July 11, 2019
You may know Amazon Prime Day as an opportunity to score great deals for customers. This year Amazon has even included a live stream event featuring Taylor Swift to celebrate Prime Day. But here’s some things you need to know about Amazon before you put things in your cart.
At Amazon’s warehouse outside Baltimore, almost all of the work is done by robots or automated systems. At many facilities, “pickers” have to walk up and down long aisles to select items, but at the Baltimore facility, robots bring the shelves to the worker, who then picks out the items and puts them in a bin. The bins travel along the network of eight miles of conveyor belts to another worker who boxes the items.
“Jeff Bezos’s vision is clear – he wants to automate every good job out of existence, regardless of whether it’s at Whole Foods, Amazon warehouses, or competing retail and grocery stores,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone in a recent statement.
While some have argued that increased automation won’t impact overall job loss because new jobs will be created for those that are replaced, a 2017 study on automation in the United States found that between 1990 and 2007, one more robot per thousand workers reduced the employment to population ratio by about 0.18-0.34 percentage points and wages by 0.25-0.5 percent. In other words, for all the fancy talk, in reality those jobs that went away didn’t come back and wages for remaining jobs fell. This had a dire impact on jobs in manufacturing, but with the retail industry as the largest employer in the United States, the future looks grim if elected leaders don’t wake up and start taking things seriously.
Amazon’s plans for HQ2 will be the size of 57 football fields, possibly expanding to 133 football fields by the mid 2030s
The Seattle-based company has filed development plans with Arlington County, Virginia for the inaugural phase of its second headquarters, in Crystal City. Though they haven’t broken ground yet, the plans are already having a serious impact on the local housing market. As of June, the median home price in Arlington County was on track to spike 17.2 percent by the end of 2019, according to a report by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, making it harder for working class residents to afford basic needs for their families.
With over 100 million Prime members and growing, Amazon has more subscribers than the entire population of most countries. With about 310 million people who live in the United States, 100 million would be a third of the US population.
“Amazon workers suffer injuries – and sometimes lose their lives – in a work environment with a relentless demand to fill orders and close monitoring of employee actions,” states a 2018 report from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, who cited Amazon as one of their “dirty dozen” list of employers failing to correct known safety problems.
According to the report, two workers were crushed by forklifts, one was run over by a truck, one was killed by an SUV driver, one suffered a fatal heart-related event during an overnight shift, one was dragged and crushed by a conveyor belt, and one was killed and crushed by a pallet loader.
Amazon produced a 45-minute anti-union training video for managers
When Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion dollars, it also sent out this 45-minute training video for Team Leaders at the grocery chain:
In it, it warns of employees talking about a “living wage,” and gives tips on how to talk negatively about unions without breaking the law, such as:
“You would never threaten to close your building just because associates joined a union. But you might need to talk about how having a union could hurt innovation which could hurt customer obsession which could ultimately threaten the building’s continued existence.”
The video also warns about workers taking an “unusual interest in policies, benefits, employee lists, or other company information.”
July 11, 2019
America’s Largest Private Sector Union Calls for Real Action from Company to Address Unsafe Working Conditions and Efforts to Automate Workers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million workers in retail and other industries, announced its opposition to Amazon’s new $700 million initiative which aims to continue automating its own workers out of jobs. UFCW President Marc Perrone released the following statement:
“Jeff Bezos’s vision is clear – he wants to automate every good job out of existence, regardless of whether it’s at Whole Foods, Amazon warehouses, or competing retail and grocery stores.
“Amazon is throwing money at a problem it created and somehow thinks that it deserves applause. This is an insult to the thousands of Amazon workers who are forced to endure dangerous working conditions and meet impossible demands every day. Amazon has become an economic arsonist that suddenly decided to put out the fires it is starting.
“Our nation’s leaders – from both parties – must wake up. It is time to realize that Amazon’s ruthless business model will lead to massive job losses that could cripple our entire economy. The longer America waits to act, the greater the economic pain we will all suffer – all to further enrich one person – Jeff Bezos.”
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.
Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org
July 10, 2019
When UFCW Local 400 member Pete Dickerson noticed something was off about his pension, his store manager brushed him off for months. Not one to cause a fuss but concerned over his retirement, he finally went to his union representative. What started as a simple clerical error by the company was going to have a tremendous impact on Dickerson’s future, and his experience shows the importance of having a union on your side who is willing to back you up.
For Local 400 member and Kroger meat cutter Clarence “Pete” Dickerson, justice was a long time coming. But when it arrived, it was sweet—to the tune of $31,855.
Pete’s ordeal started more than eight years ago, when he transferred from his Kroger store in Richmond to Kroger #406 in Appomattox, Virginia. He needed to help care for his brother who had cancer and be closer to his family.
In Richmond, Pete worked as a meat cutter. But in order to transfer to Appomattox, he took a position as a part-time clerk, the only available opening at the time. Pete worked as a clerk in grocery and produce for a few weeks, but once the meat manager found out Pete was a fully trained meat cutter, he started scheduling Pete in the meat shop as a part-time meat cutter from that day forward. Sadly, his brother passed away, but Pete stayed in Appomattox, where he continues to work as a meat cutter today.
Unfortunately—and unbeknownst to him—the move from the grocery department to the meat department was mishandled by Kroger management. Pete was wrongly classified as a meat clerk, not a meat cutter.
Eventually, Pete became aware something was wrong. “My pension seemed awfully low,” he said. “So I started checking into it. They had me listed as a clerk according to paperwork. But I’m a meat cutter. I was hired as a meat cutter from the get-go.”
When Pete raised concerns, the store manager said, “We’ll look into it.” But months passed by with no action. But when his Local 400 representative, Phil Frisina, visited the store and learned of Pete’s issues, he filed a grievance.
“In our first meeting with HR, she told me I had said I came here as a clerk,” Pete recalled. “I told her I never said any such thing. And how would she know what I said? They were trying to blow me off.”
“It was a battle,” Frisina said. “Management claimed he should have known better. Come on—Pete’s 71½ years-old, an easy-going guy who didn’t want to rock the boat. I told Kroger he fulfilled his obligation to you by working as a meat-cutter. Your obligation is to pay him as a meat cutter.”
After more than five contentious months, Kroger finally did the right thing and agreed to a settlement reimbursing Pete for the pay he had rightfully earned as a meat cutter.
“I was thrilled to know that it has been done and handled the right way,” Pete said. “Anyone can make a mistake, but not to admit to the error is a problem.
“It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had my union there to help me,” he added. “Everyone should join our union. That’s why Local 400 is here—to catch errors that would otherwise never be caught.”
“Local 400 repaired Pete’s past and fixed his future,” Frisina said. “I’m about to retire myself and this is the biggest back pay award I’ve ever won. It feels really good to have helped someone—especially a good person like Pete.”
July 9, 2019
All workplaces should have a plan in place for how to safely respond to the risks associated with warmer temperatures. Don’t let summer catch you off guard- make sure your workplace has proper hot weather safety strategies in place. If you aren’t sure if your workplace is prepared for warmer weather, talk to your union rep.
Heat can cause more than just discomfort. Exposure to high heat and high humidity can be life threatening. Employers should make sure workers know the signs, symptoms and appropriate first-aid procedures for serious heat illnesses.
1.) All management and hourly employees should be trained with an emphasis on how to recognize a medical emergency (heat stroke).
2.) Have clearly written protocol on how to respond to a medical emergency.
This should include information for all shifts about who is authorized to call an ambulance, how to call for an ambulance, and what to do while waiting for emergency medical care. This protocol should be translated into the commonly spoken languages in the facility and posted throughout the workplace.
3.) Train all management and hourly employees on workers’ right to access drinking water as needed and the right to access to bathrooms as needed.
This is important because some workers hold back on drinking water so that they can put off using the restroom. This is never a good idea and can have serious consequences during hot weather.
4.) Monitor particularly hot and humid work areas.
This should be done with a device that measures both heat and humidity and combines these measurements to provide the Heat Index. The company should have a plan for additional rest breaks or means of cooling the work area whenever the heat index approaches the Extreme Caution zone.
|Heat Index||Risk Level||Protective Measures|
|Less than 91°F||Lower (Caution)||Basic heat safety and planning|
|91°F to 103°F||Moderate||Implement precautions and heighten awareness|
|103°F to 115°F||High||Additional precautions to protect workers|
|Greater than 115°F||Very High to Extreme||Triggers even more aggressive protective measures|
5.) Give workers time to acclimatize.
New workers should be given time to get used to working in high heat areas. During their first two weeks they should be monitored for signs of heat illness and provided extra breaks until they have adjusted to the heat.
Work with your union rep and your local to make sure that you and your coworkers are protected in hot conditions. Meet with the company to ensure that all of the proper hot weather safety strategies are being used in your workplace.
For more information about heat and heat-related illness, you can contact the UFCW Occupational Safety and Health Office in Washington, D.C. at 202-223-3111.
July 3, 2019
What’s more patriotic than celebrating Independence Day with UFCW-made products?
Here’s a list of products made by our hard-working members for your July 4th celebrations:
Jack Daniel’s barbeque sauce
Condiments and Sides:
French’s and Gulden’s mustard
Vlasic pickles and relish
Hanover baked beans
Breads and Buns:
Lewis Bakeries breads and buns
Aunt Millie’s breads and buns
Tres Monjitas bottled water
Snacks and Desserts:
Wise potato chips
Mission tortilla chips
June 28, 2019
When you take to the skies, rest easy knowing the folks running show are trained union professionals. Below is a list of airlines and hotel chains represented by union members.
- Remember that union families can plan their travel at the Union Plus Travel Center – including car rental discounts and much more!
- Learn about other union-made products and union member discounts on unionized products here.
- Air Midwest Inc. (IAM)
- Air Wisconsin (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- Alaska Airlines (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- Aloha Airlines (TWU)
- America West Airlines Inc. (TWU)
- American Airlines Inc. (FEIA)
- American Eagle Airlines: Div. AMR Corp (TWU)
- Atlantic Coast Airlines (AMFA)
- Bemidji Aviation (IAM)
- Canadian North (ALPA)
- CommutAir (ALPA)
- Compass Airlines (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- Continental Airlines (AFA-CWA)
- Continental Micronesia Airlines (AFA-CWA)
- Delta (ALPA)
- Endeavor Air (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- Envoy Air (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- Express Jet (ALPA)
- Frontier Airlines (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- Hawaiian Airlines (AFA-CWA: ALPA)
- Horizon Air (AFA-CWA)
- Island Air (ALPA)
- JetBlue (ALPA)
- Mesa Air Group (AFA-CWA;; ALPA)
- Miami Air International (AFA-CWA)
- Mesaba Airlines (AFA-CWA)
- Omni Air International (AFA-CWA)
- Piedmont Airlines (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- PSA Airlines (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- Silver Airways (AFA-CWA)
- Southwest Airlines (TWU)
- Spirit Airlines (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- Sun Country (ALPA)
- United Airlines (AFA-CWA; ALPA)
- US Airways (AFA-CWA)
- Virgin America (ALPA)
Full list of ALPA organized airlines.
Full list of AFA-CWA organized airlines.
- Best Western
- Comfort Inn
- Holiday Inn
- Ritz Carlton
*Some of the hotel chains listed above have specific unionized locations. To find out exactly which of the hotels you’re looking to book, employs workers of UNITE HERE, please search within the Union Hotel Guide — maintained by the UNITE HERE site where you’ll be able to search hotels by city, state, hotel name or metro area.
The full names of the unions above are: Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and UNITE HERE. If you know of any that are missing, please email email@example.com.
June 27, 2019
Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the values that have sustained the nation in the nearly 250 years since the Declaration of Independence clearly articulated a shared belief that “all men are created equal” and that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The basic principle of democracy is that people should have a say in decisions that affect them. This is also one of the core values behind why labor unions exist.
Without unions, workplaces operate like dictatorships: decisions are made by an elite few while workers bear the consequences of policy decisions.
If a dictator of a country took the attitude of “if people don’t like it here, they can leave,” we wouldn’t accept that as “democratic,” but that is unfortunately a common attitude management takes in many workplaces. And just like there are many reasons that might prevent a person from up and moving to another country, not everyone is in a position to be able to leave their job so easily.
“When we work together, we win together,” said Christine Taranto, a licensed practical nurse at Valley View Manor Nursing Home in Norwich, N.Y. The staff at Valley View Manor Nursing Home recently decided to join the UFCW after concerns about fair scheduling, wages and paid time off. “For far too long, our scheduling practices have limited our ability to provide patients with the care they need and deserve,” continued Taranto. “I’m proud that we were able to win a voice at the table for both workers and the people we care for every day. I know everyone who works alongside me knows that representation from the union will change our future here.”
If democracy is a truly important value to us, then it is important to fight for it at work where people often spend over half their waking life.
Engaging workers in workplace policies and conditions isn’t just about abstracted values, it also translates to better results for everyone, from the company to the individual.
In the meatpacking industry, UFCW members worked with Tyson to develop an ergonomics program informed by what was actually happening on the plant floor, and in doing so transformed an industry. The three decades-long partnership now serves as a model for the industry and has evolved to include improvements that have helped reduce workplace injuries and illnesses.
“What this program shows is that when workers have input on working conditions, when they are part of the decision-making process, you come up with a better, safer environment—and that’s good for everybody,” said UFCW Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division Director Mark Lauritsen.
As a UFCW member, you should feel proud of not only being part of a democratic country, but of doing your part to make sure our workplaces are democratic, as well.
June 24, 2019
As America’s retail union, the UFCW represents hundreds of thousands of workers across North America’s largest industry. Trends in that industry impact not only our jobs, but our friends, neighbors and communities. That’s why, at the UFCW, we keep a close eye on automation and other evolving technologies in retail.
Here are the big stories we’re watching this week:
Target Tech Failure: Don’t Count on Your Credit Card
- Two separate nationwide outages at Target stores last weekend brought business to a halt according to the Wall Street Journal. A Saturday computer outage prevented all sales for about two hours at stores across the country and a Sunday processing failure stopped all credit card transactions for 90 minutes.
- Fast forward to a future where a tech-heavy cashless model is the norm and a glitch like this could bring sales to a standstill for retailers nationwide. With the dependability of cash and cashiers central to the success of every retailer in this country for decades, companies should be asking why they would risk their transactions by relying completely on technology that is vulnerable to these problems. (6/16 Wall Street Journal)
Amazon Go Leaves Shoppers in the Dark About Their Spending
- Keep to your grocery budget this week? If Amazon has its way you may never know. That’s what one reporter at Inc. revealed when they went shopping at their local Amazon Go store. While his receipt revealed how long he’d been in the store down to the second, it only displays a “total, not the itemized elements” making it hard for consumers to know how much they’d spent and whether prices on the shelf match the price paid.
- Additionally, the receipt took 30 minutes to arrive in his email after he was done shopping making it even harder to spot errors and fix them. Just as companies use rebates to create the impression of savings while knowing that many customers won’t follow through, Amazon knows that once you spot any pricing errors, you’re not very likely to make the trip back to the store to correct them. This is another subtle way Amazon is able to get you to increase your spending and decrease your savings. (6/16 Inc.)
Costco, Albertsons Double Down on Failed Self-Checkout Despite Customer Complaints
- Two national chains that previously removed self-checkouts due to customer complaints are now returning to the controversial technology, according to a report in Grocery Dive. Albertsons’ removed self-checkouts in 2011 due to the lack of “human touch” and Costco pulled their machines in 2013 because “employees do a better job.” But now, both companies are once more trialing new self-checkout systems. (6/18 Grocery Dive)
- However, problems may soon crop up again as studies show self-checkout “doesn’t actually save customers any time and increases theft.” In fact, one self-checkout manufacturer admits that the system was not intended to save shoppers time.
Financial Services CEO Joins Chorus Warning Against Cashless
- The head of Western Union argues in a new Fortune opinion piece that going cashless is bad for business and for global inequality. Hikmet Ersek says that the rising trend of not accepting cash is “leaving economically vulnerable people behind,” and “leaves a lot of the world’s money on the table.”
- In Europe, the share of transactions conducted in cash is rising and globally almost a third of the population have no access to digital means of payment.
- By moving too fast to go cashless, companies perpetuate the stark economic inequality that is already rising and miss out on many potential customers.
Number of the Week: 1,000
- According to Business Insider, the number of Walmart stores using AI-powered cameras to track self-checkout theft. The cameras track and analyze activities at both self-checkout registers and those manned by Walmart cashiers. When a potential issue arises, such as an item moving past a checkout scanner without getting scanned, the technology notifies checkout attendants, so they can intervene.
- This is the latest example of a company pouring millions into tech instead of investing in human cashiers who are much better than a machine at preventing theft. (6/21 Business Insider)
These are the big stories in retail and automation we’re keeping an eye on. We’re always on the lookout for more though. If you have a tip for an article you saw or a personal story about how automation, AI or robotics has affected your job in the retail industry, tell us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 20, 2019
The UFCW Free College Benefit makes it possible for members and their families to earn an Associate Degree online through Eastern Gateway Community College. LaTrice Duncan recently received her degree in May through the program, and had the following to share about her experience:
So many people feel hopeless at the thought of not being able to afford a college education, and many give up looking for sources of assistance. What UFCW Local 1994 has done for me is beyond comprehensible. Not only did they provide me with a first-class education, but I am graduated debt free.
My educational pursuits would not be possible without the generous benefit that UFCW afforded me. For someone like myself that never thought a quality education was in reach, they extended a hand that allowed me to reach further than I could ever had dreamed about.
We’re there for you.
If you have been thinking about going back to school to get your degree but are overwhelmed by the process, reach out to the UFCW Free College program. Someone will assist you step-by-step and be there for any questions you might have.
June 18, 2019
We want to extend a warm welcome to Metro Market workers in Milwaukee who recently joined UFCW Local 1473.
One of the main motivating factors for the men and women of Metro Market to join the UFCW was a desire to strengthen wages, improve scheduling and staffing, and have a way to address other issues they face on the job.
“The biggest thing a union does is give us unity in numbers,” said Terrence Honey, a produce clerk who has worked at the Metro Market Van Buren store for 16 years. “Strength in numbers helps level the playing field.”
Congratulations and good luck with your first contract!