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May 17, 2007

Grocery Coalition Launches Door-to-Door Campaign, Seeks

Coalition Asks Consumers to Support Good Jobs by Pledging Not To Shop
At Albertsons, Ralphs or Vons in Case of a Strike or Lockout

Los Angeles—Community and religious leaders today joined more than 100  grocery workers and union members in launching the “Walk for Respect” campaign, a massive public outreach effort designed to help restore good jobs among the supermarket industry’s top three chains.

In the coming weeks, thousands of volunteers across Southern California will blanket neighborhoods around stores with pledge cards asking consumers not to shop at Ralphs, Vons or Albertsons stores in the case of a lockout or strike. The program will continue until the three chains agree to once again provide decent wages and affordable health insurance to their employees.

Grocery workers at Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons stores are currently locked in contract negotiations for the first time since the bitter four-and-a-half-month strike and lockout in 2003-2004. That contract expired March 5, and the stores have dragged out negotiations with a series of extensions in a bid to get further concessions from employees, despite record profits and declining non-union competition.

“Grocery workers haven’t had a wage increase since 2002, yet the markets are making billions in profits,” said Chris Zazueta, a veteran employee of Ralphs.  “New workers have to wait up to 18 months to even become eligible for benefits, and 30 months to get health care for their kids. No wonder turnover among new employees is as high as 85%.”

As community leaders, supporters and members from numerous Los Angeles labor unions gathered for a rally in front of an Albertsons store in Burbank, the frustrations with the stores’ tactics and the effects on workers and local communities became clear.

“Grocery workers have historically been pillars of communities across Southern California. For decades, the supermarkets provided jobs with decent wages and health benefits, located directly within our neighborhoods,” said Reverend Anna Olson, Deputy Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE). “But times have changed. Now the markets are in a race to the bottom, undermining good jobs and our communities in the process.”

The contract imposed on workers following the lockout and strike severely curtailed benefits and wages for new employees, and denied any wage increases to veteran workers.

“The erosion of middle-class jobs impacts all of us,” said Rabbi Haim Beliak of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace. “Our communities don’t need more people living one paycheck from the edge. We don’t need more uninsured families forced into emergency rooms and free clinics. The markets are making record profits. It is time for them to give back to the communities that make their success possible, or the communities must withhold their support.”

Of the 44,000 workers hired since 2004, less than 3,800 have health care, and less than 80 have coverage for their children.

A recent UC Berkeley study estimated that 20,000 fewer children have access to health care because of the changes since the strike and lockout.

“Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons need to understand they are part of our community,” said Manuel Hernandez, a community organizer with AGENDA. “They need to act like a good corporate citizen. That means providing fair wages and healthcare for their employees. They can afford it, and it’s the right thing to do. We need more good jobs in our neighborhoods.”

Immediately after the rally, volunteers walked door to door in the surrounding neighborhoods and stood in front of the store to gather pledges from consumers not to shop at Ralphs, Vons or Albertsons in the event of a lockout or strike.

The Walk for Respect program launched simultaneously across Southern California, with volunteers walking in communities from Bakersfield to the Mexican border.

“We’ll keep this up until we the stores begin to treat us and our communities with respect,” said Sharlette Villacorta, a longtime Albertsons employee on leave to work on the contract campaign. “The employers are making billions because of our hard work. They need to do their fair share and provide good, middle class jobs that nourish our communities.”

May 11, 2007


Washington, D.C.—The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union is proud to announce its support for the bi-partisan legislation bill being introduced in the Senate today which will strengthen the regulation of industrial loan companies (ILCs).  Introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Wayne Allard (R-CO), this important legislation is a real reform to address the huge growth of ILCs and the threat they pose to the safety and soundness of the U.S. financial system when these institutions are controlled by commercial entities.

 Michael J. Wilson, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Legislative and Political Action Department, left, with Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), William A. Loving, CEO of Pendelton Community Bank, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

ILCs, which exist because of a loophole in the Bank Holding Act, are regulated differently from banks.  A growing number of ILCs are owned by commercial entities, which unlike banks, are not subject to consolidated oversight by the Federal Reserve Board.  This represents a perilous break from our nation’s long-standing practice of separating banking and commerce.  The Brown/Allard bill will strengthen the regulation of ILCs and protect the foundation of the American banking process by placing crucial limitation on certain existing ILCs and prohibiting the creation of new commercially-owned banks.

“We need to close the loophole to end the threat it presents to the security of the U.S. financial system,” said UFCW International Vice President and Director of the UFCW Legislative and Political Action Department Michael J. Wilson.  “Federal legislation is the only appropriate response for the construction of a sound banking policy.  The ILC loophole must be closed in order to strengthen consumer protections and prevent companies like Wal-Mart from entering the banking industry.”

The UFCW also strongly supports the House companion bill, H.R. 698, the Industrial Bank Holding Company Act of 2007, which recently was approved by the House Financial Services Committee.

The UFCW is a founding member of the Sound Banking Coalition which has fought to protect the financial security of working people.  The Sound Banking Coalition is made up of the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), the National Grocers Association (NGA), the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), and the UFCW.

May 10, 2007

Statement by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union On Grocery Bargaining in Southern California

After seven months of unproductive negotiations with grocery employers, UFCW Southern California local unions left the bargaining table on Tuesday. The latest offer by the three grocery companies, Safeway, Kroger and Supervalu, was an insult to members, and left UFCW leadership with no choice but to break off negotiations.

The companies are trying to force another strike, like the work stoppage they caused in 2003 that put 60,000 UFCW members on picket lines for nearly five months and disrupted shoppers and communities throughout the region.

The three grocery giants have repeatedly denied members’ need for accessible, affordable health care, and living wages for all workers.  This despite the fact that all three companies have shown a recent rise in profits that analysts predict will continue to grow.

It would appear that Safeway CEO Steve Burd knows that workers need affordable, quality health care for themselves and their families.  That’s why he announced earlier this week that Safeway and nearly 40 other companies were launching the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform (CAHR).  The UFCW applauds Burd and other CAHR participants as welcome voices to this important discussion.  We wish that all three grocery leaders would bring this commitment to the bargaining table.

UFCW members will be reaching out to consumers in Southern California and across the country to remind the grocery giants that their success is due to workers and shoppers, and that they need to show concern for their community and workers by reaching a fair agreement with Southern California workers.

Two grocery companies in Southern California, Stater Bros. and Gelson’s, settled fair contracts with UFCW members that included quality, affordable health care and living wages for all workers. That two regional supermarket chains can afford to offer their workers a fair contract proves that it’s possible to be profitable while still showing your workers respect.

If these regional markets can offer a fair contract, then surely Supervalu, Kroger, and Safeway — national supermarket chains that are currently raking in billions of dollars in profits — can do the same.

Southern California’s grocery workers, together with Stater Bros. and Gelson’s Markets, created a road map to a fair contract, a map that can be followed by the national chains. But instead of doing the right thing and partnering with the workers who helped them return to profitability, these national companies dragged out negotiations in an effort to keep their workers’ wages low and benefits out of reach for workers and families.

Southern California’s grocery workers are unified, and UFCW-represented grocery workers across the country are supporting them as well. But it’s time to end this drawn-out, dead-end negotiations process. With the support of the public, UFCW members can and will win a fair contract — even if means a long, difficult battle.


May 8, 2007

Washington DC—Wal-Mart must go beyond public posturing and change its corporate practices before it can have any credibility in the national debate on healthcare reform.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has long been a supporter of universal, affordable and quality health care coverage for all Americans.   And we believe that a broad-based effort of all Americans is fundamental to achieving that goal. We are actively working with committed members of the business community, lawmakers, advocacy groups and other unions to solve our country’s health care crisis.

Wal-Mart’s attempt to insert itself into the healthcare care debate fuels the kind of cynicism and mistrust that that comes out of the say-one-thing-but-do-another form of public discourse from powerful interests—whether in the corporate or political arena.

Only last week, the internationally acclaimed Human Rights Watch issued a comprehensive indictment of the giant retailer, citing Wal-Mart with systematically violating the human and civil rights of Wal-Mart workers.

It’s difficult to see how the world’s largest corporation can have any moral standing in the effort to establish universal health care when it doesn’t provide affordable health care benefits to its own employees.

Wal-Mart should be a leader in corporate responsibility—instead the company’s business practices encourage other employers to act irresponsibly.

American workers deserve better than Wal-Mart posturing. They deserve universal healthcare. Engaged and committed members of the business community must be a part of any solution to our country’s health care crisis, and the UFCW will work with them and all other committed stakeholders to achieve that end.

In the meantime, we will continue our fight for good health care benefits for workers at the bargaining table. And we will continue our efforts on behalf of Wal-Mart workers so they can have affordable healthcare benefits and good wages.

May 7, 2007

Statement by Joseph T. Hansen, International President, United Food and Commercial Workers Union

Washington DC—Today’s launch of the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform (CAHR) marks the first serious entry of the business community as full participants into the national healthcare reform debate. The nearly 40 major companies currently signed onto CAHR bring a new and positive momentum to the growing mandate for political action on our national healthcare crisis.

A great many of the companies have union workforces, including Safeway, Kroger, Supervalu, Raleys, Heinz, General Mills, Clorox, Del Monte Foods and CVS among others, whose workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). These companies have long been committed to and engaged in the issue of providing good healthcare coverage to employees through the collective bargaining process.

Escalating costs, declining healthcare access for more and more Americans, as well as compromised quality, leave those at the bargaining table to deal with a national crisis that can only be solved with a national political solution.

Compounding the situation is the lack of fairness in our current healthcare system that allows irresponsible employers—like Wal Mart—to shift their healthcare costs onto taxpayers and responsible employers.

The UFCW has long been a supporter of universal, affordable and quality health care coverage for all Americans.   And we believe that a broad-based effort of all Americans is fundamental to achieving that goal. Responsible members of the business community have a large role to play in this effort, and we applaud CAHR for bringing them into the national healthcare dialogue.

America’s workers need universal healthcare. CAHR principles represent an important contribution in the effort to adopt healthcare reform that is fair to everyone in our society, can control costs, and provide universal access to quality healthcare all Americans.

We look forward to working with CAHR, and will continue working with lawmakers, advocacy groups and other unions to solve our country’s health care crisis.

UFCW President Joe Hansen was the only labor representative on the 14 member Citizens’ Health Care Working Group mandated by Congress to make recommendations to the President and Congress for solving the healthcare crisis. The Working Group engaged nearly 40,000 Americans in an historic national dialogue over a nearly two- year period and submitted its recommendations last September. They can be accessed at:  www.ufcw4healthcare.org

May 1, 2007


Washington DC—A new report entitled Discounting Rights released by Human Rights Watch outlines the systematic denial of Wal-Mart workers’ right to organize. It confirms what Wal-Mart workers have been saying for years. Workers seeking a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have faced:

  • Wal-Mart works aggressively to create a climate of fear and intimidation where workers fear they’ll be fired, disciplined, or lose benefits if they try to form a union.
  • Wal-Mart routinely surveills and spies on union organizers and pro-union employees and selectively enforces company policies against pro-union workers.
  • Wal-Mart engages in “unit packing” and other tactics to prevent organizing efforts. When workers have successfully organized, Wal-Mart has refused to bargain, or has shut down stores and units where workers have organized.

Wal-Mart is a company that refuses to remedy its mistreatment of workers. Not only does the company have a history of methodically violating workers’ right to join a union, the Wal-Mart record on worker rights is a laundry list of abuse. Wal-Mart has racked up a striking number of wage and hour violations. The company faces the largest gender discrimination case in the history of this country. Wal-Mart has decreased health care coverage to employees while touting its commitment to offering affordable care. Evidence suggests that Wal-Mart may have even adopted a strategy of eliminating long time workers and discouraging overweight or otherwise unhealthy workers from applying—both as measures to reduce payroll and health care costs.

In recent months, Wal-Mart spin doctors have been working to change the company’s public posture. Unfortunately, being a responsible employer means improving actual corporate practices. That begins with not interfering with employees’ internationally recognized right to join a union.

April 27, 2007

Los trabajadores de Townsend se centran en irregularidades en pago y horas trabajadas

(Siler City, NC)—Los trabajadores de Townsend que están luchando por mejores condiciones en las plantas polleras de Siler City y Pittsboro han empezado a investigar alegaciones de la omisión del pago por horas trabajadas y otras violaciones de las leyes federales de salario y pago por hora. Los trabajadores de Townsend han estado tratando de organizarse bajo la Unión de Trabajadores Comerciales y de Alimentos (UFCW).

Durante la campaña de organización actual, los trabajadores se han quejado con regularidad que Town send cambia los relojes en la planta, exige que los trabajadores paguen por el equipo necesario, y que la compañía no les pague por el tiempo que trabajan. Muchos trabajadores creen que Townsend hace esto porque no cree que los trabajadores inmigrantes se vayan a quejar.

“”La ley es muy clara—requiere que empleadores como Townsend paga sus empleados por el tiempo que trabajan. Esto incluye el tiempo que pasan poniéndose y quitándose el equipo de seguridad requerido. Parece que Townsend cree que los trabajadores en sus plantas en Siler City y Pittsboro deben ofrecer su mano de obra como un regalo a la compañía. Ellos merecen recibir pago por todo el tiempo que trabajan—incluyendo el tiempo ya trabajado que todavía no ha sido pagado—y esa es una de las razones por la que están tratando de formar una unión,”” dijo Mark Lauritsen, director y vicepresidente de la División de Procesamiento, Empacado y Manufactura de Alimentos de la UFCW.

Una trabajadora de Pittsboro, Inez Díaz, dijo, “”Trabajamos duro. Merecemos recibir pago y trato justo de Townsend. Ellos nos quitan el costo de nuestros materiales de trabajo de nuestros cheques. Ni nos pagan por nuestro tiempo de preparación. Ya es hora que Townsend deje de tratarnos como ciudadanos de segunda clase. Estamos formando una unión para mejorar las condiciones para los inmigrantes y todos los trabajadores en las polleras.””

La UFCW apoyará la marcha por los derechos inmigrantes el 1 mayo en Raleigh-Durham. El año pasado, los trabajadores e inmigrantes marcharon para exigir la reforma comprensiva de la política migratoria. “”El abuso de los trabajadores inmigrantes es una práctica que muchos empleadores usan para bajar los estándares de trabajo para todos los trabajadores en varios sectores económicos, incluyendo la industria avícola,”” dijo Lauritsen. “”Y es una de la razones principales por la que la UFCW está apoyando la reforma comprensiva de las leyes de inmigración.””

Paulo Faustino, empleado de Townsend, está de acuerdo, “”Los abusos de los trabajadores inmigrantes en las polleras tienen que parar. Con una unión tendremos el poder legal para ganar mejoramientos y cambio. Merecemos pago y trato justo. No debemos dejar que la compañía nos intimide con lo que dicen. Tenemos el derecho de exigir mejoramientos en las condiciones para todos los inmigrantes y trabajadores en las polleras. Es por eso que estamos formando una unión con la UFCW. “”

La UFCW representa a 1.3 millones de trabajadores por todo la América de Norte. Los miembros de la UFCW trabajan en las industrias de empacado de carne, procesamiento de pollo y de alimentos, venta de alimentos al por menor y en supermercados. La UFCW se centra en los trabajadores. Está comprometida a ayudar los trabajadores ganar mejores salarios, beneficios y condiciones de trabajo más seguras. A pesar de los retos presentados por el alto costo de la asistencia de salud y los medicamentos recetados, la inseguridad de jubilación y la instabilidad económica, la UFCW es una voz poderosa para los trabajadores y trabajadoras y es un líder en la protección y mejoramiento de las vidas de todas las personas que trabajan.


April 27, 2007

Townsends Workers Put Focus on Wage and Hour Irregularities


(Siler City, NC) — Townsends workers fighting for better conditions at the Siler City and Pittsboro, North Carolina, poultry plants have begun investigating widespread worker claims of underpayment for time worked and other violations of federal wage and hour laws.  Townsends workers have been working to organize a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

During the ongoing union organizing campaign, workers have regularly complained about Townsends changing clocks in the factory, forcing the workers to pay for necessary equipment, and not paying for worked time.  Many workers believe Townsends does this because they don’t think the immigrant workforce will complain.

“The law is clear – employers like Townsends are required to pay workers for all the time they work. That includes the time it takes putting on and taking off required safety equipment.  Townsends seems to believe workers at their plants in Siler City and Pittsboro should provide their labor as a gift to the company. They deserve to be paid for all of their work—including any unpaid work they’ve already performed—and it’s one of the reasons the workers are forming a union,” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the union’s Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division.

Pittsboro employee Samuel Tapia Alavarado said, “We work hard. We deserve to be paid and treated fairly at Townsends.   They deduct work supplies from our checks. They do not even pay us for our prep time. It is time for Townsends to stop treating us like second class citizens.  We are forming a union to improve conditions for all immigrants and all workers in the polleras.”

UFCW will be supporting the May 1 immigrant rights rally in Raleigh-Durham.  Last year, workers and immigrants marched on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform.  “Abuse of immigrant workers is a practice many employers use to lower working standards for all workers in numerous economic sectors, including the poultry sector,” said Lauritsen. “And it’s one of the prime reasons the UFCW supports comprehensive immigration reform.”

Townsends worker Paulo Faustino agrees: “The abuses to immigrant workers in the polleras must stop. With a union we will have the legal power to win improvements and changes.  We deserve to be treated and paid fairly. We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by what the company says. It is our right to take a stand to improve conditions for all immigrants and all workers in the polleras. That’s why we are forming a union with UFCW.”

“Workers at Townsends deserve the chance to have a voice on the job for improved safety, living wages and respect for all workers.  The UFCW intends to make that happen,” continued Lauritsen.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) represent 1.3 million workers across North America.  UFCW members work in poultry and meatpacking plants, food processing facilities, retail stores and supermarkets. The UFCW is about workers helping workers achieve better wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. Despite the challenges of soaring health care premiums, costly prescription medications, retirement insecurity, and economic instability, the UFCW is a powerful voice for working men and women, leading efforts to protect and improve the livelihoods of all workers.

April 24, 2007


Yesterday, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, along with fellow labor unions and community groups, sent a letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives in strong support of the Industrial Bank Holding Act of 2007 (H.R. 698). The letter outlines the benefits of H.R. 698, a common-sense approach to addressing the huge growth of industrial loan companies (ILCs), and urges the Representatives to join 104 others in cosponsoring the bill.

“We need to close the loophole, and end the threat to the soundness and security of the U.S. financial system,” said UFCW International Vice President and Director of the UFCW Legislative and Political Action Department, Michael J. Wilson.

On Thursday, April 26, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on H.R. 698.

Click Here to read the letter and list of cosigners.

April 16, 2007


WASHINGTON, DC — Grocery workers are standing up to protect good jobs with affordable health care in communities across the country. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union in eight markets are holding store events today and sending a unified message to supermarket giants.

Supermarkets chains nationwide, like Supervalu, are refusing to agree to provide the affordable health care and living wages their employees deserve. Communities may end up paying the price, with taxpayers shouldering the burden of government paid health care.

Workers are taking action and reaching out to customers at Supervalu-owned stores in Southern California, Oregon, Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, and Philadelphia.  Workers at Kroger stores in Toledo and Houston are bargaining with the company now and holding press events in solidarity with the national action.

UFCW members at Supervalu-owned stores – Albertsons, Jewel, Cub Foods, and Acme stores, are concerned about Supervalu’s bargaining agenda with workers in other markets.

“It’s really important that everybody throughout the country has decent contracts, with benefits and wages that allow them to support their families,” says Eileen Fonseca, a Supervalu-owned Acme worker and a member of UFCW Local 1776 in Philadelphia.

Albertsons (Supervalu) workers in Southern California were locked out by the company in a bitter five-month-long strike/lockout in 2003 and 2004.   Now, Albertsons (Supervalu) employees there have already voted to authorize a strike due to the company’s irresponsible position at the bargaining table.  The current contract expired last month.

“”I want to provide a good life for my family, and I work hard for my employer. Now that the employers are making such huge profits, I think they need to show grocery workers and our families the respect we deserve,” said Sharlette Villacorta, UFCW Local 770 member who works at Albertsons, in Los Angeles, Calif.

With more than 400,000 grocery workers at the bargaining table this year, UFCW members have launched Grocery Workers United – www.groceryworkersunited.com – as a clearinghouse for unity actions.

“We all do the same jobs, and we all work hard,” said Mike Newman, a Kroger worker from Toledo and member of UFCW Local 911.  “We just want to be able to pay our bills, and I think the community understands that. They know what you need to make a living wage here.”

The actions today are all part of a growing national unity bargaining movement among UFCW members working in the grocery industry.

This year, 400,000 UFCW members working the grocery industry will be negotiating contracts with their employers, seeking to improve jobs for all grocery workers. The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, with nearly one million in the grocery industry.