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December 24, 2018

UFCW members make the holidays happen

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

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.

From our family to yours, we wish you happy holidays and all the best in the new year.

UFCW Local 1994 member stands in a building full of road salt

UFCW Local 1994 members in Maryland help keep the roads safe during icy conditions




December 5, 2018

UFCW members celebrate wage and benefit wins

One of the benefits of union membership is being able to negotiate with your employer on equal footing. Rather than having to go to your boss as an individual and hope they are in the position to be able to do something about your concerns, union representation means there’s an organized and meaningful way to take worker concerns to the company and sit down and hammer out real, binding solutions.

The primary way this is achieved is through negotiating contracts between the company and the local union representing the workers, or what is often referred to as “collective bargaining.” UFCW members at several different locals recently demonstrated how standing together through this process can lead to better jobs and better security.


UFCW Local Members of UFCW Local 700 who work at Kroger stores in South Bend, Indiana, ratified a new contract on Nov. 1 that improves wages and protects benefits. The one-year contract covers about 800 workers in nine stores in the South Bend area.

The new contract helps to create a more secure future for Kroger workers and their families through regular, guaranteed wage increases. The agreement also protects pensions and quality, affordable health care, and includes contract language improvements.

“We are powerful when we stick together,” said UFCW Local 700 President Joe Chorpenning. “Together, we won a contract that increases wages, provides access to affordable health care, and protects retirement benefits for Kroger workers in South Bend.”

Local 700 workers at Kroger celebrate their newly ratified contract

Local 700 workers at Kroger celebrate their newly ratified contract


Members of UFCW Local 919 who work at Bob’s Discount Furniture stores in Connecticut ratified a new contract that also improves their wages and benefits. The three-year contract covers 70 sales professionals and office clericals at three stores in Manchester, Orange and Stamford.

The new contract, which marks the third agreement for the workers, gave zero concessions and includes wage increases and a zero percent increase on employee health and welfare costs. The office clerical staff will receive an 8 percent raise over the three-year life of the contract, with the first 3 percent retroactive to July 15, 2018. The new agreement also includes improved scheduling and seniority rights, especially when it comes to the distribution of overtime and much desired reduction on the amount of time workers can lose out on their earned commission when a customer returns a purchase.

December 4, 2018

Member Spotlight: Eric Flett

“When I first started at the hospital, I didn’t know anything about what the union did for me or my co-workers. However, once I got involved, I quickly learned that UFCW doesn’t just represent workers at their workplaces; it helps communities, charities, and fights the government for better legislation for all working people. That is who I am . A helper.”

Originally appeared in the UFCW Local 832 magazine:

Eric Flett was born in Ste Rose du Lac, Manitoba, about 15 minutes from where he lived, the Ebb and Flow First Nation. Eric lived there with his parents and nine siblings until he was about four years old, when his family moved to Winnipeg. He said it wasn’t easy adjusting from reserve life to city life in the North End. But thanks to his mother’s strict parenting, Eric stayed on the straight and narrow, maintained a childhood free from bad influences and graduated from Sisler High School in 1986.

Eric attended his first ceremonial sweat lodge when he was 14. A sweat lodge is traditionally a place where prayer and song ceremonies are performed, so that we can be cleansed. However, it wasn’t until he was around 20 years of age that his interest and understanding were truly formed, and from that point on he has been continually active in ceremonies and traditions.

When Eric took part in the Sun Dance Ceremony, his niece was very sick and he wanted to dance for her. This ceremony usually involves the community gathering together to pray for healing. Individuals make personal sacrifices on behalf of a loved one or the community.

From here, Eric continued to participate in his culture’s activities and received training from his Elders. Today Eric plays a leadership role in the community, a role that is entrusted to those who earned the rights and training to lead a sweat lodge and other ceremonies.

These earned rights are what help Eric succeed in his day-to-day life as well as work. Eric became a UFCW Local 832 member in 1990, when he was hired as a healthcare aide at the St. Boniface Hospital. He thought this was a perfect fit, as he loves helping people and refers to himself in his Ojibwa language as “helper.” Today, he works as a porter in the diagnostic imaging department, still helping people.

His involvement with the union began about 10 years ago when he was elected to the audit committee of UFCW, which continues today. Besides his porter position, Eric is also a shop steward and sits on Local 832’s executive board.

When asked why he is so active in his union, he replied, “When I first started at the hospital, I didn’t know anything about what the union did for me or my co-workers. However, once I got involved, I quickly learned that UFCW doesn’t just represent workers at their workplaces; it helps communities, charities, and fights the government for better legislation for all working people. That is who I am . A helper.”

On his off days, Eric enjoys watching TV, golfing and continuing to practice his culture.

November 21, 2018

From football to cranberry sauce, UFCW members make the holidays happen this Thanksgiving

UFCW members make a number of the Thanksgiving staples we know and love—Butterball turkey, Dole cranberry sauce, Kraft stuffing, Reddi-wip. But there’s another Thanksgiving tradition that our members have a hand in that has nothing to do with food: football.

Watching football on Thanksgiving has its roots in the 19th century.

Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving since President Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863. Not long later, rival college and high school football teams began facing off on the holiday.

Princeton played Yale in the New York City area on Thanksgiving Day from 1876 through 1881. In 1882, The Thanksgiving Day football game became an institutionalized schedule of organized football.

The National Football League (NFL) wasn’t founded until 1920, but since it’s inception, it’s embraced the Thansgiving game day tradition. For the past 60 years, UFCW members at UFCW Local 1546 have been handcrafting the official NFL football leather at the Horween Leather Company in Chicago, Illinois.

Former NFL player Israel Idonije recently visited the plant to learn more about how the UFCW works together with management to ensure both high quality leather and good, sustainable jobs.

“You talk about a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a union—a family—and the commitment of people working together to support one another. It’s really special,” said Idonije.

“Just because you don’t agree on everything doesn’t mean you can’t work together,” says Skip Horween, president of Horween. “We do recognize that we are in this together.”

November 16, 2018

UFCW Local 21 Meatcutters Apprenticeship Program provides pathways to rewarding careers

UFCW local unions around the country offer a wide range of programs and training to enhance the professional skills of their members and help them take their careers to the next level.

One such program is UFCW Local 21’s Meatcutters Apprenticeship Program. Domico Kelly, UFCW Local 21 member and graduate of the program, shares with us the advantages of working as a meatcutter and why he’s grateful he took the leap and signed up:

The Meat Apprenticeship Program of King County in Washington near Seattle is a nationally recognized program that teaches a diverse student population to become experts in the meat cutting trade. Students graduate from the program with an official WA certification which is honored in all 50 states.

“I didn’t just want a job, I wanted a union job. A career,” says Kelly. “I wanted to work hard to provide for my family. So when the UFCW offered me a chance to start a 2 year program to become a certified butcher, it was an incredible opportunity and I didn’t hesitate.”

“This is a good trade to have. I’m a person with disability, so when I came out of high school, I didn’t really know what I was going to be doing. But once I got back here, I said, ‘I could do this.'”

“I’m really glad I did this. It’s good, decent money. You’re going to be able to pay your bills. You’re going to be able to do a whole lot. You could even buy your own house. This job is a good job. If you have a family, you’re going to be able to take care of your family.”

The comprehensive program focuses on teaching students to exceed levels of industry competency through a rigorous and challenging curriculum. Students learn how to work more efficiently both independently and in teams. They explore their employers’ policies, procedures and expectations while learning how to maximize productivity, profitability, craftsmanship, and customer service. Meat apprentice students learn how to be more effective employees and to exceed customer expectations.

Learn more about the program

November 14, 2018

UFCW Local 8 GS Disaster Relief

The fires sweeping through Northern California have destroyed the homes and taken the lives of loved ones in our Union family. There are no words to express our sorrow for their loss.


UFCW Local 8 Golden State has created a special fund for members in need of assistance.*


If you want to contribute to the UFCW 8 Disaster Relief Fund for California Fire Victims please go to UFCW8.org/donate


*If you are a member in need of help please visit www.UFCW8.org/relief or call at (888) 834-4488.

October 31, 2018

Minnesota pork processing workers successfully negotiate raises, continued free health care, and more vacation

UFCW Local 663 members who work at JBS in Worthington, Minnesota, ratified a new agreement last month that raises wages and improves benefits. JBS is the largest pork production processor in Minnesota, and UFCW Local 663 represents over 1,900 members at the facility.

The three-year agreement, which was ratified by an overwhelming margin, includes raises and higher base rates; an extra day of vacation; continued free primary health care at Sanford; and an additional walking steward for the second shift paid for by the company.

“I’m happy with the raises we have negotiated for everyone at work,” said Yolanda Martinez, who works the day shift in the cryovac food packaging division at JBS and served on the bargaining committee. Martinez has worked for JBS for 28 years.

“I’m looking forward to not only our raises, but also continuing our free health care at Sanford,” said Melina Martinez, who has worked for JBS for 20 years and is employed in the trim department. “While health care costs are skyrocketing, it’s good to know my union has our backs.”

October 19, 2018

October is National Ergonomics Month

Earlier this year, the UFCW and Tyson commemorated 30 years of working together for safer workplaces by expanding our collaborative efforts to make workplace safety improvements at the company’s food processing plants. The innovative program broke ground by training and involving hourly production workers in identifying safety and ergonomics problems at their worksites. While the primary focus had been Tyson Foods’ beef and pork operations, it is now being expanded to the company’s poultry business.

Ergonomics, which is the science of designing the workplace to fit the worker, had not been extensively used in the meat industry until the UFCW and Tyson reached an agreement after an historic OSHA citation and settlement in late November 1988 followed up with the joint Tyson-UFCW program to develop a comprehensive ergonomics research program.

The program got underway in early 1989, with the company’s Dakota City, Nebraska, beef complex serving as the pilot plant, and production workers represented by UFCW Local 222, were actively involved.  Due to the success of the pilot, the program was quickly expanded to all of the company’s beef and pork plants.

Some of the key elements of the program include ongoing ergonomics training for production workers; the involvement of hourly workers as ‘ergonomic monitors;’ worksite analysis and the redesign of work stations and equipment; and a medical management program focused on early detection and treatment of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Using ergonomic principles, properly designed jobs, tasks, equipment and tools as well as good job organization can help to fit the job to the workers.

Ergonomics includes:

  • Designing equipment that is easy to use
  • Investing new equipment that will take the strain out of the job
  • Organizing work in different ways
  • Changing how tasks are done

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made through our collaboration with the UFCW, and especially the active involvement of frontline team members,” said Steve Stouffer, president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “We know that all of us must remain diligent if we’re to achieve additional improvements.”

“We value the progress we’ve made at Tyson and are looking forward to expanding our partnership to create safer workplaces for all of their hard-working men and women,” said Mark Lauritsen, director of the UFCW’s Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “Working together with Tyson has meant empowering workers and their union to make a better, safer workplace.”

Early warning signs of repetitive stress may include: hand pain or numbness; stiff fingers; swelling in the hand, wrist, or forearm; and back or shoulder pain.

What are CTDs, RSIs, and MSDs?

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and United Auto Workers, Ergonomics Awareness Manuel.

Cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) are disorders of the muscles, tendons, or nerves. CTDs are caused by repeated stress or exposure to forceful exertions, repetitive motions, awkward body postures, nerve compression and vibration. CTDs typically affect the arms, shoulders, hands or wrists.

Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) is a general term like (CTD) used to describe a range of symptoms associated with repetitive motion work.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, or spinal disks. Examples of jobs likely to cause MSDs are those requiring:

  • Forceful or prolonged exertions of the hands
  • Heavy lifting
  • Pushing, pulling g or carrying of heavy objects
  • Prolonged awkward postures

CTDs, RSIs, and MSDs are often used to mean the same thing.

The Three Stages of MSD Symptoms

MSD symptoms can range from mild aches to disabling pain. Symptoms often appear gradually and become more sever over time. Generally symptoms progress through three stages.

Stage 1

Symptoms may appear during periods of activity and may disappear during periods of rest. Symptoms are relatively mild. Early symptoms of MSDs often are mistaken for muscle fatigue.

Stage 2

Symptoms are most persistent. They do not disappear completely during periods of rest. Increasingly severe symptoms may interfere with performance of usual work activities.

Stage 3

Symptoms are constant. Sleep is often disturbed. Sever pain, limited mobility, loss of sensation or muscle weakness makes it impossible to perform most job tasks.

Symptoms of MSDs

  • Soreness
  • Burning sensation
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Tingling
  • Aching
  • Stiffness
  • Skin Discoloration (blanched or white) – skin discoloration of the fingers is an indication of Hand-Arm Vibrations Syndrome (HAVS) and it is the result of long-term exposure to vibration.

MSD Risk Factors

Many jobs that poultry workers do are associated with ergonomic risk fact that include:

  • Repetition – performing the same motion or series of motions continually of frequently.
  • Forceful exertion – the amount of physical effort to perform a demanding task or to maintain control of equipment or tools
  • Awkward and static postures – assuming positions that place stress on the body, such as reaching above shoulder height, kneeling, squatting, leaning over a worktable, twisting, the torso while lifting, maintaining a sustained posture for a long period of time, as well as holding or using tools in a non-neutral or fixed position.
  • Vibration – using vibrating hand-held power tools can increase the stress on the hands and arms.
  • Cold temperatures
October 16, 2018

Member Spotlight: UFCW member Kitty Janusz investigates paranormal activities

This profile was originally published in the UFCW Local 1428 Fall 2018 newsletter:

“I grew up in a paranormal house,” recalls Kitty Janusz, who works in the produce department of Vons 3086 in Hacienda Heights. “That’s where it all started.”

UFCW Local 1428 member Kitty Janusz’s book on the paranormal won 1st place at the 2016 Los Angeles Festival of Books

It was a brand-new house when her parents moved into the Whittier residence in 1954, but strange things started happening right away, Janusz said. And they kept on happening.

For example: “We would hear footsteps on wood, but our floors were carpeted.”

Her family would come home to water running in the house — all the faucets would be turned on. Items would disappear and then reappear. With windows completely closed the curtains would blow in all at once.

“I was a little kid when all this was going on and we only had one ‘creepy’ area,” Janusz said. “It was a small hallway where we would walk through and totally feel a presence behind us, but we’d turn around and no one would be there.”

“The presence only got aggressive once,” she continued. “I thought our cat was on the corner of my bed one night and I could feel the weight on the foot of the bed, but I looked and there was nothing there. I could see the bed getting a depression like something was there and it got bigger and bigger. I told it to go away… and it did.”

Capturing spirits on camera

Janusz grew up with curiosity about spirit activity, rather than fear. As an adult, she researched historic locations and conducted investigations on her own.

During this time, she realized she had a gift for capturing what is known as EVPs, or Electronic Voice Phenomena. It seemed she was able to capture “spirit voices” through the use of digital recorders.

“It’s a skill set more than a talent,” she said. “For some it comes easy, but all need to be wary of the effects investigating can have on you.”

UFCW Local 1428 member Kitty Janusz investigates paranormal activity on the Queen Mary

“I could feel sadness and pain,” she said. “I wanted to know, why are these places haunted?”

Her favorite paranormal site is aboard the Queen Mary.

“I was in the infirmary recording for EVPs and I felt a presence, so I simply asked, ‘Can you tell me what year it is?’ I didn’t hear anything, but when I played back the recorder I could clearly hear ‘1943’ … and I was hooked. Love that place!”

Janusz realized she needed to use her gifts as a psychic medium to help her communicate more directly with spirits, who she believes are calling for help. She said she uses these gifts to guide lost souls to the light and let them know they are not alone.

“That’s part of what we do as investigators,” Janusz said. “We help the spirits move on.”

“Usually, the spirit is unhappy and lingering for a reason,” she said. “In my experience energy can become imprinted within a location. It can come from traumatic events such as war, violence, murder, domestic abuse, or the pain of losing a loved one.

Energy can also linger as benign energies that may result in residual hauntings. These imprinted energetic anomalies are different than an intelligent haunting from a spirit who may remain at a location. Paranormal investigators need to be cognizant of these energetic influences and maintain healthy personal boundaries. It’s not just about walking around in dark, scary places with a flashlight!”

Janusz emphasized that people need to set boundaries when investigating. “All the energy one takes on when investigating the paranormal can affect a person physically and mentally,” she said.

She has authored two books on the subject.

The first, When the Dead Speak: The Art and Science of Paranormal Investigation, won first place in the 2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest book festival in the United States. The second, Secrets Buried in the Lemon Grove, is a novel based on paranormal events.

Janusz also hosts a weekly radio show, Into the Light Paranormal, where she interviews psychics, authors, investigators, crypto-zoologists and other guests.

Union career

In addition, she is a proud member of UFCW Local 1428. “I’m so glad I have this union job,” Janusz said. “I like the work, but I stayed because of the great health benefits, which allow me the freedom to do the things I love to do.”

Janusz started working for Vons 23 years ago in the floral department. Three years later, when a position opened in produce, her manager was reluctant to lose such a good florist, but Janusz suggested that the floral job be given to her sister.

The arrangement worked, and Janusz’ sister has been working in floral ever since, currently with Pavilions.

Over the years, Kitty Janusz’ health benefits helped her through four surgeries, including replacements of both knees.

“The surgeries left me some awesome scars.” she said. “And the hospital is great for paranormal activity!” she said.

“Right before one of my surgeries I saw two little girls talking to each other. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could see their lips moving. Then they looked at me, saw I could see them, and left.

“I guess they figured they wouldn’t have much fun with me. I knew this was going to be a good night!”

“During my rehabilitation, there were 17 steps I had to walk before they’d let me go,” she continued. “I could hear voices everywhere. I found out later the steps were located in what used to be the psychiatric ward. Those were fun nights in rehabilitation!”

Janusz has a few more years to reach her “Golden 85,” the moment when her age plus her years of service in the industry add up to 85. At that time, she will be able to retire with full benefits.

When retirement does come, you might be able to find her at her favorite paranormal location.

“My goal when I retire is to be a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary,” she said.

“They’re still union, I believe!”

Both of her books are available on Amazon and Kindle. Members may also purchase signed copies of her books, download episodes of her podcast and even hear audio evidence from her investigations on her website: www.kittyjanusz.com.

October 4, 2018

“If I didn’t have my union coverage, I’d have to wait in line for weeks for charity options.”

Sharon, UFCW Local 1000 member

Sharon is a UFCW Local 1000 member. She was diagnosed with cancer within weeks of qualifying for enrollment in her UFCW sponsored health and welfare plan. She describes it as a blessing.

“The insurance was great and worked well with my doctors at OU. I got into treatment immediately, the week after my diagnosis. If I didn’t have my union coverage, I’d have to wait in line for weeks for charity options.”

Sharon is in remission and back at work Assistant Bakery/Deli Manager at HAC Cash Saver 188 in Guthrie, Texas.

Thank you for sharing your story, Sharon! If you are a UFCW member with a story to tell about how being a union member has made your life better, we’d love to hear from you.