September 13, 2019
The popularity of labor unions is at the highest it has been in decades. According to a recent Gallup poll, approval of unions is at a 50 year high. And while the overall number of union members remains relatively low compared to what it has been in the past, there’s a significant shift happening that may indicate the tide is turning.
A 2018 study by The Center for Economic Policy and Research found that growth of union membership among workers under the age of 35 is wildly outpacing any other age group, a significant departure from the period between 2000 and 2012. So what is it that is driving this change?
Everything old is new again
While it’s impossible to isolate one deciding factor, it’s worth noting that young people today face many of the same precarious working conditions that initially drove people to start forming unions at their workplace to begin with. Lack of jobs with benefits or wages you can pay rent with (never mind saving for a house) have left millennials and younger burned out working multiple jobs, saddled with student debt, and desperately looking for solutions.
Kayla Blado of In These Times recently wrote:
“So, what can be done about burnout? “Self-care” has been touted by social media influencers as the best solution to restoring your mental health, no matter the cause. Sure, healthy food, exercise and sleep are important ways to deal with stress, and we could all use more of each. But eating a salad isn’t going to fix the systemic problems at your workplace, nor will getting a massage give you a voice on the job, or increase your paycheck.
It is important to address these workplace issues comprehensively, but there is one clear and immediate solution: join a union.
Being in a union means that you and your coworkers work together to fix the problems at your workplace, and then negotiate for solutions with management. Whether this means collectively bargaining for raises, vacation time, better healthcare or more clear-cut job duties, there is an undeniable strength in a union. The negotiations will result in a legally enforceable union contract. Unlike most employee handbooks, once you have a strong union contract, management can’t erode your pay or benefits, or fire you without notice.“
With the gig economy’s promise of flexible income you can build your life around showing itself to be little more than a mirage in a desert of bad employment opportunities, more and more working millennials are turning to organizing as the answer.
New voices in journalism
In 2014, the departure of Steven Greenhouse from The New York Times as their labor reporter left only one daily newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, with a labor beat. Many took this as a troubling sign for the future of labor journalism. But fast forward to 2019, and now Teen Vogue has a dedicated labor column, and coverage of workplace issues is on the rise. “I think, honestly, in terms of what I’m doing at Teen Vogue and what others are doing at other places, is that people are hungry for this,” said Teen Vogue columnist Kim Kelly. “The world’s on fire, fascism is alive and well, and people need to be able to find information and find decent reporting on these incredibly important topics wherever they can.”
“The fact that Teen Vogue allows me pretty much free reign to cover working-class history stories and labor stories, I think it does have a pretty big impact, at least that’s what I’ve been told,” Kelly continued. “It shows that young people today, and people of conscience in general today, want to know more about our history. They want to know where we came from and use that, hopefully, as a blueprint for where we’re going because the future is terrifying, but the past is terrifying too. There are ways to fight back. There are ways to win. We’ve done it before.”
September 13, 2019
America’s Largest Grocery Union Condemns New Policy that Hurts Workers and Undermines Customer Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the largest grocery union in the country, condemned the plan by Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, to cut healthcare benefits for part-time employees. UFCW President Marc Perrone released the following statement:
“Amazon’s plan to cut healthcare for these part-time employees is one of Jeff Bezos’ most brazen attacks on the quality of jobs at Whole Foods and the communities they support.
“Too many workers today are already working two to three jobs just to get the hours and benefits they need, and these cuts by Jeff Bezos just made it harder for them. Grocery jobs should be good jobs and one job should be enough to provide for yourself and your family.”
As reported by Business Insider, Whole Foods is cutting medical benefits for hundreds of part-time workers. The changes will take effect on January 1 and is expected to hurt 1,900 people who will lose healthcare benefits. The benefits that the company is cutting are offered to part-time employees who work at least 20 hours a week.
UFCW has been a vocal critic of Amazon’s aggressive move to devalue and degrade grocery jobs at Whole Foods. In March 2019, UFCW condemned actions by Whole Foods to reduce employee hours. These cuts came just months after Amazon announced a wage increase that was supposed to be an investment in Whole Foods workers. The reduction in employee hours eliminated any overall increase in income for many Whole Foods workers.
September 12, 2019
On August 29, Goodwill Industries workers in St. Louis voted to join UFCW Local 655 for better wages and benefits. The 25 Goodwill employees work in the front and back of the store in check-out, stocking items, and collecting and storing donated items.
The workers joined our union family because they were concerned about low wages, insufficient benefits and workplace favoritism. UFCW Local 655 is focused on helping these workers build on this victory to organize workers at other Goodwill stores throughout the area.
“We could not be more proud to welcome Goodwill employees into the Local 655 family,” said UFCW Local 655 President Dave Cook. “I look forward to helping them bargain the union contract that they deserve so that they can get the wages and benefits they have worked so hard for.”
September 9, 2019
The two-year contract includes language that rewards language skills with raises. Specifically, the contract language states: Employees who are fluent in English and another language (Amharic, Oromo, Spanish, Somali, Hmong and ASL) who provide improved customer service shall receive one (1) years’ service credit (.50 cents) on their wage progression.
Misra Abubaker, a UFCW Local 663 member at Seward Community Co-op, is happy about the new contract language. “I’m excited for the interpretation credit we won through collective bargaining,” she said. “It’s important to be recognized for my interpretation skills at the co-op. I speak Somali, Oromo, Amharic, and English. In the Seward neighborhood, there is a large community of East Africans. Every day that I’m at work, I see the joy it brings to our customers to see someone that looks like them and speaks their language.”
The Seward Community Co-op contract also includes language for a Labor Management Committee (LMC), which is a group of workers represented by UFCW Local 663 union members and management representatives. The LMC, which built the framework for the interpretation credit, is another example of contract language that UFCW members at Seward Community Co-op won that can build better work-lives through providing an additional space where workers and management come together to solve workplace issues.
You can view the UFCW Local 663 Seward Community Co-op contract here.
September 6, 2019
One of the most important benefits of coming together with your colleagues to form a union is gaining the clarity and security of a union contract. Having one means knowing exactly what is expected of you at work, and what you can expect from your employer in return. A union contract is a written agreement between the employer and the employees that details the terms and benefits in a clear and legally-binding way (more on the value of contracts here).
This might not seem like a big deal at first, but consider the power of being able to propose policy changes or raise issues with a company as a whole instead of just taking them individually to a manager. You could have the best manager in the world, but it’s unlikely they have the power to change company-wide scheduling policies, or tackle vital benefits like health care. Drawing up a contract with your company as equal partners is an incredible opportunity to dramatically improve your day to day life at work—and at home.
But how does a contract get written to begin with? The negotiation process can look slightly different from company to company and industry to industry, but here’s what’s generally involved:
You and your coworkers decide together that you want a contract.
Contracts typically expire after 3-4 years (depending on what length of time you and the company agree on together), so many times negotiations begin when an old contract is getting ready to expire. Alternatively, you and your coworkers could have just organized your workplace and this could be your first time sitting down with the company. All of the employees covered under the same contract are called a “bargaining unit.”
You come together to determine what you want to discuss with your employer.
Most discussions begin by starting with what you have now then building upon it, but you are only limited by what you and your coworkers can dream up together. Items up for discussion during negotiations are anything you want to address in your workplace, including, but not limited to:
- Pensions and Retirement
- Hours and Scheduling
- Paid time off
- Premium and holiday pay
- Working conditions
- Seniority and advancement
There are many ways to give input on what should be included in the new contract, including completing surveys, attending union meetings, texting or talking with union representatives, and emailing your local union office.
Meeting dates, sometimes referred to as bargaining sessions, are scheduled.
Two teams are established for the scheduled bargaining sessions, one representing the union members and the other representing the company. These negotiations can often take several rounds of meetings over the course of weeks or sometimes months. On the union side, we call the group representing the interests of all their co-workers at these meetings the “bargaining committee.”
Both sides hear each other’s ideas.
Formal negotiations sessions begin and both the employer and the bargaining committee listen to each other’s ideas and priorities. The process always includes formal discussions with notes taken so there is a record of what was said in case there is a question or dispute later on.
Your union and the company will go back and forth on terms.
During this time, both sides discuss and start to form the language of the contract. The union bargaining committee may request additional relevant information from the company to substantiate any of the employer’s claims, such as the impacts of various proposed changes on profitability. If common ground can’t be found, a neutral third-party mediator may be called in.
When both sides think they have come to a tentative agreement, the new contract is taken to you and your colleagues for a “ratification vote.”
The bargaining unit holds a vote, either in person or via mail. You will always have a say on whether to accept the tentative agreement or not. A contract is not considered to be in effect until the membership has voted to ratify it. Meanwhile, the company’s representatives also take the agreement to their stakeholders for approval.
Members accept or reject the contract.
If the majority of your bargaining unit votes no and rejects the contract, the bargaining committee and the company will typically restart negotiations and continue trying to work out a solution that both sides can agree on.
If the majority of your bargaining unit votes yes to accept the contract, it goes into effect.
Have more questions about how negotiations work for your contract?
Contact your local union representative.
September 6, 2019
For 37 years, The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) has been a committed supporter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), raising more than $90 million to drive forward our goal to end blood cancers. Led by members of the UFCW, Labor Against Cancer is a movement to end the devastation of cancer through fundraising drives among members, empowering them to band together in the communities where they work and live.
A three-year UFCW member in San Diego, California, Eva knows firsthand the urgent need for lifesaving cancer treatments. In June 2018, she knew something wasn’t right with her 17-year-old son Enrique, when he began experiencing debilitating headaches and difficulty breathing. After seeing several doctors, they learned he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Enrique spent the next several months in and out of the hospital undergoing treatment and fighting for his life. But Eva never left his side, and Enrique never gave up hope.
Even after missing his entire senior year of high school, Enrique kept up with schoolwork and was able to graduate with his classmates in June 2019. Today, he is in the maintenance phase of his treatment and takes daily oral chemotherapy from home. An avid animal lover, he plans to pursue a career in agriculture and work on a farm one day.
“To anyone experiencing the devastation of cancer, you have to stay strong,” says Eva. “I’m so thankful that UFCW is helping LLS accomplish more than any other cancer nonprofit to advance research and cures for blood cancer patients, like my son Enrique.”
Because of treatment advancements that LLS helped fund, families like Eva’s are able to stay together and have second chance to pursue their dreams.
September 6, 2019
A new contract was approved for more than 5,500 members of UFCW Local 655 who work at more than 70 Schnucks stores in St. Louis. The contract was ratified on September 5 and will raise wages and improve benefits for our members at these stores.
The three-year agreement includes a cash bonus, plus three annual raises; a $0.40/hour automatic pay bump for any employee working part-time more than five years; and a fully-funded pension. The new contract also expands health care benefits with no increases, and adds full-time positions.
“Our partners, especially part-timers, are getting real wage increases. They are maintaining their health care benefits, which are critical to our members, and their pension is strong,” said UFCW Local 655 President Dave Cook. “This is the difference a good union makes. This contract is an example of why good union jobs are so important to local communities.”
August 30, 2019
As a member of our UFCW family, not only do you get a contract that provides important benefits, like job security and quality, affordable health care—you are also eligible for a number of exclusive discount programs.
Save up to 35% or more on a full assortment of PCs, printers and accessories and more through the HP Employee Purchase program. Not just for Hewlett Packard employees, all you need is a special company code, which you can access by logging into the UFCW Discount Portal and searching for “HP.”
Shop Lenovo’s Back to School sale and save up to 76% on tools that make the grade like Think, Idea, and Lenovo branded PCs for your rising student. Door busters deals with additional savings will be available so check back often. Discount code available in the UFCW Discount Portal by searching for “Lenovo.”
August 27, 2019
Satisfaction at work depends on more than just wage increases, and one of the great things about having a union contract is the ability to have a say not only in wages and benefits, but the other policies at work that can have a big impact on the lives of working men and women.
Union contracts make jobs safer
UFCW Local 21 members at a cannabis company in Seattle, WA got it in writing that their employer form safety committees to meet regularly to discuss concerns at the workplace. The committees must include a union member, which helps ensure that both management and workers’ perspectives’ are included. Safety committees not only help make sure issues are addressed in a timely way, but that worker concerns are addressed without fear of retaliation.
Union contracts improve pay
Union contracts are especially beneficial for women and minority workers because they help ensure equal pay for equal work. On average, unionization raises women workers’ wages by over 11% – almost $2.00 per hour.
Beyond just improvements to hourly wages, unions can also make sure employees get paid fairly for the time they spend on the job. UFCW Local 1529 members who work at a poultry plant in Laurel, MS got it in writing that they are paid for the time it takes to put on, and take off, job-required equipment and attire.
Union contracts improve scheduling
In today’s changing workplace, employees are looking for more than just compensation, they are looking for ways to help maintain a healthy work-life balance. A recent study found eighty-seven percent of hourly workers consider having control over their work schedules to be extremely important, while fifty-five percent said they would leave their job if they didn’t have control over when they worked.
Though scheduling is consistently ranked as one of the most important issues for hourly workers, many employers still fail to give workers adequate notice of their schedules for them to plan their personal lives. Often even if there are policies on advance notice for employees, there are frequently few consequences for managers who repeatedly break those policies.
In their union contract, UFCW Local 75 members who work at superstores in Kentucky and Ohio got it in writing that their store must give 10 days advanced notice for employee schedules. Having advance notice helps workers maintain work-life balance, and is one of the best examples of how a simple change in policy can have a dramatic impact on the lives of working men and women.
Union contracts support families
Grocery workers at UFCW Local 1776KS in Pennsylvania got it in writing that their company set up a Dependent Care FSA — and contribute $50 per month to each employee’s account. Dependent Care FSAs allow employees to set aside money pre-tax for childcare and dependent expenses such as such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare.
Working men and women who are juggling the responsibility of caring for a child or a spouse or a relative who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care, already have enough on their plates to worry about. Dependent Care FSAs can help provide some relief by making it easier to coordinate care while balancing the needs of their jobs.
What can go in a contract?
Anything the union members feel is important and that can be successfully negotiated with the company is fair game. This usually covers the basics like wages, raises, processes for discipline and termination, safeguards against favoritism, scheduling, retirement benefits and health care, but can also include creative language for concerns specific to the unique needs of the bargaining unit such as language protecting LGBTQ workers’ rights, weather-related policies, rules regarding accommodations for religious beliefs, or policies regarding the impact of online sales or automation.
This is one of the main advantages of having a union contract instead of just relying on labor law alone – getting a law passed is time-consuming and may result in rules that aren’t even appropriate for all worksites. A contract gives you more control to make enforceable rules that are more of a custom fit solution rather than one-size-fits all.
August 26, 2019
Many companies are making big promises about cashless payments: You’ll soon be able to buy whatever you need with just the tap of a button, scan of your phone, or swipe of a card. But in our collective hurry to spend more money with greater speed and ease, we’re leaving millions of Americans behind and millions more at risk – and benefiting only a few at the top.
Looking in from the outside
Who gets left behind when you can’t make purchases with cash? People who are already vulnerable in one way or another – making a shift to cashless just one more addition to the growing divide between the wealthy and everyone else. And it’s not a small number of people – millions of Americans are excluded when you require them to pay with a card or app.
One in four Americans are unbanked or underbanked according to the FDIC. This includes people who don’t have a bank account of any kind or don’t have access to some banking services. These consumers primarily use alternative financial services – check cashing, money orders or rent-to-own – rather than traditional banking.
Many people fall into this group because of issues with their credit history, through a mistake or misfortune. For example, around two-thirds of bankruptcies are caused by medical issues. Some consumers’ credit history is impacted by their choice to not participate in the traditional banking system.
The result is that these households don’t have the reliable access to credit or debit cards needed to participate in a cashless system and this means that many of these consumers are shut out by this technology.
Immigrant communities can be especially vulnerable to the discrimination that results from cashless payment options. In Sweden, the country that has moved the furthest away from cash, immigrants are feeling the impact. Swedish bank account requirements for residents are making it hard for immigrants – regardless of documentation – to participate in this growing part of their economy. An increased reliance on electronic, regulated, transactions means that government regulators could easily exclude millions of immigrants from large swaths of the economy through a minor regulatory change.
Seniors are another group of consumers excluded by cashless. Smartphone taps may seem like the quickest way to buy something for many people, but with some stores going beyond cashless and also requiring an app, the barriers are even higher for older consumers. Seniors are the most likely to be excluded by these businesses. Only a quarter of those over the age of 65 even have a smartphone and the elderly write checks as their preferred payment method more than any other age group.
One of the primary concerns that prevent consumers from adopting mobile and cashless payment systems is a lack of trust in the safety of the systems, with many shoppers worried about the control their data. Recent data breaches at major companies have shown that consumers have good reason to be concerned. Some of the most devastating hacks have involved the technology that would be the backbone of any cashless transaction system.
A total of 147.9 million accounts at Equifax, the credit scoring bureau, were hacked in 2017. It took the company almost three months to discover the hack and they waited another three months before they told consumers that their personal information had been stolen.
Several retailers have also been victims of massive data breaches targeting their payment systems, including stores that now want you to use their cashless payment systems. These include companies like Target (110 million credit and debit card numbers), T.J. Maxx (94 million accounts), and Uber (57 million users).
Shoppers and workers are not the ones benefiting from cashless. The real winners are the big banks and credit card companies who process your payments. That’s because while a cash transaction is between you and the merchant, an electronic payment means that big financial transaction companies get a cut of your spending. That’s why the CEO of Bank of America says “we have more to gain than anybody” in the move to cashless.
The shift to cashless also means an overall increase in prices we pay every day as the costs of processing these payments is passed along by businesses to consumers. Small businesses, in particular, struggle with these small fees because larger businesses have more resources to negotiate lower costs and can bear the burden of the overhead more easily.
A future without cash
Our country’s economy has always been driven by innovation and new technology. But with so many workers and families being left behind by the cashless retail push, we need to decide if this is the future we want. If you to protect good-paying jobs and an economy where everyone can participate, you may want to think twice about where you shop and how you pay on your next trip to the store.