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July 20, 2018

Indianapolis Kroger store celebrates 100% UFCW membership

UFCW Local 700 members who work at the Kroger J1 store in Indianapolis celebrated their wall-to-wall union store status when the last nonmember at the store joined our union family in June.

The approximately 60 hard-working men and women who work at Kroger J1 know there is strength in numbers and are proud of the fact that everyone who works at the store is a member of UFCW Local 700. Union Representative Mary Parker noted that membership is a result of building power and relationships, and members in the store respect and rely on one another. Stewards play an integral role in ensuring that the company plays by the rules we negotiated, and members know one another and welcome new workers into our union family.

“There is power in numbers,” said UFCW Local 700 President Joe Chorpenning. “A store with 100 percent membership is the foundation for building a better life for our members. This is how we negotiate strong contracts – solidarity every day in the workplace.”

Well done, brothers and sisters! Keep up the good work!

 

July 13, 2018

UFCW members are improving health care jobs

UFCW members in New Jersey, Washington, and Minnesota are celebrating several recent hard-won achievements that are making jobs for health care professionals better one workplace at a time. Having a union contract at work means they have a say in their benefits and working conditions, which not only is better everyone at work, but over time the joint efforts of UFCW members all across the country help raise the standards for everyone in their industries. Well done, UFCW Local 21, 152, and 1189 members!

New Jersey Health Care Workers Ratify First Contract


Members of UFCW Local 152 who work as certified nursing assistants, housekeepers and dietary assistants at Barclays Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, recently ratified their first union contract. This ratification marks the end of a long journey for the workers, who voted to join UFCW Local 152 in April of 2016 and stood together in the face of scheduling conflicts and other hurdles during the negotiation process.

The five-year agreement introduces many new perks for these workers. Perhaps most importantly, these members are no longer “at-will employees” and can only be disciplined or discharged for just cause. Next, seniority (length of service) now matters for times when these members bid on jobs, apply for overtime shift availability or accrue vacation time. The new contract also includes a $15,000 life insurance policy, guaranteed wage increases for the life of the contract, free uniforms (shirts and pants), call-in pay and a modified certified nursing assistant incentive bonus.

Better Contracts for Washington Health Care Workers


On July 3, the last in a series of votes concluded the ratification of new contracts for members of UFCW Local 21 who work for MultiCare Health System in Washington.

Nearly 2,000 members of UFCW Local 21 are covered by these contracts, including professional, technical, service, engineering and clerical workers, as well as licensed practical nurses. By taking action together and with community support, these members won strong contracts that include wage increases, improved language for safer staffing, and more predictable scheduling.

Improving Health Care Jobs in Minnesota


Members of UFCW Local 1189 who work at two Essentia Health clinics and two pharmacies in Minnesota ratified a new contract on June 27 by an overwhelming margin. The clinics are located in Duluth and Proctor and the pharmacies are located in Two Harbors and Silver Bay. Essentia Health is an integrated health care system with facilities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Idaho.

The three-year contract includes significant wage increases, orientation with new union members, payroll deductions for the UFCW Active Ballot Club, and other benefits.

June 7, 2018

Does your workplace have proper hot weather safety strategies in place?

With summer almost here and temperatures rising, many workers face additional heat-related risks. If you are one of these many hard working men and women, you deserve to know you’ll be safe when you go to work.


Does your workplace have a plan?

1.) Train all management and hourly employees with an emphasis on how to recognize a medical emergency (heat stroke).


2.) Have a clearly written protocol on how to respond to a medical emergency.

This should include information for all shifts about who is authorized to call an ambulance, how to call for an ambulance, and what to do while waiting for emergency medical care. This protocol should be translated into the commonly spoken languages in the facility and posted throughout the workplace.


3.) Train  all management and hourly employees on workers’ right to access drinking water as needed and the right to access to bathrooms as needed.

This is important because some workers hold back on drinking water so that they can put off using the restroom. This is never a good idea and can have serious consequences during hot weather. 

4.) Monitor particularly hot and humid work areas.

This should be done with a device that measures both heat and humidity and combines these measurements to provide the Heat Index. The company should have a plan for additional rest breaks or means of cooling the work area whenever the heat index approaches the Extreme Caution zone.

Heat Index Risk Level Protective Measures
Less than 91°F Lower (Caution) Basic heat safety and planning
91°F to 103°F Moderate Implement precautions and heighten awareness
103°F to 115°F High Additional precautions to protect workers
Greater than 115°F Very High to Extreme Triggers even more aggressive protective measures

 

Work with your union rep and your local to make sure that you and your coworkers are protected in hot conditions. Meet with the company to ensure that all of the proper hot weather safety strategies are being used in your workplace.


For more information about heat and heat-related illness, you can contact the UFCW Occupational Safety and Health Office in Washington, D.C. at 202-223-3111.

More materials can be found below:

Preventing Heat Illness
Heat Illness response guidelines
Sample Heat Emergency Procedure

 

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.