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October 19, 2018

October is National Ergonomics Month

Earlier this year, the UFCW and Tyson commemorated 30 years of working together for safer workplaces by expanding our collaborative efforts to make workplace safety improvements at the company’s food processing plants. The innovative program broke ground by training and involving hourly production workers in identifying safety and ergonomics problems at their worksites. While the primary focus had been Tyson Foods’ beef and pork operations, it is now being expanded to the company’s poultry business.

Ergonomics, which is the science of designing the workplace to fit the worker, had not been extensively used in the meat industry until the UFCW and Tyson reached an agreement after an historic OSHA citation and settlement in late November 1988 followed up with the joint Tyson-UFCW program to develop a comprehensive ergonomics research program.

The program got underway in early 1989, with the company’s Dakota City, Nebraska, beef complex serving as the pilot plant, and production workers represented by UFCW Local 222, were actively involved.  Due to the success of the pilot, the program was quickly expanded to all of the company’s beef and pork plants.

Some of the key elements of the program include ongoing ergonomics training for production workers; the involvement of hourly workers as ‘ergonomic monitors;’ worksite analysis and the redesign of work stations and equipment; and a medical management program focused on early detection and treatment of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Using ergonomic principles, properly designed jobs, tasks, equipment and tools as well as good job organization can help to fit the job to the workers.

Ergonomics includes:

  • Designing equipment that is easy to use
  • Investing new equipment that will take the strain out of the job
  • Organizing work in different ways
  • Changing how tasks are done

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made through our collaboration with the UFCW, and especially the active involvement of frontline team members,” said Steve Stouffer, president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “We know that all of us must remain diligent if we’re to achieve additional improvements.”

“We value the progress we’ve made at Tyson and are looking forward to expanding our partnership to create safer workplaces for all of their hard-working men and women,” said Mark Lauritsen, director of the UFCW’s Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “Working together with Tyson has meant empowering workers and their union to make a better, safer workplace.”


Early warning signs of repetitive stress may include: hand pain or numbness; stiff fingers; swelling in the hand, wrist, or forearm; and back or shoulder pain.


What are CTDs, RSIs, and MSDs?

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and United Auto Workers, Ergonomics Awareness Manuel.

Cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) are disorders of the muscles, tendons, or nerves. CTDs are caused by repeated stress or exposure to forceful exertions, repetitive motions, awkward body postures, nerve compression and vibration. CTDs typically affect the arms, shoulders, hands or wrists.

Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) is a general term like (CTD) used to describe a range of symptoms associated with repetitive motion work.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, or spinal disks. Examples of jobs likely to cause MSDs are those requiring:

  • Forceful or prolonged exertions of the hands
  • Heavy lifting
  • Pushing, pulling g or carrying of heavy objects
  • Prolonged awkward postures

CTDs, RSIs, and MSDs are often used to mean the same thing.


The Three Stages of MSD Symptoms

MSD symptoms can range from mild aches to disabling pain. Symptoms often appear gradually and become more sever over time. Generally symptoms progress through three stages.

Stage 1

Symptoms may appear during periods of activity and may disappear during periods of rest. Symptoms are relatively mild. Early symptoms of MSDs often are mistaken for muscle fatigue.

Stage 2

Symptoms are most persistent. They do not disappear completely during periods of rest. Increasingly severe symptoms may interfere with performance of usual work activities.

Stage 3

Symptoms are constant. Sleep is often disturbed. Sever pain, limited mobility, loss of sensation or muscle weakness makes it impossible to perform most job tasks.


Symptoms of MSDs

  • Soreness
  • Burning sensation
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Tingling
  • Aching
  • Stiffness
  • Skin Discoloration (blanched or white) – skin discoloration of the fingers is an indication of Hand-Arm Vibrations Syndrome (HAVS) and it is the result of long-term exposure to vibration.

MSD Risk Factors

Many jobs that poultry workers do are associated with ergonomic risk fact that include:

  • Repetition – performing the same motion or series of motions continually of frequently.
  • Forceful exertion – the amount of physical effort to perform a demanding task or to maintain control of equipment or tools
  • Awkward and static postures – assuming positions that place stress on the body, such as reaching above shoulder height, kneeling, squatting, leaning over a worktable, twisting, the torso while lifting, maintaining a sustained posture for a long period of time, as well as holding or using tools in a non-neutral or fixed position.
  • Vibration – using vibrating hand-held power tools can increase the stress on the hands and arms.
  • Cold temperatures
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.”

 

 

August 7, 2018

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

August 7th is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day—the day when black women’s pay finally catches up to what Caucasian, non-Hispanic men were paid last year.

While black women make substantial contributions to the U.S. economy, they face considerable disparities in the labor market. On average, black women are paid less than Caucasian, non-Hispanic men, and are over-represented in jobs with little job security, few benefits, and limited opportunity for advancement. These poorer quality jobs, combined with restricted access to unions in the states in which black workers are concentrated, hinder access to economic security and overall well-being.

Leveling the playing field

According to a study by The Economic Policy Institute, union membership is one of the key factors that can help determine if black women are paid fairly for their work:

“Black women have traditionally faced a double pay gap—a gender pay gap and a racial wage gap. EPI research has shown that black women are paid only 65 cents of the dollar that their white male counterparts are paid. However, unions help reduce these pay gaps. Working black women in unions are paid 94.9 percent of what their black male counterparts make, while nonunion black women are paid just 91 percent of their counterparts.”

What UFCW members have to say about Black Women’s Equal Pay Day



Shanitla Price

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
Local 1625 member

How do you feel knowing that it takes just so long for a woman of color to reach their male counterparts wages?

“It seem unfair and it makes me upset. If a woman has the same education and ability as a white male, they should be paid equally.”


Dorothy Starnes

Pilgrims Pride chicken plant, South Carolina
Voted to be representation by UFCW Local 1996 in April 2018 and is in the process of ratifying a first contract

“I want better pay and respect. I do not think it is fair that folks doing the same job get paid differently because of the color of their skin, their gender or both. Having equal pay is important to me , my family and my community because the cost of living keeps going up. In March, one of the plant managers called us roaches as if we were not human beings. I voted for union representation in April 2018 because I demand respect and to be treated equally. “


Yvonne Yearwood

Century 21 Department Store, Morristown, NY
A shop steward and member of UFCW Local 888

“The union has been extremely helpful as I have a contract and am treated better than those who do not have a union. As a black West Indian woman I have seen first had how gender pay inequity can impact not just your wallet but you morale as a worker. Finding out that a co-worker who was a white male was getting paid $2 more than I was for the same work was disheartening. Having a contract gives me a voice to fight against gender pay inequity. I am a proud member and shop steward of UFCW Local 888!”


Shantell Williams

Kroger, Indianapolis, IN
UFCW Local 700 member

“Thanks to UFCW and my union contract I don’t have to worry about not being my pay being equal to others. I work just as hard as everyone around me and get treated as such!”

– Shantell Williams, UFCW Local 700
Kroger, Indianapolis


June Flowers

MedMen, Los Angeles, CA
UFCW Local 700 member

“Unfair pay is wage theft as far as I am concerned. Its deplorable that it remains an accepted practice in any company today. As a black woman raising a black daughter AND a strong Union member, I fight for equal pay for women in my work place. Having a union contract means there’s no speculation of what a male counterpart makes. Same position and duties, same pay!”


Ann Klajda

Fry’s 69
UFCW Local 99 member

“There is disparity for all women but, if it wasn’t for a union it would be much worse. We have equal pay in our union shop. It is much worse for minority women that do not have union contracts. I have been a shop steward for many years and advocate for all women and very active in the community and local politics and my union.”

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!

 

June 7, 2018

Does your workplace have proper hot weather safety strategies in place?

With summer almost here and temperatures rising, many workers face additional heat-related risks. If you are one of these many hard working men and women, you deserve to know you’ll be safe when you go to work.


Does your workplace have a plan?

1.) Train all management and hourly employees with an emphasis on how to recognize a medical emergency (heat stroke).


2.) Have a clearly written protocol on how to respond to a medical emergency.

This should include information for all shifts about who is authorized to call an ambulance, how to call for an ambulance, and what to do while waiting for emergency medical care. This protocol should be translated into the commonly spoken languages in the facility and posted throughout the workplace.


3.) Train  all management and hourly employees on workers’ right to access drinking water as needed and the right to access to bathrooms as needed.

This is important because some workers hold back on drinking water so that they can put off using the restroom. This is never a good idea and can have serious consequences during hot weather. 

4.) Monitor particularly hot and humid work areas.

This should be done with a device that measures both heat and humidity and combines these measurements to provide the Heat Index. The company should have a plan for additional rest breaks or means of cooling the work area whenever the heat index approaches the Extreme Caution zone.

Heat Index Risk Level Protective Measures
Less than 91°F Lower (Caution) Basic heat safety and planning
91°F to 103°F Moderate Implement precautions and heighten awareness
103°F to 115°F High Additional precautions to protect workers
Greater than 115°F Very High to Extreme Triggers even more aggressive protective measures

 

Work with your union rep and your local to make sure that you and your coworkers are protected in hot conditions. Meet with the company to ensure that all of the proper hot weather safety strategies are being used in your workplace.


For more information about heat and heat-related illness, you can contact the UFCW Occupational Safety and Health Office in Washington, D.C. at 202-223-3111.

More materials can be found below:

Preventing Heat Illness
Heat Illness response guidelines
Sample Heat Emergency Procedure

 

May 24, 2018

Union health insurance: a better value

Mike Watts lives with his family in Kentucky, where he has been a Kroger employee for over 30 years. When his son was born with special needs, Mike’s union health insurance allowed him to provide the high quality care his son needed when he was born.

“I have both of my children on the union insurance since they’ve been born. Me and their mother have quite our options. She also works for Kroger in management and we decided the union insurance was definitely the far better value.

In management, she basically had insurance also and then with the insurance that I had which was through the union we found out there was a better premium on that, we also found it paid for more and there was less out of pocket, the copays were better.

Landon, he was born with special needs. This is where we found out we really got a great value with the union insurance because we’ve had to deal with a lot of doctors appointments.

His medical outlook is good. He’s as normal as any other child. We’re just super excited that we’ve got the insurance to have him have the care that he needs and clearly we feel like it’s given him a better life because of it.”

May 22, 2018

UFCW Local 27 members craft the flowers blankets for the Preakness

Talented UFCW members at Giant Food Store #108 in Baltimore, Maryland carefully weave together the yellow flowers that are awarded to the winning horses at The Preakness Stakes held each year on the third Sunday in May. Nicknamed “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans,” the Preakness was first held in 1873 and second only to the Kentucky Derby in North American equestrian events.

UFCW Local 27 members: Julie Hoshor, Jen Gobble, Veronica Worsley, Mary Pat Walbrecher, Kathleen Marvel, Joann Heil

At both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, it’s UFCW members who work at neighborhood grocery stores who do the highly-detailed work of constructing the elaborate blankets. While the Kentucky Derby blanket is traditionally made from roses, the Preakness is made from yellow flowers made to look like the state flower of Maryland, the black-eyed Susan.

Why not use real black-eyed Susans? The summer-blooming flower isn’t in season until June, so instead yellow flowers such as mums are used as a substitute.

Though smaller than the blankets awarded at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness blankets use ten times the number of flowers. Each flower is individually wired and attached to felt-backed matting so as not to injure the horse.