• Background Image

    UFCW Blog

    Retail

March 17, 2017

A UFCW Member, a Refugee, an American Story

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.

Ruhatijuru Sebatutsi, Columbus, Ohio Source: New York Times

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.

You can read the rest of the profiles of working men and women in the New York Times feature, “The Jobs Americans Do.”

February 16, 2017

UFCW Member Retires After 30 Years of Service

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!

October 14, 2016

MCAW Responds to Walmart Store Closings in Texas and Missouri

MCAW-Logo

Last week, Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) responded to Walmart’s announcement that it is closing three stores in three different cities (Lamesa, Texas; Brownfield, Texas; and Columbia, Mo.) with very little notice.

“This callous move by Walmart will leave hundreds of workers without jobs and hundreds of families without paychecks,” said Jess Levin, communications director of MCAW. “Walmart has said that people are the most important part of their business. However, this recent news proves that, for Walmart, nothing is more important than profits: not workers, not customers, not anyone. These closings, much like the 269 store closings earlier this year, will not only impact Walmart workers, they will affect these entire communities. ”

In early 2016, Walmart announced that it was closing 154 U.S. stores, which, according to The Washington Post, disproportionately affected lower-income, rural areas.

August 3, 2016

Zara Workers Join RWDSU/UFCW

Zara Workers--RWDSU

This week, after a majority of the workers at Zara’s eight stores in Manhattan signed cards stating they wanted to be represented by RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102, the company agreed to recognize the union.  The agreement covers over 1,000 retail workers at all of Zara’s stores in Manhattan.  These are the first Zara workers in the United States to be unionized.

Zara, the Spanish fashion chain owned by Inditex, is the world’s largest clothing retailer.  The RWDSU/UFCW and Zara reached an agreement earlier this year where the employer agreed to remain neutral and not to oppose the union’s attempt to organize its workforce.

“Zara’s approach to recognize the right of its workers to form a union, without intimidation, is a message to all retailers – you can be successful and still respect the right of your employees,” said Gemma de Leon Lopresti, president of RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102.

This is the largest retail organizing win in New York City in recent years. In 2009, RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102 organized nearly 1,200 workers at H&M, another fast-fashion global retail chain.

Workers at Zara look forward to working in an environment where they can make their jobs better, and create better lives for themselves and their families.

“Working in retail is extremely fast-paced and hectic,” said Joseph Minton, an associate at Zara’s 59th Street location.  “I’m excited that the company is willing to listen to our concerns and work with the union for everyone’s benefit.”

“We applaud Zara for recognizing the rights of its employees to choose to unionize, without interference,” said RWDSU/UFCW President Stuart Appelbaum. “Unfortunately, too many American employers refuse to respect their workers’ right to freedom of association and intimidate and threaten workers who try to organize.”

“This process is a huge step for retail workers in New York. Zara, the largest fast-fashion retailer in the world, is sending a strong message that you can remain profitable and still recognize your workers’ right to dignity, justice and respect on the job,” said Appelbaum.

July 5, 2016

MCAW Calls on Walmart to Withdraw Support of the 2016 Republican National Convention

Walmart Protest at Trump Tower

On June 23, Making Change at Walmart (MCAW), along with The Black Institute, the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, and ColorOfChange.org, sent a letter to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon that calls on the retail giant to withdraw its sponsorship of the 2016 Republican National Convention due to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s history of racist, misogynistic, anti-veteran, and Islamophobic remarks. A full copy of the letter can be viewed here.

“Walmart cannot afford to stay silent when it comes to Donald Trump,” said Jess Levin, communications director at MCAW. “Throughout his presidential campaign, he has managed to offend men and women of all races and religions and across the political spectrum with his racist, misogynistic, anti-veteran and Islamophobic statements. These are Walmart customers and Walmart employees. Walmart needs to send a message that it will not support bigotry, and join the growing list of companies who are refusing to sponsor this year’s Republican National Convention.”

MCAW has launched an online petition where supporters can sign on to the letter. To date, over 10,000 supporters have signed the petition.

November 25, 2015

“Give Back Friday” is First in Series of Holiday Actions to Help Support Workers

Give Back FridayYesterday, the UFCW and Making Change at Walmart officially released a series of holiday actions against Walmart, beginning with a call to action during the week leading up to Black Friday called the “Give Back Friday” initiative.

Give Back Friday is all about helping the hundreds of thousands of hard-working Walmart employees who are paid so poorly that they must rely on assistance from food banks and use food stamps. During this entire Black Friday week, Making Change at Walmart, our progressive partners, and countless other organizations will be hosting food drives in cities across the country the week leading up to Black Friday with a goal to feed 100,000 Walmart workers and families though the holidays.

Locals Unions are asked to share and sign the pledge to donate to a food drive or a food bank in their area. By working together, we can help Walmart workers and their families.

TAKE THE PLEDGE TO HELP US FEED 100,000 WALMART WORKERS AND FAMILIES

Help us feed 100,000 Walmart workers and families and make sure to post about it using the hashtag #GiveBackFriday and #feedhungryworkers.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of over 100,000 families because no one in America, especially the men and women who work for one of the richest companies in the world, should have go to hungry this Thanksgiving and through the holidays.

November 12, 2015

IKEA Retail Workers Form First U.S. Retail Store Union

Workers Challenge IKEA’s American Labor Relations Record by Calling for Union Recognition

P1010396BOSTON – Today, workers at the IKEA furniture store in Stoughton, Mass. filed with the company for union recognition. While IKEA USA has union manufacturing plants in Danville, Va., and IKEA Group prides itself on positive relationships with unionized workers in stores around the world, this is the first time that IKEA retail workers in the United States have formed a union.

The bargaining unit consists of workers in the Goods Flow In department. The workers are joining the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest private sector union with 1.3 million members.

“I love working at IKEA, and I want to make a career here,” said eight year IKEA co-worker Chris DeAngelo. “A union is the best way to work together to live our values and build an even better IKEA. We’ve gone through a lot at our store, but this is a chance to turn over a new leaf and reset the relationship between IKEA’s hard-working men and women and management. If IKEA does what is right and chooses to recognize our union today, it will show that IKEA respects our right to join a union without fear of retaliation or harassment.”

Workers are seeking union recognition in an NLRB process that allows an employer to voluntarily recognize a union when workers demonstrate majority support. An overwhelming majority of Goods Flow In workers have signed a public petition to join the union. A copy of the petition can be obtained by contacting mbulloch@ufcw.org.

The Boston-area IKEA store has been the subject of a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint filed in Boston, alleging that the company violated federal law by unlawfully infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected union activity. The company has since settled the complaint with the NLRB.

The effort to improve the lives of IKEA workers has garnered domestic and international support. Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, stated, “here at the meeting of our World Executive Board, the affiliates of UNI, representing 20 million workers, including those working at IKEA stores the world over, have stated their unequivocal support for the brave actions of workers in IKEA Stoughton”.  Jennings continued, “we call on IKEA to listen to the workers at Stoughton and recognize their union rights; and we have today committed to stand with these workers until they have a union contract.”

UNI Global Union is an international federation of unions, representing the unions of IKEA retail workers around the world.

###

Join the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) online at www.ufcw.org

We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.

 www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational    @UFCW

 

UNI Global Union, based in Nyon, Switzerland, represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade. UNI and our affiliates in all regions are driven by the responsibility to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and collective bargaining.

June 19, 2015

Support #UFCWDads by Shopping Union-Made This Father’s Day!

IMG_0184Haven’t got a gift for dad yet? No worries! We’ve put together some great UFCW-made ideas for your Father’s Day shopping list!

When you buy union, you’re supporting the men and women who work hard every day to make and sell these quality goods. You’re also supporting good union jobs, that enable working parents to support their families with good pay and benefits. Unions are also on the forefront of legislative pushes for policies that benefit working families, like parental leave. Together, union families are working to make jobs work for all families.

Spirits:

Jim Beam

Knob Creek Whiskey

Personal Care:

Old Spice products

Pierre Cardin Cologne

Shoes:

Naturalizer Shoes

Red Wing Shoes

The Union Boot Pro Boots

June 2, 2015

IKEA USA Charged with Violating Federal Labor Law

Labor Board Complaint Alleges IKEA Manager Interrogated Workers, Violated Freedom of Association

Participants in today's Day of Global Solidarity with IKEA workers show their support in Dublin, Ireland.

BOSTON — The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against IKEA USA alleging unfair labor practices at the company’s store in Stoughton, Mass. The complaint alleges that the company violated federal law by unlawfully interrogating employees about their support for a union. The complaint further finds fault with the company’s social media policy, finding the policy to be overly broad and infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected activity.

“My coworkers and I came together to make IKEA better because we love our jobs and we believed in the company’s values,” said Nancy Goetz, a worker in the Stoughton IKEA. “In other countries, IKEA works collaboratively with the workers’ unions to solve problems. I never thought that IKEA would allow supervisors to intimidate and interrogate us. I expected more from IKEA. I expected that my rights would be respected.”

IKEA Group is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), an international compact that prohibits companies from interfering with workers’ freedom of association. IKEA has incorporated Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations, into the company’s internal code of conduct. Conventions 87 and 98 relate to freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining.

Freedom of association for American workers is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a law that protects workers’ rights to take collective action, form unions and bargain collectively. The Act also prohibits employers from engaging in certain coercive or intimidating tactics for the purpose of preventing workers from freely exercising their rights under the Act. Prohibited tactics are considered Unfair Labor Practices and are prosecuted by the NLRB.

“This complaint sadly shows that IKEA does not treat hard-working American families with the same respect that the company shows to workers in other parts of the world,” said Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “Every American worker has a fundamental right to come together and take collective action to improve their jobs. The UFCW stands with these workers, and together we will hold IKEA to a higher standard.”

The full complaint filed by the NLRB can be obtained by contacting Moira Bulloch at mbulloch@ufcw.org.

###

Join the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) online at www.ufcw.org

We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.

www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational   @UFCW

May 27, 2015

Workers in LA begin 24-Hour fast & will rally for an end to retaliation and call for $15 an hour and full-time hours

While Walmart continues to dodge questions about the recent sudden layoff of 2,200 workers ahead of upcoming shareholder meeting

DSC_6643LOS ANGELES – Ahead of the company’s June 5 shareholder meeting, Walmart workers in major cities across the country are holding rallies and marches this week, calling for CEO Doug McMillon and the Walton family to end the retaliation against workers who speak out for change, and to publicly commit to pay a living wage of $15 and provide access to full-time hours. Here in Los Angeles, two dozen Walmart workers will begin a 24-hour fast today to highlight the hunger many Walmart associates and their families endure due to the company’s low wages and insufficient hours.

Earlier this year, Walmart caved to worker pressure and announced it would raise wages for 500,000 U.S. associates. But despite the modest increase—and without any guarantee of adequate hours —many workers are still forced to rely on government assistance programs like food stamps to get by. Meanwhile, the company escalated its retaliatory actions against associates to a new level last month when it abruptly closed five stores and laid off more than 2,000 workers, citing “plumbing issues.” Walmart has failed to offer any conclusive evidence of a plumbing emergency that would require the immediate closing of five stores. Workers at the Walmart store in Pico Rivera, Calif., one of the stores closed for alleged plumbing issues, are calling on the company to commit publicly to reinstating all laid off workers when the store reopens for business and to allow all workers, for the time being, to be transferred to one of the nearby 45 Walmart stores.

Walmart workers are prepared to demand change and accountability from the world’s largest retailer at the company’s upcoming shareholder meeting. Worker shareholders will present two resolutions intended to reign in executive compensation and incentivize sustainable investment, such as fair wages and benefits for workers.

              WHAT:   Walmart workers rally against retaliation and for $15 and full-time

              WHEN:   Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 5:30 p.m.

              WHERE:   Cesar Chavez & Broadway Blvds in Chinatown, Los Angeles

              WHO:       Fasting Walmart workers, community leaders, members of the clergy, elected  officials

              RSVP/FOR MORE INFORMATION: Marc Goumbri, 202-257-8771,mgoumbri@ufcw.org

###

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 publicly 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.