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May 8, 2018

Have you thanked a third shift worker?

From stocking shelves to providing late-night medical care, when the rest of the world goes to sleep, many UFCW members’ work days are just getting started.

Last year on National Third Shift Workers Day (celebrated on the second Wednesday in May), to recognize the hard work and sacrifice made by those who work overnight to keep our communities running smoothly, International President Marc Perrone surprised several UFCW Local 2008 members at Kroger in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a late night visit in honor of National Third Shift Workers Day.

“To our members, and everyone who works through the night so that we can all enjoy the day – thank you,” said Perrone. “Thank you for making our communities better and for making a real difference in so many lives across this nation.”

UFCW International President Marc Perrone and Steve T. Gelios, president of UFCW Local 2008, with UFCW Local 2008 third shift workers at a Little Rock, Arkansas, Kroger.

Mark Ramos, president of UFCW Local 1428 in California, was also burning the midnight oil and visiting stores overnight to personally thank the hard-working men and women of the third shift for all they do.

“I was on third shift for 14 years when I worked in the stores,” said Ramos. “When I first started working nights, it took a few months to get used to it. You know, you never really get 8 hours of sleep. I’d take two naps instead. You learn to make it work.”

Ramos preferred to work third shift because the predictable schedule and hours let him take care of his kids and spend more time with his family during the day. The same applies for many of the members he spoke with during his visits.

“They are amazing folks. Most of them have families, and they work and then go home and do other things. The working moms who work that shift are some of the most incredible, courageous workers I know.”

 According to multiple studies, shift work is hard on both the body and mind. The risk of workplace injuries, obesity and depression are all increased if a person works overnight. Studies also suggest that third shift work impacts hormones that regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn lead to a higher risk of serious health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.

Despite these risks, there is no federal law requiring third shift workers to be provided with any extra pay or benefits. But in UFCW contracts all across the country, we negotiate premium pay for third shift workers to help provide them with the better life they’ve earned and deserve.

“Thank you for recognizing us,” said Beverly Martin, a UFCW Local 8-Golden State member who works at Savemart in California. “I work the third shift and have for six years now. We get looked-over for a lot of things.”

 “I provide Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday dinners for my fellow night crew members,” Martin went on to say. “By the time it’s our lunch, the food from the daytime party is gone or there’s not enough to go around. It may not seem like much to a day worker, but little things like that can really help to build up our team at night. So, here’s to those of us who work at night.”

May 3, 2018

Over 6,500 Pork Plant Workers Tell the USDA to Keep Line Speeds Safe

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over 6,500 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union family who work in pork plants submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in opposition to a proposed rule that would increase the line speeds where they work, threatening both them and the consumers they serve. Marc Perrone, international president of the UFCW, released the following statement as the comment period for this rule ended:

“The American people and our members are clear – faster line speeds in pork plants will lead to more workplace injuries and less safe food.

“The hard-working professionals employed in America’s pork plants are united in opposition to this proposed rule because they know better than anyone the harmful effects of increasing production speeds.

“We urge the USDA to hear their voices and rewrite this rule so that the people who work in pork plants and the millions they serve can all be kept safe.”

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The UFCW is one of the largest private sector unions 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.

 

May 1, 2018

UFCW members are proud to make the Kentucky Derby’s “Garland of Roses”

Since 1987, the talented men and women of UFCW Local 227 in Kentucky have been hand-crafting the delicate “Garland of Roses” awarded to the winning horse of the annual Kentucky Derby. The garland has been an iconic part of the Kentucky Derby traditions since 1932.

“I’m excited to be part of the team that makes the Garland of Roses,” said UFCW Local 227 member Leigh Wheeler.  “It takes about 14 hours and every rose has to be perfect. Derby is a wonderful tradition in our state and our union family works hard to make you and your family proud.”

 

 

April 26, 2018

UFCW Statement on Federal Court Ruling DACA Elimination Unlawful

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), responded to a federal judge ruling that the Trump administration’s elimination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was unlawful and that new applications must be accepted if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot provide a legally sufficient explanation for termination within 90 days.

The UFCW joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)’s suit, along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as co-plaintiffs against President Trump, Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security in September 2017.

“Protecting people who’ve earned the right to live here is what DACA is truly about. Ending DACA was always the wrong choice to make for our communities, workplaces, and neighborhoods.

“Today’s decision shows how important it is to stand up and fight for millions of young people and their families who make this country better every day.

“Our union family will not rest until Congress delivers a bipartisan, sensible legislative fix to end this nightmare of uncertainty for DACA recipients and TPS holders.”

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The UFCW is the largest private sector unions 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.

April 18, 2018

UFCW Statement on Farm Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), released the following statement regarding the Farm Bill being passed out of the House Agriculture Committee. This bill currently limits access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps).

“This Farm Bill is bad for America and hard-working families. It needlessly denies large numbers of people access to affordable food and should be opposed by any elected leader who truly cares about making our country a better place to live. 

“A majority of adults on SNAP already work hard every day. Creating stricter work requirements is simply cover for installing cuts that will seriously harm hard-working families and the places they live. 

“From the food processing plant, to the distribution center, to the checkout lane at the grocery store, SNAP consistently creates sustainable jobs in every community. The changes proposed to it in this bill directly threaten our economy and good jobs across America. 

“We urge members of Congress to do what is right and vote against any Farm Bill that would make it harder for Americans to work and feed themselves and their families.” 

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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.

April 16, 2018

A packinghouse worker’s account of MLK and the 1968 sanitation strike

Anna Mae Weems, a member of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA), one of the unions that would later merge to become the UFCW, shared her memories of working with Dr.Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) on the 1968 Sanitation Workers’ Strike in the following article that appeared in The Courier. 

The UPWA had long been a strong supporter of the SCLC. 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. When Memphis sanitation workers called on labor allies for help, Weems and other UPWA members heard the call.

Photo by BRANDON POLLOCK, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

WATERLOO – It was early 1968. A charismatic minister Anna Mae Weems had hosted on a visit to Waterloo nine years earlier and his organization needed help. She answered the call.

Weems, who had been active with the United Packinghouse Workers of America at The Rath Packing Co., and other labor leaders were called to Memphis, Tenn.

Unionized municipal sanitation workers, predominantly African-Americans, were on strike for better pay and working conditions. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was called in to help. Other labor organizations also were called in.

That’s what brought Anna Mae Weems to Memphis for what would be her last meeting with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., SCLC leader.

“We marched down Beale Street and around City Hall,” Weems recalled. Through it all, King maintained a humble persona. “He was a common person. It wasn’t like I was sitting with a celebrity. He was like someone you knew all your life. He was for the good of the community all the time.”

Weeks later, on April 4, 1968, King was killed by an assassin’s bullet on a Memphis hotel balcony. Weems, home in Waterloo, reacted as many, with shock and horror.

The 50th anniversary of King’s assassination makes this Martin Luther King Day particularly poignant for many, including Weems. She escorted King around Waterloo in November 1959 as the young minister was starting to make a name for himself with civil rights activities in Montgomery, Ala. He met community leaders, spoke at West High School and at Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa.

Fifty years removed from the tragedy of his passing, Weems said King’s death reminds us leadership is not for the squeamish but is still needed today on issues of justice and equality.

“He would want us to build on leadership,” Weems, 91, said. “ If you get good leadership in a community and you get that motivation and you get that influence, then you would have a community that’s unified. … You see, leadership is not for cowards. You have to know how to bring out the best in people.”

She supported King on some marches activities in the South.

“Some people would throw things, and he would say ‘Louder, children. Louder. They’re not hearing us.’ He would say things that are uplifting, not downtrodding.”

Weems said she and others were called to a meeting at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, now the home of the National Civil Rights Museum. It was where King frequently held meetings and was ultimately assassinated. A fellow Rath-UPWA member from Waterloo, Russell Lasley, became national treasurer of the UWPA, which supported the SCLC.

“We were called down there to help the garbage workers,” Weems said. “I was volunteering all around,” working under King’s friend and SCLC associate, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy.

King sought conciliation, not confrontation, through organizational efforts, Weems said.

“Dr. King always had that saying that you should inspire, not intimidate. People would say things are real bad. Dr. King would say, ‘There’s no such thing as an unmotivated person.’ A leader should go in, work with a person and stir up the energy God gave him. … Bosses drive men. Leaders motivate.”

Weems first met King in Washington, D.C., in the late 1950s. He gave the invocation at a breakfast hosted by then-Vice President Richard Nixon. She invited King to Waterloo.

While some locally initially were standoffish to the young minister, Weems said others, such as the Rt. Rev. Monsignor E.J. O’Hagan, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, welcomed him with open arms. Burton Field of Palace Clothiers fitted the young minister with a heavier suit of clothes for the chilly November Iowa climate. He stayed at the Russell-Lamson Hotel.

After his talk at West High, Weems recalled, King stood behind the auditorium curtain, buoyantly asking, “Did I do all right?”

“He was intoxicated with love for his fellow man,” Weems said.

She learned of King’s assassination when called by a Courier reporter. “It was such a shock,” she said. She hushed her children and called the UPWA union hall to verify it. The secretary was in tears.

She later told The Courier, “Dr. King taught us that violence is not the answer; it only creates fear. The wound of racial injustice can only be healed by the peaceful balm of religion and morality. We must — and we shall — try to fill the void and move forward with brotherly love.”

The Rev.Martin Luther King Jr. and Anna Mae Weems are shown here during King’s visit to Waterloo in 1959. Photo from The Courier.

 

April 16, 2018

A UFCW Retiree Recalls How She Typed Her Way Into History

 

“I had never made a speech before,” Blair said. “But I knew I had to say something.”

Fifty years ago, Bonnie Blair worked as a secretary at the Retail Clerks International Union in Memphis, Tennessee, which is now UFCW Local 1529. Her job ranged from typing bylaws to billing and bookkeeping for the local.

On February 1, 1968, two Memphis garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck. This tragedy was a tipping point for sanitation workers in Memphis, where black garbage haulers were prohibited from riding with the white drivers—forcing them to ride in back with the trash. Henry Loeb, who was mayor of Memphis at the time, refused to pay the workers a fair wage.

A few days after the tragedy, the sanitation workers, including garbage-collector-turned-union-organizer T. O. Jones, demanded the right to join a AFSCME Local 1733 for better wages and working conditions. Jones and the workers asked if someone from the Retail Clerks International Union could help type letters to Mayor Loeb from 33 men, asking him to meet with the workers and recognize their union. Blair agreed to help the workers.

Blair worked with T. O. Jones and typed each of the 33 letters on an IBM electric typewriter, and made carbon copies of each letter. When every man had signed their names, Jones delivered the letters to Mayor Loeb’s office. The mayor’s refusal to meet with the workers sparked the famous “I Am a Man” strike.

Blair continued to type the correspondence for the workers during the strike. Once night, she drove to a union hall, where hundreds of the sanitation workers were meeting, to deliver the material she had typed to Jones. When she got there, Jones asked her to speak to the crowd.

“I had never made a speech before,” Blair said. “But I knew I had to say something.”

She went to the stage and addressed the workers. “Don’t give up,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged. You have every right to be here and have a contract. God is on your side.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis on March 18 in support of the strike, which had attracted thousands of supporters. Blair and her husband joined the rally. Dr. King returned to Memphis to help the workers on April 3, and gave his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. He was killed the next day. The Sanitation Workers Strike ended on April 16 with a first union contract for the workers that included wage increases.

Blair has remained activist for social and economic justice, and attended the I AM 2018 Conference in Memphis this month, which marked the 50th anniversary of the Sanitation Workers Strike and Dr.  King’s death. She has advice for young activists who continue to fight for positive change 50 years later.

“Serve God where you are and do the right thing,” she said.

April 13, 2018

Local 5 Adds More Cannabis Processors to Our Union Family

On April 2, 38 workers at Cypress Manufacturing Company in Salinas, California, joined UFCW Local 5. The facility is part of Altai Brands and the workers produce a variety of edible cannabis products. Indus Holding Company is the parent company of Altai Brands.

The cannabis processing workers joined UFCW Local 5 for a voice in the workplace. “They complained about a list of broken promises around basic issues like regular wage increases and evaluations – but want they really want is respect,” said Union Representative Efrain Aguilera.

Long known as the “nation’s salad bowl,” the Salinas Valley agriculture industry is in transition as traditional crops, particularly flowers, are replaced by more profitable cannabis plants. The area is home to nearly 100 cannabis-related companies, which employ thousands of workers.

UFCW Local 5 was one of the first unions in the country to organize workers in the cannabis industry, focusing initially on Bay Area medical marijuana dispensaries before legalization for recreational use in California was approved by voters in 2016. UFCW Local 5 continues to focus on dispensaries, manufacturing facilities, and workers who grow and harvest cannabis, including a current campaign with Indus/Cypress field workers covered by the Agricultural Labor Relations Act.

As the industry grows so will UFCW Local 5’s effort to organize workers “from seed to sale,” said Aguilera.

April 12, 2018

UFCW Endorses Poor People’s Campaign Revival

Washington, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), one of the largest private sector unions in America, endorsed the revival of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Founded by Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis, the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary, and hundreds of local and national grassroots groups, this campaign is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the nation’s distorted morality.

Marc Perrone, president of the UFCW International, released the following statement regarding the endorsement:

“The Poor People’s Campaign believes, as our union family does, that our economy can and should work better for everyone.

“Telling the millions of people who are struggling alone, to work harder, complain less, or pray more won’t work.  

“Wage inequality, the assault on voting rights, underemployment, and the attacks on immigrant and refugee communities are all part of a systemic effort to disenfranchise poor communities.

“We’re proud to support The Poor People’s Campaign because, if successful, it will bring hard-working families more power to build better lives.”

On Tuesday, April 10, 2019, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released The Souls of Poor Folk, an audit of America 50 years after Dr. King and many others launched the original Poor People’s Campaign to challenge racism, poverty, and a host of other intersected issues.

The report, which was presented at the National Press Club by IPS with support from the Urban Institute, shows that, in many ways, we are worse off than in 1968. Legislative actions and legal decisions have gutted the Voting Rights Act and severely restricted the ability of people of color, women, and young people to vote. There are 15 million more people living in poverty and nearly eight times as many inmates in state and federal prisons.

MORE ABOUT THE POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN:

 

Over the last few months, the Revs. Barber and Theoharis have traveled across the country, shining a spotlight on both America’s harsh, persistent poverty and the powerful organizers working to combat it. They’ve visited Lowndes County, Ala.; Detroit and Highland Park, Mich.Marks, Miss.Harlan County, Kent.; and South Charleston, W. Va. 

The trips have also helped prepare organizers in the states for the upcoming 40 days of action, which will conclude with a mass mobilization at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, June 23.

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The UFCW is one of the largest private sector unions 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.

 

April 11, 2018

UFCW Member Spotlight: Joe Pacacha

For over 40 years, Joseph Pacacha has been going in to work at Riverbed Foods in Pittsburgh, PA where he helps process  quality store-branded soups, broths, gravies, and sauces for some of the nation’s top grocery chains. But when he’s not on the clock, Pacacha, like so many other unsung every day working men and women, spends his free time volunteering to make his community a better place.

Pacacha restores old bamboo fly fishing rods and donates them to Project Healing Waters, an organization that is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.

“It’s very rewarding. I’m just proud to be a part of it, really,” said Pacacha. “I may never see the people who get these rods, but just knowing that you’re helping out, it’s very worthwhile.”

How you can help

If you’ve got an old bamboo fly rod, serviceable as is or in need of repair, that you would like to donate to Project Healing Waters, you can send it to Joe Pacacha at PO Box 38, 536 Walnut Ave., Hunker PA 15639. For information on making monetary donations to Project Healing Waters, visit www.projecthealingwaters.org . Contributions specifically for the bamboo rod project should be identified as such on your check.


Are you or do you know a UFCW member who is doing great things in your community? Tell us about it at submissions@ufcw.org.