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Massachusetts, Vermont and New York Co-op Workers Gather for First Ever Co-op Worker Summit

Workers meet to discuss future of co-ops and the food industry

DSC_0029Charlemont, Mass. – Dozens of co-op workers from three states and representing six both worker- and member-owned co-ops met Saturday at the first-ever regional co-op workers summit. The event, hosted by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1459, was the first of its kind.

“Co-ops have a unique place in our economy,” said Dan Clifford, President of Local 1459. “They are businesses that have the higher purpose of serving the communities in which they operate. As the co-op movement grows, sometimes the voice of co-op workers get lost. This summit was an important step to ensure those voices are heard and that co-ops live up to their highest aspirations.”

Workers from co-ops in Western Massachusetts, New York and Vermont gathered for panels on the future of the co-op movement and their role in improving their workplaces, their communities and the food we all eat. They also heard from Frances Moore Lappé, best-selling author of Diet for a Small Planet, who spoke about the important role that co-ops and co-op workers can have in building a more sustainable global economy.

“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. “We found our voice at Greenfield’s by forming a union, and I know our co-op is stronger because of it.”

“Our communities need high quality, local food and good family-supporting jobs,” said Russell Ziemba, a worker from the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, N.Y. “Co-ops can play a critical role in meeting those needs if they listen to the voice of their workers. That’s why I’m glad I had the opportunity to be here and learn from other co-op workers in my region.”

The co-op workers also issued a series of collective recommendations to the regional and state food system plans, re-envisioning how the food system could serve the needs of citizens even better. They hope by injecting the voice of ground level workers and co-ops into the plan that they can make the plans both more ecologically and economically more sustainable.

 

 

Statement from UFCW International President Marc Perrone on News of Target Wage Increase

Every Retail Worker has the Right to a Decent Living, a Reliable Schedule, Quality Affordable Health Care, and Respect on the Job

WASHINGTON, D.C.Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement about the news reports on Target’s wage increase and the collective gains secured by workers in the retail industry.

“A higher hourly wage for the hard-working men and women in retail is a first step in the right direction. For far too long, our UFCW family and those outside our family who deserve a better life have been fighting for more than just higher wages. We are fighting for good benefits, a safe and just workplace, and fair scheduling that allows all workers the hard-earned right to support themselves and their family.

“While the struggle against irresponsible companies continues, I believe the momentum is growing. Bad employers who put their bottom line before the people who work to make these companies succeed must change. These families deserve better. While steps forward are positive, we will not stop our fight to raise standards, provide more hours, stable scheduling, and good jobs for all of our family.”

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

LivingWageSign

Retailers Starting To Get The Message: It’s Time to Raise Wages

WM-March-300x200This month, Walmart announced that the company will be hiking wages for 500,000 of its employees nationwide, raising pay to $9 an hour in April and $10 an hour by February of 2016. This decision came after years of pressure from members of OUR Walmart, who have bravely been standing up to the world’s largest retailer for better pay and regular hours. With the support or UFCW members and community organizations, workers are winning change.

Unlike many retail workers, UFCW and other union members are able to raise wages at companies by bargaining strong contracts. Union members also help raise the bar in the retail industry by joining Walmart workers to stand up to competitors like Walmart and pressuring them to raise wages.

In Forbes, Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg directly responded to the petition for $15 per hour and full-time schedules, saying, “The door is open for associates who want to work full time and earn $15 an hour, all they have to do is walk through it.”

While it’s only a step, this victory is full of the promise of more change to come – at Walmart and beyond. As TIME magazine reported, “Walmart workers have proved they can move the most powerful retailer in the world to change. That means they, and others, can do it again.”

As Paul Krugman said in the New York Times, “The announcement is nonetheless a very big deal, for two reasons. First, there will be spillovers: Walmart is so big that its action will probably lead to raises for millions of workers employed by other companies. Second, and arguably far more important, is what Walmart’s move tells us — namely, that low wages are a political choice, and we can and should choose differently.”

Other retailers are already following suit. In the last week of February, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and HomeGoods announced they will raise their minimum wage to $9 an hour in June and to $10 in 2016. Many speculate that other big name retailers aren’t far behind. The New York Times editorial board says, “raises at Walmart could well lead to raises elsewhere as competitive pressures force Target, Home Depot and other low-wage retailers to follow suit.”

While companies may cite different reasons for joining the bandwagon, one thing is clear – workers are standing together and creating an important discussion around inequality and the minimum wage in our country. In the last several years, paying decent wages has become part of the national conversation in an unprecedented way.  Cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle have passed their own legislation raising the wage in the next several years. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have set their minimum wage above the federal level as of January, 2015. Congress has even proposed a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Union members are able to use their collective voices to raise wages at their companies by not only bargaining strong contracts, but also by standing up to competitors like Walmart and pressuring them to raise wages. These recent events have shown that when workers stand together, they can start to change companies – even companies as big as Walmart.