 cities, in 35 days. The nationwide bus tour, titled the “”2006 Change Wal-Mart, Change America Tour,”” is an unprecedented and exciting new move in the group’s campaign to change Wal-Mart into a responsible and moral employer.
The tour launches on August 1st in New York City and ends in Seattle on September 4th, Labor Day. During the tour, the WakeUpWalMart.com campaign will hold a series of events each day with supporters and political leaders to build public awareness about the need for Wal-Mart to change into a better corporate citizen. Some of the nation’s most prominent civic and political leaders will take part in the tour, including former Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate and former U.S. Senator John Edwards, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Sherrod Brown, Maryland U.S. Senate candidates Congressman Ben Cardin and former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont, Connecticut Governor candidate, John DeStefano, Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Anna Burger, President of the Change-to-Win labor federation, and many others. Additional announcements concerning speakers and event details will be made ahead of each of the tour stops.
“”Whether it is at community meetings of 20 people, town halls, busy public squares, metro stops or state fairs with thousands of people, we are taking our campaign to change Wal-Mart directly to the American people because we know by joining together we can change Wal-Mart and change America for the better,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.
On the “”2006 Change Wal-Mart, Change America”” bus tour WakeUpWalMart.com will be holding a series of events and actions all across America, including townhalls, community meetings, canvasses, as well as a summer membership drive at sporting events, state fairs, public squares, and at various Wal-Mart stores. In addition, as part of the 5-week tour, WakeUpWalMart.com will also release a new 30-second ad, titled “”One Mission”” that will air in cities across the country in coordination with the tour stops.
“”From the East Coast, to America’s heartland to the West Coast, we are asking Americans to join the fight for a better America where workers have good paying jobs and affordable health benefits. Our goal is to unleash an exciting new grassroots movement to hold corporations accountable, empower the American people, and make Wal-Mart a responsible corporate citizen that provides affordable health care, pays a living wage, protects American jobs and reflects the best of our values,”” added Blank.
The star of the “”2006 Change Wal-Mart, Change America”” tour is a 55-foot long bus (more like a monster billboard) nicknamed “”Smiley.”” The bus will be wrapped side-to-side and front-to-back in a patriotic American flag emblazoned with the group’s website, WakeUpWalMart.com, and the name of the tour, “”2006 Change Wal-Mart, Change America Tour.”” In addition, on each side of the bus, the central messages of the tour will be highlighted for all to see – including “”Join America’s Fight for Health Care,”” “”Join America’s Fight for Good Jobs”” and “”Join the Fight for a Better America.””
A unique feature of the tour will be a new power point presentation which will be unveiled at various town halls and community meetings. The power point, modeled after Vice President Al Gore’s recent documentary is titled, “”A Costly Truth,”” and will serve as a powerful tool to educate the American public about why Wal-Mart needs to change, the national cost we are paying because of Wal-Mart’s business model, and how Wal-Mart threatens America’s middle class.
During the 35-day tour, the details and location for each day’s planned events will be made available at WakeUpWalMart.com in a special section which will chronicle the groups adventures and experiences, as well as provide a video blog, photo updates, and a journal of each day’s events and experiences.
A list of the cities, events, and tour dates are below. Please visit WakeUpWalMart.com to learn more about details of events and get updates on any last minute changes.
1-Aug New York NY
2-Aug Bridgeport CT
2-Aug Philadelphia PA
3-Aug Baltimore MD
4-Aug Pittsburgh PA
5-Aug Detroit MI
6-Aug Toledo OH
7-Aug Cleveland OH
7-Aug Elyria OH
8-Aug Columbus OH
9-Aug Cincinnati OH
9-Aug Dayton OH
10-Aug Springfield IL
11-Aug St. Louis MO
12-Aug Andersonville IL
12-Aug Chicago IL
13-Aug Milwaukee WI
14-Aug Madison WI
15-Aug Minneapolis MN
16-Aug Davenport IA
17-Aug Waterloo IA
18-Aug Iowa City IA
19-Aug Des Moines IA
20-Aug Council Bluffs IA
21-Aug Omaha NE
22-Aug Denver CO
22-Aug Pueblo CO
24-Aug Albuquerque NM
25-Aug Phoenix AZ
26-Aug Las Vegas NV
26-Aug Los Angeles CA
27-Aug Santa Ana CA
27-Aug Rosemead CA
28-Aug San Francisco CA
29-Aug Oakland CA
29-Aug San Jose CA
30-Aug Sacramento CA
1-Sep Salem OR
2-Sep Portland OR
4-Sep Seattle WA
July 31, 2006
North Carolina Kroger workers are ready to fight to protect affordable health care. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 204 at stores in the Raleigh-Durham area will be voting to reject company demands that would make health care unaffordable for workers and their families.
More negotiations are to take place, and UFCW members will bargain in good faith with Kroger. However, if Kroger is unwilling to provide workers with adequate health care and wage increases, a strike may become a reality as early as mid-August.
Workers will be voting in three meetings this week: Monday July 31, 6 p.m. at the Windgate Inn in Greenville, Monday July 31, 7:30 p.m. at the North Gate Mall in Durham, and Tuesday Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m. at the North Raleigh Hilton in Raleigh. The threatened strike would affect 1000 workers from 19 stores in the area.
In their last contract, workers bargained for corporate contributions to their health care fund. Because local Kroger workers have remained relatively healthy in the last few years, there is now over $4 million in that fund–$4 million that is already invested for health care for workers and their families.
But corporate greed has surfaced. Kroger wants to raid that fund themselves and then force workers to pay an extra $1 million out of their own paychecks towards health care. This adds up to an unsustainable amount for Kroger workers and their families.
If Kroger’s proposed health care changes are put into place, workers, especially those with families, will have to choose between health care and things like rent, food, and other basic necessities. Any wage increases workers would get under the new contract would be eaten up by the proposed increased health care costs.
UFCW members believe that grocery jobs can and should be good, career jobs that can sustain a family and provide affordable health care. Kroger workers are among the most productive in the retail food industry, and have generated more than $60 billion in sales for their company in the last year. Yet Kroger treats them as though they are dispensable.
UFCW members remain committed to reaching a fair agreement with Kroger. But Kroger has to meet workers halfway, and to stop punishing those with families. Kroger workers have contributed greatly to their company, and they deserve better.
July 31, 2006
(Washington, DC) – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) applauds the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) decision to place a six-month moratorium on applications for deposit insurance by Industrial Loan Companies (ILCs). The FDIC has stated that it will not make final decisions or accept future applications for deposit insurance or notices of change in control for ILCs during this time period.
The FDIC put the moratorium in place in order to assess developments in the ILC industry, and to determine whether statutory, regulatory or policy changes need to be made in the oversight of ILC charters and ILC applications procedures and standards.
“This moratorium is a good first step in preventing the mix of commerce and banking,” said Michael J. Wilson, UFCW International Vice President and Director of Legislative and Political Action. “The FDIC’s concern with the application by Wal-Mart and other large commercial firms is well grounded, and this moratorium is an appropriate response.”
Earlier this year, UFCW participated in public hearings held by the FDIC. These unprecedented hearings were held in two cities over three days in order to accommodate the large number of elected officials, organizations, and associations who voiced concerns about Wal-Mart’s application for an ILC.
ILCs are regulated differently than banks because they were originally small entities permitted by a loophole in the Bank Holding Act. If Wal-Mart—the world’s largest retailer with a history of unethical business practices—is granted access into banking via an ILC charter, there will be far-reaching consequences beyond the original intent of the Act.
If Wal-Mart is chartered in Utah, a “Wal-Mart bank” could branch out into more than 20 states because of state reciprocal branching laws. Approving the Wal-Mart application risks not only undermining the separation between commerce and banking, but threatens an expansion of “Wal-Mart banks” in multiple states, and in multiple aspects of the banking industry.
“UFCW will continue working with its partners in the Sound Banking Coalition, in the labor movement, and with consumer and community groups to make sure the FDIC is aware of the serious concerns about Wal-Mart’s application into banking,” said Wilson. “In addition, we will also continue working with our partners in the states to enact state banking protection laws to prevent Wal-Mart from expanding to states beyond Utah.”
The FDIC’s six-month moratorium expires on January 31, 2007.
July 26, 2006
(Washington, DC) —On July 26, 2006, two affiliate unions of the Change to Win federation — the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters — began petitioning the Department of Labor (DOL) to immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to stop the continued risk of diacetyl exposure to workers. In 2002 and 2003, OSHA’s own scientists studying diacetyl unsuccessfully urged their leaders to take broader action to protect workers. There are currently no OSHA standards requiring exposures to be controlled.
Diacetyl is a hazardous chemical that has been connected to a potentially fatal lung disease that has been experienced by food industry workers across the nation. There have been dozens of cases of what has become known as “popcorn workers lung,” or bronchiolitis obliterans—a severe, disabling, and often-fatal lung disease experienced by factory workers who produce or handle diacetyl.
“Three workers have died and hundreds of others seriously injured,” said Jackie Nowell, UFCW Safety & Health Director. “It’s time for action. We will not let food processing workers continue to be the canaries in the coal mine while waiting for the industry to regulate itself.”
More than 8,000 workers are employed in the flavorings production industry and may be exposed to the dangers of diacetyl and other similar chemicals. Tens of thousands of food processing workers are involved in the production of popcorn, pastries, frozen foods, candies and even dog food that use these chemicals. It is not clear whether consumers are at risk from exposure to diacetyl but certainly the workers who deal with high concentrations of the flavoring chemical are at risk of developing serious and irreversible lung damage.
The unions’ petition is accompanied by a letter from forty-two of the nation’s leading occupational safety scientists, including a former OSHA director, five former top officials from OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services, who all agree that there is more than enough evidence for OSHA to regulate.
“”Study after study have shown that breathing artificial butter flavor destroys workers lungs. We know how to prevent this terrible disease but OSHA refuses to act”” said Dr. David Michaels of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health.
The UFCW and Teamsters filed the petition for an Emergency Temporary Standard with the DOL to require employers to control airborne exposure to diacetyl and ensure that all employees who are exposed to a certain airborne level of the chemical are provided with air purifying respirators. The safety of these workers would be additionally monitored through medical surveillance and regular consultations.
The petition also demands that OSHA immediately issue a bulletin to all employers and employees potentially exposed to diacetyl outlining the dangers of the chemical. OSHA is being asked to conduct inspections and begin rule-making proceedings to establish a permanent standard that will put an end to this tragic epidemic and protect workers from exposure to all flavorings.
“The science is clear. Now it is time for the Department of Labor to employ their regulatory mandate and protect the public,” said Lamont Byrd, Teamster Safety & Health Director. “Such illnesses and fatalities are avoidable and therefore, inexcusable. An Emergency Standard is necessary to prevent the suffering and death of the additional workers who will get sick during the time it would take for OSHA to set a Permanent Standard.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s 1.4 million members work in America’s supermarkets, meatpacking and food processing plants. Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States and Canada. Both unions are founding members of the Change to Win federation. www.changetowin.org
For more information and studies about Popcorn Workers Lung Disease, go to www.DefendingScience.org
July 20, 2006
JUDGE APPLIES CODE OF UNIVERSAL IRRESPONSIBILITY TO RIP HEALTH CARE COVERAGE FROM MARYLANDAL-MART WORKERS
(Washington, DC) — In a cynical catch 22 decision U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz determined that Maryland state government could not require companies operating in the state to provide adequate health care coverage for employees because federal law trumped Maryland’s Fair Share Health Care Act passed last winter.
The act required companies with 10,000 or more employees to spend at least 8 percent on employee health care or pay the difference in taxes.
Motz’s decision follows bizarre logic. Essentially it says because Wal-Mart acts uniformly irresponsibly nationwide by failing to provide adequate heath care for employees, states cannot enact legislation to require companies to meet certain responsible employee health care standards.
The losers in Motz’s decision are Maryland Wal-Mart workers—since Wal-Mart is the only large company that wouldn’t have been in compliance with the legislation.
Clearly, for Motz to conclude that the legislation would hurt Wal-Mart because it would have amounted to the company doing extra paper work in Maryland is more than bizarre and his decision should be appealed and overturned.
Motz’s decision puts the interests of the world’s largest retailer over the needs of Maryland citizens like Cynthia Murray who has worked for Wal-Mart for five years and still can’t afford the Wal-Mart health care plan. Wal-Mart’s irresponsible corporate agenda shifts medical treatment costs to taxpayers and responsible corporations and further strains America’s failing health care system.
June 28, 2006
Despite multiple headlines in October 2005 which read “”Wal-Mart Urges Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage,”” Wal-Mart announced today it does not support raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.
According to an article in this morning’s Roll Call, Lee Culpepper said Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott’s statement was ‘misinterpreted,’ and that ‘Scott was not calling for Congress to raise the minimum wage.’
“”Wal-Mart’s flip flop on the minimum wage is a cynical about-face which hurts America’s working families,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com. “”This is hypocrisy at its worst and the American people are the ones that will pay the price,”” continued Blank.
In this morning’s article, Lee Culpepper insisted, “”I think what he (Mr. Scott) said was clear.”” Mr. Culpepper is right. Mr. Scott’s statement was clear. He said the minimum wage was ‘out of date with the times’ and therefore should be raised.
Here is what Mr. Scott said in October 2005, “”The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade and we believe it is out of date with the times…while it is unusual for us to take a public position on a public policy issue of this kind, we simply believe it is time for Congress to take a responsible look at the minimum wage and other legislation that may help working families.””
Blank continued, “”Wal-Mart’s flip-flop proves the company’s publicity stunts are nothing more than a sham. Wal-Mart will say anything, even lie about its position on the minimum wage, in order to try and salvage its declining public image.””
Critics: Wal-Mart Flip-Flopped
June 28, 2006
By Tory Newmyer
Last October, Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott made waves by urging Congress to consider raising the federal minimum wage – something many retailers had long opposed.
He noted that the store’s own customers are “”struggling to get by,”” then added that “”while it is unusual for us to take a public position on a public policy issue of this kind, we simply believe it is time for Congress to take a responsible look at the minimum wage and other legislation that may help working families.””
The declaration came as part of a broader push by the low-cost retailer to put a friendlier face on its often troubled corporate image.
But now, with both chambers of Congress mulling hikes to the federal pay standard, Wal-Mart’s critics are charging that the company has abandoned Scott’s pledge to support a higher wage. They say that after reaping good public relations from Scott’s statement last fall, Wal-Mart has cynically dumped the issue, even as major trade groups it belongs to, primarily the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, help lead the fight against a higher minimum wage.
“”They did this for PR reasons, and then the true colors come out when the talk no longer meets up with that action. In this case, it’s pretty obvious,”” said Chris Kofinis, spokesman for Wake Up Wal-Mart, a group that’s critical of the company’s practices.
Wal-Mart officials acknowledge, and several Congressional aides confirm, that the retail giant is sitting out the debate on the minimum wage increase. But the company disputes the notion that the move amounts to an about-face from the position Scott represented last fall.
Instead, Lee Culpepper, the company’s top lobbyist in Washington, D.C., said the chief executive’s statement was misinterpreted. Scott was not calling for Congress to raise the minimum wage, Culpepper said – he simply was asking lawmakers to consider the issue.
“”We haven’t said anything more or less,”” Culpepper said on Tuesday. “”I think what he said was clear. He said Congress should take a look at it. If reporters want to report differently from that, I can’t speak to that.””
Culpepper said the company’s lobbyists have communicated Wal-Mart’s position on the issue to its trade groups.
“”We’ve just made them aware that we’ve encouraged Congress to take a look at an increase in the minimum wage,”” he said. But he said the company has not gone so far as to ask the trade groups not to lobby on the issue, leaving it up to them “”to determine their association position.””
To Wal-Mart’s critics, the company’s inaction, combined with the robust opposition to a wage hike thrown up by trade groups it belongs to, add up to a backdoor push by the nation’s largest employer to stifle a higher pay standard.
Wake Up Wal-Mart, a group primarily funded by labor groups, last week challenged the company to endorse raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, after plans put forward by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), and then to lobby in support of the change.
With any such outcome facing long odds, the company’s detractors are trying to tell the story of what they call Wal-Mart’s “”Potomac two-step”” on Capitol Hill.
“”We want to hold Lee Scott to his word,”” said Nu Wexler, spokesman for Wal-Mart Watch, another labor-funded group targeting the company.
Tom Kiley, a spokesman for House Education and the Workforce ranking member Miller, said Democrats are disappointed with Wal-Mart’s absence from the debate.
“”At the time [of Scott’s statement], we welcomed that,”” he said. “”Since then, we haven’t heard from them at all. That’s unfortunate, obviously.””
This sparring comes as the company, expanding into urban areas dominated in Congress by Democrats, has stepped up its outreach to members of the minority party.
Wal-Mart in recent years has directed an increasing portion of its political donations to Democrats, giving them nearly 30 percent of their political action committee dollars so far this cycle. That’s still just a fraction of what the company gives to Republicans, but it’s up from the minuscule 2 percent a decade ago, according to figures available from PoliticalMoneyLine.com.
Scott, the chief executive, huddled with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in February, and top Wal-Mart officials met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus last spring.
But Republicans have remained the company’s most stalwart defenders on tax, health care and labor issues, among other things. And this summer, debate over a minimum wage increase has taken on a highly partisan tone. While most GOPers argue bumping up the pay standard would hurt small businesses, Democrats counter that the current wage, untouched in a decade, traps millions below the poverty line.
The minority party is rallying around the issue as an antidote to flag-burning, gay marriage and estate tax debates stoked by Republicans to rile their own base for the upcoming elections.
Last week, eight Senate Republicans joined 43 Democrats and an Independent in supporting a wage hike, but the votes fell short of the 60 required to clear its passage. Senate Democrats are vowing to keep the issue front and center, with Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) now tying the matter to a Congressional pay increase.
On the House side, Democrats are trying to attach a minimum wage increase to spending bills. After successfully adding it to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill, House Republican leaders pulled the bill from the floor schedule. House GOP leaders are signaling they will not allow a floor vote on the minimum wage this year, and it is unclear how that standoff will be resolved.
In addition, a flurry of minimum-wage initiatives may end up on ballots nationwide, designed both for their ability to improve Democratic voter turnout as well as for the goal of improving pay for low-income workers.
For his part, Wal-Mart lobbyist Culpepper said he remains available to explain Wal-Mart’s position on the wage issue.
“”One of our key missions is to meet with Members on Capitol Hill to correct the record about what our critics have said about us,”” he said.
June 27, 2006
(Little Rock, Ark.) – Facing pressure from Kroger, Arkansas supermarket workers stood together to secure a new union contract that protects affordable health care for workers and their families. A majority of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 2008 Kroger members voted to accept a new contract Sunday evening. The agreement came after eleven straight hours of bargaining, through which members were able to avoid a potential strike.
UFCW Local 2008 members expressed their satisfaction with the new four-year contract, which locks in quality, affordable health care with minimal co-pays beginning in 2009. The new agreement expands some additional health care benefits for workers and secures the financial health of the joint labor-management health care trust fund. Workers will receive wage increases of $1.25 over the term of the contract and equalizes wage scales. Members in the retail unit ratified the contract by 80 percent, and meat unit members by over 68 percent.
Charles Lee, UFCW Local 2008 President, said Sunday, “We achieved more at the table by coordinating our bargaining with other UFCW locals in our region, including Houston Local 455, Dallas Local 540 and Memphis Local 1529. Our members stuck together and stayed involved in the process. They deserve all the credit for making gains without a work stoppage.”
Approximately 2,500 UFCW Local 2008 members in and around Little Rock, Arkansas are affected by the new contract.