Last week, UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill was honored by the UMass Dartmouth Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center during their annual awards banquet.
For 35 years, the center has served “as a bridge between working people, their communities, organizations, and UMass Dartmouth.” Their awards and dinner banquet are one of the largest gatherings of labor leaders and activists in the area.
The Southeastern Massachusetts labor movement joined the center in honoring UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill for his work with the UFCW’s Walmart campaigns.
“I am honored to accept it on behalf of the 1.3 million members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union,” said Pat as he accepted his award.
“Brothers and sisters, we are at crossroads in the labor movement. There is no sugarcoating it.Workers are struggling to make ends meet. More and more families are falling behind. Income inequality is getting worse. Minimum wage workers are living in poverty. Hard working immigrants are still living in the shadows.
But in too many corners of our movement, labor is trying to address 21st century challenges with 20th century solutions. It is not working. Some will tell you we need more time—that things will get back to normal eventually.
I say if you’re heading toward a cliff at 100 miles an hour, you don’t need more time. You need a change in direction. That is why I am so proud of our dynamic and forward-looking Walmart campaign.
There are those who say Walmart is too big, too entrenched, and too powerful. That we don’t stand a chance against the world’s largest retailer.
Every important battle for justice has had its share of naysayers. It is always easier to analyze than to mobilize.
Here is what I believe—when we stand together and work together and fight together and dream together—there is nothing we cannot achieve. Last week, Walmart workers and their allies sent shockwaves across the country. They shut down Park Avenue in front of Alice Walton’s $25 million penthouse. They set up a blockade of K Street in front of the Walton Family Foundation in Washington, DC. And they delivered thousands of petitions to the Phoenix home of Walmart Chair Rob Walton calling on the company to give workers $15 dollars and full-time hours. The media coverage surrounding these events was substantial and a clear message was sent to the Walton family and Walmart executives: workers will not be pushed around.”
UFCW Locals 1455 and 328 were in attendance to support Pat as well.
Recently, long-time UFCW Local 1500 member Jerry Knapp was recognized for his years of active service to his union and fellow union members by Region 1, and was awarded with a member award along with several other members who have made a difference in their workplaces. He was taken aback when he learned he was being recognized, Jerry said, but it was nice to know someone knew he existed. After talking with Jerry, it was clear to us why someone would take notice of Jerry and his time in the UFCW:
Since 1966, Jerry has worked as a union member at Shoprite in Fishkill, New York. Working as a department manager at one time, he is now happily employed as a clerk as he nears retirement. In 1994, Jerry was named the Primary Shop Steward at his store–a role in which he still has today. Jerry says that his job “is a good job because of the union,” and that as UFCW members, he and his coworkers aren’t abused or taken advantage of, and they earn good pay and benefits.
But Jerry knows that these things that make a good union job good are only obtainable when people are active in their unions. Jerry has attended countless area meetings, participated in the negotiating process, and been there to advise fellow members on their rights and responsibilities. Being active and engaged, says Jerry, enables union members to have a say in what happens on the job, to choose your lifestyle, and have your career needs and desires heard, as opposed to working for a non-union company that can make promises and change their minds about policies at the drop of a hat. With a union, he notes, you have the right to go back to the bargaining table.
Not only is Jerry involved in his workplace, but in the wider community and Local as well. Jerry has helped other folks achieve the union difference through his organizing efforts, and he has worked to help elect politicians who will represent and look out for the working people in his area. Jerry’s peers have noted that his work has not only earned him the respect of his coworkers, but of management as well. It’s clear that at the end of this year when Jerry goes into retirement, which will be his 49th year of service in the union, he will be dearly missed at work by all.
His advice for others that want to get more involved in the union is to ask themselves what they think they need or want out of their job or in the workplace, and then go after it. If you don’t take advantage of the power you have as a union member by negotiating or working together, notes Jerry, then you don’t have the right to complain.
“Don’t sit back,” he says. “The union starts with ‘U’!”
Group calls on Walton family to stop taking advantage of taxpayer programs to support low-wage model & instead, pay workers $15 an hour and provide full-time work
If the Waltons fail to respond, protestors promise to return to Walmart stores on Black Friday
New York and Washington, DC – Forty-two Walmart workers and their supporters were arrested today calling on Walmart’s owners to stop robbing workers a fair wage and passing the bill on to taxpayers. Without a public commitment from the Waltons to raise pay at Walmart, the group refused to disperse, shutting down Park Avenue in front of Alice Walton’s new penthouse in New York and K Street in front of the Walton Family Foundation in DC. Last year, Walmart’s former CEO confirmed that the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.
“My grandkids go hungry because of low pay at Walmart,” said Sandra Sok, a Walmart worker in Phoenix. “I’ll do whatever it takes to make these billionaires and Walmart see what they’re doing to our families.”
“We are tired of seeing the Waltons enjoy every luxury this world can offer while the workers that build their wealth are unable to pay their bills,” said Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Kim Bobo. “Income inequality will only be addressed when the Waltons and Walmart provide fair pay and regular hours to their workers. I’m here today taking a stand for Walmart workers, and I’ll be back on Black Friday with thousands of others who have had enough of Walmart’s destruction of the American Dream.”
Before the arrests, the group delivered a petition signed by workers from 1,710 of Walmart stores in all 50 states. The petition calls on Walmart to publicly commit raise pay to $15 an hour and provide consistent, full-time hours. The actions today follow protests yesterday in Phoenix, AZ, where Walmart associates and community members delivered the petition to Walmart chair Rob Walton.
“The Waltons have made it impossible for me to get ahead and make sure my daughter goes to bed in a warm home,” said Fatmata Jabbie,a Walmart worker who delivered the petition to the Walton Family Foundation in Washington, DC. “The Waltons can choose to turn things around and stop robbing working Americans like me who just want to raise our families. We need $15 an hour and consistent full-time work—now.”
“Right now, corporate profits are at an all-time high while wages are lower than any time since 1948,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Walmart alone rakes in $16 billion a year while enjoying $8 billion in tax breaks and subsidies, but refuses to pay employees enough to put food on the table or clothes on their back. Many of their employees are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded programs, meaning the American taxpayers are paying for the Walton family’s refusal to pay a decent wage. It’s time to end this scam, and ensure all workers have the decency of a livable wage and full-time work.”
Walmart workers depend on food stamps and other taxpayer-supported programs to support their families. Walmart—the standard-setter for jobs in the retail industry—has created a norm of erratic, part-time scheduling that is keeping workers from getting the hours they need, holding down second jobs, arranging child care, going to school or managing health conditions.
National public policy organization Demos released a report this yearshowing low-pay and erratic scheduling keep millions of hard-working Americans—particularly women—near poverty. The report finds that establishing a new wage floor equivalent to $25,000 per year for fulltime, year round work at retail companies employing at least 1,000 workers would improve the lives of more than 3.2 million female retail workers and lift 900,000 women and their families directly out of poverty or near poverty.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.