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February 6, 2018

Black History Month: Remembering Russell R. Lasley and the UPWA

This Black History month, we celebrate the life and legacy of United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) Vice-President Russell R. Lasley (1914-1989). Lasley was an officer in UPWA Local 46 in Waterloo, Iowa. He got his start working at The Rath Packing Co. and rose to become one of the central figures in the American civil rights movement.  Lasley was a vice president of the international union for more than 20 years, remaining after the UPWA merged with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen where he became director of the merged union’s civil rights department.

The United Packinghouse Workers of America was one of the most progressive champions for civil rights in the labor movement during the 1950s and 1960s. Formed in 1943, the union began pursuing anti-discrimination activities in 1949 and formed an anti-discrimination department in 1950. The UPWA required every union local to have an anti-discrimination department, and the national union headquarters made certain that the local departments had their own programs in the meatpacking plants and communities.

UPWA (United Packinghouse Workers of America) delegates at 1957 convention with Herbert Hill. From left to right are Ollie Webb, Richard Miller, Charles Hayes, Addie Wyatt, Herbert Hill, Phil Weightman, and Russell Lasley.

UPWA (United Packinghouse Workers of America) delegates at 1957 convention with Herbert Hill. From left to right are Ollie Webb, Richard Miller, Charles Hayes, Addie Wyatt, Herbert Hill, Phil Weightman, and Russell Lasley.

Together with the union, Lasley fought against housing discrimination in Chicago, according to labor historian Michael Honey of the University of Washington-Tacoma. “He was trying to open up housing for black families in white neighborhoods,” Honey said. “When one home was surrounded and fire bombed, the union brought people out to try to defend the black homeowner. The Packinghouse Workers union was extraordinary. It probably was one of the few unions where whites would really come out and support black civil rights.”

In addition to helping organize a march for voting rights on the nation’s capital in 1957 and forming defense committees to provide protection for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he came under attack, the UPWA also played a key role in the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was a group of southern churches and clergy who together coordinated protests and demonstrations in the wake of the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Martin Luther King, Jr., during his appearance at the United Packinghouse Workers of American Wage-Policy Conference. With him are Russell Lasley (left), a UPWA vice-president, and president Ralph Helstein. A poster at the head table calls attention to the boycott supporting workers on strike against the Kohler Company since 1954.

Lasley attended the founding meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in January 1957, calling it ‘‘an extreme honor and privilege to represent UPWA in a conference of leaders who have dedicated their lives to the cause of freedom and the establishment of a society free of racial injustice and second class citizenship.”

In addition to continually organizing conferences and legislative actions in support of equal rights for women and minorities, the UPWA donated 80 percent of the cost of SCLC’s first year budget and held regular drives to raise money for sit ins and freedom rides.  “I guess the Southern Christian Leadership Conference would not have existed without the Packinghouse Workers union,” said King scholar Clayborne Carson, professor of history and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University in California.

Ever a visionary, in his address to the members of the UPWA at their 1962 convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, King warned that the advances of technology were outpacing government’s ability to find creative solutions to the threats to workers they posed. His warnings were prophetic- facing enormous job losses in the packinghouses after automation shook the foundations of the meat-packing industry, the UPWA’s remaining membership merged with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen in 1968. The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen would later go on to merge with the Retail Clerks International Union in 1979 and form what today is the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

 

 

Excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King’s Address to the United Packinghouse Workers of America

May 21, 1962

The United Packinghouse Workers of America has set an example for every democratic organization in the nation. Indeed, if labor as a whole, if the administration in Washington, matched your concern and your deeds, the civil rights problem would not be a burning national shame, but a problem long solved and in its solution a luminous accomplishment in the best tradition of American principles.

In the early days of organization of our Southern Christian Leadership Conference, you employed the shop collection to raise significant funds for us. As we continued our struggles for human dignity, you remained a constant supporter in some of our darkest hours when the most savage elements among our adversaries took control.

Your dependable help was like a mighty fortress protecting us. Your aid, however, went beyond money. When various city and state officials of the state of Alabama, in abuse of legitimate judicial process, instituted a series of libel suits against us in an attempt to wreck our leadership, you provided brilliant legal aid through your union council to strengthen our defense.

The debt we owe you is great, and we cannot repay you today, but our memory is long and our gratitude is lasting, and when the day comes when we have won victories enough to have some surplus strength, it will be yours to command.

Another proud distinction your union possesses is its record of dealing with discrimination internally. In the last analysis, this is an acid test. It is not easy and it is rarely accomplished completely because the whole of our society is pulsing with racism, but the steps you have taken are longer and more decisive than others can boast. Indeed, though I am no historian of labor, I feel safe in saying that even within the CIO tradition where discrimination was fought with conscious purpose your record is the best. In America today this is the highest expression of patriotism and moral responsibility.

It is never easy to pioneer, but you did it while organizing a powerful industry whose abuses of public welfare were so extreme that they became a legend recorded in our literature by Upton Sinclair in his book The Jungle. That jungle was finally cleared and civilized by legislation and the adoption of socially responsible practices.

However, today a new jungle is creeping back, swallowing up and nullifying the achievements of the past, and this new jungle is not a wilderness of nature. It has the shining glittering face of science. It consists of the negative effects of automation and the runaway shop.

Both of these are destroying your jobs, changing your lives, while plays to counteract their destructive effects are either inadequate or nonexistent….


As machines replace men, we must again question whether the depth of our social thinking matches the growth of technological creativity. We cannot create machines which revolutionize industry unless we simultaneously create ideas commensurate with social and economic reorganization, which harness the power of such machines for the benefit of man….The new age will not be an era of hope but of fear and emptiness unless we master this problem….


Like you, we are deeply concerned with minimum wages, with social security, with health measures. We, along with you, want housing fit for families to live in happily and comfortably. Like you, we want job certainty in our working days and retirement security when we grow old. A society as dynamic as ours can provide these things if it is as flexible and inventive as the science which is such a vital part of it….


Years ago, it became a proud boast of the packing industry that by the application of science no part of the animal was wasted. “Everything but the squeal of the pig” was converted into a socially useful product. It is fair to say that if this could be done by one industry with pigs, all of society should seem capable of progress without wasting any people! This is the achievable test of the new age.

We will have no fear of the future if we master together the task of the present. So much that we have already done together proves that in going further and strengthening our ties we will inevitably enrich the lives of all of us, bringing democratic dynamism into the political bloodstream of the nation. Lest we forget, the men who established our country were in the main ordinary people – but they had an extraordinary dream that all problems could be solved by united action; by participation of all upon an equal basis.

They called their dream democracy. Nearly two hundred years later, if we now faithfully develop and practice democracy, transforming it into living reality for all of our citizens, it will fashion a new era of abundance in material and moral riches.

 

Members of a Des Moines United Packinghouse Workers of America local picket outside a Woolworth’s store to demonstrate their opposition to segregation of Woolworth stores in the South.

Two members of United Packinghouse Workers Local 1124 in New Orleans on strike against the Colonial Sugar Company.

Two members of United Packinghouse Workers Local 1124 in New Orleans on strike against the Colonial Sugar Company.

Private security guards hired by the Colonial Sugar Company photograph striking members of the United Packinghouse Union. As the result of a court restraining order the strikers were “walking” along a public street.

February 2, 2018

Most popular Super Bowl recipes by state

Most popular Super Bowl foods by state

Aside from Thanksgiving, Americans eat more on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day. UFCW members in grocery stores and in food processing plants across the country have been working hard to prep the meats, cheese trays, deli sandwiches, veggie platters and other great game day snacks we all love.

“This is one of the busiest times of the year for my store,” said Earl Greenlawn, a member of UFCW Local 367 who works at Kroger. “Leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, my co-workers and I put in long hours preparing food and helping customers plan their menus. We love knowing that our hard work makes it easy for people to enjoy the game with their friends and family.”

So what exactly is everyone eating during the Big Game?

According to Google Trends, the top recipes searched for by state are:

ALABAMA: Porchetta
ALASKA: Spinach quiche
ARIZONA: Corn bread cake
ARKANSAS: Cheese dip
CALIFORNIA: Cupcakes
COLORADO: Queso dip
CONNECTICUT: Cupcakes
DELAWARE: Chili
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Italian meatballs
FLORIDA: Spinach artichoke dip
GEORGIA: Pico De Gallo
HAWAII: Grilled liempo
IDAHO: Mac and cheese
ILLINOIS: Buffalo chicken dip
INDIANA: Pulled pork
IOWA: Artichoke dip
KANSAS: S’mores dessert
KENTUCKY: Bean salsa
LOUISIANA: Creamy shrimp, crabmeat, and spinach dip
MAINE: Spinach Caesar salad
MARYLAND: Chickpea soup
MASSACHUSETTS: Buffalo chicken dip
MICHIGAN: Hamburger sliders
MINNESOTA: Chili
MISSISSIPPI: Sweet potato shepherd’s pie
MISSOURI: Chili

MONTANA: Buttermilk biscuits
NEBRASKA: Chicken wings
NEVADA: Cake pops
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Tacos
NEW JERSEY: Buffalo wings
NEW MEXICO: Fried jalapeño poppers
NEW YORK: Jalapeño poppers
NORTH CAROLINA: Buffalo wings
NORTH DAKOTA: Jalapeño poppers
OHIO: Pulled pork pita nachos
OKLAHOMA: Oven mac and cheese
OREGON: Tater Tot casserole
PENNSYLVANIA: Buffalo chicken dip
RHODE ISLAND: Bean dip
SOUTH CAROLINA: Pepperoni dip
SOUTH DAKOTA: Creamy chicken casserole
TENNESSEE: Buffalo chicken appetizer
TEXAS: Football cupcakes
UTAH: Cheesy chicken broccoli casserole
VERMONT: Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
VIRGINIA: Buffalo chicken dip
WASHINGTON: Baked chicken wings
WEST VIRGINIA: Bacon cheese ball
WISCONSIN: Buffalo chicken dip
WYOMING: Homemade Oreo cookies

Whatever you’re eating this weekend, there’s a good chance a UFCW member somewhere along the line helped it reach your home. Enjoy the game and let us know your favorite recipes on our Facebook page. 

January 30, 2018

UFCW Statement on USDA’s Decision to Reject Poultry Industry’s Push to End Line Speed Limits

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, released the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to deny the National Chicken Council’s (NCC) petition to eliminate line speed limits at poultry plants.

“This decision is a victory for hard-working poultry workers who hold one of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in America, and the consumers who depend upon them to provide chicken that is safe to eat. However, we remain concerned that poultry companies can request line speed waivers for individual plants. 

“In addition to putting poultry workers at greater risk of injury, eliminating line speeds puts consumers at risk by making it more difficult for both federal inspectors and quality control workers to properly check birds for contamination. 

“It was unbelievable to see major poultry industry groups ignore these well-known risks and lobby the USDA to eliminate line speeds.” 

Thousands of UFCW members who work in poultry plants sent comments to the USDA about the dangers of this petition. The UFCW also sent letters in October and December of 2017 to the USDA that highlighted how risky the NCC petition to eliminate line speeds would be for both workers and consumers. There are more than 250,000 poultry workers in America and 70,000 of them are members of the UFCW union family.

BACKGROUND

  • The Government Accountability Office released a report in December of 2017 that confirmed that forcing lines to move faster will expose poultry workers to higher rates of injuries and illnesses.
  • In addition to worker risks, countries with higher line speeds have higher rates of foodborne contamination in poultry plants.

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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.

January 30, 2018

Take a peek inside the 113-year old tannery where UFCW members make the leather for every NFL football

Did you know the leather for every single NFL football, including the ones that will be used in Sunday’s Super Bowl, is crafted in Chicago by members of UFCW Local 1546 at the Horween Leather Company? The hard-working men and women of Horween have been making the leather for every official National Football League ball since the early 1940s. Almost every leather football you see — Wilson, Spalding, Nike, Rawlings, Adidas — began its journey to the field in the hands of a UFCW Local 1546 member.

The company takes pride in the talented workers whose skills are evident in the quality of the final product. Despite the leather’s sheen, which can give the appearance of being slippery, the proprietary “tanned in tack” finish actually means the ball gets stickier after being buffed a few times, making it easier to grip. A 1,000-ton press with special German-made embossing plates gives the leather its distinctive pebbling.

Horween Leather Company was founded in 1905 in Chicago and for five generations has been producing a wide range of top quality leathers ever since. During World War II, it was Horween who supplied Chromexcel for shoes worn by the Marine Corps. Chromexcel is a labor-intensive leather that undergoes at least 89 separate processes, taking 28 working days and utilizing all five floors of the facility. The formula has had very few changes since it was developed, with a few minor necessary exceptions like swapping out whale oil for a more modern-day equivalent.

Horween is also one of the world’s last remaining producers of shell cordovan, a durable equine leather. Shell cordovan is unique for its durability and tendency to form attractive rolls in the leather as it ages rather than creasing. Allen Edmonds, a 92-year-old shoemaker based in Wisconsin, uses this leather in its Park Avenue Cordovan Oxfords, which Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush wore for their inaugurations. The leather in a properly maintained pair of shell cordovan shoes can last 20 years to a lifetime.

To take a peek inside the over 100-year old facility and see some of the pros hard at work, check out the slideshow:

January 23, 2018

As American as apple pie: happy National Pie Day

To celebrate National Pie Day (Jan 23), here’s some fun facts we learned from The American Pie Council about one of America’s favorite desserts:

1.) Pie crust was originally not intended to be eaten.

Pie has been around since the ancient Egyptians. The first pies were made by early Romans who may have learned about it through the Greeks. These pies were sometimes made in “reeds” which were used for the sole purpose of holding the filling and not for eating with the filling.

Pie came to America with the first English settlers. The early colonists cooked their pies in long narrow pans calling them “coffins” like the crust in England. As in the Roman times, the early American pie crusts often were not eaten, but simply designed to hold the filling during baking. It was during the American Revolution that the term crust was used instead of coffyn.

Baker Preparing Pies by Italian painter Bartolomeo Passarotti (1529-1592)

2.) The Romans published the first pie recipe, and it sounds delicious.

The Romans must have spread the word about pies around Europe as the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the word pie was a popular word in the 14th century. The first pie recipe was published by the Romans and was for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie.

3.) Cherry pie is said to have royal origins (but it’s probably not true).

The early pies were predominately meat pies. Pyes (pies) originally appeared in England as early as the twelfth century. The crust of the pie was referred to as “coffyn”. There was actually more crust than filling. Often these pies were made using fowl and the legs were left to hang over the side of the dish and used as handles. Fruit pies or tarts (pasties) were probably first made in the 1500s. English tradition credits making the first cherry pie to Queen Elizabeth I.

4.) For the best pie, keep it cold and keep it simple.

Cold ingredients are essential to making a great pie crust It even helps to have cold bowls and utensils. In addition, be sure to chill the dough for at least an hour before rolling it out. Keeping the shortening cold ensures a nice flaky crust!

Don’t overwork or overhandle the dough. Your shortening/butter should be coated with flour mixture, not blended with it. Over-processing causes gluten to form, a substance that toughens the dough. It’s even a good idea to have cold hands before handling.

5.) You can make a tasty pie entirely from UFCW-made ingredients.

Butter, flour, eggs, sugar, whipped topping, and pie filling – UFCW members at a number of different local unions across the country help make sure you have quality ingredients for your family recipes. Here’s a sample of just a few of the pie-related ingredients the men and women of the UFCW are hard at work making:

January 19, 2018

UFCW Statement on USDA Decision to Eliminate Line Speed Limits at Pork Plants

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), released the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to eliminate line speed limits at pork plants.

“This desire to increase line speeds is being driven entirely by corporate greed and defies common sense.

“Jobs inside pork plants are some of the most dangerous and difficult in America. We’re only putting workers at greater risk of injury and consumers at greater risk of consuming unsafe meat by asking everyone who labors inside one to work faster.

“For the sake of keeping millions of hard-working families safe, this decision deserves immediate reconsideration.”

BACKGROUND

  • The UFCW union family represents hard-working men and women in pork plants that have already had their line speed limits eliminated as part of a trial program, as well as people who are in plants that run profitably with line speed limits in place.
  • According to a 2013 report from the USDA OIG, the existing trial program did not result in better food safety.
  • Injury rates in the meatpacking industry are already twice as high as the national average and workplace illness rates are 20 times as high.
  • This latest announcement follows the recent regulatory effort to remove line speed limits for the poultry industry.

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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.

January 19, 2018

Apply for the Union Plus Scholarship Program

Application deadline:  12:00pm (noon, Eastern Time), Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

Did you know that as a UFCW member, you and your family are eligible for an exclusive scholarship through the Union Plus Scholarship Program?

The scholarship amounts range from $500 to $4,000. These one-time cash awards are for study beginning in the Fall of 2018. Students may re-apply each year.

Since 1991, the Union Plus Scholarship Program has awarded more than $4.2 million to students of working families who want to begin or continue their post-secondary education.

Over 2,800 families have benefited from our commitment to higher education. The Union Plus Scholarship Program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation.

Apply today!

​Winners will be announced May 31, 2017. Read about the 2016 winner here.

 

January 17, 2018

Behind the scenes of keeping our roads safe

When winter weather hits, UFCW Local 1994 members in Maryland help keep the roads safe during icy conditions. While everyone else is trying to stay off the roads, that’s when Local 1994 members spring into action. Thank you for all that you do!

January 15, 2018

UFCW celebrates the legacy of Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.

About two weeks before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a massive crowd of sanitation workers who had gone on strike. He know the value of hardworking people, and championed their cause. We continue to fight for a better life in his name today.

“This is a particularly important time to reflect on Dr. King’s pursuit of inclusivity and allow it to inspire our enthusiasm for the same ideals,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “He showed that change for the better and compassion for others starts with all of us. When we stand up for our values and become actively involved in positive action, we can build a better nation and a better life for the many, not just the few.”

January 15, 2018

UFCW Statement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), released the following statement regarding Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

“This is a particularly important time to reflect on Dr. King’s pursuit of inclusivity and allow it to inspire our enthusiasm for the same ideals. He showed that change for the better and compassion for others starts with all of us. When we stand up for our values and become actively involved in positive action, we can build a better nation and a better life for the many, not just the few.” 

“It would be a fitting tribute to Dr. King and his legacy in 2018 if our country and those who lead us could begin moving beyond divisions, and towards an America that is defined by justice, dignity, and respect.”

 

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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.