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March 17, 2017

A UFCW Member, a Refugee, an American Story

Only about 10.5% of Americans claim Irish ancestry, but that doesn’t stop the rest of us from celebrating the proud history of the immigrants who came before us.

Though our national love of St.Patrick’s Day and all things Irish might be hard for outsiders to understand, the day has really become a chance to celebrate the optimism and bravery of those who left their home countries on the gamble that they could have a better life here in the US. Their stories of hardship, hard work, and hope for the future continue to be a source of pride and inspiration and have enriched the fabric of the country.

That same American spirit can be found in the stories of today’s immigrants, though the nature of jobs in the US and how we think about work has changed dramatically since the days of our grandparents.

No one knows this better than UFCW members, many of whom work in service work or in food processing— work that is difficult to outsource overseas or replace with machines. A recent New York Times feature highlights nine different workers in the new and upcoming American workforce – including UFCW Local 75 member, packing worker, and refugee, Ruhatijuru Sebatutsi.

Ruhatijuru Sebatutsi, Columbus, Ohio Source: New York Times

A Congolese refugee, Sebatutsi fled war in Congo as a teenager, spending years in a Rwandan refugee camp before coming to Ohio in 2015. He lives with his wife and eight children in Columbus, Ohio. Every day, he travels with ten of his co-workers to a small town to work each day cutting meat at the SugarCreek Packing Company, which produces pork and poultry products.

He works seven days a week, but he makes time and half on Saturdays and double on Sundays. Of his union job, he says, “I am so lucky.”

Since Sebatutsi started last November, he has opted to work every day, which he said is the best part of the job. “There’s a lot of overtime, and you can make money.” Life here is far better than life in Gihembe. “The kids can ask you for something, you cannot provide,” he said. “But here you work, you take care of your problems, you do something for yourself.”

Like generations before him, Sebatutsi sees the long hours he puts in as a sacrifice he is willing to make in order to build a better future for his family.

You can read the rest of the profiles of working men and women in the New York Times feature, “The Jobs Americans Do.”

March 5, 2017

UFCW Members Welcome a New Addition to the Family: Linden Hills Co-Op Workers

The UFCW is pleased to welcome a new addition to our union family:  the hard-working men and women of the Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The passion and enthusiasm the men and women of Linden Hills Co-op feel both for their jobs and for their new union family is clear as they talk about the democratic principles they believe in in this recent article featured in Workday Minnesota:

Workers at Linden Hills Co-op won their election Thursday to form a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 653. Eight-five percent of workers voted in favor of unionization in balloting conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

“We are excited to begin the bargaining process because it is the next step in making our already amazing co-operative even more amazing. We love where we work. This is an extremely positive thing!” said Tracie Lemberg from the Health and Body Care Department.

Workers have begun circulating bargaining surveys to help the bargaining committee understand their co-workers’ priorities.

“I have been working at co-ops in the Twin Cities since I was 16. Forming a union is the best way to make sure all workers are treated fairly and have a say in creating a positive work environment. I’m proud to work at this co-op and look forward to making it an even better place,” said Emily Calhoon from the Produce Department.

Workers said they want to actively ensure good jobs and a sustainable co-op that best serves the needs of the community.

Evan Adams-Hanson, a front end floor coordinator said, “Forming a union reinforces co-op values of community throughout our store. Linden Hills Co-op can be a model for how workers and management cooperate to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability at all levels.”

When workers first started discussing forming a union, they met at each other’s houses discreetly to create a safe space to refine their goals and identify who would be most interested in organizing.

“Organizers helped provide advice and experience, but this organizing was done by us – we were making commitments to each other to have each others’ back,” said Bryce Christopherson, a grocery buyer. “For other workers who are forming their union I would advise as much transparency and outreach to your co-workers as feasible. And reach out – we are happy to help you go through the process of forming your union.”

Mark McGraw from the Scanning department said, “I feel more connected than ever to my co-workers and our store, and I’m excited to have all voices at the table as we move forward with our contract negotiations.”

Linden Hills Co-op workers were inspired by other workers who recently organized a union at the Wedge Community Co-op and Whole Foods Co-op in Minnesota and the People’s Food Co-op in Michigan.

UFCW Local 653 were excited to extend a warm welcome to the new co-op members. 

“I’ve been a meat cutter and member of UFCW Local 653 for 10 years. I look forward to welcoming the Linden Hills co-op workers as brothers and sisters in our union and fighting together to improve retail standards across the Twin Cities,” said Anthony Lanners, who works at Festival Foods in Andover.

Most of all, Linden Hills workers are eager to get to work building an even more engaged and democratic workplace that can serve as a model for the rest of the community.

“Giving all workers a voice will make employees feel more involved in improving the Co-op,” said Front End Floor Coordinator Evan Adams-Hanson.

“Cooperative principles teach us that co-ops are democratic organizations that work for the sustainable development of our communities. Unionizing Linden Hills Co-op will extend those principles within, to the workers of the co-op, who seek sustainable employment and a collective voice. I look forward to the merging of these principles and ideals that will form a stronger co-op, together,” said Produce Stocker Cassie Nouis.

Cheese buyer Hannah Glaser sees unionization as “an affirmation of mutual support between the staff and business.” Produce Stocker Brian Matson believes “the cooperation of fellow employees in a combined effort to guarantee a better workplace is at the heart of unionization, and that Linden Hills Co-op can be representative of what a community can change if they work together.”

February 16, 2017

UFCW Member Retires After 30 Years of Service

After 30 years of service to her union, long-time UFCW Local 1445 member Janice Feinberg says her mantra is to spread the word about what being part of union family means, and what it has meant to her.

“My husband calls me Norma Rae,” Janice jokes, recalling the role played by Sally Field in the famous movie about a factory worker advocating for union representation on the job.

Now 73 years old, Janice has been serving her community as a retail employee for the past three decades, as well as a UFCW member. Beginning her career at Filene’s, she is now retiring from Macy’s.

Janice notes that it was being a part of the UFCW and working with the caring people at her local union that enabled her to have such a long and steady career.

“When I was younger, I had a manager that took a disliking to me for some reason. She treated me horribly. Some people said there was nothing I could do, but when I told the union about it, they grieved it right away. When I was instructed to ‘watch’ my fellow employees and report back to management behind their backs, I refused and was fired, but the union got my job back. When I recently told my manager that I would be retiring, I inquired about the vacation pay I’d be getting, since I haven’t used my days. She untruthfully told me I wasn’t owed a thing, but Jim and the union made sure I was rewarded the vacation pay I earned, that’s protected in our contracts.”

After the experience she’s had, says Janice, “I would never work a non-union job.” Over the course of her time at Macy’s, Janice was offered other positions that were closer to her home, but she turned them down when hearing they weren’t union jobs.

Janice has noticed that oftentimes, her coworkers are afraid of speaking up on the job because they are scared of repercussions, but she wants everyone to know they don’t have to be afraid to speak up with the UFCW there to back them up. “I want to tell my story because I believe that more people should be aware of the value that being part of a union brings—people need to take advantage of that! Under the umbrella of the union,” she says, “we can all stand together as associates.”

Not only has her union family helped Janice ensure she can take her vacation when she needs to, and receive the benefits she deserves for her many years of service and loyalty, but it has also given her people who she calls friends for life: “The people I saw and worked with every day are a big part of my life. I have customers that came in as children visit me now with their own babies.”

Janice is certainly ready to enjoy her hard-earned retirement, and looks forward to spending time with her husband and daughters—but she looks back on her job and time as a union member with fond memories. “Knowing that the union would have my back in an instant was so wonderful. But if you don’t speak up, they can’t help you! If you do, they’ll listen and take action. When I was a young worker, I was a quiet person. But now I have a voice, and am not afraid to speak up for myself, and for others.”

We are thankful for people like Janice in our union family, and wish her luck in her next chapter!

February 4, 2017

Super Bowl Sunday Second Highest Day of Food Consumption

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?

1. A whole bunch of wings. Like, 1.33 BILLION wings.

Collectively, American shoppers are predicted to consume enough wings this Super Bowl that if the entire population of the United States came over for snacks, everybody could each eat four wings and there would still be plenty of leftovers.

How many wings is 1.33 billion? So many wings, that if an NFL player ate two wings per minute, it would take him 1,265 years, 80 days, 7 hours and 12 minutes to eat them all.

Curious about what happens to the rest of the chicken?

2. Ranch Dressing

We’re guessing this isn’t for salads. If you needed more reasons to love ranch dressing, not only was it invented by a cowboy, but UFCW members make Hidden Valley Ranch.

3. Pizza.

The Super Bowl is the busiest day of the year for pizza take out. But it’s not just take out— January also has the highest sales of frozen pizza, in part from shoppers stockpiling grub for their Super Bowl parties. Pizza delivery drivers— our hearts are with you. Godspeed.

4. Chips

According to Nielsen, Americans spend $277 million on potato chips and $225 million on tortilla chips in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

5. Avocados

Avocados are a superfood. We don’t have to feel guilty about the avocados, right? Even if we eat 104.9 million pounds of them?

Holy guacamole!

February 3, 2017

UFCW Members Make the Leather for Every Super Bowl Football

Did you know the leather for every single NFL football, including the ones that will be used in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, is crafted in Chicago, IL by members of UFCW Local 1546, who work at the Horween Leather Company? The hard-working men and women of the Horween Leather Company have been supplying the leather for every Super Bowl football since the very first in 1967.

“It doesn’t just take a high-level of skill to throw a football, it takes a lot of talent to make one too,” said Earl Ferguson, a machine operator and UFCW Local 1546 member at Horween Leather Company. “ We’re proud that our hard work contributes value to something as big as the Super Bowl.”

Take a peak inside the historic plant and learn more about how the leather is made in this video.

January 3, 2017

UFCW Member uses CPR to save a coworker’s life

What would you do if a coworker had a heart attack on the job?

That’s the situation Sandy Maynor, a UFCW Local 400 member and Giant employee in Washington, D.C., faced when her coworker suddenly went into cardiac arrest. Maynor sprang into action, administering CPR for 10 minutes in a heroic “act of love” until the paramedics arrived.

UFCW member saves coworkers life

Check out the full story.

December 25, 2016

UFCW Members Make the Holidays Happen

How do UFCW members make the holidays happen? Oh let us count the ways:

1. Sweets

This is the bakery dept at store 649 in Manahawkin NJ  and they are making the sweetness happen! They and other talented UFCW bakers make holiday pies, cookie trays, and all those sweet things we can’t resist. Thanks, guys.

2. The Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition. Visit the hard-working UFCW members at the meat counters of your local Safeway, Albertsons, Kroger, or other union grocery stores and they can help you put together a traditional seven fishes meal of anchovies, whiting, lobster, sardines, eels, squid, octopus, mussels, or other tasty seafood. They’ve got your shrimp cocktail covered, too.

3. Ham! Turkey!

Not only do UFCW members work the deli counter and help you find the perfect star for your holiday feast, but classics like Butterball turkeys and Smithfield hams are made by UFCW meat-packing members.

4. Christmas trees made from cupcakes

I know we already put sweets on this list, but this Christmas tree made of cupcakes was too good to pass over. Thank you, UFCW members, for making that happen. It’s like two of the best holiday things combined. That’s some holiday magic.

5. Green Stuff

If you are like us and have been eating nothing but cookies and cakes for days, don’t worry. Vegetables do still exist and UFCW members are always happy to help you find the freshest, healthiest greens for whenever you’ve run out of pie and are ready to start on those New Year’s resolutions.

December 14, 2016

Union Vitamins becomes first union-made vitamin manufacturer in the country

On Nov. 17, the men and women of Union Vitamins in Clearwater, Fla., joined UFCW Local 1625 and became the first union-made vitamin manufacturer in the country. Union Vitamins workers produce vitamins and health supplements, including: vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, omega 3 pure fish oil, multi-vitamins and other products.

“We created Union Vitamins to ensure our family atmosphere will remain in place here, and to ensure that all employees are always treated with fairness,”said Jim Harper, president of Union Vitamins. “Union Vitamins will demonstrate to other corporations how they can become union, make quality products, beat foreign competition, and maintain healthy profitability. Union Vitamins is an industry role model for value, efficiency and good health, all under the banner of union workers.”

“Why buy nonunion-made products when one can buy 100 percent pure union-made vitamins and supplements that save you time and money?”  added Harper.

“We are excited and pleased that UFCW Local 1625 has partnered with Union Vitamins, a company that produces the finest vitamins in the world,” said UFCW Local 1625 President Ed Chambers. “We are proud to report that these vitamins are 100 percent union-made. We look forward to growing together and helping our members prosper in this new venture.”

November 23, 2016

Our Thanksgiving Heroes

iStock-612830616-1

UFCW members are the heart behind the holiday brands we’ve all come to love—brands like Butterball, Boar’s Head, Hanover, Reddi-Wip. For those who work in food processing, their knowledge and expertise help ensure the turkey that makes its way to your grocery store has been properly prepared and is safe to eat, and their skilled quality control makes sure Stove Top Stuffing and Marie Callender’s pies will taste just like you remembered.

UFCW members also sacrifice time with their families to keep Albertsons, Kroger, Safeway, Giant, and so many other union grocery stores open during the holidays. We know they’ve saved countless holiday feasts from disaster by making sure families across America can make that last minute run to the grocery store if they need to.

For those of us fortunate enough to be able to sit down and spend time with our loved ones tomorrow, let’s pause to be thankful for the Thanksgiving heroes whose hard work and dedication help make possible the traditions and warm memories we make year after year.

Let’s pause to be thankful for the Thanksgiving heroes whose hard work and dedication help make possible the traditions and warm memories we make year after year.
November 2, 2016

“We all just felt that we deserved better”

hale-hearty-workers-join-local-1500

Last month, 56 workers at the Hale & Hearty commissary in Brooklyn, N.Y., banded together for a better life by joining UFCW Local 1500. Hale & Hearty is a New York-based counter-serve chain that’s well known for its soups.

Donald Torres, who has worked at the Hale & Hearty factory for two years said, “We all just felt that we deserved better. We want to have a voice and to build a better life working here.”

Tony Speelman, president UFCW Local 1500, said “I want to congratulate the hard-working men and women at Hale & Hearty for joining us at Local 1500. Our entire union is proud of them and admires their courage. We look forward to building a relationship with Hale & Hearty, and working together to find ways to benefit workers and the company together.”

“By working together we will improve their lives and make Hale & Hearty into a better and more successful company. This cannot be done alone, it will be a joint labor-management effort and we look forward to beginning that relationship,” Speelman concluded.