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UFCW Member Attends White House Summit on Working Families

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C.—Kim Mitchell, who works at Macy’s in Washington D.C. and is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 400, today attended the White House Summit on Working Families to bring attention to the union difference in the retail industry.

As a result of the strong union contract between Macy’s and its workers, Mitchell has been able to live comfortably and support her family. Mitchell, who is a single mother, earns $20 an hour and benefits from “predictive scheduling” which helps ensure her hours are both adequate and predictable.

“I am here with a simple message—union jobs are the best jobs,” she said. “My membership in the UFCW has allowed me to achieve my dream of financial security and peace of mind. Our contract is more than a document—it’s my family’s livelihood.”

Also attending the summit were a group of “Walmart Moms” who are speaking out for fair wages and respect on the job. “Millions of workers, especially working women, have stories similar to mine,” said Bene’t Holmes, a Walmart worker and single mother from Chicago. “They are trapped in a cycle of low wage jobs with unpredictable hours that make it so difficult to raise a family. My hope is this event will help elevate the ongoing national conversation about making today’s workplaces better for everyone, including working mothers like me.”

Detailing the widespread problems retail moms face on low-pay and erratic scheduling, national public policy organization Demos released a report earlier this month showing how these conditions keep millions of hard-working women and families near poverty. The report also concluded that if large retailers established a new wage equivalent to $25,000 per year for full time work it 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.

The summit convened businesses, economists, labor leaders, policymakers, advocates, and ordinary citizens to discuss policy solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of working families. Last Tuesday while at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, President Obama credited the labor movement with building the middle class and said the United States “should do everything we can to strengthen unions in this country.”

“I am glad the President is focusing on these important issues,” Mitchell said. “I am here to tell the White House that the best way to lift up working families is to make sure everyone who wants to join a union is able to do so freely and fairly.”

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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.

Women in Retail: Equality is a Long Way Off

Despite advances in gender equality, female retail workers in the U.S. continue to work with less pay than their male counterparts. According to a recent Demos report, female retail workers earn just $10.58 an hour on average, compared to male retail workers’ $14.62 an hour. This pay inequality is experienced by 2.2 million women working in a workforce of 4.6 million, where they consist of slightly less than half of the workforce but 55.4% of the low-wage workers in retail.

Lower wages are only part of the problem, though: many employers do not provide regular schedules or appropriate advance notice of hours to be worked, leading to an uncertain and insufficient income flow for many retail workers. As a result, 1.3 million women in retail are earning wages that keep them at or near the poverty line.

The retail industry is an important factor in the worldwide economy. Like manufacturing once was, retail is now a huge and growing sector of the U.S. economy. The millions of retail workers in America will define what it means to be working middle class in America – from quality of life, to wages and benefits, to how workers are treated by employers nationwide. The gender inequality in the retail industry doesn’t  just impact retail workers and their families, but the American middle class in its entirety.

Unions are one of the most effective ways workers can advocate themselves and their co-workers. For workers in sectors such as retail, joining a union is the best way to ensure a middle-class job with a fair wage and benefits. In 2013, unionized workers earned a weekly take-home wage of $950, compared to $750 for non-unionized workers.

When women join a union, they see an even more pronounced improvement in their wages and benefits: On average, their wages rise by 12.9% and they receive higher chances of receiving employer-provided health insurance or retirement plans. In 2013, women 16 and older who were members of a union earned $898 weekly, while those who were non-union earned $676: a difference of more than $200 a week.

The UFCW, together with the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), is the largest retail union in the United States, and it is committed to bringing up working standards in retail. Our local unions mobilize to negotiate for competitive union contracts that raise wages and provide fair employment benefits. We advocate for laws and policies that help the working class, and empower our union members to do the same through campaigns such as those at Walmart, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s. Together, we raise the bar for the retail industry with the goal of making retail the ideal of what the American middle class should have in employment.

UFCW Locals Reach Out to Non- Union Macy’s Workers About Union Contracts and Work on Black Friday

Macy's blitzOn November 13, members of UFCW Locals 7, 23, 367, 655, 700, 876, and 880 reached out to non-union Macy’s workers regarding Macy’s decision to kick off Black Friday sales early on Thanksgiving Day.

Macy’s recently announced that for the first time, most of its department stores will be open at 8 p.m. on the celebrated American holiday.

However, workers at UFCW represented Macy’s stores in New England, Seattle, New York, and other areas have a union contract that either preserves the day as a paid holiday, or ensures that workers can sign up to work on a volunteer basis – earning premium pay for the shift.

Members handbilled non-union Macy’s workers to spread the word that a union contract ensures that workers have a choice in whether they’d rather stay home on Thanksgiving or work extra hours.