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July 15, 2019

UFCW makes history in California with cannabis safety trainings

The UFCW recently hosted the first-ever, industry-specific 30-hour Cal-OSHA trainings for cannabis workers in California to help increase job skills and strengthen workplace safety.

The cannabis industry is the fastest growing job sector in the U.S., and the trainings were held in coordination with the UFCW International’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Office, the UFCW Western States Council, and UFCW Local 770.

“By developing training that is state-specific, industry-specific, and meets the specific needs of workers in the cannabis industry, we know that UFCW members attending these trainings will be safer and the industry will be safer. This training can serve as a model for the rest of the country,” said Robyn Robbins, director of the OSH Office.

Over 30 union cannabis workers and representatives from UFCW Locals 8GS, 324, 770 and 1167 attended the trainings during the weeks of June 10th and June 17th at UFCW Local 770’s Ricardo F. Icaza Workers’ Center in Los Angeles.

“It is very exciting to be a part of this groundbreaking training and to know that the health and safety of our cannabis members is being addressed directly by UFCW trainers by providing an industry-specific curriculum,” said Paul Edwards, who is the director of training and development at UFCW Local 770.

Last year, the UFCW Western States Council helped to pass AB 2799, legislation that requires licensed cannabis businesses in California to have at least one employee and one supervisor complete the 30-hour Cal-OSHA course within one year of licensure.

“California’s cannabis industry creates thousands of jobs where workers must know how to be safe and how to report violations,” said Amber Baur, the executive director of the UFCW Western States Council. “We are proud to be part of these innovative trainings so workers can gain familiarity with their responsibilities and safe practices under Cal-OHSA, saving lives and preventing needless harm.”

Attendees to the Cannabis OSHA Trainings at UFCW Local 770 hold up their training certificates

July 11, 2019

Five things to know about Amazon on Prime Day

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.

1.

A typical order only takes about a minute of human labor for Amazon to select, box and ship.

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.


2.

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.


3.

If Prime members had their own country, they’d be the 13th largest country in the world

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.


4.

Seven workers have died in Amazon facilities since 2013

“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.


5.

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 10, 2019

UFCW wins $31,855 in back pay for Kroger meat cutter in Virginia

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.

This story was original published by UFCW Local 400.

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.”

June 17, 2019

Keep it classy with this UFCW-made bourbon and wine cocktail

Looking for a simple but sophisticated cocktail for your next get together? We’re proud to have among the UFCW’s ranks many hard working men and women at quality distilleries and wineries, and this cocktail gives us a chance to highlight both UFCW-made bourbon and wine in one drink.

The Derby Sour  is similar to a Brown Derby, a refreshing grapefruit-based drink straight out of 1940s Hollywood, but mixed with a New York Sour, a play on a whiskey sour that originated in Chicago in the 1870s. While topping a bourbon drink with red wine might seem unusual, it was common among Victorian-era bartenders as a way to add visual interest to a drink and would have been referred to as a “claret snap.”

This is a great drink if you are new to making cocktails as you don’t have to commit to buying any fancy liqueurs, plus the addition of honey syrup not only sounds tasty, but it is actually even easier to make than simple syrup— just mix half hot water with half honey until the honey dissolves, then let it cool.

Don’t be intimidated by having to float the red wine on top of the drink. While the internet is full of highly-skilled bartenders pouring liquids over the backs of spoons into neat layers, you can actually just pour the wine directly into a spoon and slowly spoon it onto the drink if you are nervous about messing up.  A drier, fruitier wine with a bit of spice works best, but you can probably get away with using most reds and it will still turn out great.


The Derby Sour

1 1/2 ounces UFCW-made Basil Hayden’s® Rye Whiskey
3/4 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup (1/2 honey, 1/2 hot water)
1/2 ounce UFCW-made red wine (we used Hess Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon made by UFCW members in the Napa Valley)
2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Combine all the ingredients except for the wine into a cocktail shaker with some ice. Shake and then pour into a glass. Slowly float the wine on top using a spoon.

Lifehack: if you don’t own a cocktail shaker, try using a to-go coffee thermos with a lid. No one has to know.  


June 7, 2019

UFCW/ICWUC president to Senate committee: “Workers and labor representatives need to be involved in protecting our chemical infrastructure”

John Morawetz, president of the International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC), one of the councils within the UFCW, testified before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on June 4th to advocate on behalf of the safety of both everyday Americans and those who work in the chemical industry.

Morawetz has three decades of experience investigating occupational health hazards and currently serves as the director of the nationally-recognized ICWUC Training Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. His expertise in both safety and worker issues allowed him to present a unique perspective to the committee, which had gathered to discuss the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. Managed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and established in 2007, CFATS is the country’s first regulatory program focused specifically on security at high-risk chemical facilities.

“Unions have made sure their members are educated and trained on the safety and health hazards they face on the job,” said Morawetz in his written testimony. “Union negotiators bargain over health and safety contract language, actively participate in the investigation and identification of health and safety hazards and testify in support of legislation which strengthens workplace security.  Unions are actively involved in making our workplaces safer.”


Morawetz had four recommendations to the committee to ensure safety and security at chemical facilities:


1.) More worker involvement.

Workers have expertise and are ultimately the most familiar with the day to day reality of what’s really happening on the ground, and that knowledge and expertise shouldn’t go to waste.

“Chemical workers have direct, current knowledge and experience of plant operations that is invaluable in solving site specific problems.  Chemical workers know first-hand how a plant works, what chemicals are used, how those chemicals react to one another, their facilities’ weaknesses and the most recent operational changes.  We also know if backup systems will work when the power goes out.  We know the exact location of the CFATS hazardous materials and we know if training is effective.  All these responsibilities make chemical workers the first and best line of defense.”

That includes more union involvement with CFATS inspections

Though federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), NIOSH, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all have procedures to work with both management and labor during their inspections, the same cannot be said for CFATS.

“I’d love to tell you about what takes place during a CFATS inspection, but we don’t know since we are not informed of these visits.  Right now, the law allows discretion on the part of inspectors as to whether workers and the union are advised of an inspection. We know of very few locals or members that have been involved in inspections, and this means an important stakeholder and their valuable information may be excluded from the process.”

2.) Better training.

Everyone, including inspectors, should receive relevant and regular training. Of chemical workers surveyed in union-led safety classes at the Center for Workers’ Health and Safety Education, more than eighty percent had no employer training in the last year in 9 out of 10 key worker safety areas.

Implementing good training is not easy.  One facility that I reviewed was trying to implement the right procedures but after careful review, I realized that all the drills were taking place on the first shift because that is when the salaried employees worked.  The facility has three shifts and operates continuously, so only a fraction of the workers were being drilled for these types of events.

 

For over 30 years my union has run training programs and collected data on how much training our members received. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard is the primary OSHA standard requiring training on hazardous chemicals, and the requirement is minimal.  Workers are trained when they initially assigned to a job, and then again if new chemicals are introduced.  Other than this initial training, workers often do not receive further training on hazardous chemicals.  According to data collected by our union, we found that from 2017 to 2018 over 80% of workers who attended ICWUC training had no training in the last year in nine of the ten key worker safety areas. The nine areas not trained on were: Engineering Controls, Air Monitoring, Decontamination, Toxic Effects, Emergency Response Procedures, OSHA Regulations, Plugging and Patching, Selection of Protective Clothing or Respirators.  The government and companies must increase the amount and type of training for all workers inside of CFATS covered plants.

3.) Strengthened protections for whistleblowers.

Making sure workers who spot problems feel safe enough to speak up and not face retaliation is vital to ensuring problems are dealt with before they cause an incident.

“Whistleblowers who disclose wrongdoing at chemical facilities can save lives and help improve public safety and plant security and should not face retaliation.

Regretfully fear is a fact of life at all too many workplaces and jeopardizing one’s job by blowing the whistle is a risky thing to do.  Workers, who bravely come forward to protect themselves, their co-workers, and communities around the plant, should not fear losing their jobs when they speak out.  Whistleblower protection is vital in assuring the free exchange of ideas, improving security and ensuring that effective measures are actually implemented.  Workers must have the ability to come forth and communicate program deficiencies without fear of retribution.

DHS is responsible for managing the CFATS whistleblower process and procedures, but DHS lacks processes and procedures to address whistleblower retaliation reports.”

4.) Regular information exchange

The Department of Homeland Security has information on best practices plants use to reduce their risk and should share that information so other plants can learn from them.

Although reducing potential consequences may not be feasible in all circumstances, because of technological or economic constraints, steps such as substituting safer solvents or formulations for more dangerous ones can be implemented if companies know about it.  The quantities or concentrations can be reduced to below threshold amounts, some substances can be used in a less dangerous form, alternative processes can be used, chemicals can be used “just in time” (without storage), vulnerable sections can be reinforced, inventory control can be improved, bulk storage can be minimized and maintenance schedules can be reviewed regularly.  Many companies have implemented these changes and there is much to be learned from which changes have been the most effective.  This information sharing can be done without identifying individual companies or locations.

Read the Full Written Testimony


About the ICWUC

The ICWUC was originally founded in 1944 and represents approximately 20,000 chemical workers in 32 states. The union merged with the UFCW in 1996, and has operated as a council within the greater UFCW ever since. ICWUC members are full-fledged UFCW members and eligible for UFCW member benefits, including education opportunities and discounts. 

Improving on-the-job safety for members and negotiating strong contracts with good wages, benefits and job protections are priorities for the ICWUC. UFCW members work in many different manufacturing industries including petroleum and coal products, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other agricultural chemical smelters and refineries, as well as, natural gas distribution, nuclear weapon production and power plants. For their own health, for their coworkers’ health and for their communities’ well-being, UFCW members responsible for working with the extremely hazardous substances involved in these industries have a vested interest in the safe operation of their facilities.

In addition to advocating for better legislation at both the state and national level, the ICWUC operates the nationally recognized Center for Workers’ Health and Safety Education in Cincinnati, Ohio, and where it regularly trains union members to become experts in on-the-job safety.

Learn More

May 6, 2019

UFCW Kentucky florist to retire after over 30 years of derby rose garlands

UFCW Local 227 member Carol Belzer has worked for decades as a talented florist at Kroger, where every year she helps craft the iconic Kentucky Derby rose garland.

Carol has had a hand in every derby garland since 1987. Recently, she appeared on tv talking about her upcoming retirement and how it feels to be trusted with making the famous “Garland of Roses.”

“Seeing that blanket of roses placed across that winning thoroughbred, that is such a warm, touching feeling,” she said in an interview with WDRB.

The derby’s rose garland has a history that dates back to 1896, when winner Ben Brush received an arrangement of white and pink roses. Red roses became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby in 1904, and UFCW members at Kroger have been crafting the garland since 1987.

May 3, 2019

Third Shift Day

Whether it’s working through the night to prepare fresh food for the morning, restocking store shelves, or taking care of our loved ones in the hospital, the hard-working men and women of the UFCW who work the third shift provide an incredible value that too often goes unnoticed or taken for granted.

That’s why every second Wednesday in May, we celebrate Third Shift Day. Last year, UFCW Local union staff went out to surprise some of our third shift members with donuts, coffee, or other tokens of appreciation.

UFCW Local 770 members hold up their "Night Shift Strong" mugs from Third Shift Day

UFCW Local 770 members hold up their “Night Shift Strong” mugs from Third Shift Day

So what is it that drives someone to go to work while the rest of us are asleep? A survey of part-time night shift workers showed that:

  • 42% said it ‘allows time for school’
  • 22.5% liked the ‘nature of the job’
  • 9% said ‘better arrangements for family or childcare’
  • An additional 11.5% of night-workers surveyed say that it’s just their preference

One of those hard-working night owls focused on going to school is Kathy of UFCW Local 1428 in southern California, who worked nights so she could get her masters degree in Anthropology. Way to go, Kathy! Her coworker Sharon also reminds us that contrary to what some people might think, many dedicated employees build their careers working nights – she’s spent the past 35 years as a third shifter! The stability of third shift work allowed her to balance work and family responsibilities.

Are you a Third Shifter? Let us know why you do it by emailing us at submissions@ufcw.org or send us a message on Facebook. 

May 2, 2019

Stop & Shop workers ratify strong new contract

UFCW members at Stop & Shop have overwhelmingly ratified a strong new contract for the 31,000 workers across New England who walked off their jobs on April 11 to protest the company’s proposed cuts to health care, take-home pay, and other benefits.

The five UFCW Local Unions (328, 371, 1445, 1459, and 919) who worked collaboratively together throughout negotiations with the company, responded to the deal in a joint statement, saying “We are incredibly grateful to our customers and everyone who proudly stood together with us every day for a contract that invests in the communities we serve, and makes Stop & Shop a better place to work and a better place to shop.”

The new agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.

Negotiations with Stop & Shop received national attention as being one of the most important work stoppages in the grocery industry in recent memory and a blow against the erosion of good jobs by needless corporate greed.

“It’s exciting to be back to normal, but it’s also exciting to know how much our community cares about good jobs,” said Nicole, a UFCW member who works at Stop & Shop. “We’re all a lot stronger now.”

UFCW members react to the news

Paul, Stop & Shop

“I feel so proud. Our store and community came together to make things better. I couldn’t think of a better way for us all to come back to work.” – Paul

“It just feels so good to be back. Feels like the family is together again. It was a humbling experience and I’m happy things turned out so well.” – Marc

“We found out our family is a lot bigger than just our store. Our customers care about us just as much as we care about them. That’s pretty special.” – John, Owen, Michael, Kristen, and Dario

April 14, 2019

Stop & Shop workers overwhelmed by outpouring of community support

Since Stop & Shop workers walked off the job Thursday, there has been an outpouring of customer support as New England communities rally together with the goal of making Stop & Shop a better place to work and shop.

UFCW Locals 328, 919, 1459, 1445, and 371, representing all 31,000 Stop & Shop workers in New England, have been in negotiations with the company over a new contract for nearly three months since January 14th, with the current contract having expired on February 23rd.

Despite Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, taking in more than $2 billion in 2018 and authorizing over $4 billion in stock buybacks from 2017 to 2019, the company is proposing unreasonable cuts to workers’ take-home pay, health care, and retirement benefits.

In addition, the company unlawfully refuses to provide financial information to verify its claim that their proposed cuts are necessary.

UFCW’s five New England locals are unified at the negotiation table and are asking for Stop & Shop to properly value the employees whose hard work and dedication have made their company so successful.

Support from Customers

The flood of support, both in person as customers stop by picket signs to drop off bottles of water, offer hugs or messages of strength and encouragement, or online on social media, shows New England is a place that values hard-working union families and believes workers have earned the right to build a better life and community.:

Support from across our union family

Union members, both UFCW and from other unions, have also been sending along their strength, both from local former Stop & Shop workers, but also from union members as far away as Alberta, Canada:



Thank you to everyone who has shown their support so far. It means a great deal that in these divisive times, we can still come together as a community and have one another’s backs when it matters. The hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop pride themselves on their service to the community, and are humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement received so far.

If you would like to voice your support for Stop & Shop workers, sign the petition.

April 14, 2019

Why New England Stop & Shop workers walked off the job Thursday

31,000 Stop & Shop workers from over 240 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island walked off the job Thursday April 11. This massive worker protest comes in response to months of negotiations with Stop & Shop in which the company has refused to back down from proposals attempting to cut workers’ health care, take home pay, and retirement benefits.

Stop & Shop is claiming they are offering a wage increase, but $.30 in hourly wages for a part-time worker would not offset the cuts they have included in their proposal such as:

  • Elimination of Sunday and holiday pay for part-timers
  • Increase in weekly premium costs for employee only coverage by up to 90% over three years
  • Doubling of health care out-of-pocket limits for many employees, going from $1,000 for an individual to $2,000, and from $2,500 to $5,000 for a family

Stop & Shop is the number one grocery chain in New England. It is a subsidiary of multinational company Ahold-Delhaize, which reported more than $2 billion in profit last year. This is not a company in financial trouble.

At the same time the company was demanding workers’ pay more for health care and lose Sunday and holiday pay, Ahold authorized $880 million in dividend payments to shareholders from 2017 to 2019. Ahold also recently received $217 million in corporate tax cuts. Amongst other actions, the company unlawfully refuses to provide financial information to verify its claim that their proposed cuts are necessary.

Instead of investing in the workers who made the company successful and who take care of their customers, Stop & Shop is trying to stiff them.

The decision to walk off the job is a tough one. If one person were to try to fight back on cuts like these by themselves, they wouldn’t stand a chance. But the 31,000 workers who made this choice are doing it together as one union family. None of them have to fight for their health care and benefits alone. Together they can fight these cuts and protest the company’s unlawful actions in connection with negotiations—and win. .

UFCW’s five New England locals are unified at the negotiation table and are asking for Stop & Shop to properly value the employees whose hard work and dedication have made their company so successful.

UFCW members who work at Stop & Shop could use your support. If you live in New England, please don’t cross the line. Please stop at other union stores.

Please sign our petition and stand with UFCW Stop & Shop workers for a contract that allows them to deliver excellent customer service while still being able to provide for their families. It’s time for Stop & Shop to reach a fair contract agreement that reflects the true value of its workers.

Sign and share the petition today to support Stop & Shop workers

Or Text “support” to 698329 to sign the petition by mobile.