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November 22, 2017

Top turkey tips from yesterday’s Reddit “IamA butcher, AMA” with UFCW member Jon Viner

Jon VinerYesterday, the UFCW’s own Jon Viner, star of one of our recent “How To” videos, took to Reddit to help answer everyone’s meat questions and quandaries.

We’re really proud of Jon and congratulate him on how well the AMA went, and beyond being able to puff up our feathers a bit and brag about how talented our members are, we wanted to share a Thanksgiving round up for those of you who are not on Reddit because this stuff is too good to miss.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Reddit AMAs, they stand for “Ask Me Anything.” They are sort of like an online press conference where anyone can post and ask questions and have them answered real time.

Here’s a few of the best Thanksgiving-related questions posted during the live session:

1. How much turkey should you get per person?

2. What’s better, fresh or frozen?

3. How far behind am I am defrosting my turkey?

4. How long is too long for brining a turkey?

5. What if I’m just cooking a turkey breast?

6. Should I trust the pop up timer?

7. What’s the best part of the bird?

Thanks again, Jon, for sharing your knowledge and experience to help us all pull off a delicious, well-cooked Thanksgiving! If you haven’t seen Jon’s video on how to carve that turkey, check it out:

November 16, 2017

Three Things You Should Know About Poultry Line Speeds

And How Safe Line Speeds Keep Chicken Safe to Eat

Oxfam estimates that each person eats 89 pounds of chicken a year – which means as a country, we’re eating close to 9 billion birds per year. It’s a major, multi-billion dollar industry that supplies us with chicken nuggets, wings, and the foundation for so many of our favorite, home-cooked meals.

It’s easy to cook, it’s affordable, and a mainstay in the meals American families share with one another.

But jobs inside poultry plants are some of the most dangerous and difficult in America. The National Chicken Council, which is the poultry industry’s main trade association and functions to represent its interests to Congress and other federal agencies, wants to do away with a key protection to keep workers safe on the job: line speeds.

Here’s what you need to know:

1.) By law, most poultry plants can run their processing lines at 140 birds per minute. That’s already insanely fast.

Federal law currently sets the line speed maximum at 140 birds per minute at most poultry facilities. To give you a sense of what that translates to in real life, that’s just a hair faster than the tempo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” except where each beat is a chicken.

On the line itself, one employee can process more than 14,000 chickens each day. Depending on the job, each worker can process around 35-45 birds per minute – which rounds out to about 2,000 chickens per hour or nearly one chicken every two seconds.

Some plants are even allowed to operate at 175 BPM (for background on why some plants are allowed to be faster than others and for more examples of songs that match different line speeds, check out this great article from The New Food Economy). There are few things that we do each and every day that can even compare to that level of repetition.

2.) As line speed increases, safety decreases. And they want to eliminate line speeds entirely.

While there’s currently a speed limit in poultry plants, the National Chicken Council wants to eliminate them entirely.

As line speeds increase, so does the risk of injury—including serious and bloody cuts and amputations.

But faster line speeds also mean less time for federal meat inspectors and quality control workers to do their jobs and ensure the chicken you’re eating is safe to consume.

Want a better idea how fast poultry lines could move if they eliminate line speed limits? Here’s what 200 BMP sounds like, which is how fast Germany already allows their plants to run (with negative side effects, as explained in #3):

 

3.) Faster line speed also means inspectors have less time to watch out for food safety issues. That should make anyone feel queasy. 

If current line speeds are eliminated, federal inspectors who are tasked with spotting contaminated birds may be forced to examine more than two per second for abscesses, tumors, or other diseases.

The National Chicken Council argues that increased line speeds will help modernize the system, and keep up with international competitors.

But countries which allow faster line speeds have more issues with food safety. Germany allows line speeds up to 200 BPM and their poultry meat is found to have higher levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination.

Retired USDA food safety inspector Phyllis McKelvey spoke out about the dangers of increasing line speed in an interview with NPR earlier this year:

“These machines will pull the viscera, which is the guts of the chicken. And a lot of times the guts hang on their prongs and those machines just get covered up in guts, which is slinging manure all over the product,” she says.

In the live hang section, McKelvey said equipment failures would also occur in the stun bath, where birds are shocked with electricity. That would send fully conscious birds to a machine that would sever their necks.

“If the line is going too fast you have a lot of birds that don’t get stunned,” she says. “So you’ve got some birds going into the scald vats, alive.”

The USDA describes the new inspection system as more science-based in that it requires that all poultry facilities perform their own microbiological testing along with two federal inspectors. This leaves one inspector to view the carcasses.

But with fewer inspectors, McKelvey argues, plants are relying on more chemicals like peracetic acid or food bleach to reduce the chance of food contamination.

“And if they don’t have a proper air system, these chemicals are causing people to sneeze and cough. And even at that rate it gets so bad we’d have to shut the line down,” McKelvey says.


Here’s how you can take action to keep poultry workers safe on the job and chicken safe on your plate:

 

Take action HERE

We deserve safe food, and America’s poultry workers deserve safe workplaces. Write the USDA today and ask them to reject the National Chicken Council’s petition and keep safe line speed limits in poultry plants.

 

October 30, 2017

15 Union-made Candies for Halloween

As the ghosts and ghouls come out this Halloween, keep your eyes peeled for some of our favorite union-made treats. UFCW members as well as our brothers and sisters of the BCTGM union have been hard at work making sure there’s plenty of sweets for all those trick-or-treaters.

For a longer list of union-made candies, visit Union Plus.


1.) Hershey’s Nuggets / Kisses


2.) Kit Kat


3.) Butterfinger*


4.) Baby Ruth*


5.) Smarties


6.) Jawbreakers

 


7.) Sour Patch Kids


8.) Tootsie Rolls


9.) York Peppermint Patties


10.) Jolly Ranchers


11.) Bit-O-Honey


12.) Mary Jane Peanut Butter Chews


13.) Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares


14.) Jelly Belly Candy Corn


15.) Red Vines


*some made in Mexico. Check packaging for country of origin.

October 16, 2017

UFCW member spotlight: Amy Rozny, pharmacy technician at Jewel Osco

“I started in high school. I applied and did a training course through Jewel Osco to become certified to become a pharmacy tech.

I love my job. I get to work with people every day and you always learn something new.

My advice to anyone who wants to become a pharmacy tech is to ask a lot of questions. No question is a dumb question. Before here, I worked at a pet store, because I’m an animal lover, and a garden center, because I love plants. When I started, I didn’t know anything about pharmacy. You learn through asking questions. “

Amy Rozny, UFCW Local 881
Pharmacy technician for 8 months
Jewel Osco #3296 in Chicago, IL

September 14, 2017

How well do you know your chicken?

September is National Chicken Month. How much do you know about America’s most popular meat?

1. There are more chickens alive today that there are cats, dogs, pigs, cows and rats—combined. 

2. Though chickens were brought along with the early American colonists, by the George Washington’s time, turkey, goose, pigeon, and duck were more popular than chicken.

Slaves, who were barred from raising cattle, horses, or hogs, were often only allowed to raise chickens. As a result, raising chickens was one of the ways slaves had to earn money.

3. The only continent without chickens is Antarctica.

There is an international treaty in place barring the birds from Antarctica in order to protect the local penguins from disease.

4. Women and minorities were fundamental in growing poultry in the US into an industry.

Farm women in the early 20th century found that they were able to profit from selling eggs, and small scale egg-laying operations grew into large-scale, women-owned hatcheries.

"Poultrywoman and poultry specialist going ove rrecords. Mrs.Bunch&Mr.Parrish, North Carolina, May 1930s." (S-13723-C, Record Group 16-G, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Box 59, Aminals-Chickens-Marketing folder, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.)

“Poultrywoman and poultry specialist going ove rrecords. Mrs.Bunch&Mr.Parrish, North Carolina, May 1930s.” (S-13723-C, Record Group 16-G, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Box 59, Aminals-Chickens-Marketing folder, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.)

5. Working in poultry is one of the most dangerous jobs in the US.

Poultry has more injuries than the construction industry, the auto industry, the steel industry, saw mills, and many other high-risk industries, but the UFCW is working to change that. 

September 8, 2017

Cereal icon Diana Hunter retires after proud, union career

Does this woman look familiar? You’ve probably seen her over the years in TV commercials for Honey Bunches of Oats cereal! But did you know that Diana Hunter is also a member of RWDSU/UFCW District Council Local 374?

Diana will be officially retiring in October. Like the author of this Buzzfeed article, we’ve loved watching her hilariously share about the joys of making this tasty cereal. We wish her the best of luck in her retirement, and thank her for all of her service to our union family!

August 28, 2017

Simple, Easy Ideas for Back-to-School Lunches and Snacks

With most kids returning back to school now or in the next couple of weeks, busy parents are stressing about their long to-do lists for ensuring the year gets off to a good start.

Let us help! One of those daily to-do items for many parents is packing their children’s lunches or making sure the pantry is stocked with easy options for after school.

We’re America’s food union, and the hardworking men and women of the UFCW make, process, and package lots of great staples that are both tasty and easy to prepare. We’ve got a few UFCW-made lunch menu and snack ideas to help make your kids’ school year one of the best yet!

Breakfast:

  • various post cereals (Local 374)
  • Yoplait yogurts (Local 386)
  • Quaker foods: Life cereals, Oatmeal, Instant oats, Cap’n Crunch cereals, Aunt Jemima syrup (Local 110 )

Sandwiches:

Simple Sliced Chicken

  • French’s mustard (Local 2)
  • Heinz ketchup (Local 75)
  • Tyson chicken (Local 2008)
  • Heinz (Local 705) or Vlasic pickles (Local 87)

Classic Bologna or Turkey and Cheese

  • Oscar Mayer products (Local 17A)
  • Hoffman’s bologna, Honest John bologna/turkey and cheeses (Local 1)

Peanut butter and jelly

  • Peter Pan peanut butter – smooth, crunchy, and honey roasted (Local 1996 and Local 38)
  • Welch’s food jams and jellies (Local 1)

Heat and Go

  • Chef Boyardee products (Local 38)
  • Campbell’s Soup (Local 75)

Ready Made

  • Kraft Lunchables (Local 17A)

Applesauce

  • Knouse foods: Lucky Leaf applesauce and Musselman’s Applesauce (Local 1776)
  • Mott’s applesauce (Local 220)

Snacks and sides:

  • Wise Chips: Natural, Sour Cream and Onion, Jalapeno, BBQ, Honey BBQ, Dill , Salt and Vinegar, Onion and Garlic (Local 1776)
  • Wise Popcorn: Cheddar, White, Butter (Local 1776)
  • Orville Redenbacher products (Local 38)
  • Wise Onion Rings: Grilled Steak and Onion, Regular (Local 1776)
  • Wise Cheez Doodles (Local 1776)
  • Totinos pizza and pizza rolls (Local 1059)
  • Kelloggs Cheez-its Crackers (Local 184L)
  • Jell-o (Local 152 and Local 17A)
  • Breakstones cottage cheese (Local 1)

Drinks

  • Knouse juice, Speas Apple Juice (Local 1776)
  • Welch’s Fruit drinks (Local 825)
  • Snapple products (Local 220)
  • V8 juice (Local 75)
August 28, 2017

ICWUC Holds Officer Training and Steward Class

Earlier this month, 21 officers and stewards at UFCW Local 504T honed their skills at a training held by the International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC) in Scottsboro, Ala.

Participants learned about the duties of officers and shop stewards, as well as the duties of the organizing and safety committees. The training session also provided participants with an overview of health and safety issues officers and stewards may face in the workplace.

The training session was hosted by UFCW Local 504T, and ICWUC Secretary-Treasurer and Regional Director Neal Dillard and ICWUC Recorder Chuck Denny served as the instructors.

The UFCW Local 504T officers and stewards are employed at Lozier Corporation in Scottsboro, and work in the maintenance, production and warehouse divisions producing metal and wood shelves and their braces. UFCW Local 504T’s current contract with Lozier Corporation covers 325 members.

 

August 27, 2017

CVS workers win workplace improvements

After months of negotiations with CVS, over 5,000 members of UFCW Locals 5, 135, 324, 648, 770, 1167, 1428, and 1442 who work at over 350 CVS stores in Southern California have achieved wage increases and better access to more affordable health care in the newly organized stores.

The new agreement also includes improved scheduling practices, more protections during layoffs, and a process for part-time employees to become full-time based on seniority.

UFCW members at CVS voted to approve and ratify the four-year contract last week.

August 1, 2017

UFCW Local 365 member Jason Holland wins Mother Jones Award

Building Better Lives In Solidarity With Washington State Farm-Workers

Jason Holland, Local 365 member, wins Mother Jones Award for stepping up to help local farm-workers organizing for better wages

When we talk about building better lives, we’re also talking about working together to help make our workplaces safer places to be. That means showing up to support hard-working men and women in your community, because it’s the right thing to do. UFCW Local 365 member Jason Holland knows very well what it means to step up and do right by others – which is why he was recently honored with the Mother Jones Award from the Washington State Labor Council.

After four years of fighting for a fair labor contract through strikes and boycotts, the workers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington and Mt. Vernon, Washington were able to secure fair, living wages. The farm-workers, from Oaxaca, Mexico realized that there was strength in numbers – which is why they formed the first new farm-worker union in the country in over 20 years, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ).

Using his law degree from Vanderbilt University, Jason supported FUJ’s efforts by writing the contract the workers would bring to the negotiating table. He marched and protested alongside FUJ in solidarity, receiving no compensation for his work – besides knowing he stepped up to help fellow hard-working men and women in need of a strong union family.

FUJ team with their supporters – including Jason (in grey hoodie)

FUJ team with their supporters – including Jason (in grey hoodie) Photo Credit: FUJ Facebook

Congratulations, Jason. Cheers to a well-deserved award!