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January 25, 2019

Beyond TSA: how is the shutdown impacting our national food security?

There have been a number of recent articles highlighting the air-travel safety issues caused by the government shutdown as more and more TSA agents are forced to call out from work. TSA agents are a visible reminder of the work that federal employees do, but some of the most damaging and dangerous impacts from the government shutdown are ones that are also out of sight of the average American. After all, many people pass through the airport, but not that many people regularly visit food processing facilities.

Food Safety


The FDA oversees 80 percent of our food supply and has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities (Washington Post) and canceled more than 50 high-risk inspections. (Washington Post) The FDA halted many inspections on January 9th, though the agency also resumed the most high-risk ones on January 15th, when FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that furloughed food inspectors would be recalled to carry on their work without pay.

40% of FDA workers are furloughed

40 percent of the FDA’s employee’s remain furloughed and it is important to recognize that just because inspections may not be considered “high risk” does not mean they are “no risk” and should be left without inspectors. These decisions about what merits inspection or not are also being made without the informed consent of the American people, who trust that the food they are eating has been held to certain agreed upon standards and guidelines.

 

Risk of recalls has increased

Since the last extended federal shutdown in 2013, the number of meat and poultry products recalled in the US for potentially life-threatening health hazards has nearly doubled.  A new report shows the number of meat and poultry products recalled in the United States for potentially life-threatening health hazards has nearly doubled since 2013, raising new concerns about food safety. A recent report by TIME highlighted that if shutdown-caused furloughs continue to impede FDA operations, “federal regulators might not even realize outbreaks are happening” in the first place.

Long term impacts

Workers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry, have all continued to perform inspections without pay. It is important to recognize that much of the work inspectors do requires a high level of training and experience, and filling vacant positions with qualified employees can be challenging. Though the dedication shown by the inspectors working without pay because of their commitment to the common good is inspiring, the longer this shutdown continues, the more we are asking those workers to sacrifice. If a number of inspectors are forced to take other work in order to support their families, there is a potential for long-term consequences that will be felt beyond when the federal government resumes its responsibilities.

Grocery Sales and Food Access


This week, nearly 40 million low-income Americans received their February Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (or food stamps). Beyond the hardships endured by families who reply on SNAP, the program makes up a significant percentage of grocery sales and the harmful impact of the shutdown threatens not only families, but businesses up and down the supply chain.

SNAP represents a large portion of grocery sales

SNAP accounts for about 10 percent of the food that U.S. families buy for their homes.  Disruption to the SNAP program can cause reduced revenue for grocery stores, disruption to food supply chains, reduced hours and even job cuts for workers, and significant consequences for local economies.

Uncertainty triggering food shortages

Due to the federal government shutdown, the benefit’s release is occurring weeks earlier than scheduled. It is being reported that recipients may have to wait 40 days or longer before additional assistance is available causing state agencies to warn recipients to ration their benefits.

Shutdown induced uncertainty is anticipated to cause worried hardworking families using food stamps, to stock up on food for the weeks ahead and triggering food shortages at local supermarkets.

Out of touch leadership

In addition to damage done by the disruption of the SNAP program, many federal workers are wondering how to feed their families when they are not receiving a paycheck. This is especially troubling as Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross recently expressed confusion over why federal employees would be turning to food banks instead of just taking out loans to get through the shutdown. Donald Trump reacted to the comments by suggested grocery stores need to “work along” with federal employees.

Food access is both a humanitarian issue and bad for business

When you consider that the potential loss of sales in the grocery industry is not only a threat to business, but represents every day Americans who cannot afford to eat right now, the depth of the crisis we are in as a country becomes clear. Grocery workers and grocery stores are united in calling for an end to the shutdown before further disruptions occur in our food stores and on our nation’s kitchen tables.

A partial federal government shutdown started on December 22, 2018 after President Donald Trump demanded a $5.7 billion appropriation for border wall construction be included in the federal budget, something Democrats refused to agree to. The impasse has resulted in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Today, many Federal workers will miss their second paycheck in a row.

December 24, 2018

UFCW members make the holidays happen

For those of us fortunate enough to be able to sit down and spend time with our loved ones, let’s pause to be thankful for the holiday heroes whose hard work and dedication help make possible the traditions and warm memories we make year after year.


UFCW members are the heart behind the holiday brands we’ve all come to love—brands like Butterball, Boar’s Head, Hanover, Reddi-Wip. For those who work in food processing, their knowledge and expertise help ensure the turkey that makes its way to your grocery store has been properly prepared and is safe to eat, and their skilled quality control makes sure Stove Top Stuffing and Marie Callender’s pies will taste just like you remembered.

UFCW members also sacrifice time with their families to keep Albertsons, Kroger, Safeway, Giant, and so many other union grocery stores open during the holidays. We know they’ve saved countless holiday feasts from disaster by making sure families across America can make that last minute run to the grocery store if they need to.

From our family to yours, we wish you happy holidays and all the best in the new year.

UFCW Local 1994 member stands in a building full of road salt

UFCW Local 1994 members in Maryland help keep the roads safe during icy conditions

 

 

 

December 5, 2018

UFCW members celebrate wage and benefit wins

One of the benefits of union membership is being able to negotiate with your employer on equal footing. Rather than having to go to your boss as an individual and hope they are in the position to be able to do something about your concerns, union representation means there’s an organized and meaningful way to take worker concerns to the company and sit down and hammer out real, binding solutions.

The primary way this is achieved is through negotiating contracts between the company and the local union representing the workers, or what is often referred to as “collective bargaining.” UFCW members at several different locals recently demonstrated how standing together through this process can lead to better jobs and better security.

Indiana

UFCW Local Members of UFCW Local 700 who work at Kroger stores in South Bend, Indiana, ratified a new contract on Nov. 1 that improves wages and protects benefits. The one-year contract covers about 800 workers in nine stores in the South Bend area.

The new contract helps to create a more secure future for Kroger workers and their families through regular, guaranteed wage increases. The agreement also protects pensions and quality, affordable health care, and includes contract language improvements.

“We are powerful when we stick together,” said UFCW Local 700 President Joe Chorpenning. “Together, we won a contract that increases wages, provides access to affordable health care, and protects retirement benefits for Kroger workers in South Bend.”

Local 700 workers at Kroger celebrate their newly ratified contract

Local 700 workers at Kroger celebrate their newly ratified contract

Connecticut

Members of UFCW Local 919 who work at Bob’s Discount Furniture stores in Connecticut ratified a new contract that also improves their wages and benefits. The three-year contract covers 70 sales professionals and office clericals at three stores in Manchester, Orange and Stamford.

The new contract, which marks the third agreement for the workers, gave zero concessions and includes wage increases and a zero percent increase on employee health and welfare costs. The office clerical staff will receive an 8 percent raise over the three-year life of the contract, with the first 3 percent retroactive to July 15, 2018. The new agreement also includes improved scheduling and seniority rights, especially when it comes to the distribution of overtime and much desired reduction on the amount of time workers can lose out on their earned commission when a customer returns a purchase.

November 16, 2018

UFCW Local 21 Meatcutters Apprenticeship Program provides pathways to rewarding careers

UFCW local unions around the country offer a wide range of programs and training to enhance the professional skills of their members and help them take their careers to the next level.

One such program is UFCW Local 21’s Meatcutters Apprenticeship Program. Domico Kelly, UFCW Local 21 member and graduate of the program, shares with us the advantages of working as a meatcutter and why he’s grateful he took the leap and signed up:

The Meat Apprenticeship Program of King County in Washington near Seattle is a nationally recognized program that teaches a diverse student population to become experts in the meat cutting trade. Students graduate from the program with an official WA certification which is honored in all 50 states.

“I didn’t just want a job, I wanted a union job. A career,” says Kelly. “I wanted to work hard to provide for my family. So when the UFCW offered me a chance to start a 2 year program to become a certified butcher, it was an incredible opportunity and I didn’t hesitate.”

“This is a good trade to have. I’m a person with disability, so when I came out of high school, I didn’t really know what I was going to be doing. But once I got back here, I said, ‘I could do this.'”

“I’m really glad I did this. It’s good, decent money. You’re going to be able to pay your bills. You’re going to be able to do a whole lot. You could even buy your own house. This job is a good job. If you have a family, you’re going to be able to take care of your family.”

The comprehensive program focuses on teaching students to exceed levels of industry competency through a rigorous and challenging curriculum. Students learn how to work more efficiently both independently and in teams. They explore their employers’ policies, procedures and expectations while learning how to maximize productivity, profitability, craftsmanship, and customer service. Meat apprentice students learn how to be more effective employees and to exceed customer expectations.

Learn more about the program

November 14, 2018

UFCW Local 8 GS Disaster Relief

The fires sweeping through Northern California have destroyed the homes and taken the lives of loved ones in our Union family. There are no words to express our sorrow for their loss.

 

UFCW Local 8 Golden State has created a special fund for members in need of assistance.*

 

If you want to contribute to the UFCW 8 Disaster Relief Fund for California Fire Victims please go to UFCW8.org/donate

DONATE


*If you are a member in need of help please visit www.UFCW8.org/relief or call at (888) 834-4488.

October 16, 2018

Member Spotlight: UFCW member Kitty Janusz investigates paranormal activities

This profile was originally published in the UFCW Local 1428 Fall 2018 newsletter:

“I grew up in a paranormal house,” recalls Kitty Janusz, who works in the produce department of Vons 3086 in Hacienda Heights. “That’s where it all started.”

UFCW Local 1428 member Kitty Janusz’s book on the paranormal won 1st place at the 2016 Los Angeles Festival of Books

It was a brand-new house when her parents moved into the Whittier residence in 1954, but strange things started happening right away, Janusz said. And they kept on happening.

For example: “We would hear footsteps on wood, but our floors were carpeted.”

Her family would come home to water running in the house — all the faucets would be turned on. Items would disappear and then reappear. With windows completely closed the curtains would blow in all at once.

“I was a little kid when all this was going on and we only had one ‘creepy’ area,” Janusz said. “It was a small hallway where we would walk through and totally feel a presence behind us, but we’d turn around and no one would be there.”

“The presence only got aggressive once,” she continued. “I thought our cat was on the corner of my bed one night and I could feel the weight on the foot of the bed, but I looked and there was nothing there. I could see the bed getting a depression like something was there and it got bigger and bigger. I told it to go away… and it did.”

Capturing spirits on camera

Janusz grew up with curiosity about spirit activity, rather than fear. As an adult, she researched historic locations and conducted investigations on her own.

During this time, she realized she had a gift for capturing what is known as EVPs, or Electronic Voice Phenomena. It seemed she was able to capture “spirit voices” through the use of digital recorders.

“It’s a skill set more than a talent,” she said. “For some it comes easy, but all need to be wary of the effects investigating can have on you.”

UFCW Local 1428 member Kitty Janusz investigates paranormal activity on the Queen Mary

“I could feel sadness and pain,” she said. “I wanted to know, why are these places haunted?”

Her favorite paranormal site is aboard the Queen Mary.

“I was in the infirmary recording for EVPs and I felt a presence, so I simply asked, ‘Can you tell me what year it is?’ I didn’t hear anything, but when I played back the recorder I could clearly hear ‘1943’ … and I was hooked. Love that place!”

Janusz realized she needed to use her gifts as a psychic medium to help her communicate more directly with spirits, who she believes are calling for help. She said she uses these gifts to guide lost souls to the light and let them know they are not alone.

“That’s part of what we do as investigators,” Janusz said. “We help the spirits move on.”

“Usually, the spirit is unhappy and lingering for a reason,” she said. “In my experience energy can become imprinted within a location. It can come from traumatic events such as war, violence, murder, domestic abuse, or the pain of losing a loved one.

Energy can also linger as benign energies that may result in residual hauntings. These imprinted energetic anomalies are different than an intelligent haunting from a spirit who may remain at a location. Paranormal investigators need to be cognizant of these energetic influences and maintain healthy personal boundaries. It’s not just about walking around in dark, scary places with a flashlight!”

Janusz emphasized that people need to set boundaries when investigating. “All the energy one takes on when investigating the paranormal can affect a person physically and mentally,” she said.

She has authored two books on the subject.

The first, When the Dead Speak: The Art and Science of Paranormal Investigation, won first place in the 2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest book festival in the United States. The second, Secrets Buried in the Lemon Grove, is a novel based on paranormal events.

Janusz also hosts a weekly radio show, Into the Light Paranormal, where she interviews psychics, authors, investigators, crypto-zoologists and other guests.

Union career

In addition, she is a proud member of UFCW Local 1428. “I’m so glad I have this union job,” Janusz said. “I like the work, but I stayed because of the great health benefits, which allow me the freedom to do the things I love to do.”

Janusz started working for Vons 23 years ago in the floral department. Three years later, when a position opened in produce, her manager was reluctant to lose such a good florist, but Janusz suggested that the floral job be given to her sister.

The arrangement worked, and Janusz’ sister has been working in floral ever since, currently with Pavilions.

Over the years, Kitty Janusz’ health benefits helped her through four surgeries, including replacements of both knees.

“The surgeries left me some awesome scars.” she said. “And the hospital is great for paranormal activity!” she said.

“Right before one of my surgeries I saw two little girls talking to each other. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could see their lips moving. Then they looked at me, saw I could see them, and left.

“I guess they figured they wouldn’t have much fun with me. I knew this was going to be a good night!”

“During my rehabilitation, there were 17 steps I had to walk before they’d let me go,” she continued. “I could hear voices everywhere. I found out later the steps were located in what used to be the psychiatric ward. Those were fun nights in rehabilitation!”

Janusz has a few more years to reach her “Golden 85,” the moment when her age plus her years of service in the industry add up to 85. At that time, she will be able to retire with full benefits.

When retirement does come, you might be able to find her at her favorite paranormal location.

“My goal when I retire is to be a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary,” she said.

“They’re still union, I believe!”

Both of her books are available on Amazon and Kindle. Members may also purchase signed copies of her books, download episodes of her podcast and even hear audio evidence from her investigations on her website: www.kittyjanusz.com.

October 4, 2018

“If I didn’t have my union coverage, I’d have to wait in line for weeks for charity options.”

Sharon, UFCW Local 1000 member

Sharon is a UFCW Local 1000 member. She was diagnosed with cancer within weeks of qualifying for enrollment in her UFCW sponsored health and welfare plan. She describes it as a blessing.

“The insurance was great and worked well with my doctors at OU. I got into treatment immediately, the week after my diagnosis. If I didn’t have my union coverage, I’d have to wait in line for weeks for charity options.”

Sharon is in remission and back at work Assistant Bakery/Deli Manager at HAC Cash Saver 188 in Guthrie, Texas.

Thank you for sharing your story, Sharon! If you are a UFCW member with a story to tell about how being a union member has made your life better, we’d love to hear from you.

 

 

August 28, 2018

Member Spotlight: Susan Beaver, Local 876

So many of the hard-working men and women of our union have spent their careers as UFCW members, and have become valued and irreplaceable fixtures of the workplaces they have helped make successful over the years. One such member is Susan Beaver of UFCW Local 876.

Susan Beaver has been a UFCW member for the past 33 years. In 1985, Susan began her career at Farmer Jack. This month, she celebrated a well-earned retirement from Kroger in RichlandMS. 

Please join us in wishing Susan a happy retirement, and thank you to all of our long-serving members who have helped keep our union family strong through the years!

UFCW Local 876 member Susan Beaver stands with Local 876 Membership Representative Elaine Hill (l) and Executive Board Member Aaron Squeo (r).

 

August 10, 2018

Member Spotlight: Geno Lis talks shop on grilling

Geno Lis is a UFCW Local 1776 member who works at Giant Eagle near Pittsburgh, PA in the bakery. Like many talented UFCW members, his passion for food doesn’t stop when he clocks out. Geno’s previous job in the restaurant industry gave him experience around the kitchen, and he carries those skills with him today.

Geno Lis's smoked watermelon, ribs, and bacon wrapped chicken thighs

Geno Lis’s smoked watermelon, ribs, and bacon wrapped chicken thighs

One thing he is particularly fond of is grilling and smoking. “I like grilling because it puts me in charge of the meal instead of having somebody else in charge,” says Geno. “I like to cook steaks and burgers. I like those big, thick steaks, like inch thick steaks. T-bones.”

“One thing I like to do is Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which is like an Italian rub. You take a little olive oil and lots of oregano, rosemary, garlic, and make it like a paste on top.”

“Another good seasoning is a coffee rub. I use I would say about 1/3 coffee, 1/3 Montreal steak seasoning, and 1/3 brown sugar.”

“I do a lot of cooking for people who are pretty conservative, so I like trying to open up their palette and get them to try different things. I am thinking next I might try smoked porkchops with orange marmalade and horseradish sauce.”

Geno says whenever he comes up with new recipes, he likes to share what worked and what didn’t with others. “A lot of people will ask me ‘how can you come up with these recipes?’ I worked in the restaurant business for 30 years. If I like something, I’ll try it out first and if it works I’ll pass it along.” Recently he tried smoking a watermelon. After putting the watermelon in the smoker for about ten minutes, he topped it with feta and a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Charcoal or propane?

“I have used charcoal, and I’ve gone as far as cave man style and used wood. I only use wood for my smoker now. Mostly I use propane because of the Ease of use. Charcoal adds a lot more flavor but is also temperamental and you have have to keep your eye on it more often.”

What is your ideal fat ratio for burgers?

“75-80%. 90% is better for you, but tends to come out really dry. If you want to be healthy, it’s better to buy ground turkey or ground chicken.”

What have you grilled so far this summer that you’re most excited about?

“There is a local smokehouse that I buy meat from at least once a year called Herb Britter’s where I got jalapeno hot dogs. They have the best smoked chops. Homemade hot dogs. It’s really good.”

Do you have any food you like to serve with what you’ve grilled?

“One thing I like to do, whatever the protein, is I like to have a starch and a side. Baby asparagus coated real lightly with olive oil and just sprinkle a little salt and pepper. You can also grill portabello mushroom caps. With those you can put the same seasonings you’d use on your steak.”

 

 

July 20, 2018

Indianapolis Kroger store celebrates 100% UFCW membership

UFCW Local 700 members who work at the Kroger J1 store in Indianapolis celebrated their wall-to-wall union store status when the last nonmember at the store joined our union family in June.

The approximately 60 hard-working men and women who work at Kroger J1 know there is strength in numbers and are proud of the fact that everyone who works at the store is a member of UFCW Local 700. Union Representative Mary Parker noted that membership is a result of building power and relationships, and members in the store respect and rely on one another. Stewards play an integral role in ensuring that the company plays by the rules we negotiated, and members know one another and welcome new workers into our union family.

“There is power in numbers,” said UFCW Local 700 President Joe Chorpenning. “A store with 100 percent membership is the foundation for building a better life for our members. This is how we negotiate strong contracts – solidarity every day in the workplace.”

Well done, brothers and sisters! Keep up the good work!