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Perrone and Johnson: Food safety, Local Agriculture at Risk if Congress Passes TPP

via the Colorado Statesman

by Marc Perrone and Roger Johnson on April 27, 2016

downloadDo you care about the quality of your food and where it comes from? If you do, and you should, it is time to be concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The TPP, like other trade deals before it, is being sold as a boon to the American agricultural industry. But the real track record of these agreements tells a different story. In reality, the Pacific trade pact represents a major, ongoing threat to American food processing workers, family farmers, ranchers, fisherman and consumers.

Nearly every trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has  promised to stimulate the U.S. agricultural industry. The unfortunate truth of these agreements is that they flood American grocery stores with cheap and low standard foreign meat imports. Not only is this bad for our families, it puts U.S. farmers, ranchers and workers at a significant disadvantage as they struggle to compete with countries who pay workers mere pennies per hour.

The growth of live cattle and meat imports brought by trade is especially dangerous to the U.S. beef sector. The beef market is more fragile than others because the biology of a cow demands 39 months from conception to slaughter. By flooding the market with unexpected imports, the historical ebb and flow of this cycle is disrupted, harming both U.S. ranchers who raise and sell cattle and plants who process beef. Just since NAFTA passed, 50 beef processing plants have closed, costing our country thousands of high paying jobs with good benefits that were often located in rural communities.

If the TPP passes, we will be forced to accept even more live cattle and foreign beef imports. This will hinder the ability of ranchers to rebuild the U.S. cattle herd, resulting in continued plant closings and the loss of even more good jobs.

In addition to the loss of jobs, U.S. consumers could also be faced with a major loss of appetite. The TPP would increase food imports from countries like Malaysia who have notoriously lax safety standards. And unfortunately, avoiding food imports of questionable origin may not be so simple.

A prime example of this threat happened recently when the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the U.S. must forego country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on meat or pay more than $1 billion in penalties to Canada and Mexico.

The WTO ruling claimed that by telling U.S. consumers where their food comes from so that they can make informed choices about what they eat, meat products from Canada and Mexico were being unfairly discriminated against.

As a result of the WTO sanctions, Congress repealed COOL, so consumers no longer have easy access to information about where their beef or pork came from.

The WTO’s decision perfectly illustrates how global trade agreements like the TPP can quickly put the profits of global corporations above the protection of consumers and more importantly, above American law. In this case, Congress rolled back this once-celebrated law to avoid fines, effectively forcing people to buy meat of unknown origins simply to enhance the profits of foreign corporations.

It is inexplicable how any elected official, whether Democrat or Republican, can support the TPP when it so clearly puts American jobs and our food supply at risk. With these facts in mind, we hope every member of Congress will oppose this dangerous trade agreement. The American agricultural industry and the millions of consumers who rely upon it to feed their families deserve better than the TPP trade deal.

National Food Union & Food Companies Announce Major Donation to Help Feed Flint Families in Crisis

UFCW partners with Cargill, ConAgra Foods, Hormel Foods, JBS USA, Pinnacle Foods, Downs Food Group, Ryder Logistics for multi-ton donation of high-quality, high-protein food

Members of Local 617 who proudly process the products made at the Fort Madison Iowa Plant

Members of Local 617 who proudly process the products made at the Fort Madison Iowa Plant

FLINT, MICH. – In an effort to help Flint families dealing with an unprecedented water and economic crisis, the nation’s largest union for food workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), has teamed up with some of America’s largest food manufacturers for a massive multi-ton donation of high-quality food to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint, Michigan.

As part of this effort, some of America’s best-known food manufacturers and longtime UFCW partners, including Cargill, ConAgra Foods, Hormel Foods, JBS USA, Pinnacle Foods, Downs Food Group and Ryder Logistics have joined forces to bring relief to Flint families in need. Together they’ve donated more than 60 tons of beef, pork, poultry, canned meats, ready-to-eat soups and pastas, and peanut butter.

“The crisis imposed on Flint families is a historic failure. To do what is right for these good people we must act, and we must act together,” UFCW 876 President Roger Robinson said. “Today, UFCW and its employer partners have come together for this community, demonstrating our ability to unite in advocacy for the protections all families deserve; to be the voice of the worker that is too often ignored; and to provide the strength and support to navigate all workers to a better life.”

“We firmly believe that everyone has the right to enjoy safe and nutritious food,” said Jarrod Gillig, general manager of Cargill’s beef processing plant in Schuyler that is producing the beef for Cargill’s donation.  “We know that protein, like ground beef, provides an array of essential nutrients to children and adults, and we believe it is important for us to provide some relief for a community in need of long-term support.”

“Our donation provides a variety of quality, protein-rich products for the people of Flint,” said Thomas L. Nuss, director of human resource operations at Hormel Foods. “We are proud to partner with the UFCW in this endeavor, and hope our effort will help those in need.”

“At JBS, we’re committed to giving back to the communities in which we live and work, and to helping when our neighbors are in need,” said Chris Gaddis, head of JBS USA human resources. “Families in Flint are experiencing extremely difficult times, and if we can help, we’re honored to offer our support to those families.”

Leading this effort to help feed Flint families in need are UFCW locals across the country, specifically members of UFCW Locals 38, (Milton, Pa.), 293 (Fremont, Neb.), 540 (Grapevine, Tex.), 617 (Fort Madison, Iowa), 1149 (Marshalltown, Iowa), 1161 (Worthington, Minn.) 1996 (Suwanee, Ga.),  who have made or contributed food or transportation to this effort.

In addition, UFCW Locals 876 and 951, which represent workers in Flint and across Michigan, have been coordinating the UFCW’s ongoing efforts to serve their Flint members, their families and the broader Eastern Michigan community.

“We are committed to helping not only our members, but the entire community effected by the Flint water crisis,” John Cakmakci, UFCW 951 president, said. “To date, we have raised over $100,000 to provide quality food and water to Flint residents. Next week, we will be hosting the first of many food and water give-aways for the nearly 500 UFCW 951 members and retirees living through this horrible situation.”

Additionally, Local 876 has contributed more than $14,000 as part of their on-going local relief efforts.

“Good, nutritious food is key to the Flint community’s recovery, and we can’t thank this incredible team enough for what they have done for Flint families and children” said Kara Ross, Vice President of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.
Background Statistics:

More than 125,000 pounds of food from eight companies in eight states and nine UFCW locals

Products included are: Fresh beef, ground beef,  pork, poultry, peanut butter, canned chicken, Chef Boyardee, Hormel chili, Dinty Moore Compleats beef stew, Peter Pan peanut butter, Skippy peanut butter singles, and Vienna Sausages

Black History Month Member Profile: Local 1208 Steward Daniel Garescher


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As our UFCW family continues to celebrate Black History Month, we’re asking members why it’s important to them. Daniel Garescher, who is Haitian/Caribbean-American, is a Local 1208 steward at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina.

To Daniel, Black History Month is important because it sheds light on the history of black Americans, something that “schools and textbooks do not always cover.”

“When the history and culture of black people in America is excluded, African-Americans can feel oppressed–we want to have pride about who we are,” Daniel says. “Without education about all that people of color are and can be–and what contributions they have made–we are reinforcing racism. Black History Month is a small effort to resolve this and counter negative images of black people that were perpetuated in the media and society for so much of our country’s history, and still persist today.”

Daniel got involved in the union because he saw first-hand how being part of a union family improved people’s quality of life, and fought for the rights of all workers, including people of color.

“My mother was working at Smithfield when I was in high school, and I was working as an interpreter for both Smithfield and the union. I started working at the plant myself after high school.  I had already seen the value of having a voice at the plant through the union,” he says.

As a steward, Daniel fights every day for his coworkers and urges them to get more involved. His advice to his other union brothers and sisters is to “Sign up! Become a steward. Learn as much as you can and go to any trainings that you can go to. It will help you both at work and outside of work in your future. The union has helped me, a Haitian man, become more of a leader, more of a man.”

Daniel notes that the labor movement has a unique responsibility and is in the position to fight inequalities that extend beyond the workplace: “Workplace education and power is the best way to reduce the income divide. The labor movement can always do more to highlight and promote leaders of color to reduce discrimination–that’s why it’s so important that we not just continue to celebrate Black History Month, but continue to fight for civil rights in our daily work and lives.”

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