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    UFCW Blog

May 9, 2017

Yet another report finds poultry one of the most dangerous industries

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) released yet another report finding poultry to be one of the most dangerous industries to work in, underscoring the continued importance of the UFCW’s efforts to provide a voice for the hard-working men and women of the poultry industry and to make sure no worker is left to suffer on their own.

The report takes a look at serious injury rates in 29 states and finds the rate of serious injuries, such as amputations, to be disproportionately high in poultry plants.

“OSHA’s severe injury data shines a light on the severe toll of preventable workplace injuries, especially in the U.S. poultry industry,” said Debbie Berkowitz, senior fellow for worker safety and health with NELP and the report’s lead author. “The workers who put food on our tables should not have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck.”

This report is consistent with similar trends shown in past reports by other organizations such as Oxfam, with whom the UFCW has worked to improve safety standards in the poultry and meatpacking industries.

Past reports have found workers at poultry plants, which have a much lower rate of union representation than other meat packing plants, were more likely to suffer from Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) and that many workers in nonunion plants were forced to use adult diapers due to a lack of bathroom breaks and the constant, grueling pace of work.

More injuries than saw mills and other high risk industries

Even when compared to other high risk industries, this report shows an alarmingly high injury rate:

According to the data, the poultry industry as a whole reported 180 severe injuries resulting in hospitalizations or amputations—a number that put them at the 12th-highest number of severe injuries reported to federal OSHA.  Workers in the industry suffered a greater number of serious injuries than much of the construction industry, the auto industry, the steel industry, saw mills, and many other high-risk industries. And these numbers only reflect instances in 29 states. Further, OSHA followed up with inspections in response to 86 of these reports, finding a total of 750 violations in the plants, of which 84 were willful or repeat violations that carry the highest fines.

The rates of injury are likely even higher than reported

The report also makes note that as dramatic as the number of injuries are, they likely don’t come close to representing the full scope of the problem:

Three government agencies, OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the GAO, have found that the poultry processing industry is underreporting the serious injuries that occur in the plants.

A 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, along with numerous other studies, have documented that many workplace injuries are not reported by employers. Further, according to a recent report issued by OSHA in 2016, “OSHA believes that many severe injuries—perhaps 50 percent or more—are not reported.”8 Other studies have concluded that the actual number of work-related injuries is three times higher than what companies report.

In 2016, the UFCW was a vocal supporter of OSHA’s decision to issue a citation to Pilgrim’s Pride, only the second citation of its kind in the agency’s 47-year history. “We are disappointed to see yet another example of poultry workers being mistreated and forced to endure harsh working conditions,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “As we strive to improve poultry industry jobs, we applaud OSHA for actively supporting the right of every worker to have a safe workplace.”

The citation alleged that “the employer delayed evaluation, care, and/or treatment from a medical provider, which could result in health hazards such as, but not limited to, increased risk of further injury, prolonged healing, exacerbation of pain and limited recovery from work-related injuries/illnesses.” The citation went on to describe that Pilgrim’s Pride “failed to make timely appropriate medical referrals for employees with injuries related to chronic and acute exposures and incidents. The employees are exposed to injuries which include burns, loss of consciousness, and blunt force trauma which require appropriate evaluation and treatment.”

UFCW’s presence is vital

UFCW contracts include health and safety language to protect workers. This helps to ensure safe working conditions, union access to perform worksite inspections and medical and exposure records, training, joint health and safety committees, protective equipment and chief, walking and ergonomic stewards that can accompany government inspectors during their paid time.  Union contracts also include reimbursement for protective gear.

But the percentage of workers who have UFCW representation is much lower in poultry plants than in other meat packing plants. Only about a third of poultry workers are UFCW members, making improvements in workplace safety more difficult to secure.

Beyond additional workplace protections offered by a union contract, the UFCW’s influence in these plants helps combat a climate of fear and intimidation.

“Many workers are afraid to speak up and advocate for better treatment. Companies increasingly turn to ‘a variety of economically desperate and socially isolated populations,’ many of whom face obstacles that prevent them from standing up and speaking out about abuses in the workplace. In the words of many, the industry takes advantage of workers who live and work in a climate of fear. – Lives on the Line: The Cost of Cheap Chicken, Oxfam

Both in the recommendations of the most recent NELP report and in past reports such as Oxfam’s Lives on the Line: The Cost of Cheap Chicken, the need for workers to have better compensation and a voice on the job is repeatedly echoed.

“Unions provide poultry workers with one of the best ways to improve their safety on the job because we create an environment where people know their rights and feel empowered to speak up,” said Perrone. “We make sure that workers can advocate for their well-being without the fear of being fired.”

Progress through partnership

The NELP report comes on the heels of Tyson’s announcement to rededicate itself to workplace safety. The day before the report was released, Tyson committed to continuing its collaboration with the UFCW on a workplace safety and illness and injury prevention initiative that will be rolled out to all plants and be released publicly. Other highlights in the company’s announcement include:

  • A new initiative on transparency stating that the company will begin publicly sharing results of its third party social compliance audits.
  • A new initiative on compensation stating that Tyson Foods will make sure it’s providing competitive wages and benefits.
  • Reaffirming its commitment to allowing regularly scheduled breaks, as well as restroom breaks, as needed.
  • Reaffirming its commitment to running its processes at a speed according to the number of people available to work.
  • Reaffirming its commitment to a policy allowing workers to stop the line at any time for worker or food safety issues.
  • Reaffirming its commitment to having Team Member safety councils in place at all plants.

“Tyson Foods’ commitment to worker safety and workers’ rights should not just be applauded — it should serve as a model for the rest of the industry,” said Perrone. “Through our ongoing partnership with Tyson Foods, we have already made valuable progress.  We look forward to these new and expanded initiatives and to continuing to work together to provide a better, safer workplace for the hard-working men and women at Tyson Foods.”

 

 

 

May 9, 2017

Honoring the Dedicated and the Sleepless on Third Shift Workers Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), celebrated Third Shift Workers Day – the day that honors the more than 25 percent of American workers who labor overnight and into the early morning hours – with the following statement.

“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of third shift workers, millions of American families are able to enjoy a better life. Whether it’s working through the night to prepare fresh food for the morning, restocking store shelves, or taking care of our loved ones in the hospital, the hard-working men and women of the UFCW who work the third shift provide an incredible value that too often goes unnoticed or taken for granted. So to our members, and everyone who works through the night so that we can all  enjoy the day – we thank you. Thank you for making our communities better. Thank you for making a real difference in so many lives all across this nation.”

Background
  • According to multiple studies, shift work is much harder on the body and mind. The risk of workplace injuries, obesity and depression are all increased if a person works at night.
  • Despite these risks, there is no federal law requiring third shift workers to be provided with any extra pay or benefits.
  • UFCW is proud to negotiate premium pay for third shift workers into our contracts to help provide them with the better life they’ve earned.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

 

May 8, 2017

Don’t forget to pick up groceries for the Stamp Out Hunger food drive

Fill a Bag on May 13th

More than 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry. Let’s make sure no family has to struggle to eat in America. Fill a bag and join your UFCW union family and National Association of Letter Carriers in the effort to Stamp Out Hunger.

May 4, 2017

Local 919 member shows you how to prep an avocado

Watch United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) member Maia Dubar, Stop and Shop produce clerk and member of UFCW Local 919, show you how to cut, peel, and prep avocados for cooking or serving—just in time for Cinco De Mayo.

Related

May 2, 2017

UFCW Helps to Kick Off 25th Annuals Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) joined the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), AFL-CIO, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA), and United Way, to kick off the 25th Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive at the Capital Area Food Bank.

“From the food processing and packing facilities to your local grocery store, UFCW members help to keep America’s families fed with safe and nutritious food,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone at today’s kickoff event. “Unfortunately, our jobs also allow us to see countless customers we serve struggle to put food on their tables. The America we believe in, that I know you believe in, is one where no family or person should go hungry. This food drive truly supports America’s hard-working families and we are so proud to be a part of it.” 

BACKGROUND

Today, in the United States, an estimated 49 million people, or almost 1 in 6, struggle with “food insecurity,” which is another way of saying that someone has no idea where his or her next meal is coming from.

As America’s only national retail food workers union, UFCW represents professionals in grocery stores and food processing plants across the country who see firsthand how hard-working men and women are struggling to feed their families.

Stamp Out Hunger aims to fully restock food banks across the country that are in desperate need of supplies. Last year, a record 80 million pounds of food was collected.

To participate, all someone needs to do is fill a bag with non-perishable food and leave it at their mailbox on Saturday, May 13. Letter carriers across the country will collect donations as they deliver mail.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

May 1, 2017

UFCW members are proud to make the Kentucky Derby’s “Garland of Roses”

Since 1987, the talented men and women of UFCW Local 227 in Kentucky have been hand-crafting the delicate “Garland of Roses” awarded to the winning horse of the annual Kentucky Derby. The garland has been an iconic part of the Kentucky Derby traditions since 1932.

“I’m excited to be part of the team that makes the Garland of Roses,” said UFCW Local 227 member Leigh Wheeler.  “It takes about 14 hours and every rose has to be perfect. Derby is a wonderful tradition in our state and our union family works hard to make you and your family proud.”

 

 

April 27, 2017

Is your hard work too hard on your body?

All jobs take some kind of physical toll on the body, but through training employees to recognize safety hazards and working with employers to minimize risk, we can create safe workplaces and help reduce preventable injuries.

The UFCW is committed to nurturing a culture of safety in the workplaces we represent and working with employers to find innovative solutions. We are committed to seeing our members arrive to work safely and leave work safely.


Some Injuries are Cumulative

When you think of injuries on the job, you might first think of a specific accident, like a slip and a fall or getting a hand caught in a machine. But many injuries from work are not so obvious. Something as harmless seeming as operating a register can lead to pain when you are ringing up customers for hours on end, day after day.

Cumulative Trauma Disorders

If work and rest are balanced, it is more likely that our bodies will be able to heal the harm that happens at work. When the healing process cannot keep up with the damage, it can worsen to become a Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD).

The major risk factors for Cumulative Trauma Disorders are:

1.) Posture

Posture is the way workers must position their bodies in order to do their jobs. It refers to the design of the work station, machinery and tools. Posture is not about what workers are doing wrong.

Effective ergonomic solutions that reduce awkward postures include adjustable work stations, sit/stand options, and correctly designed tools.

2.) Force

Force is the physical effort we use with our bodies to push, pull, lift, lower, and grip when we are working.

Effective ergonomic solutions that reduce excessive force include knife sharpening, lift assists, and eliminating pinch grips.

Effective ergonomic solutions that reduce excessive force include knife sharpening, lift assists, and eliminating pinch grips.

3.) Repetition

Repetition is the number of times we make the same movement using the same parts of our body; how fast the movements are, and over what period of time. Repetition is directly related to line speed, production pressures, and staffing.

Effective ergonomic solutions that reduce excessive repetition include line speed reduction, adequate staffing, and reasonable workloads.

Effective ergonomic solutions that reduce excessive repetition include line speed reduction, adequate staffing, and reasonable workloads.

Other factors such as temperature, vibration and stress may also contribute to the risk of injury.

Good Programs Focus on Minimizing Risk, Not Symptoms

Beware of ergonomic programs that do not focus on all of the risk factors. While such programs may increase productivity, they may not decrease injuries.

Some approaches do NOT address risk factors at all, and may therefore be useless, and even harmful. Examples of this include back belts and stretching exercises.

Some approaches do NOT address risk factors at all, and may therefore be useless, and even harmful. Examples of this include back belts and stretching exercises.

For example, stretching and doing hand strengthening exercises after a long day of work might help them feel better in the short term, but it does nothing to actually address the source of the problem. A real safety solution would look at the bigger picture: are inadequate staffing or unreasonable workloads requiring you to work faster than what can be done safely? Is your workstation poorly designed and forcing you to work in an awkward posture? Are you having to expend more energy than is necessary to get the job done due to dull knives or tools that are the wrong size?

For more information, download the “Change the Workplace, not the Worker” booklet.

Download the PDF

April 26, 2017

UFCW and Tyson Foods Collaborate on Creating a Better and Safer Workplace

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the primary union for 70,000 poultry workers in the United States, applauded Tyson Foods for pledging to create a better workplace at its production facilities with new and expanded initiatives on safety, transparency, and compensation.

“Tyson Foods’ commitment to worker safety and workers’ rights should not just be applauded — it should serve as a model for the rest of the industry,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “Through our ongoing partnership with Tyson Foods, we have already made valuable progress.  We look forward to these new and expanded initiatives and to continuing to work together to provide a better, safer workplace for the hard-working men and women at Tyson Foods.” 

Tyson Foods worked in collaboration with the UFCW on its efforts. In its announcement, Tyson committed to continuing its collaboration with the UFCW on a workplace safety and illness and injury prevention initiative that will be rolled out to all plants and be released publicly. Other highlights in the company’s announcement include:

  • A new initiative on transparency stating that the company will begin publicly sharing results of its third party social compliance audits.
  • A new initiative on compensation stating that Tyson Foods will make sure it’s providing competitive wages and benefits.
  • Reaffirming its commitment to allowing regularly scheduled breaks, as well as restroom breaks, as needed.
  • Reaffirming its commitment to running its processes at a speed according to the number of people available to work.
  • Reaffirming its commitment to a policy allowing workers to stop the line at any time for worker or food safety issues.
  • Reaffirming its commitment to having Team Member safety councils in place at all plants.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

 

 

 

April 24, 2017

Make your kitchen knives as sharp as new

Watch UFCW member Jon Viner, Cub Foods (Minneapolis) butcher and member of Local 653, show you how to sharpen your kitchen knives at home—just in time for Mother’s Day and BBQ season.

Related

April 20, 2017

Minnesota UFCW Locals express support for union cannabis jobs

Earlier today, Matthew Utecht, President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 653 and Jennifer Christensen, President of UFCW Local 1189, released a statement in support of union cannabis jobs in Minnesota:

“It’s time for every community in Minnesota to realize the incredible benefits that unions bring to this emerging sector. In the past year, we’ve negotiated contracts that brought strong wages, affordable health care and the retirement security of a pension to everyone who works at Minnesota Medical Solutions, the only union provider of cannabis medicine in our state.

“Most importantly, UFCW members who work in Minnesota’s cannabis industry have a voice and can speak up at every level, from seed to sale, to improve their lives. We encourage every patient to choose Minnesota Medical Solutions so that we can continue spreading the great benefits of union cannabis jobs to every corner of our state.”

Better Jobs

Multiple UFCW members who work at Minnesota Medical Solutions shared how being a part of a union made their cannabis jobs better.

“This 4/20, I’m lucky that I’ll be able to spend my day working amongst Minnesota’s finest medical cannabis,” said Nate Noel, a cultivator at Minnesota Medical Solutions. “Thanks to the UFCW and their partnership with Minnesota Medical Solutions, I’ll be working safely, treated fairly and growing cannabis in a compassionate, responsible and sustainable way. Our cannabis is grown under the light of the sun!”

Quality, Professional Care

“Our patients like knowing the dispensaries at Minnesota Medical Solutions are union,” said Christine Dallaire and Kari Ellingson, who work as Pharmacy Technicians at Minnesota Medical Solutions in Minneapolis. “People appreciate that our employer takes input from us and believes in our ability to improve the quality of our medicine and patient care.”

For the full release, please visit UFCW1189.org.