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May 24, 2018

Union health insurance: a better value

Mike Watts lives with his family in Kentucky, where he has been a Kroger employee for over 30 years. When his son was born with special needs, Mike’s union health insurance allowed him to provide the high quality care his son needed when he was born.

“I have both of my children on the union insurance since they’ve been born. Me and their mother have quite our options. She also works for Kroger in management and we decided the union insurance was definitely the far better value.

In management, she basically had insurance also and then with the insurance that I had which was through the union we found out there was a better premium on that, we also found it paid for more and there was less out of pocket, the copays were better.

Landon, he was born with special needs. This is where we found out we really got a great value with the union insurance because we’ve had to deal with a lot of doctors appointments.

His medical outlook is good. He’s as normal as any other child. We’re just super excited that we’ve got the insurance to have him have the care that he needs and clearly we feel like it’s given him a better life because of it.”

May 22, 2018

UFCW Local 27 members craft the flowers blankets for the Preakness

Talented UFCW members at Giant Food Store #108 in Baltimore, Maryland carefully weave together the yellow flowers that are awarded to the winning horses at The Preakness Stakes held each year on the third Sunday in May. Nicknamed “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans,” the Preakness was first held in 1873 and second only to the Kentucky Derby in North American equestrian events.

UFCW Local 27 members: Julie Hoshor, Jen Gobble, Veronica Worsley, Mary Pat Walbrecher, Kathleen Marvel, Joann Heil

At both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, it’s UFCW members who work at neighborhood grocery stores who do the highly-detailed work of constructing the elaborate blankets. While the Kentucky Derby blanket is traditionally made from roses, the Preakness is made from yellow flowers made to look like the state flower of Maryland, the black-eyed Susan.

Why not use real black-eyed Susans? The summer-blooming flower isn’t in season until June, so instead yellow flowers such as mums are used as a substitute.

Though smaller than the blankets awarded at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness blankets use ten times the number of flowers. Each flower is individually wired and attached to felt-backed matting so as not to injure the horse.

 

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 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 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 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.

 

March 29, 2018

18 regional hot dogs to enjoy on opening day

Today marks the start of baseball season! Hard-working UFCW members across the country produce and package a lot of the hot dogs people will chow down on while watching America’s favorite pastime -including the famous Dodger Dog, made by UFCW 770 members. But while baseball and hot dogs might be a national past time, how you like to top your dog can say a lot about where you live.

Here’s some of the most popular regional hot dogs, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council:

1.) New York City

New Yorkers eat more hot dogs than any other group in the country. From downtown Manhattan to Coney Island, when you buy your hot dog in the Big Apple, it will come served with steamed onions and a pale, deli-style yellow mustard.


 2.) Chicago

The possible antithesis to New York dogs, Chicago dogs are layered with yellow mustard, dark green relish, chopped raw onion, pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato slices and topped with a dash of celery salt and served in a poppy seed bun.


3.) Atlanta and the South

Buying a hot dog at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, or elsewhere in Atlanta and the south, you’ll find your dog topped with coleslaw and perhaps some delicious Vidalia onions.


4.) Kansas City

Get the mints out – you’ll need them when you order up a hot dog in KC as it is served with sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese on a sesame seed bun.


5.) The Rockie Dog

Served at Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies – is a foot-long dog with grilled peppers, kraut and onions.


6.) The Fenway Frank

Served at none other than Fenway Park – is the only dog to eat while watching the Red Sox. It’s boiled and grilled and served in a New England style bun with mustard and relish. New England dogs can also be found topped with Boston baked beans


7.) Sonoran Dog

This Southwestern favorite features a grilled, bacon-wrapped hot dog on a sturdy bun, pinto beans, grilled onions and green peppers, chopped fresh tomatoes, relish, tomatillo jalapeno salsa, mayonnaise, mustard and shredded cheese.


8.) The Texas Dog

Chili, cheese and jalapenos make this the favored item at Minute Maid Park in Houston.


9.) Michigan Coney Island Dog (AKA Michigan Coney)

This favorite of Michiganders features a meaty chili sauce on top of a hot dog with mustard and onion.


10.) West Virginia Dog

This favorite features chili, mustard and coleslaw atop a wiener on a steamed bun.


11.) New Jersey Dog

A variety of hot dog styles can be found in New Jersey but the one most unique to the state is the Italian Dog. It’s a hot dog in thick pizza bread topped with onions, peppers and deep fried potatoes.


12.) Philadelphia Dog

A classic Philadelphia dog is one of the most interesting ones you’ll find. It features the brotherly love of an all-beef hot dog with a fish cake inside the bun as well. It is often topped with a sweet vinegary slaw and spicy mustard.


13.) Cleveland Polish Boy

Cleveland is home to two unique hot dog offerings. The Polish Boy is a kielbasa or hot dog served on a bun covered with a layer of french fries, a layer of sweet southern style barbecue sauce or hot sauce, and a layer of coleslaw. It is commonly found in carts around town. At Indians games and elsewhere in the city you can also top your hot dog with Stadium Mustard, a type of Brown mustard with similar flavor to a spicy Dijon mustard.


14.) Cincinnati Coney

The home of famous chili is also the home of some delicious chili dogs. These are topped with Cincinnati style chili and usually also feature a heaping mound of grated cheddar cheese on top.

 


15.) Washington, D.C.

The Nation’s Capital is where you’ll find the half-smoke: a half pork, half beef sausage that is like a hot dog but with more coarsely ground meat and a little extra spice. A classic half-smoke is topped with chili, mustard and onions. You can find them in hot dog joints around the city as well as at Nationals Park.

 


16.) California

There are many different hot dog varieties sold throughout the state of California, but the one most unique to the state is a bacon wrapped dog with grilled onions and peppers. These are favorites from carts around Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 


17.) Seattle

The Seattle dog offers a topping twist not found in many places around the country…cream cheese. The hot dogs are split in half and grilled before being put in a toasted bun and are also topped with grilled onions. Sriracha sauce and jalapeños are popular additions as well.

 


18) Alaska

 

True to its roots in the far north, the Alaska dog is commonly called a Reindeer hot dog or sausage, but it isn’t actually made from reindeer meat. Instead the meat is typically caribou. The hot dog is served in a steamed bun with grilled onions that are sometimes sautéed in coca-cola.

 

March 14, 2018

UFCW’s Work to “Bring Value to Retailers and Customers” Highlighted on DealCrunch

UFCW Featured on DealCrunch.com:

UFCW Fights to Improve the Pay and Quality of Life for the Workers Who Bring Value to Retailers and Customers

By: Chris Curry

The Crunch: The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union works daily to improve pay, benefits, and working conditions for its 1.3 million members. The UFCW is America’s largest private sector labor union and represents the grocery, retail, and packing house workers who help the economy run. As technology threatens to automate many jobs, the UFCW is working to show the value that knowledgeable and professional associates bring to customers and businesses. The organization also helps members advance their careers through free college tuition and GED courses. In the modern labor movement, the UFCW stands up for working conditions — and work-life balance — that result in better jobs and a stronger labor force.

The members of the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union play an often-overlooked role in our daily lives.

Take Super Bowl Sunday for instance. UFCW members work in the industries that provide some of the most popular items on the menus at parties across the country: Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, the Heinz Ketchup for those hot dogs, the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing for the chicken wings, and they even sell the avocados for the guacamole. The Jim Beam for the whiskey and Cokes came from a distillery whose workers are represented by the UFCW, and members made the leather for the footballs used in the game.

“Our members are behind the scenes in all these daily interactions and moments in people’s lives, from the Super Bowl to Christmas,” UFCW Communications Director Erikka Knuti said.


In addition to featuring the hard work UFCW members do and the value they have to offer, DealCrunch also highlighted a number of the education opportunities available to UFCW members and their family members:


Programs Help Prepare Members Through Education & Skills Training

In the modern workplace, businesses and employees both face a significant challenge in managing rapid change. And while companies allocate resources for change in the form of equipment or technology, preparing workers for an evolving workplace is often an afterthought.

The UFCW has introduced multiple programs to help members adapt to changes and progress in their careers and personal lives.

Free College for Career Advancement Opportunities

UFCW members and their families — spouses, domestic partners, children, stepchildren, and grandchildren — receive free tuition toward an online associate’s degree from Eastern Gateway Community College in Ohio. The arrangement covers all fees and ebooks for courses.

The free tuition program initially started with local labor unions in Ohio that recognized cost was the single biggest barrier to finishing college.

Collage of UFCW free college benefits

Finance, marketing, early childhood education, criminal justice, and accounting are among the degree programs available.

Erikka said in one particular case, the opportunity to pursue an early childhood education degree benefited both a UFCW member and the retail store where she works.

“She is taking early childhood development classes and gaining expertise while working in the baby aisle at her store,” Erikka said.

GED Courses to Help Workers Finish High School

Across the country, many frontline retail and grocery store workers drop out of high school to get a job and help support their families. Erikka said a new UFCW initiative is designed to help them.

“We’re about to roll out a program for people who didn’t finish high school to get their GED,” she said.

A GED will help workers meet qualifications for additional positions and open the door to pursuing an associate’s degree through the free tuition program at Eastern Gateway Community College.

Language Training to Improve Customer Service

English as a second language programs are also available to help UFCW workers better serve customers and advance in their careers. The UFCW will soon offer Spanish as a second language programs as well.

The skills that members learn through language courses will only add to their value in a retail setting, Erikka said.

“It all goes back to the value our members can offer a company,” she said. “The fact that they are taking early childhood development classes to better work in the baby products aisle and are interested in taking Spanish as a second language to better help customers, that is something that should be valued.”


 Are you a UFCW member interested in learning more about these discounts and educational opportunities?

Learn More About:

Language Training GED Courses Discounts Free College Degree

March 8, 2018

International Women’s Day Began as “International Working Women’s Day”

The month of March marks Women’s History Month, and March 8th is recognized as International Women’s Day, a day with roots in the American labor movement and the struggles of working women.

The article, “Don’t forget what International Women’s Day is really about – striking, that ran in The Independent, recently featured the origins of the day and it’s ties to women workers organizing for better working conditions and fair treatment:

It was in 1857, that on 8 March in New York City, garments workers went on strike. Suffering horrific conditions, endless hours and low pay, they took to the streets demanding better money and working conditions. Dispersed after being attacked by police, the women continued to fight and from their movement the first women’s labour unions were established.

In the early 20th century, their movement blossomed. New York City’s streets again saw women march demanding shorter hours, better pay, an end to child labour and the right to vote in 1908. Leading labour organisers sought to strengthen the movement internationally. At the Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910, Clara Zetkin asked over 100 women from 17 countries – representing unions, socialist parties and women’s working clubs – to pass a motion for an International Working Women’s Day. They did so, unanimously, and the so International Women’s Day was born.

To honor the sacrifices made by working women to improve working conditions and secure stability, equality, and independence, we wanted to show a few snapshots of ordinary, working women from our own UFCW history. These moments captured in time speak to the unsung efforts made by women over the past century to ensure Americans could put food on their table, even in times of war. To learn more, read the Women In Labor History Primer. 

 

All photos except the Local 183 photo are from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s collection “Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America records, 1903-1980.”