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December 11, 2003

Corporal John Miller, Annapolis Police Dept, Testifies on Overtime Regulations

STATEMENT OF CORPORAL JOHN MILLER, ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT, LOCAL 400, UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION (UFCW)

BEFORE THE  DEMOCRATIC POLICY COMMITTEE HEARING ON PROPOSED REGULATORY CHANGES TO OVERTIME EXEMPTIONS IN THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT

Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today. I am currently an officer in the Annapolis Police Department, and have been a police officer for over 17 years. I am also a veteran, having served four years active duty in our nation’s Air Force. Presently, I am a Staff Sergeant in the District of Columbia National Guard, where I perform Homeland Security and other public safety duties. I am accompanied today by my fellow officer, John Lee, who has 10 years of service at the Annapolis Police Department. Both of us are members of Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

As a Corporal and supervisor for the Annapolis police, my principal duty is public safety. I have helped provide escort protection for the President and Vice President and other dignitaries when they visit Annapolis or the Naval Academy. I have also protected the public during demonstrations at the state capitol and performed various other public safety functions, such as DWI patrols and traffic enforcement. Like most other police officers, much of the time I spend performing these duties is on overtime. Like every other police department, we could not function without the flexibility of overtime. And eliminating overtime pay for our first responders would have a devastating impact on our department’s ability to perform vital public safety functions.

Most police and other first responders cannot afford to perform overtime work without overtime pay, and would be extremely resistant to working unpaid overtime. Forced unpaid overtime would seriously compromise public safety as well as undermine officer morale and department structure. Public safety departments faced with the possibility of unpaid overtime would likely demand even more hours from first responders, further straining morale and undermining job performance. In addition, officers will have less time to volunteer for National Guard duty, further compromising the effective strength of our armed forces.

Like many police officers, overtime pay constitutes approximately 20% of my total income. For some officers in our department, overtime pay is 25-30% of their income. If I were to lose that pay, it would radically change my family life. We would have to move into a different home, as we could no longer afford the mortgage on our present home. Already, I have to live about an hour’s drive from Annapolis in order to find affordable housing. I’m sure our new home would be even farther, and our 19 year old son and 16 year old daughter would be forced to change schools. If I were to lose that pay, my son’s college plans would be endangered, and so would my daughter’s. Family vacations and many other things that are part of a middle-class lifestyle would be out of the question.

Like any other police officer, I am proud of the work I do. Working in our state capitol, I feel a sense of comradery with your own Capitol Hill Police. Like them, we work hard and willingly take risks to assure that the public and public officials — such as yourselves — are safe and secure in their homes, offices, schools and on the road. Paid overtime work takes us away from our families, but allows us to do our job and to afford many of the things that make our families’ lives better. I know I speak for many first responders everywhere when I say I am extremely disappointed that our government would reward our hard work and public service with a massive pay cut. I implore you to do everything in your power to assure that the Department of Labor does not issue regulations that would take away our overtime pay.

Thank you again for this opportunity.

December 11, 2003

Doug Dority Statement on Overtime Regulations

Statement of Doug Dority
International President
United Food And Commercial Workers International Union

Presented at the Hearing on Proposed Regulatory Changes to Overtime Exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act Before the Democratic Policy Committee

December 11, 2003

On behalf of the 1.4 million members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), I want to thank you for this opportunity to voice the concerns, the anger and the outrage of working families across the United States over the largest, single pay cut for workers in history.

The Bush Administration, through its revised overtime regulations, proposes to cut the pay of more than 8 million working families for no other reason than to feed the greed of corporate America.

These families do the extra work to earn the extra pay to save for a home of their own, to give their kids a chance at college, to make the rent and car payments, or may be just have a little extra for a vacation or Christmas presents.

The Bush pay cut has no basis in law, in economics or in addressing the real needs of working families.

The law providing for overtime pay has not changed. Workers need for family and personal time has not changed.  And the need for working families to put in extra hours to earn a little more pay to make ends meet has not changed.  And another thing has not changed—the greed that wants endless work for limited pay.

The Bush Administration would take us back to the 19th century while claiming it wants to “”modernize”” the regulations.

I will tell you there is nothing “”modern”” about long hours and low pay. The Retail Clerks Union, one of the unions that make up the UFCW, was formed over a century ago, specifically because retail store owners required around-the-clock hours without pay. In fact, one of the first demands of the Retail Clerks Union was an end to the practice of requiring clerks to sleep overnight in the stores.

It took almost 50 years before the law was passed that limited work hours and established overtime pay. The law worked. Restrictions on hours created more jobs. Overtime pay helped working families move into the middle class.

Today we see a job gap—the economy goes up but the number of jobs stays the same. Today we see a pay gap—real income goes up at the top but drops out of the bottom for workers. So, the logical step would be to strengthen enforcement of overtime laws.

But the Bush Administration turns logic on its head, and instead proposes to re-write the rules in a way that takes away overtime pay eligibility from millions of workers. Employers could require an increasing number of employees to work unlimited hours without overtime pay. Employers would not only pocket the money that should have gone into workers’ paychecks, employers can steal the time that belongs to families, to communities and to workers themselves.

The Bush pay cut is an assault on working families—it reduces their income and takes away their time together.

The Bush Administration would re-define “”Executive,”” Administrative,”” and “”Professional”” — the limited job categories that have always been exempt from overtime pay—to include a wide range of workers—from a lead produce clerk in a supermarket to a technician in a hospital—that have always been eligible for overtime pay. While these are skilled and valuable workers, they do not have the income or personal control of their work as do the supermarket executive and the medical doctor. To lump skilled labor into exempt job categories simply to deny them overtime is just wrong, and must be stopped.

Bush’s Department of Labor claims that the intent is only to make the rules simpler and easier to apply. The real impact is to make it simpler and easier for employers to declare jobs exempt from overtime pay.

The UFCW represents workers in retail food, food processing, health care and manufacturing. We estimate that 50,000 of our members would fall under the new definitions for exempt job categories. All of them would be surprised to learn they are now “”executives”” or “”professionals.”” They would be outraged when they find out that their new status actually means a pay cut.

I guess this is George W. Bush’s idea of fairness—cuts for everybody. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Pay cuts for the workers.  Of course, the wealthy wind up with more than they deserve, and the workers get less than they need.

It is time we took a stand against greed. We ask your help in making sure that workers get the pay for the hours they work, including their overtime pay. Thank you for this opportunity to voice concerns of working Americans.

December 9, 2003

Holding the Line for Health Care: Support Builds with Labor Movement Contributions

Today, Southern California supermarket workers’ fight to hold the line for health care in the supermarket industry got a major boost with sizeable contributions from  the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) and the American Income Life Insurance Company (AIL).   The 70,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union have been on strike since October 11, 2003 against Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons.

 
 UFCW International President Doug Dority holding the line at a Safeway store in Washington, DC, joined IUE-CWA President Edward Fire and AIL Vice President Jules Pagano.

IUE-CWA President Edward Fire met with strikers on the picket lines at a Washington, DC, Safeway store and presented his union’s $100,000 contribution to the Hold the Line for Health Care Strike Fund.

“We stand in full support of the UFCW members’ fight to maintain health care benefits.   We fought this same battle with General Electric earlier this year and employers across the country continue the attack on system of health care at work. We need a national public policy solution so that workers and their families no longer have to walk the streets to maintain access to health care,” said Fire.

As the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America, the IUE-CWA represents 80,000 manufacturing workers including 14,000 workers at General Electric.

Roger Smith, President, American Income Life, along with Jules Pagano, Vice President, and Hugh Walsh, Assistant Vice President, presented strikers with a $10,000 contribution from AIL and pledged to contribute $10,000 per month for the duration of the strike.

“”AIL, a wall to wall union company, feels we have a responsibility to support working families and we are proud to support the UFCW in this national fight to hold the line for health care,”” said Jules Pagano, AIL Vice President.

AIL is a nationally recognized insurance carrier that provides services and policies to labor unions and working families.  Headquartered in Waco, Texas, American Income is licensed in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) also pledged a $15,000 contribution to the Hold the Line for Health Care Strike Fund.  TCU President Robert Scardelletti also sent a letter to all TCU local unions encouraging additional contributions.

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December 4, 2003

Entertainment Industry Unions & Celebrities to Join Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers on Picket Line

For immediate release Dec. 2, 2003

UFCW Locals 770 and 1442, AFL-CIO, CLC

As mediated negotiations continue…

Los Angeles, CA (12/2/03)  On Thursday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m., AFTRA, SAG, and other entertainment industry unions will join striking and locked out grocery workers on the picket line at Pavilions in Burbank. Highlights include:

  • SAG President Melissa Gilbert
  • AFTRA President John Connolly
  • Representatives of IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Actors Ed Asner (“Elf”), Esai Morales (“NYPD Blue,” “American Family”), Ingrid Oliu (“Real Women Have Curves”), Mitch Ryan (“Liar Liar”), Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”), Soledad St Hilaire (“Real Women Have Curves”), and Richard Thomas (“The Walton’s,” PAX’s “”Just Cause””) – all actors’ appearances tentative subject to film scheduling.
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal will perform.
  • Participants are being asked to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the children of UFCW workers for the holidays.

What:

  • Press conference and rally of entertainment industry unions in support of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Holiday toy drive for children of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Musical entertainment

Who:

  • SAG, AFTRA, IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Celebrity actors
  • Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal
  • Striking and locked out grocery workers

Where:

Pavilions, 1110 West Alameda St., Burbank (near Main Street)

When:

Thursday, December 4, 2003, 11:00 a.m.

(picketing begins at 10:30 a.m.; press conference/rally starts at 11:30 a.m.)

December 4, 2003

Entertainment Industry Unions & Celebrities to Join Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers on Picket Line

For immediate release Dec. 2, 2003

UFCW Locals 770 and 1442, AFL-CIO, CLC

As mediated negotiations continue…

Los Angeles, CA (12/2/03)  On Thursday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m., AFTRA, SAG, and other entertainment industry unions will join striking and locked out grocery workers on the picket line at Pavilions in Burbank. Highlights include:

  • SAG President Melissa Gilbert
  • AFTRA President John Connolly
  • Representatives of IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Actors Ed Asner (“Elf”), Esai Morales (“NYPD Blue,” “American Family”), Ingrid Oliu (“Real Women Have Curves”), Mitch Ryan (“Liar Liar”), Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”), Soledad St Hilaire (“Real Women Have Curves”), and Richard Thomas (“The Walton’s,” PAX’s “”Just Cause””) – all actors’ appearances tentative subject to film scheduling.
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal will perform.
  • Participants are being asked to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the children of UFCW workers for the holidays.

What:

  • Press conference and rally of entertainment industry unions in support of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Holiday toy drive for children of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Musical entertainment

Who:

  • SAG, AFTRA, IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Celebrity actors
  • Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal
  • Striking and locked out grocery workers

Where:

Pavilions, 1110 West Alameda St., Burbank (near Main Street)

When:

Thursday, December 4, 2003, 11:00 a.m.

(picketing begins at 10:30 a.m.; press conference/rally starts at 11:30 a.m.)

December 4, 2003

California Congressman Challenges Safeway

Congressman Tom Lantos (CA-12) has challenged Safeway’s claims that the company is only seeking modest changes in employee health benefits in the Southern California supermarket strike.

In a letter to Safeway CEO, Steve Burd, the California congressman went straight to the heart of the matter:

“”I have reviewed Safeway’s benefit funding proposal for new hires…on your company’s web site. Your proposal will not provide any substantial benefits for new employees…it is obvious your intent is to eliminate health benefits in the future.””

Safeway and two supermarket operators have waged a misinformation campaign designed to convince workers and the public that the grocery giants were only asking that current employees make a modest co-payment of $5 to $15 a week for comprehensive health benefits. The Lantos letter stripped away the facade from the companies campaign:

“”You conveniently ignore the impact of segregating new hires from current employees (a key component of the companies’ proposals is to eliminate any meaningful benefits for new employees)…As employees are replaced, the funding base will shrink until benefits ( for current employees) have to be cut or co-pays increased well beyond $5 to $15 a week.””

Both new and current employees would ultimately wind up with excessive co-pays, scaled back benefits and finally the effective elimination of benefits. Lantos directly challenged the veracity of company statements on the impact of Safeway’s proposal, “”Mr. Burd, it appears your company is lying to workers, consumers and the public.””

“”The bottom line,”” according to the Congressman,””is that 70,000 jobs that now come with affordable family health coverage will not come with that coverage in the future.””

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) released today the letter dated November 21, 2003. Click here to read the full text of the letter.

December 4, 2003

UFCW Unions in Southern California Sue Albertsons and Ralphs for Violation of

Seven UFCW unions in Southern California on strike against Vons supermarkets today filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Albertsons and Ralphs for
violation of the California Mass Layoff Notification Law (California Labor Code: Section 1400).

The law, passed in 2002, requires that each and every employee individually be given 60 days’ notice prior to any mass layoff. In the current labor/management dispute between seven Southern California UFCW locals, there is a strike against Vons. Ralphs and Albertsons have locked out their employees.

The suit says that no notice of the intent to lockout was given by Ralphs and Albertsons and seeks the back pay and health care and pension payments for 60 days that is stipulated in the law. The unions estimate that the amount owed their union members locked out by the two employers exceeds several hundred million dollars.

The employers have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.
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December 4, 2003

Press Briefing: Lies, Damn Lies And Company Lies

THE FACTS ON THE IMPACT OF THE COMPANIES’ HEALTH CARE PROPOSALS

  • Press Packet (UFCW Statement, Acturarial Analysis of Benefits, and more) (pdf)

Corporate flacks have tried to reduce the struggle to save affordable health care to a matter of premium co-pays. The reality is the employers are attempting to effectively eliminate health care protection for 70,000 Southern California supermarket jobs.

Health care expert Sidney Abrams will strip the facade from the supermarket giants’ misinformation campaign on the impact of their health care proposals, and expose the real and devastating consequences for Southern California workers and communities at a press briefing at 10:30 A.M., October 22 at UFCW Local 770, 603 Shatto Place, Los Angeles.

International Executive Vice President and Director of Collective Bargaining, Sarah Palmer Amos will also present a national overview on the growing number of health care strikes.

Mr. Abrams is an actuary with more than 30 years of experience providing services to major health care plans, including the trust fund covering Southern California supermarket workers. He serves as an insurance industry representative on the CalPERS Board of Administration, and is Chair of the Health Benefits Committee and Vice Chair of the Benefits and Program Administration Committee. Mr. Abrams is a member of the American Academy of Actuaries and an Associate of the Society of Actuaries.

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December 4, 2003

UFCW Supermarket Workers Withdraw Pickets from Ralphs Stores

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA UFCW Press Contacts Ellen Anreder, 818-591-7480 Barbara Maynard, 323-850-1356

Picket lines will be withdrawn by 12:00 noon from Ralphs stores in Southern California.

Representatives of 70,000 striking and locked-out supermarket workers announced this decision this morning in simultaneous press conferences in Los Angeles, San Diego, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara and Palm Desert.

Supermarket workers will continue to be locked out of their stores by Ralphs management in a regional labor dispute that is about to enter its fourth week. Instead of picketing their own stores, Ralphs employees will supplement picket lines at — among other strategic locations — Vons and Pavilions stores, where employees are on strike, and Albertsons stores, where employees are locked out.

“”Please help us in our struggle to save affordable health care by not shopping at Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons during this dispute,”” said a Ralphs worker. “”We’ve taken down our picket lines at Ralphs for our customers’ convenience.””

Overwhelming popular support for the employees has resulted in empty supermarket aisles and millions of dollars in losses for Ralphs (Kroger Co., NYSE: KR), Vons and Pavilions (Safeway Inc., NYSE: SWY) and Albertsons (NYSE: ABS).

“”The public has endured enough,”” a UFCW spokesperson said today. “”Between the MTA transit strike in Los Angeles and the supermarket strike and lockouts — not to mention the horrific tragedy of the Southern California wildfires — the people need some good news for a change. We are extremely grateful for the public’s support,”” the spokesperson continued.

 

 

November 24, 2003

Picket Lines Spread to Supermarket Warehouses and Distribution Centers

The Southern California supermarket strike gaining new momentum and support with the extension of picket lines from coast to coast over the weekend will now expand the fight to hold the line for health care to the warehouse and distribution facilities of all three supermarket chains.
Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) on strike at Safeway-owned Vons stores and locked out at Ralph’s and Albertson’s stores will ask Teamster members to hold the line for health care and honor their picket lines. A Teamster decision not to cross the lines would effectively shut down the distribution system that supplies the retail outlets, and  would bring increased pressure on the supermarket employers who are already facing strong consumer support for the workers.
UFCW members believe they and the Teamsters have a common cause and a common enemy. A win for corporate greed in the store workers’ street fight for health care would put benefits at risk across the entire supermarket industry. While the supermarket employers in their most recent Teamster contract agreed to maintain existing health benefits, the companies’ refusal to agree to a similar provision to maintain benefits for store employees would spell trouble for the Teamsters in their next round of negotiations. The effective elimination of store employee health benefits, as the employers are demanding, would put Teamster benefits next on the chopping block, and could weaken their position at the bargaining table.
A UFCW-Teamster united front would build on the growing solidarity among all worker and other progressive organizations in support of the supermarket strike. On November 22, thousands of workers and supporters from women’s, religious, student and community organizations turned out in Hold the Line for America’s Health Care rallies in Oakland and Orange County, California as well as Washington D.C. National AFL-CIO President John Sweeney announced that over a quarter of a million dollars has already been raised through the Hold the Line Fund, and that the 13 million member federation would continue to raise funds to provide emergency relief for striking and locked out workers.