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    UFCW Blog

October 28, 2005


Washington, D.C. – WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s leading campaign to change Wal-Mart, will hold an unprecedented series of public actions around Wal-Mart locations all across America as part of the “”Nothing’s Scarier than Not Having Health Care”” campaign. From October 28th-31st, supporters of WakeUpWalMart.com will hold the nation’s first Halloween fundraising drive to help uninsured Wal-Mart workers and will distribute flyers about the shocking “”Secret Wal-Mart memo”” that was revealed by the New York Times. The public actions led by local supporters of WakeUpWalMart.com will be occurring in 84 cities and 26 states.

“”It is a national tragedy that Wal-Mart, a company with $10 billion dollars in profits, has such poor health care benefits that 1 out of every 2 children of Wal-Mart workers either has no health insurance or relies on a public program. In fact, as Wal-Mart’s internal memo proves, this company is determined to cut its health care costs by shifting more workers to part-time, making it more expensive for spouses and even not hiring unhealthy or obese workers. Our hope is that through the generous donations of the American people, we can help at least a few Wal-Mart workers have the health care they deserve and need,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart.

Supporters of WakeUpWalMart.com will also be distributing the highlights of Wal-Mart’s shocking secret memo authored by Executive Vice President Susan Chambers. The memo outlines the company’s frightening plans to use more part-time workers instead of full-time workers, to push spouses of workers off Wal-Mart’s health care plan through higher premiums, and to try to dissuade “”unhealthy”” people from seeking jobs at Wal-Mart. The memo states that executives enthusiastically embraced these recommendations.

“”Wal-Mart’ Secret Memo proves that Wal-Mart views its workers as if they were cattle – to be weighed, aged, and disregarded if they don’t meet its vision of “”healthy”” or cost the company too much. Wal-Mart’s proposed plan would rob workers of their human dignity and sets a dangerous precedent for all of corporate America,”” added Blank.

At today’s actions, supporters of WakeUpWalMart.com, many in costumes, will receive donations in support of Wal-Mart workers who do not have health care. Similar Halloween candy fundraising drives are being held in 84 cities. As part of the effort to highlight how serious the “”Wal-Mart health care crisis”” is, WakeUpWalMart.com supporters also distributed tens of thousands of flyers to the public and Wal-Mart customers highlighting the “”scary facts”” about Wal-Mart’s poor health care record.

The Halloween fundraising drive is the latest grassroots effort by WakeUpWalMart.com to change Wal-Mart into a responsible corporation. Following the release of WakeUpWalMart.com’s ‘Six Demands for Change’ the organization surpassed 112,000 supporters in all 50 states – making WakeUpWalMart.com the nation’s largest grassroots effort to change a corporation in history.

In the coming weeks, WakeUpWalMart.com, and other organizations, will help organize “”Wal-Mart Week”” – an unprecedented national week of action from November 13th-19th, beginning with the national release of the movie by Robert Greenwald, “”Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.”” During this week, WakeUpWalMart.com and a broad coalition of partners from all across America will be raising public awareness about the growing negative effects Wal-Mart has on their workers, the community, and the nation.

October 28, 2005

Statement of Joseph T. Hansen, UFCW International President

(Washington, DC) The UFCW will lower the American flag to half staff at its International headquarters building in Washington, DC to memorialize the passing, and to commemorate the heroic contribution to the struggle for civil rights of Rosa Parks.

In an act of individual courage, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man, and move to the back of the bus. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott and led to the end of segregation in public transportation. Her action inspired a movement and brought a new generation of leaders and activists, including Martin Luther King Jr., to the forefront of the fight for civil rights.

All of us are deeply saddened by Ms. Parks passing and all of us are indebted to her for her strength and determination. She truly made our country better. Seeing the flag flying at half staff in her memory should remind all of us that one person with courage and a commitment to justice can change the world.

October 26, 2005

WalMart Memo: Unhealthy People Need Not Apply and 46% of WalMart Employees’ Children Without Health Care or on Medicaid

“”An internal Wal-Mart memo, released by the New York Times this morning, exposes what a farce the last two days have been.   Wal-Mart’s CEO had the gall to come out this week and try to spin Wal-Mart as a company changing.  Wal-Mart is not a company trying to change.  Today’s memo proves Wal-Mart’s announcements are nothing more than a publicity stunt by exposing the truth behind Wal-Mart’s culture of greed and moral corruption.

The memo, authored by Susan Chambers, Executive Vice President for Benefits, robs Wal-Mart workers of their human dignity and instead treats them like products in their stores.   It is simply appalling that Wal-Mart’s senior management would actually write a memo suggesting not to hire certain workers because they may be unhealthy or obese.

Most startlingly, Wal-Mart, for the first time, admitted there is a Wal-Mart health care crisis in America.  The memo specifically states, ‘Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance.’  In fact, Wal-Mart revealed 46% of the children of Wal-Mart employees are either uninsured or on taxpayer funded public health care programs.  No wonder Wal-Mart so vehemently opposes legislators’ efforts to expose the truth about the true cost of the Wal-Mart economy.  It is inexcusable and unconscionable for a company, with $10 billion in profits, to know 1 out of every 2 of their employees’ children has no health care or is forced to rely on our public safety net and do nothing about it.

The key question becomes: What else does Wal-Mart know and when will they reveal it?   Wal-Mart’s great American deception of the past two days will not stand and Lee Scott ought to be ashamed of himself for perpetuating such a fraudulent image to the American people.””

October 25, 2005

Statement by Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com on Lee Scott’s Speech this Morning.

Today, Wal-Mart stole a move directly out of Karl Rove’s playbook. Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of deception before. Just like Karl Rove, Wal-Mart pursues morally corrupt policies that hurt America.

Today’s announcements by Wal-Mart are nothing more than a desperate publicity stunt to try and save a company being hurt by a faltering public image. Rather than address the fundamental reasons Wal-Mart is hurting America, Wal-Mart has decided to launch a series of cleverly named initiatives to try and deceive the American public.

Here is the truth about the Wal-Mart fraud on the key issues of poverty-level wages and poor health insurance.

Poverty-level wages. Wal-Mart says it wants to help wages, but Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott admits in the New York Times that Wal-Mart will do nothing to address its poverty level wages. Scott said, “”Even slight overall adjustments to wages eliminate our thin profit margin.””

Poor health care. Wal-Mart says it is offering cheaper health care, but Wal-Mart admitted today that there would be no significant cost increase because of this proposal. The truth is Wal-Mart’s health care announcements are just a repackaging of the same poor health care plan that has led to more than 600,000 of its workers not covered under the company health care plan.

Once again, Wal-Mart has passed up an opportunity to do the right thing and change. Rather than meet with us and form a new partnership to help Wal-Mart become a better business, Wal-Mart has chosen a publicity stunt designed to perpetuate a fraudulent image on America.

October 24, 2005


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott is announcing Wal-Mart’s “”new”” health care plans for 2006.  Wal-Mart falsely claims its plans will increase the number of employees who can afford health insurance. In fact, Wal-Mart’s so-called “”new”” Value Plan is simply a repackaging of the poor health care plans Wal-Mart already offers, which already leave over half of its employees without company provided health care.

“”Wal-Mart’s new health care plan is another empty promise wrapped in a publicity stunt that will do nothing to increase health care coverage for over 600,000 Wal-Mart employees who go without company provided health care,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director of WakeUpWalMart.com.

“”Wal-Mart fails to address the key reasons more than half of its employees aren’t covered under their health care plan – ridiculously high deductible costs and overly strict eligibility requirements.  Wal-Mart latest publicity stunt will do nothing to help their employees and is more reflective of a morally bankrupt company trying to deceive the American public than live up to its responsibilities as America’s largest corporation,”” added Blank.

Here are the facts.

Last year, Wal-Mart had two major health care plan options: 1) the Standard plan and 2) the Network plan.   Each of those plans has 4 options within them: 1) a $350 deductible; 2) a $500 deductible; 3) a $750 deductible; and, 4) a $1,000 deductible.

This year, Wal-Mart is introducing two additional options: 1) a so-called Value plan and 2) Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s).   Since the HSA’s are only available to employees who have already been enrolled in a Wal-Mart health care plan for one year, the HSA’s are not designed to, nor will the HSA’s, increase health care coverage for anyone.

Therefore, the only plan that has the potential to increase the abysmal fact that Wal-Mart only provides health insurance coverage to 48% of its employees is the Value plan.   The Value plan, however, comes with a $1,000 deductible.  In addition, the Value plan has additional deductibles for in-hospital care, prescription drugs and surgical care.  All told, the Value plan’s deductibles plus premiums could be as much as 25% of an employee’s take-home pay for individual coverage and up to 40% for family coverage.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the Value plan is almost identical, if not worse, than the $1,000 deductible versions of the existing Standard and Network plans already offered to Wal-Mart employees.

The following is a comparison of the rates between Wal-Mart’s proposed plan for 2006 and last year’s plans.

Jan. 2005          Jan 2006

Network Plan $1000 deductible            $17.50              $18

Standard Plan $1000 deductible           $21.00              $21.50

Value Plan $1000 deductible                Not Available     $25 (on average)

$10.50 (limited areas)

Wal-Mart’s business model has already paved the way for other corporations to try and reduce their health benefits to employees.   Currently, the average company with 200 or more employees has 67% of its workers covered under the company health care plan, Wal-Mart is well below that average with only 48% of its employees covered under the company health care plan.

“”Wal-Mart’s so-called Value health care plan offers nothing but an empty promise of higher deductibles that remain unaffordable and out-of-reach to most Wal-Mart workers.   With Wal-Mart’s poverty-level wages, the average worker would have to spend up to 40% of their take-home pay to purchase the family option of this so-called Value plan.  No wonder Wal-Mart admits the taxpayer-funded public safety net is often a ‘better value’ than their own inadequate health care plan.””

October 21, 2005

Tyson Foods Force Thousands of Workers onto Picket Lines in Alberta, Canada

Strikers Hospitalized from Brutal Attacks

(Washington, DC) – As the temperature begins to cool here in the United States, a bitter and brutal cold has crept into the air surrounding the Tyson beef plant in Brooks, Alberta, Canada.  More than 2,300 workers, many of them workers who are refugees from the Sudan, have been forced onto the streets and onto picket lines in a battle to preserve a decent standard of living.  Tyson is leaving workers and their families out in the cold, again.

Workers at the Brooks plant stood up for a voice with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 in August, 2004, eager for basic workplace protections such as an end to harassment, improved safety training, and better handling of biological hazards.   More than 600 Sudanese immigrant workers were lured to Alberta with the promise of a good job and bright future.  Tyson’s disregard for the basic safety needs of its workforce, immigrant and native, is reprehensible. Picket lines went up on October 12, 2005 after Tyson Foods threw out a proposal by a mediator appointed by the Alberta government to facilitate a first-contract agreement.

“UFCW members and Tyson workers in the United States stand firmly in support of our Canadian brothers and sisters as they stand up against Tyson’s greed,” said Joseph T. Hansen, UFCW International President.  “We are committing every resource available to support our striking workers in Alberta on the frontlines against Tyson’s inexcusable greed.”

Provincial law enforcement officers stood by yesterday as replacement workers and management verbally and physically assaulted Sudanese workers with racially-motivated jeers and anti-immigrant insults.  Several strikers were reportedly beaten with metal pipes, left injured in a ditch before being transported to the hospital.

“Tyson recruits workers from all over the world to bring them to work in their North American operations in a race to the bottom.   Exploitation of a vulnerable immigrant workforce is part of their business plan.  Now, it is particularly galling to see that the Tyson is allowing racially-motivated violence to take place on the picket line,” continued Hansen.

Tyson’s behavior in Alberta follows a pattern it sets in the United States – doing everything in its power to lower wages, cut benefits and reduce workplace standards for employees, particularly immigrant workers.  In 2003, Tyson forced long-time meat processing workers in Jefferson, Wisconsin onto picket lines for nearly one year in order to lower wage and benefit levels for unionized workers in the United States.  In this instance, Tyson’s message to the black immigrant workforce is clear: we brought you to this continent so that we can pay you less than native workers.

Tyson Foods is the Wal-Mart of the meat industry – dominating 27 percent of all beef, pork and chicken sales in the U.S.  But size doesn’t give it the excuse to drag workers’ wages, health care benefits, and workplace standards to the even lower levels.  The company carries very little debt and share prices have increased by 25% in the last year.  Tyson has no financial need to demand sub-standard wage and benefit levels for workers in the U.S. or Canada.

The Brooks facility handles 40% of all beef slaughter in Canada.   It operates under the name “Lakeside Packers.”  Tyson has owned the plant for ten years.

UFCW members in the U.S. will be marching and leafletting in support of the strikers at the Millions More Movement on the National Mall in Washington, DC tomorrow.

October 20, 2005

WakeUpWalMart.com response to Wal-Mart’s Announcement to Toughen Standards

WakeUpWalMart.com issued the following response to Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott’s announcement today that Wal-Mart would work to tighten standards at its overseas suppliers.

“”Unfortunately, Wal-Mart’s exploitation of workers is not limited to its use of sweatshop labor overseas. Our campaign is building a sea of public pressure to force Wal-Mart to end its race-to-the-bottom business model.

For too long, the American people have paid the price as Wal-Mart has relied on sweatshop labor to produce its cheap products. We will continue to work hard to get Wal-Mart to change its outrageous practices of exploiting sweatshop labor and failing to meet international labor standards. But, sweatshop labor is only the beginning of the long list of problems that Wal-Mart must address.

We welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue with Wal-Mart about how it can improve working conditions both here and abroad, but we know that actions speak louder than word. We hope Wal-Mart will accept our ‘Six Demands for Change’ and work with us to form a partnership for change.

Over the next several months, our campaign will continue to highlight the disastrous effect Wal-Mart is having on communities, families and our country. We hope Wal-Mart won’t respond with rhetoric and vague small steps, but will take bold action to change their greedy, arrogant ways.””

October 20, 2005

Prime Minister Must get Involved “”Before Someone Gets Killed”” at Tyson Plant

UFCW Canada Press Release — The national director of the union on strike at a Tyson Food’s plant (Lakeside Packers) in Brooks, Alberta, Canada has stepped up his call for Prime Minister Paul Martin to facilitate a resolution “”before someone gets killed””, in the wake of three picketers and the union’s local president all being hospitalized after being attacked by Tyson company personnel.

Click here to watch live video taken at the scene of the car accident.

“”On Thursday three picketers ended up in hospital after they were viciously outnumbered and beaten by Lakeside managers,”” recounted Michael J. Fraser, the national director of UFCW Canada, “”and now they attempt to murder the President of the local union by ramming his car off the road.””

“”Premier Klein has said he’s not prepared to intervene. Then let Prime Minister Martin show leadership and use his power to facilitate a resolution. Tyson’s Lakeside Packers is a federally licensed and inspected plant. Tyson’s tactics have created an explosive situation. This is not the Wild West or the Old South. Assault and attempted murder are not acceptable bargaining tactics.””

It is the second time this week Fraser has called on the Prime Minister to get involved. Fraser made his latest comments while enroute to Alberta where yesterday Doug O’Halloran, the president of UFCW Local 401, was chased and forced off the road by cars driven by Lakeside Packers management personnel.

O’Halloran is now listed in guarded condition.

Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, the owners of Lakeside Packers, forced the strike after rejecting a settlement drafted by a mediator appointed by the Alberta government to facilitate a first-contract agreement.

October 13, 2005


One year ago today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union unveiled a massive display on in the heart of Washington DC to mark the sacrifices by the sons and daughters of working America serving at the call of their government in Iraq.

On that day, 7,480 U.S. soldiers had been wounded and 1,076 killed.  Today, the number of those wounded stands at 14,641 while the number of those killed is 2,161.

The UFCW will never forget the sacrifice of our service men and women, their courage and commitment, and the grief of their families.

For the families of those who have fallen, we mourn your loss. For those who have been crippled and maimed in the service of their country, we honor your heroism and support you in your struggle.

We will continue to update the display at the corner of our building on K St. NW and 18th St. NW in Washington DC as a reminder to the corporate lobbyists and foreign policy think tanks that dominate the canyons of K St. NW, as well as the leaders around the corner at the White House and up the hill in Congress, that the policies they advocate and the decisions they make have a flesh and blood impact on our sons and daughters.

In Washington, the war in Iraq may be a matter of policy and politics. In working America, the war in Iraq is a matter of life and death, human sacrifice and suffering.

The UFCW will never forget. We want to make sure that those in power never forget either.

October 13, 2005


Oct. 13, 2005 – Washington, D.C. – WakeUpWalMart.com, the group leading the national fight to change Wal-Mart, announced today it had achieved a record milestone of public support. In the last six months, over 103,052 Americans have joined the WakeUpWalMart.com movement. The WakeUpWalMart.com campaign enjoys growing grassroots support in all 50 states, and is one of America’s fastest growing social and political movements.

“”We are witnessing the creation of a new social and political movement led by ordinary Americans, from all across the country, who are coming together to change Wal-Mart into a responsible corporation,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com. “”The national momentum to change Wal-Mart is both incredible and unprecedented.””

Today, WakeUpWalMart.com also announced an exciting new partnership with two of the largest grassroots organizations in the country – Jobs with Justice and ACORN. The alliance between Jobs with Justice, ACORN, and WakeUpWalMart.com builds an unparalleled force for change with thousands of activists, on-the-ground organizers and community groups ready to help change Wal-Mart in every town and city in America. Jobs with Justice and ACORN will be instrumental in helping WakeUpWalMart.com raise public awareness of why Wal-Mart needs to change beginning with Wal-Mart Week in November and extending through the entire holiday season.

“”This is a new day in the fight to change Wal-Mart. We have created an unprecedented, bottom-up force for change which will demonstrate why Wal-Mart needs to change now,”” added Maude Hurd, ACORN’s national president.

“”We are building the largest grassroots movement in history to change Wal-Mart. Our movement is led by community coalitions who believe America’s largest corporation should reflect the best in American values,”” said Fred Azcarate, executive director of Jobs with Justice.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities. Since 1970, ACORN has grown to more than 175,000 member families, organized in 850 neighborhood chapters in 75 cities across the U.S. and in cities in Canada, the Dominican Republic and Peru.

Jobs with Justice
Jobs with Justice (JwJ) is a national network of local coalitions that connect labor, faith-based, community, and student organizations to work together on workplace and community social justice campaigns. JwJ coalitions now exist in over 40 cities in 29 states in all regions of the country.