November 4, 2004
Working America turned out in unprecedented numbers to support an agenda of change. Working families are demanding a different direction for the next four years, regardless of the final vote count. From better jobs to affordable family health care, a program for the economic rebuilding of working America— a working America that has suffered massive job loss, declining wages and the rapid erosion of affordable health insurance—now has the informed, mobilized and determined grassroots base to force its way onto the political agenda for the next four years.
“”We turned out on election day, and we will not be turned around. We activated an army of working families for this election, and we are now mobilized to fight for a program to rebuild working America,”” said Joe Hansen, president of the 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
Hansen congratulated the hundreds of UFCW local unions for their tireless and relentless work to register and turnout hundreds of thousands of union members, many of whom were first time voters. The UFCW is one of the largest unions overall, and one of the largest unions of working women, in most of the battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. The UFCW, the largest union of workers under age 25, also collaborated with Rock the Vote and other youth-oriented programs to help generate a record turnout of young voters.
The efforts of the UFCW and the labor movement produced results. According to early reports, union members made up a record-shattering percentage of the electorate and provided a solid foundation of voters for change. The turnout numbers indicate a growing demand among working families for government action to restore the economic standing of the working middle class.
Despite a growing economy and increased productivity, workers have seen the steady outsourcing of good jobs, the steady decline of real wages, and a steady increase in health care costs and the number of uninsured working families. The Bush Administration launched an unrelenting assault on workers from its first days in office with the repeal of the ergonomic standard in early 2001 to proposing to take away overtime pay for millions of workers in 2004. More and more workers slid into poverty over the past four years threatening the future of a working middle class America.
Hansen declared, “”Implementing a program to rebuild working America is fight for the heart and soul of our country—will we continue to be a nation were hard work brings dignity, respect and a decent standard of living; or, will we be a nation where the wealth concentrates at the top while the many who do the work fall farther and farther behind?””
The first agenda item in a program to rebuild working America, according to the UFCW leader, is health care reform. “”There is no greater threat to family economic and personal security than the loss of health insurance. Without decent health insurance, most working families are only illness away from an economic crisis that could shatter the family and dim its hopes for the future. Affordable, accessible, comprehensive health care for all working families is the foundation of restoring the working middle class.””
A rebuild working America program would, according to Hansen, also focus government investment to generate job growth, raise the minimum wage and restore workplace rights.
“”We don’t want big government, we want effective government that acts to raise living standards and provide economic opportunity for working Americans,”” Hansen said.
October 28, 2004
UFCW members aren’t alone in the fight for affordable health care, as an overwhelming percent of supermarket shoppers surveyed side with their local grocery store workers on employee concerns. The community support is echoed in two recent surveys of grocery shoppers, one conducted in Colorado and one in Washington State.
Both surveys reinforce what UFCW workers already know: communities stand behind workers when it comes to workplace issues, especially health care. The large majority of shoppers agree that grocery store employees “deserve to have affordable health care.” Most shoppers (85%) believe that major supermarkets like Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway are very profitable and have a responsibility to provide workers with affordable health care benefits.
Over 80% in the Washington community said they would support workers on strike if management threatened to eliminate health care benefits. The majority also said they would sympathize with grocery store workers on strike over the employers even if they knew very little about specific bargaining issues. Most shoppers would go out of their way to shop at another store if their local grocery store had employees on strike.
Economic studies show that when large corporations take away or reduce their employees’ health benefits, taxpayers take on the increased costs for workers because more workers are forced to utilize publicly-subsidized health services. More than two-thirds of shoppers surveyed agree that the responsibility for health care cots would indeed float to taxpayers. Even more shoppers agree that workers end up paying for extravagant corporate executive compensation and bonuses.
Last summer, UFCW members in the Puget Sound, Wash. area visited their local communities and informed residents about what was happening at the bargaining table during their contract negotiations. UFCW members collected “don’t shop” pledges from the public if the employers insisted on eliminating affordable health care benefits. They participated in marches and rallies that kept bargaining issues at the center of the public’s attention, and moved elected officials to write letters in support of grocery store workers and voice those opinions to the media. Mobilizing in neighborhoods and solidifying support among community members put key pressure on the grocery stores, ultimately helping 18,000 UFCW members in Puget Sound settle a fair contract.
The survey in Colorado was conducted by TKG Research in August and identified perceptions of worker issues, while the survey in Washington, taken by the Evergreen Research Group in January, recognized early attitudes toward grocery workers, management and possible strikes.
September 2, 2004
Phillips Vows to Enhance Organizing Opportunities for Working Women
Long-time labor activist Susan L. Phillips was elected as the fourth National President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) on August 28, 2004. She succeeds Gloria Johnson, who served as CLUW president since 1993 and was the group’s treasurer since CLUW’s founding in 1974.
Phillips currently directs the Working Women’s Department of the 1.4 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and serves as UFCW International Vice President. She leads the union’s programs for mobilizing UFCW women and retirees, with major emphasis on organizing and political action.
“Susan Phillips is a dedicated leader for UFCW women and all working families. I am proud that she will share her skills, commitment and vision with union women throughout the labor movement,” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President. “Under Susan’s leadership, I know that CLUW will make even greater gains for working women across the country,” Hansen continued.
Women are nearly half of the labor movement, and experts predict that in the next 10 years, women will be the largest single force entering the job market.
“Studies show that when women are a majority in a workplace, they are more likely than men to vote to join a union. That’s why CLUW is needed more than ever,” Phillips observed.
“I will see that CLUW renews its efforts to advance the labor movement’s fundamental goal: organizing the unorganized. We will work to provide resources to the labor movement to target women workers for union organizing campaigns, and will vigorously support these campaigns directly and by mobilizing like-minded progressive groups for support,” said Phillips.
Under Phillips’s leadership, CLUW plans to make special efforts to reach out to young women, who are critically important to growing the labor movement.
“Working women have a number of key concerns for themselves and their families, including affordable health care, quality child and elder care, job security, and retirement income,” she said. “CLUW will continue to communicate with its members, other union activists, and working women – both union and nonunion – on these subjects, as well as advocating at all levels of government for progressive policies to improve the lives of working families.””
“CLUW will build on its solid three-decade foundation of advocacy on behalf of working women to bring new energy to our founding principles: organizing unorganized workers, increasing women’s participation in their unions, promoting affirmative action in the workplace, and mobilizing for legislative action,” Phillips noted.
“CLUW is a key component of the labor movement’s future. We will continue to work closely with the other AFL-CIO constituency groups through the Labor Coalition for Community Action to formulate strategies, build alliances, and develop programs to strengthen and build our unions in the months and years ahead.”
Before coming to the UFCW in 1984, Phillips worked as a Legislative Representative for the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department, Public Information Director for the National Consumers League and Legislative Writer for the U.S. House of Representative’s Democratic Study Group.
In addition to CLUW, Phillips currently represents the UFCW on the boards a variety of groups, and has traveled extensively throughout the world speaking on behalf of the U.S. labor movement and teaching communications and leadership development programs to unionists abroad.
The UFCW is the nation’s largest private sector union and represents workers in industries dominated by women workers, such as retail and health care. More than half of all UFCW members are women and nearly one third are age 25 and under.
August 31, 2004
(Dakota City, NE) – Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 222 turned out today to vote their approval for the agreement covering 3,000 workers at the Tyson Dakota City plant.
The new UFCW contract brings an immediate 60 cent increase in the base wage for production and slaughter employees, with a $1.55 increase over the term of the contract, making the pay among the best in the beef industry. Maintenance workers will also receive substantial pay increases.
Highlights of the new agreement include:
Guaranteed wage increases totaling $1.55;
Establishes standard of a minimum 36 hours a week;
An additional week of vacation;
Improved health benefits, including adding vision, long-term disability, retiree coverage and a supplemental Medicare plan;
Increased retirement savings through additional employer 401(k) contributions and added stock options for employees.
Maintained overtime pay rates;
Increased funding for multi‑cultural fund that provides resources for programs such as safety training in Spanish and English-as-a-Second Language classes; and
Provides a clear attendance record for all employees (no disciplinary action based on past absences.)
“The solidarity and determination of UFCW members gave us the strength at the bargaining table to win a groundbreaking contract that will improve the living standards for thousands of Dakota City families. The entire community will benefit as workers have more money to spend in our local economy,” said Marv Harrington, President of UFCW Local 222. “Solidarity works and solidarity wins for everyone.”
August 4, 2004
QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC – A Wal-Mart located in Jonquière, Quebec, Canada is on its way to becoming the only unionized Wal-Mart in North America after a ruling on Monday by the Quebec Labour Relations Board (QLRC) to grant employees union certification with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Canada.
The union accreditation was issued by the QLRC after a majority of employees at the store signed UFCW Canada membership cards. QLRC adjudicator Jocelyne Houle stated that, “the applicant is representative, as required by law.” A hearing has been scheduled for August 20th to finalize the specific definition of which employees will have the right to union representation.
“The Quebec certification shows that when workers’ rights are protected, Wal-Mart workers will exercise those rights for a voice at work. Our challenge is to make sure that governments protect workers rights across Canada, the U.S. and around the world,” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President and President of the Union Network International, a global trade federation representing 16 million workers in 100 countries.
Today’s Labour Board victory is the latest in a series of organizing drives at Wal-Mart stores throughout Canada. Currently UFCW Canada has other applications pending for Wal-Mart stores in Weyburn and North Battleford, Saskatchewan; in Terrace, British Columbia, in Thompson, Manitoba; and in Brossard, Quebec where a majority of workers have sought UFCW representation.
The Quebec store will be the first wall-to-wall Wal-Mart store where workers successfully chose union representation. Meat department workers in the Jacksonville, Texas, Wal-Mart Supercenter voted for UFCW representation in 2000. Wal-Mart refused to bargain with the workers, despite orders from the National Labor Relations Board. It also eliminated the meat department in Jacksonville and across the country in an attempt to scare workers from standing up for a voice on the job.
Wal-Mart stated publicly that it supports workplace democracy and that it would not close the store because workers chose a union. The UFCW Canada looks forward to sitting down to negotiating a first contract without delay.
July 28, 2004
(Boston, Mass.) – John Kerry offers a real alternative of hope for America’s working families with a program for job growth, health care reform and homeland security. His ideas, his energy and his record of personal commitment and sacrifice for the values of working America has excited and activated workers in every region, every occupation and every industry.
John Kerry’s vision stands in stark contrast with record of the Bush Administration– more than 4 million workers have lost health insurance, real wages have gone down, millions of jobs have been lost, hundreds of thousands of workers have been needlessly injured because the ergonomic standard was repealed and millions face a pay cut because overtime law has been gutted. To say there is no difference between Bush and Kerry is to ignore the impact of Bush policies on the real lives of working families.
Ask a poultry worker crippled with repetitive motion injuries whether there is difference? Bush killed the ergonomic standard that could have prevented those injuries, while John Kerry fought on the Senate floor to keep the standard in force.
Ask a grocery store worker who was forced to strike for more than 4 months to keep health care benefits whether there is difference? Bush has done nothing except protect the interests of the drug companies and the insurance giants while everyday thousands of workers lose benefits. John Kerry has always been a fighter for health care reform and has a plan that helps protect health care benefits at work.
Ask a health care worker working long hours to support a family whether or not there is difference? George Bush re-wrote the overtime regulations to deny many health care workers overtime no matter how many hours they worked, lowering their living standards and denying them family time. John Kerry fought to protect overtime pay.
On every issue, John Kerry offers a pro-worker, pro-family, pro-America alternative to the Bush Administration. Another Bush Administration would inflict more and more suffering on working families. The election of John Kerry is the starting point for a new American dream that embraces the workforce and meets the challenges of the 21st century. For workers, voting matters, and electing John Kerry will make the difference between going forward in prosperity and security, or falling backward in economic and national insecurity. John Kerry is our best hope for the future of working America.
July 8, 2004
Health care for working families is not just a workplace concern – it’s a community concern. More than 3,000 workers at Acme Supermarkets in South Jersey faced the threat of cuts to health benefits when their contact expired at the end of April. The members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1360 reached out to local religious leaders, elected officials and union members for support that helped secure a new contract that protected health benefits for workers and their families.
Acme is owned by Albertsons, a national chain that forced tens of thousands of its Southern California workers into the streets for nearly five months to fight back against the employers’ draconian demands to eliminate health benefits for workers. Acme workers and supporters in South Jersey supported the California strike/lockout by mobilizing customers and raising public awareness of the struggle facing supermarket workers across the country.
When bargaining began in South Jersey, Acme faced a room full of religious leaders, labor supporters and other UFCW local unions along with representatives from UFCW Local 1360. The message was loud and clear: we stand united to protect health benefits for Acme workers.
“This contract proves that solidarity works. UFCW local unions working together with other unions and, most importantly, community and religious leaders made sure Acme and Albertsons understood that we will hold the line for health care,” said International Vice President and Regional Director Mark Lauritsen.
The new five-year agreement:
• Maintains health care for workers and retirees;
• Improves worker retirement benefits; and
• Increases wages, including higher starting rates for new employees
UFCW members are currently bargaining with Albertsons, Safeway and Kroger in the Pacific Northwest where the contract covering nearly 20,000 workers expires this month. In September, nearly 50,000 workers at the same three supermarket chains in Northern California will head to the bargaining table with similar resolve to hold the line for health care.
June 23, 2004
WAL-MART’S “”OPEN DOOR”” SLAMS SHUT FOR WOMEN WORKERSWal-Mart On Trial In The largest Sex Discrimination Lawsuit In History
“”…women working at Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men…and, that the higher one looks in [Wal-Mart] the lower the percentage of women.”” Judge Martin Jenkins in his decision granting class action status citing the “”largely uncontested descriptive statistics”” presented by the plaintiffs in the case.
The “”door”” in Wal-Mart’s much touted “”open door policy”” of personnel management does not open wide enough to let women into higher paid jobs or management positions, according to allegations contained in a suit brought against the nation’s largest private employer. Despite its denials and legal maneuvers, Wal- Mart will have to stand trial and face the charges of pervasive sex discrimination in the largest civil rights class action case in history.
Six women stood up to challenge pay and promotion practices at Wal-Mart stores across the country. Now a federal judge has certified the caseDukes v. Wal- Mart Stores, Inc.(N.D. Cal. No C-01-2252)as a nationwide class action sex discrimination lawsuit covering all women employees who worked a U.S. Wal-Mart store anytime since December 26, 1998. More than 1.6 million women will be represented in the lawsuit.
In issuing his decision, U. S. District Court Judge Martin Jenkins referred to the overwhelming evidence presented in the case showing a pattern of lower pay, fewer promotions and less opportunity for women at Wal-Mart in every region of the country. Expert reports relied upon in the judge’s decision exposed the reality behind Wal-Mart’s smiling face. Women who had worked longer for Wal-Mart, had higher job performance evaluations, and did the same jobs were paid less than the men they worked next to. The sexism prevalent in Wal-Mart’s management practices robbed women and their families of the pay they worked for. Wal-Mart devalued women’s work, and paid them less simply because Wal-Mart thought it could get away with it.
The 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) has been actively organizing, mobilizing and empowering women to take action to create equity in all workplaces. In instances where there was evidence of sex discrimination, the UFCW regularly refers workers to attorneys experienced in civil rights litigation. From small groups of women workers talking with each other, with the UFCW, with public interest groups and civil rights lawyers grew the legal action that Judge Jenkins described as “”historic in nature, dwarfing other employment discrimination cases before it.””
Wal-Mart has aggressively sought to suppress workers in the exercise of their rights, and has been particularly focused on dissuading workers from connecting with each other or acting as a group. Workers are repeatedly told they do not need “”third party representation”” and that Wal-Mart has an open door policy that allows workers as individuals to resolve their problems with management. Wal-Mart’s failure to address issues of sex discrimination as reflected in the Dukes case, and the success of women acting together with a strong voice and effective representation to take their case forward, however, demonstrate that Wal-Mart’s management system is fatally flawed and cannot meet the needs of a 21st century workforce.
“”An organized voice for workers is the solution for the problemsfrom low pay to inadequate health care, from high turnover to discriminationat Wal-Mart. The Dukes case is an inspiration for all other Wal-Mart workers that acting together they too can bring change to the workplace,”” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President.
June 2, 2004
Inglewood, California, Voters Reject Wal-Mart’s Effort for Expansion
Residents of Inglewood, California, stood up for American values – they said “”No,”” to the Walmartization of their community. They said “”No,”” to the Arkansas retail giant’s low wage, low benefit jobs. They said “”No,”” to a store the size of 17 football fields that would have decimated local businesses.
Voters rejected a referendum by Wal-Mart by voting 65% against a proposed Supercenter in Inglewood. Wal-Mart forced voters to the polls by refusing to accept rejection of their expansion plans by Inglewood City Council earlier this year. Wal-Mart abused the citizen referendum process by hiring people to collect signatures and force a ballot initiative – an effort that ignored zoning regulations and skirted traffic and environmental reviews. Wal-Mart was trying to buy the local political process but voters made it clear: you can’t discount democracy.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members held the line in Southern California for nearly 5 months fighting back demands by the supermarket employers that would have eliminated health benefits for workers. Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons used Wal-Mart’s low-road benefit package as an excuse to lower the standards for supermarket workers in California. Customers stood behind the strikers throughout the work-stoppage and now those same people sent Wal-Mart the message that they are willing to fight for good jobs with good benefits.
“”Wal-Mart’s arrogance blinded them to the fact that voters and consumers will not accept a giant retailer cramming low-wage, low benefit jobs in every community. Voters in Inglewood told Wal-Mart to respect their laws, their environmental standards and elected officials,”” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.
“”Wal-Mart is undermining living standards across the country and tried to undermine the democratic process itself,”” Hansen continued.
UFCW members in Inglewood joined with a broad citizen’s coalition of local and statewide elected officials, community organizations, and religious leaders to mobilize voters against Wal-Mart’s back-door bully tactics.
June 2, 2004
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) applauds nurses nationwide, today, on National Nurse Day, and every day, for their commitment and dedication to their patients and the nursing profession.
“The U.S. health care crisis is bringing mounting pressure on health care providers to do more and make do with less,” said UFCW International Vice President and Director of the union’s Health Care and Professional Division Greg Hamblet. “Decreasing staffing levels exponentially increases the burnout rate for nurses and puts quality patient care at risk. We need federal legislation, like Rep. Schakowsky’s, that sets mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing standards to protect patients.”
Schakowsky (D-IL) is introducing the Nurse Staffing for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2004, today. The measure establishes minimum staffing levels for different hospital units. Once minimum levels are met, the Act will require hospitals to develop staffing plans, in consultation with staff, to meet patient needs in the hospital.
A recent poll conducted by the National Consumers League and the AFL-CIO found:
• Nearly half or 45 percent of those who have had direct hospital experience in the past two years believe that their safety or that of a family member was compromised by inadequate nurse staffing levels.
• More than a third report not receiving important elements of care in a timely fashion.
• More than 75 percent support legislative action to improve nurse-to-patient staffing standards.
Schakowsky’s bill creates a framework for providing patients with the consistent quality care they deserve by establishing minimum direct care registered nurse-to-staff ratios. “Too many hospitals are resistant to establishing and enforcing safe staffing levels,”” said Hamblet. “Federal legislation on this critical issue is long overdue. We’re losing too many good nurses and putting patients at risk because of inadequate staffing levels. The UFCW is working with numerous unions on the nurse campaign to support the Schakowsky legislation, and ensure that nurses have a strong voice in establishing working conditions that allow them to provide the quality care their patients require.”