July 21, 2017
If you’ve been following retail news over the past month, you know the industry has been buzzing with concerns about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods since their announcement in June. Now a dozen members of congress are calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to review Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods in a letter sent on July 20th:
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Chairwoman Ohlhausen:
We are writing to express our concerns regarding the proposed merger between Whole Foods and Amazon. While we do not oppose the merger at this time, we are concerned about what this merger could mean for African-American communities across the country already suffering from a lack of affordable healthy food choices from grocers.
This merger should be scrutinized beyond the normal antitrust review process that only examines the competitive impact. It should also include a careful review of the impact further consolidation will have on the communities representing many of the “food deserts” across the nation. As you know, the USDA defines Food Deserts as “parts of the country void of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy whole foods, and usually found in impoverished areas.” Many of these areas are populations we represent. Therefore, we hope you consider whether this merger will contribute to increasing rather than reducing the number of food deserts, and potentially increasing health disparities for African-Americans and the poor.
Good nutrition is critical for good health, and the purpose of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is to “provide nutrition for those who
can’t afford it.” Increasing retail food availability is a key element in changing the social conditions of low-income Americans. We are concerned that the proposed merger potentially may exacerbate the food divide among vulnerable populations, including the 41 million SNAP recipients, particularly those in low-income and rural communities.
SNAP recipients currently are unable to use their benefits to buy groceries online, but they may be able to do so in the not-too-distant future. The Department of Agriculture is preparing to roll out ten pilots that will allow some SNAP customers to use their electronic benefit transfer, or EBT cards, with online retailers – a trial called for in the 2014 farm bill. In January, Amazon was selected as one of the companies to conduct a pilot across three states: New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Amazon’s current grocery delivery service, Fresh, requires a monthly fee of $14.99 and is only available to Amazon Prime members.
Another concern is the declining presence of retail stores due to the growth of online shopping. Amazon wields considerable power in online retailing with its platform capturing nearly 45% of all online spending. In the past few months, several major retailers have announced the closure of hundreds of stores nationwide. Many of the communities we represent may feel the impact of these announced closures.
While Whole Foods may have a limited presence in many of our districts, further consolidation may force grocers may who have a strong brick-and-mortar presence in our communities to respond to this merger. As a result, it is possible these grocers will consolidate further and close stores that offer any, or the only, option to low-income communities.
We look forward to the opportunity to work with you to address these concerns and others as your agency evaluates the benefits and challenges a Whole Foods/Amazon national footprint could bring to the food retailing industry and communities across the nation.
Marcia L. Fudge
Member of Congress
Additional Signatures on File: Rep. Donald Payne (NJ); Rep. Maxine Waters (CA); Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ); Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY); Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS); Sen. Corey Booker (NJ); Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL); Rep. Val Demings (FL); Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II (MO); and, Rep. Barbara Lee (CA).
Click here to view the PDF and text of the letter signed by 12 members of Congress asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to review Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods.
The letter echoed concerns voiced three days earlier by UFCW International President Marc Perrone, who also called on the FTC to review the acquisition:
Because of the impact of online shopping, technology, and automation, our economy and the retail grocery landscape is changing dramatically. As such, the very definition of how mergers, such as the proposed Amazon and Whole Foods merger, would impact grocery competition, customer choice, the price of goods, and, especially hard-working retail workers must be rethought. While traditional analysis may discount the threats that would arise from Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon is not a traditional retailer or grocer.
By any and every reasonable measure, Amazon is an online retail monopoly. The scope and weight of Amazon’s digital reach poses a severe and constant economic threat to consumers, retailers, and especially grocers, irrespective of whether they’re located online or are traditional brick-and-mortar stores. More significantly, the scope of Amazon’s reach and the very nature of our economy today, does not limit their impact to the digital retail landscape. The fact is that Amazon is more than a digital retail monopoly; rather, it is a retail monopoly that threatens every corner of our nation’s economy.
We urge you to consider, for example, the facts of Amazon’s growing unfair scope and reach:
According to a 2016 report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon.
That same report states that within five years, 20 percent of the U.S.’s $3.6 trillion retail market will have shifted online, and Amazon is on track to capture two-thirds of that share.
Additionally, a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners last week estimated total U.S. Prime membership at 85 million, which is up 35 percent from the year-ago quarter and double from two years ago. CIRP also noted that 63 percent of U.S.-based Amazon customers are Prime members.
In terms of impact, Amazon arguably poses a greater threat to our retail economy than any other online or traditional brick and mortar grocer. Again, we urge each commissioner to consider the following impacts:
- Hurts Consumers: Amazon’s proposed merger of Whole Foods will hurt consumers by allowing their national economic power to gain unfair advantage with suppliers. As a result, not only may consumer prices increase, the quality and scope of products may be impacted. While Whole Foods may have 460 stores worldwide, the reality is that the very nature of Amazon’s size allows them to unfairly compete against small and medium-sized grocers when it comes to the purchase of goods.
- Hurts Choice: Amazon’s reach will ultimately reduce the number of grocery competitors that consumers can choose from. Regardless of whether Amazon has an actual Whole Foods grocery store near a competitor, their online model and size allows them to unfairly compete with every single grocery store in the nation.
- Hurts Hard-Working Men and Women: The FTC is a public agency, and it must consider the impact that any merger will have on consumers and workers. Amazon’s online business model is built on a brutal foundation of automation to cut costs. If this merger proceeds, it could impact thousands of Whole Foods workers’ jobs simply for the sake of enriching one of the nation’s wealthiest individuals – Jeff Bezos.
- Job Destroying Automation: Amazon has made its competitive vision clear with the introduction of its Amazon Go format, which eliminates nearly every grocery worker in its stores, and replaces them with automation and automated check stands. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is not about improving customer service, products or choice. It is about destroying Whole Foods jobs through Amazon-style automation.
We strongly urge the FTC to carefully review this merger. We believe a fair and impartial analysis will prove that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is a competitive threat to our economy that will hurt workers and communities.
July 14, 2017
Contract negotiations, on first glance, don’t really sound like the most exciting part of being a union member, but the hard-working men and women of Tyson Foods in Logansport, Indiana recently demonstrated the value of being able to negotiate with your employer and how it is possible through negotiating good contracts to make your vision for how to improve your workplace a reality.
UFCW Local 700 members at Tyson Foods submitted contract proposals with their ideas for improvements, and after union negotiations with the company, voted to accept a final agreement that locks in many improvements for the next five years.
The five-year contract includes wage increases, upgrades classifications for several jobs, provides a health care review to ensure that affordable, quality care is protected for members and their families, and offers greater protection for the rights of immigrant workers. The new contract also increases vacation leave after 10 years of service, adds a summer floating holiday, improves the funeral leave policy for employees working shifts longer than eight hours, and provides workers with additional gear.
“Members at Tyson stuck together and won a contract that includes significant raises, increases the amount of paid time off, and improves job protection,” said UFCW Local 700 President Joe Chorpenning. “This agreement provides more opportunity for a better life for Tyson workers and their families.”
July 7, 2017
1.) Chocolate comes from the fruit of the cacao tree
The fruit is about the size of a large mango and has a sweet, white pulp with large seeds. Similar to coffee, the seeds must be fermented, dried, and then roasted to get the rich flavor we know of as chocolate.
2.) Chocolate doesn’t start off shiny, it has to be “tempered”
When melted chocolate cools, the cocoa butter forms several different types of crystals. When you heat chocolate, cool it, and then heat it again, it encourages the formation of uniform crystals, which is why the surface changes from dull to glossy.
3.) Chocolate is poisonous to dogs
The toxic component of chocolate is theobromine. Humans easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their system.
Technically, humans could consume a lethal quantity of chocolate, too, but you’d need to eat at least 22lbs of chocolate first in a sitting. So don’t do that.
4.) It takes 400 cacao seeds to make 1 lb of chocolate
Each cacao tree yields about 2,500 seeds, meaning you can get about 6.25 lbs of chocolate from each tree. It takes a almost a full year for a cocoa tree to produce enough pods to make 10 standard-sized Hershey bars.
5.) UFCW members make Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, See’s and other iconic chocolate candies
The hardworking men and women of Hershey’s produce 70 million Kisses every day, and enough annually to make a 300,000-mile-long line of Kisses. That means if you lined them up, you’d likely need a new car (or at least some heavy repairs) by the time you drove far enough to reach the end.
6.) The first chocolate bar was invented in 1847 by Joseph Fry
Together with his sons, Fry formed the British chocolate company, J. S. Fry & Sons, Ltd. They would also invent the first cream filled chocolate Easter egg in 1873. The company merged with Cadbury in 1919 and the original plant continued to operate until 2010.
7.) Thousands of Canadian children orchestrated a chocolate boycott in 1947
In 1947 hundreds of Canadian kids went on strike and boycotted chocolate after the price of a chocolate bar jumped from 5 to 8 cents. Within days, Canadian chocolate sales dropped by 80%.
Support for the boycott waned when the conservative paper The Toronto Evening Telegraph accused the children’s activities as being part of a Communist plot and a front for Moscow, and the price of chocolate remained at 8 cents.
June 29, 2017
On June 22, workers at three Seward Co-op stores in south Minneapolis voted to join UFCW Local 653 by an overwhelming margin. Earlier in June, the workers at the three stores, including the Creamery Café, the Seward Franklin store on Franklin Ave., and the Seward Friendship store at 38th St. and Clinton Ave., held a rally for a voice in the workplace after submitting cards authorizing representation by UFCW Local 653 to the National Labor Relations Board. This victory comes on the heels of employees at Eastside Food Co-op and Linden Hills Co-op also voting to join UFCW Local 653.
“We are happy to be moving forward together, workers and management, because we’re committed to making the co-op a better place for both customers and the dedicated people who work at Seward,” said Amber Young, who works at the Seward Franklin store.
“Workers have come together to say yes to UFCW 653, yes to fair wages, yes to negotiating better benefits, and yes to respect and dignity in the workplace,” said Max Storey, who works at the Seward Friendship store.
“I appreciate the diverse perspectives and experiences that everyone brings to the work we do in the co-op. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to protecting and supporting all of my co-workers through a collective bargaining agreement,” said Bailey Lutz who works at The Creamery.
“We welcome everyone who works at Seward Co-op to the UFCW Local 653 union family. We’re looking forward to helping them negotiate a better life for themselves and their families. Co-op values are union values, so we feel this new partnership will only make Seward Co-op and our local community stronger,” said UFCW Local 653 President Matt Utecht.
June 19, 2017
Does your workplace have a plan in place for how to safely respond to the risks associated with warmer temperatures? As the summer heats up, it’s more important than ever to make sure that not only are the proper hot weather safety strategies in place, but that everyone knows what they are so you and your coworkers can be protected in hot conditions.
1.) Training all management and hourly employees with an emphasis on how to recognize a medical emergency (heat stroke).
2.) Having 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.) Training 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.) Monitoring 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.
June 14, 2017
June 14th is National Bourbon Day and we’d like to thank the UFCW members working hard to make America’s bourbon.
Though Jim Beam is most known for the familiar Jim Beam Original bourbon, the men and women of UFCW Local 111D in Clermont and in Boston, Kentucky also make other well-known bourbons, including Knob Creek, Booker’s, and Basil Hayden. UFCW Local 111D members take pride in their work, and it’s no wonder. All told, they produce more than 90 million bottles annually at the Kentucky facilities.
What is Bourbon?
Counter to popular belief, bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky, but most bourbon is. Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon—and more than half of Kentucky bourbon is made by Jim Beam.
To be classified as a bourbon, the amber spirit must be made in America. In addition, its mash (the grains that go into the bourbon) must be over half but no more than 79 per cent Indian corn. The rest of the grains include malted barley and either rye or wheat. Some Kentucky bourbon makers say the limestone spring water in that area of the state lends bourbon its distinctive flavor.
Bourbon gains its color and much of its flavor from the barrels it is aged in. Bourbon must be aged at least two years in a new, charred oak barrel made from American White Oak, but many types are aged for longer. The charred wood provides caramelized sugars that add flavor to the whiskey, and there is a great deal of science that goes into how much the barrel is charred and what impact that will have on the taste and the color. Different bourbons have different “char levels,” or how long and hot a barrel is heated.
Want to learn more about how bourbon is made? Carey Jones of the food blog Serious Eats shows the behind-the-scenes of how corn, rye, and malted barley become the iconic American spirit.
May 31, 2017
We’re excited to announce some new additions to our UFCW family! Earlier this month, over 45 hardworking men and women of the Viroqua Food Co-op in Viroqua, Wis., joined UFCW Local 1473.
Looking for ways to build a better workplace for everyone, co-op staff were eager to work together to improve scheduling, job postings, and wages. They approached UFCW Local 1473 a few months ago about these issues and their interest in joining our union family. We’re proud of our new members and the initiative they’ve shown to really make a positive change.
“We welcome the opportunity to bargain on behalf of the employees of Viroqua Food Co-op,” said UFCW Local 1473 President John Eiden. “The local is committed to developing a productive relationship that benefits all parties.”
UFCW represents workers at a number of other co-ops across the country. In 2015, UFCW Local 1459 hosted the first ever “Co-op Workers Summit,” providing an opportunity for the men and women who work at these cooperatives to discuss the unique challenges they face and work together to brainstorm solutions and improvements.
“It’s critically important that the co-op movement doesn’t leave the workers’ voice behind,” said John Cevasco, a grocery worker from Greenfield’s Market in Greenfield, Mass., and a UFCW Local 1459 member who attended the summit in 2015. “We found our voice at Greenfield’s by forming a union, and I know our co-op is stronger because of it.”
“My coworkers and I organized because we believe in workplace democracy,” said Phil Bianco, a UFCW Local 876 member at People’s Food Co-op in Ann Arbour, Mich. “We believe in the values of the cooperative movement. We see those values—democracy, sustainability, autonomy—as perfectly in line with those of the labor movement. In fact, we know the cooperative and labor movements are stronger when united. We urge all workers everywhere to do what we did. Whatever your situation, organize your power and change your circumstances for the better.
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.”