May 11, 2017
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. To celebrate 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.”
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 9, 2017
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) released yet another report finding poultry to be one of the most dangerous industries to work in, underscoring the continued importance of the UFCW’s efforts to provide a voice for the hard-working men and women of the poultry industry and to make sure no worker is left to suffer on their own.
The report takes a look at serious injury rates in 29 states and finds the rate of serious injuries, such as amputations, to be disproportionately high in poultry plants.
“OSHA’s severe injury data shines a light on the severe toll of preventable workplace injuries, especially in the U.S. poultry industry,” said Debbie Berkowitz, senior fellow for worker safety and health with NELP and the report’s lead author. “The workers who put food on our tables should not have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck.”
This report is consistent with similar trends shown in past reports by other organizations such as Oxfam, with whom the UFCW has worked to improve safety standards in the poultry and meatpacking industries.
Past reports have found workers at poultry plants, which have a much lower rate of union representation than other meat packing plants, were more likely to suffer from Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) and that many workers in nonunion plants were forced to use adult diapers due to a lack of bathroom breaks and the constant, grueling pace of work.
More injuries than saw mills and other high risk industries
Even when compared to other high risk industries, this report shows an alarmingly high injury rate:
According to the data, the poultry industry as a whole reported 180 severe injuries resulting in hospitalizations or amputations—a number that put them at the 12th-highest number of severe injuries reported to federal OSHA. Workers in the industry suffered a greater number of serious injuries than much of the construction industry, the auto industry, the steel industry, saw mills, and many other high-risk industries. And these numbers only reflect instances in 29 states. Further, OSHA followed up with inspections in response to 86 of these reports, finding a total of 750 violations in the plants, of which 84 were willful or repeat violations that carry the highest fines.
The rates of injury are likely even higher than reported
The report also makes note that as dramatic as the number of injuries are, they likely don’t come close to representing the full scope of the problem:
Three government agencies, OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the GAO, have found that the poultry processing industry is underreporting the serious injuries that occur in the plants.
A 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, along with numerous other studies, have documented that many workplace injuries are not reported by employers. Further, according to a recent report issued by OSHA in 2016, “OSHA believes that many severe injuries—perhaps 50 percent or more—are not reported.”8 Other studies have concluded that the actual number of work-related injuries is three times higher than what companies report.
In 2016, the UFCW was a vocal supporter of OSHA’s decision to issue a citation to Pilgrim’s Pride, only the second citation of its kind in the agency’s 47-year history. “We are disappointed to see yet another example of poultry workers being mistreated and forced to endure harsh working conditions,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “As we strive to improve poultry industry jobs, we applaud OSHA for actively supporting the right of every worker to have a safe workplace.”
The citation alleged that “the employer delayed evaluation, care, and/or treatment from a medical provider, which could result in health hazards such as, but not limited to, increased risk of further injury, prolonged healing, exacerbation of pain and limited recovery from work-related injuries/illnesses.” The citation went on to describe that Pilgrim’s Pride “failed to make timely appropriate medical referrals for employees with injuries related to chronic and acute exposures and incidents. The employees are exposed to injuries which include burns, loss of consciousness, and blunt force trauma which require appropriate evaluation and treatment.”
UFCW’s presence is vital
UFCW contracts include health and safety language to protect workers. This helps to ensure safe working conditions, union access to perform worksite inspections and medical and exposure records, training, joint health and safety committees, protective equipment and chief, walking and ergonomic stewards that can accompany government inspectors during their paid time. Union contracts also include reimbursement for protective gear.
But the percentage of workers who have UFCW representation is much lower in poultry plants than in other meat packing plants. Only about a third of poultry workers are UFCW members, making improvements in workplace safety more difficult to secure.
Beyond additional workplace protections offered by a union contract, the UFCW’s influence in these plants helps combat a climate of fear and intimidation.
“Many workers are afraid to speak up and advocate for better treatment. Companies increasingly turn to ‘a variety of economically desperate and socially isolated populations,’ many of whom face obstacles that prevent them from standing up and speaking out about abuses in the workplace. In the words of many, the industry takes advantage of workers who live and work in a climate of fear. – Lives on the Line: The Cost of Cheap Chicken, Oxfam
Both in the recommendations of the most recent NELP report and in past reports such as Oxfam’s Lives on the Line: The Cost of Cheap Chicken, the need for workers to have better compensation and a voice on the job is repeatedly echoed.
“Unions provide poultry workers with one of the best ways to improve their safety on the job because we create an environment where people know their rights and feel empowered to speak up,” said Perrone. “We make sure that workers can advocate for their well-being without the fear of being fired.”
Progress through partnership
The NELP report comes on the heels of Tyson’s announcement to rededicate itself to workplace safety. The day before the report was released, Tyson committed to continuing its collaboration with the UFCW on a workplace safety and illness and injury prevention initiative that will be rolled out to all plants and be released publicly. Other highlights in the company’s announcement include:
- A new initiative on transparency stating that the company will begin publicly sharing results of its third party social compliance audits.
- A new initiative on compensation stating that Tyson Foods will make sure it’s providing competitive wages and benefits.
- Reaffirming its commitment to allowing regularly scheduled breaks, as well as restroom breaks, as needed.
- Reaffirming its commitment to running its processes at a speed according to the number of people available to work.
- Reaffirming its commitment to a policy allowing workers to stop the line at any time for worker or food safety issues.
- Reaffirming its commitment to having Team Member safety councils in place at all plants.
“Tyson Foods’ commitment to worker safety and workers’ rights should not just be applauded — it should serve as a model for the rest of the industry,” said Perrone. “Through our ongoing partnership with Tyson Foods, we have already made valuable progress. We look forward to these new and expanded initiatives and to continuing to work together to provide a better, safer workplace for the hard-working men and women at Tyson Foods.”
May 1, 2017
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 27, 2017
All jobs take some kind of physical toll on the body, but through training employees to recognize safety hazards and working with employers to minimize risk, we can create safe workplaces and help reduce preventable injuries.
The UFCW is committed to nurturing a culture of safety in the workplaces we represent and working with employers to find innovative solutions. We are committed to seeing our members arrive to work safely and leave work safely.
Some Injuries are Cumulative
When you think of injuries on the job, you might first think of a specific accident, like a slip and a fall or getting a hand caught in a machine. But many injuries from work are not so obvious. Something as harmless seeming as operating a register can lead to pain when you are ringing up customers for hours on end, day after day.
Cumulative Trauma Disorders
If work and rest are balanced, it is more likely that our bodies will be able to heal the harm that happens at work. When the healing process cannot keep up with the damage, it can worsen to become a Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD).
The major risk factors for Cumulative Trauma Disorders are:
Posture is the way workers must position their bodies in order to do their jobs. It refers to the design of the work station, machinery and tools. Posture is not about what workers are doing wrong.
Force is the physical effort we use with our bodies to push, pull, lift, lower, and grip when we are working.
Repetition is the number of times we make the same movement using the same parts of our body; how fast the movements are, and over what period of time. Repetition is directly related to line speed, production pressures, and staffing.
Other factors such as temperature, vibration and stress may also contribute to the risk of injury.
Good Programs Focus on Minimizing Risk, Not Symptoms
Beware of ergonomic programs that do not focus on all of the risk factors. While such programs may increase productivity, they may not decrease injuries.
For example, stretching and doing hand strengthening exercises after a long day of work might help them feel better in the short term, but it does nothing to actually address the source of the problem. A real safety solution would look at the bigger picture: are inadequate staffing or unreasonable workloads requiring you to work faster than what can be done safely? Is your workstation poorly designed and forcing you to work in an awkward posture? Are you having to expend more energy than is necessary to get the job done due to dull knives or tools that are the wrong size?
For more information, download the “Change the Workplace, not the Worker” booklet.
April 20, 2017
Earlier today, Matthew Utecht, President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 653 and Jennifer Christensen, President of UFCW Local 1189, released a statement in support of union cannabis jobs in Minnesota:
“It’s time for every community in Minnesota to realize the incredible benefits that unions bring to this emerging sector. In the past year, we’ve negotiated contracts that brought strong wages, affordable health care and the retirement security of a pension to everyone who works at Minnesota Medical Solutions, the only union provider of cannabis medicine in our state.
“Most importantly, UFCW members who work in Minnesota’s cannabis industry have a voice and can speak up at every level, from seed to sale, to improve their lives. We encourage every patient to choose Minnesota Medical Solutions so that we can continue spreading the great benefits of union cannabis jobs to every corner of our state.”
Multiple UFCW members who work at Minnesota Medical Solutions shared how being a part of a union made their cannabis jobs better.
“This 4/20, I’m lucky that I’ll be able to spend my day working amongst Minnesota’s finest medical cannabis,” said Nate Noel, a cultivator at Minnesota Medical Solutions. “Thanks to the UFCW and their partnership with Minnesota Medical Solutions, I’ll be working safely, treated fairly and growing cannabis in a compassionate, responsible and sustainable way. Our cannabis is grown under the light of the sun!”
Quality, Professional Care
“Our patients like knowing the dispensaries at Minnesota Medical Solutions are union,” said Christine Dallaire and Kari Ellingson, who work as Pharmacy Technicians at Minnesota Medical Solutions in Minneapolis. “People appreciate that our employer takes input from us and believes in our ability to improve the quality of our medicine and patient care.”
For the full release, please visit UFCW1189.org.
April 14, 2017
Reposted from UFCW Local 328.org
We would like to congratulate Al Garnett, produce manager at Stop & Shop in Harwich, Massachusetts, for winning the 2017 Retail Produce Manager Award from the United Fresh Produce Association! This prestigious award is granted each year to twenty-five of the industry’s top retail produce managers from across the country and Canada.
This program, which is co-sponsored by Dole Food Co. and is currently in its thirteenth year, recognizes top retail produce managers for their commitment to fresh produce, innovative merchandising, increase sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, community service and customer satisfaction.
Al talks about his career and why it pays to belong
A first for Stop & Shop
Each year, hundreds of nominations are submitted by supermarket chains and independent retailers from throughout the industry and this marks the first time a produce manager from Stop & Shop has been selected.
A lifelong advocate for his coworkers
Al began his career over twenty-five years ago and has been a UFCW Local 328 shop steward for most of that time. In Harwich, Al is a recognizable face and enjoys building lasting relationships with both customers and co-workers. As a shop steward, Al has been a strong advocate and has taken a proud role in educating his co-workers about the importance of the union and making sure that the contract is enforced.
April 13, 2017
We know better than anyone how hard UFCW members work to put food on the table for America’s families – and our union family also believes that no hardworking man or woman should struggle alone. Which is why we work hard for those in need, supporting our brothers and sisters at the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) in their “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive.
This year is the 25th anniversary of the food drive, and we want to make this a year for the history books. We hope to top last year’s Guinness World Record—80 million pounds of food collected for the largest single day food drive in world history. Together, we know we can do it, one bag at a time.
- FILL A BAG with non-perishable food items. (See list below.)
- TAKE A PIC AND POST IT! Please Tweet it or put it on Facebook with the hashtag #StampOutHunger – and please tag @UFCW and @NALC.
- PUT OUT YOUR BAG on May 13th before your letter carrier’s normal pick-up time.
That’s it! It’s so easy – please help us Stamp Out Hunger and put food on shelves in our local food banks.
What to Put in Your Bag
Fill your UFCW-provided Stamp Out Hunger paper bag with*:
- Pasta or spaghetti sauce
- Canned fruits and veggies
- Canned meals (soup, chili, pasta)
- 100% juice
- Peanut butter
- Macaroni and cheese
- Canned protein (chicken, tuna, turkey)
*NOTE: DO NOT put in frozen food, homemade food, expired food, or home canned items – or anything in glass containers.
March 17, 2017
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.
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.
March 5, 2017
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.
“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
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!