July 21, 2017
If you’ve been following retail news over the past month, you know the industry has been buzzing with concerns about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods since their announcement in June. Now a dozen members of congress are calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to review Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods in a letter sent on July 20th:
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Chairwoman Ohlhausen:
We are writing to express our concerns regarding the proposed merger between Whole Foods and Amazon. While we do not oppose the merger at this time, we are concerned about what this merger could mean for African-American communities across the country already suffering from a lack of affordable healthy food choices from grocers.
This merger should be scrutinized beyond the normal antitrust review process that only examines the competitive impact. It should also include a careful review of the impact further consolidation will have on the communities representing many of the “food deserts” across the nation. As you know, the USDA defines Food Deserts as “parts of the country void of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy whole foods, and usually found in impoverished areas.” Many of these areas are populations we represent. Therefore, we hope you consider whether this merger will contribute to increasing rather than reducing the number of food deserts, and potentially increasing health disparities for African-Americans and the poor.
Good nutrition is critical for good health, and the purpose of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is to “provide nutrition for those who
can’t afford it.” Increasing retail food availability is a key element in changing the social conditions of low-income Americans. We are concerned that the proposed merger potentially may exacerbate the food divide among vulnerable populations, including the 41 million SNAP recipients, particularly those in low-income and rural communities.
SNAP recipients currently are unable to use their benefits to buy groceries online, but they may be able to do so in the not-too-distant future. The Department of Agriculture is preparing to roll out ten pilots that will allow some SNAP customers to use their electronic benefit transfer, or EBT cards, with online retailers – a trial called for in the 2014 farm bill. In January, Amazon was selected as one of the companies to conduct a pilot across three states: New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Amazon’s current grocery delivery service, Fresh, requires a monthly fee of $14.99 and is only available to Amazon Prime members.
Another concern is the declining presence of retail stores due to the growth of online shopping. Amazon wields considerable power in online retailing with its platform capturing nearly 45% of all online spending. In the past few months, several major retailers have announced the closure of hundreds of stores nationwide. Many of the communities we represent may feel the impact of these announced closures.
While Whole Foods may have a limited presence in many of our districts, further consolidation may force grocers may who have a strong brick-and-mortar presence in our communities to respond to this merger. As a result, it is possible these grocers will consolidate further and close stores that offer any, or the only, option to low-income communities.
We look forward to the opportunity to work with you to address these concerns and others as your agency evaluates the benefits and challenges a Whole Foods/Amazon national footprint could bring to the food retailing industry and communities across the nation.
Marcia L. Fudge
Member of Congress
Additional Signatures on File: Rep. Donald Payne (NJ); Rep. Maxine Waters (CA); Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ); Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY); Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS); Sen. Corey Booker (NJ); Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL); Rep. Val Demings (FL); Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II (MO); and, Rep. Barbara Lee (CA).
Click here to view the PDF and text of the letter signed by 12 members of Congress asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to review Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods.
The letter echoed concerns voiced three days earlier by UFCW International President Marc Perrone, who also called on the FTC to review the acquisition:
Because of the impact of online shopping, technology, and automation, our economy and the retail grocery landscape is changing dramatically. As such, the very definition of how mergers, such as the proposed Amazon and Whole Foods merger, would impact grocery competition, customer choice, the price of goods, and, especially hard-working retail workers must be rethought. While traditional analysis may discount the threats that would arise from Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon is not a traditional retailer or grocer.
By any and every reasonable measure, Amazon is an online retail monopoly. The scope and weight of Amazon’s digital reach poses a severe and constant economic threat to consumers, retailers, and especially grocers, irrespective of whether they’re located online or are traditional brick-and-mortar stores. More significantly, the scope of Amazon’s reach and the very nature of our economy today, does not limit their impact to the digital retail landscape. The fact is that Amazon is more than a digital retail monopoly; rather, it is a retail monopoly that threatens every corner of our nation’s economy.
We urge you to consider, for example, the facts of Amazon’s growing unfair scope and reach:
According to a 2016 report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon.
That same report states that within five years, 20 percent of the U.S.’s $3.6 trillion retail market will have shifted online, and Amazon is on track to capture two-thirds of that share.
Additionally, a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners last week estimated total U.S. Prime membership at 85 million, which is up 35 percent from the year-ago quarter and double from two years ago. CIRP also noted that 63 percent of U.S.-based Amazon customers are Prime members.
In terms of impact, Amazon arguably poses a greater threat to our retail economy than any other online or traditional brick and mortar grocer. Again, we urge each commissioner to consider the following impacts:
- Hurts Consumers: Amazon’s proposed merger of Whole Foods will hurt consumers by allowing their national economic power to gain unfair advantage with suppliers. As a result, not only may consumer prices increase, the quality and scope of products may be impacted. While Whole Foods may have 460 stores worldwide, the reality is that the very nature of Amazon’s size allows them to unfairly compete against small and medium-sized grocers when it comes to the purchase of goods.
- Hurts Choice: Amazon’s reach will ultimately reduce the number of grocery competitors that consumers can choose from. Regardless of whether Amazon has an actual Whole Foods grocery store near a competitor, their online model and size allows them to unfairly compete with every single grocery store in the nation.
- Hurts Hard-Working Men and Women: The FTC is a public agency, and it must consider the impact that any merger will have on consumers and workers. Amazon’s online business model is built on a brutal foundation of automation to cut costs. If this merger proceeds, it could impact thousands of Whole Foods workers’ jobs simply for the sake of enriching one of the nation’s wealthiest individuals – Jeff Bezos.
- Job Destroying Automation: Amazon has made its competitive vision clear with the introduction of its Amazon Go format, which eliminates nearly every grocery worker in its stores, and replaces them with automation and automated check stands. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is not about improving customer service, products or choice. It is about destroying Whole Foods jobs through Amazon-style automation.
We strongly urge the FTC to carefully review this merger. We believe a fair and impartial analysis will prove that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is a competitive threat to our economy that will hurt workers and communities.
June 29, 2017
On June 22, workers at three Seward Co-op stores in south Minneapolis voted to join UFCW Local 653 by an overwhelming margin. Earlier in June, the workers at the three stores, including the Creamery Café, the Seward Franklin store on Franklin Ave., and the Seward Friendship store at 38th St. and Clinton Ave., held a rally for a voice in the workplace after submitting cards authorizing representation by UFCW Local 653 to the National Labor Relations Board. This victory comes on the heels of employees at Eastside Food Co-op and Linden Hills Co-op also voting to join UFCW Local 653.
“We are happy to be moving forward together, workers and management, because we’re committed to making the co-op a better place for both customers and the dedicated people who work at Seward,” said Amber Young, who works at the Seward Franklin store.
“Workers have come together to say yes to UFCW 653, yes to fair wages, yes to negotiating better benefits, and yes to respect and dignity in the workplace,” said Max Storey, who works at the Seward Friendship store.
“I appreciate the diverse perspectives and experiences that everyone brings to the work we do in the co-op. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to protecting and supporting all of my co-workers through a collective bargaining agreement,” said Bailey Lutz who works at The Creamery.
“We welcome everyone who works at Seward Co-op to the UFCW Local 653 union family. We’re looking forward to helping them negotiate a better life for themselves and their families. Co-op values are union values, so we feel this new partnership will only make Seward Co-op and our local community stronger,” said UFCW Local 653 President Matt Utecht.
June 19, 2017
Does your workplace have a plan in place for how to safely respond to the risks associated with warmer temperatures? As the summer heats up, it’s more important than ever to make sure that not only are the proper hot weather safety strategies in place, but that everyone knows what they are so you and your coworkers can be protected in hot conditions.
1.) Training all management and hourly employees with an emphasis on how to recognize a medical emergency (heat stroke).
2.) Having 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.) Training 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.) Monitoring 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.
May 31, 2017
We’re excited to announce some new additions to our UFCW family! Earlier this month, over 45 hardworking men and women of the Viroqua Food Co-op in Viroqua, Wis., joined UFCW Local 1473.
Looking for ways to build a better workplace for everyone, co-op staff were eager to work together to improve scheduling, job postings, and wages. They approached UFCW Local 1473 a few months ago about these issues and their interest in joining our union family. We’re proud of our new members and the initiative they’ve shown to really make a positive change.
“We welcome the opportunity to bargain on behalf of the employees of Viroqua Food Co-op,” said UFCW Local 1473 President John Eiden. “The local is committed to developing a productive relationship that benefits all parties.”
UFCW represents workers at a number of other co-ops across the country. In 2015, UFCW Local 1459 hosted the first ever “Co-op Workers Summit,” providing an opportunity for the men and women who work at these cooperatives to discuss the unique challenges they face and work together to brainstorm solutions and improvements.
“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 who attended the summit in 2015. “We found our voice at Greenfield’s by forming a union, and I know our co-op is stronger because of it.”
“My coworkers and I organized because we believe in workplace democracy,” said Phil Bianco, a UFCW Local 876 member at People’s Food Co-op in Ann Arbour, Mich. “We believe in the values of the cooperative movement. We see those values—democracy, sustainability, autonomy—as perfectly in line with those of the labor movement. In fact, we know the cooperative and labor movements are stronger when united. We urge all workers everywhere to do what we did. Whatever your situation, organize your power and change your circumstances for the better.
May 11, 2017
From stocking shelves to providing late-night medical care, when the rest of the world goes to sleep, many UFCW members’ work days are just getting started. To celebrate the hard work and sacrifice made by those who work overnight to keep our communities running smoothly, International President Marc Perrone surprised several UFCW Local 2008 members at Kroger in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a late night visit in honor of National Third Shift Workers Day.
“To our members, and everyone who works through the night so that we can all enjoy the day – thank you,” said Perrone.
“Thank you for making our communities better and for making a real difference in so many lives across this nation.”
Mark Ramos, president of UFCW Local 1428 in California, was also burning the midnight oil and visiting stores overnight to personally thank the hard-working men and women of the third shift for all they do.
“I was on third shift for 14 years when I worked in the stores,” said Ramos. “When I first started working nights, it took a few months to get used to it. You know, you never really get 8 hours of sleep. I’d take two naps instead. You learn to make it work.”
Ramos preferred to work third shift because the predictable schedule and hours let him take care of his kids and spend more time with his family during the day. The same applies for many of the members he spoke with during his visits.
“They are amazing folks. Most of them have families, and they work and then go home and do other things. The working moms who work that shift are some of the most incredible, courageous workers I know.”
According to multiple studies, shift work is hard on both the body and mind. The risk of workplace injuries, obesity and depression are all increased if a person works overnight. Studies also suggest that third shift work impacts hormones that regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn lead to a higher risk of serious health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.
Despite these risks, there is no federal law requiring third shift workers to be provided with any extra pay or benefits. But in UFCW contracts all across the country, we negotiate premium pay for third shift workers to help provide them with the better life they’ve earned and deserve.
“Thank you for recognizing us,” said Beverly Martin, a UFCW Local 8-Golden State member who works at Savemart in California. “I work the third shift and have for six years now. We get looked-over for a lot of things.”
“I provide Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday dinners for my fellow night crew members,” Martin went on to say. “By the time it’s our lunch, the food from the daytime party is gone or there’s not enough to go around. It may not seem like much to a day worker, but little things like that can really help to build up our team at night. So, here’s to those of us who work at night.”
May 1, 2017
Since 1987, the talented men and women of UFCW Local 227 in Kentucky have been hand-crafting the delicate “Garland of Roses” awarded to the winning horse of the annual Kentucky Derby. The garland has been an iconic part of the Kentucky Derby traditions since 1932.
“I’m excited to be part of the team that makes the Garland of Roses,” said UFCW Local 227 member Leigh Wheeler. “It takes about 14 hours and every rose has to be perfect. Derby is a wonderful tradition in our state and our union family works hard to make you and your family proud.”
April 27, 2017
All jobs take some kind of physical toll on the body, but through training employees to recognize safety hazards and working with employers to minimize risk, we can create safe workplaces and help reduce preventable injuries.
The UFCW is committed to nurturing a culture of safety in the workplaces we represent and working with employers to find innovative solutions. We are committed to seeing our members arrive to work safely and leave work safely.
Some Injuries are Cumulative
When you think of injuries on the job, you might first think of a specific accident, like a slip and a fall or getting a hand caught in a machine. But many injuries from work are not so obvious. Something as harmless seeming as operating a register can lead to pain when you are ringing up customers for hours on end, day after day.
Cumulative Trauma Disorders
If work and rest are balanced, it is more likely that our bodies will be able to heal the harm that happens at work. When the healing process cannot keep up with the damage, it can worsen to become a Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD).
The major risk factors for Cumulative Trauma Disorders are:
Posture is the way workers must position their bodies in order to do their jobs. It refers to the design of the work station, machinery and tools. Posture is not about what workers are doing wrong.
Force is the physical effort we use with our bodies to push, pull, lift, lower, and grip when we are working.
Repetition is the number of times we make the same movement using the same parts of our body; how fast the movements are, and over what period of time. Repetition is directly related to line speed, production pressures, and staffing.
Other factors such as temperature, vibration and stress may also contribute to the risk of injury.
Good Programs Focus on Minimizing Risk, Not Symptoms
Beware of ergonomic programs that do not focus on all of the risk factors. While such programs may increase productivity, they may not decrease injuries.
For example, stretching and doing hand strengthening exercises after a long day of work might help them feel better in the short term, but it does nothing to actually address the source of the problem. A real safety solution would look at the bigger picture: are inadequate staffing or unreasonable workloads requiring you to work faster than what can be done safely? Is your workstation poorly designed and forcing you to work in an awkward posture? Are you having to expend more energy than is necessary to get the job done due to dull knives or tools that are the wrong size?
For more information, download the “Change the Workplace, not the Worker” booklet.
April 14, 2017
Reposted from UFCW Local 328.org
We would like to congratulate Al Garnett, produce manager at Stop & Shop in Harwich, Massachusetts, for winning the 2017 Retail Produce Manager Award from the United Fresh Produce Association! This prestigious award is granted each year to twenty-five of the industry’s top retail produce managers from across the country and Canada.
This program, which is co-sponsored by Dole Food Co. and is currently in its thirteenth year, recognizes top retail produce managers for their commitment to fresh produce, innovative merchandising, increase sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, community service and customer satisfaction.
Al talks about his career and why it pays to belong
A first for Stop & Shop
Each year, hundreds of nominations are submitted by supermarket chains and independent retailers from throughout the industry and this marks the first time a produce manager from Stop & Shop has been selected.
A lifelong advocate for his coworkers
Al began his career over twenty-five years ago and has been a UFCW Local 328 shop steward for most of that time. In Harwich, Al is a recognizable face and enjoys building lasting relationships with both customers and co-workers. As a shop steward, Al has been a strong advocate and has taken a proud role in educating his co-workers about the importance of the union and making sure that the contract is enforced.
April 13, 2017
We know better than anyone how hard UFCW members work to put food on the table for America’s families – and our union family also believes that no hardworking man or woman should struggle alone. Which is why we work hard for those in need, supporting our brothers and sisters at the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) in their “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive.
This year is the 25th anniversary of the food drive, and we want to make this a year for the history books. We hope to top last year’s Guinness World Record—80 million pounds of food collected for the largest single day food drive in world history. Together, we know we can do it, one bag at a time.
- FILL A BAG with non-perishable food items. (See list below.)
- TAKE A PIC AND POST IT! Please Tweet it or put it on Facebook with the hashtag #StampOutHunger – and please tag @UFCW and @NALC.
- PUT OUT YOUR BAG on May 13th before your letter carrier’s normal pick-up time.
That’s it! It’s so easy – please help us Stamp Out Hunger and put food on shelves in our local food banks.
What to Put in Your Bag
Fill your UFCW-provided Stamp Out Hunger paper bag with*:
- Pasta or spaghetti sauce
- Canned fruits and veggies
- Canned meals (soup, chili, pasta)
- 100% juice
- Peanut butter
- Macaroni and cheese
- Canned protein (chicken, tuna, turkey)
*NOTE: DO NOT put in frozen food, homemade food, expired food, or home canned items – or anything in glass containers.
March 5, 2017
The UFCW is pleased to welcome a new addition to our union family: the hard-working men and women of the Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The passion and enthusiasm the men and women of Linden Hills Co-op feel both for their jobs and for their new union family is clear as they talk about the democratic principles they believe in in this recent article featured in Workday Minnesota:
Workers at Linden Hills Co-op won their election Thursday to form a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 653. Eight-five percent of workers voted in favor of unionization in balloting conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.
“We are excited to begin the bargaining process because it is the next step in making our already amazing co-operative even more amazing. We love where we work. This is an extremely positive thing!” said Tracie Lemberg from the Health and Body Care Department.
Workers have begun circulating bargaining surveys to help the bargaining committee understand their co-workers’ priorities.
“I have been working at co-ops in the Twin Cities since I was 16. Forming a union is the best way to make sure all workers are treated fairly and have a say in creating a positive work environment. I’m proud to work at this co-op and look forward to making it an even better place,” said Emily Calhoon from the Produce Department.
Workers said they want to actively ensure good jobs and a sustainable co-op that best serves the needs of the community.
Evan Adams-Hanson, a front end floor coordinator said, “Forming a union reinforces co-op values of community throughout our store. Linden Hills Co-op can be a model for how workers and management cooperate to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability at all levels.”
When workers first started discussing forming a union, they met at each other’s houses discreetly to create a safe space to refine their goals and identify who would be most interested in organizing.
“Organizers helped provide advice and experience, but this organizing was done by us – we were making commitments to each other to have each others’ back,” said Bryce Christopherson, a grocery buyer. “For other workers who are forming their union I would advise as much transparency and outreach to your co-workers as feasible. And reach out – we are happy to help you go through the process of forming your union.”
Mark McGraw from the Scanning department said, “I feel more connected than ever to my co-workers and our store, and I’m excited to have all voices at the table as we move forward with our contract negotiations.”
Linden Hills Co-op workers were inspired by other workers who recently organized a union at the Wedge Community Co-op and Whole Foods Co-op in Minnesota and the People’s Food Co-op in Michigan.
“I’ve been a meat cutter and member of UFCW Local 653 for 10 years. I look forward to welcoming the Linden Hills co-op workers as brothers and sisters in our union and fighting together to improve retail standards across the Twin Cities,” said Anthony Lanners, who works at Festival Foods in Andover.
Most of all, Linden Hills workers are eager to get to work building an even more engaged and democratic workplace that can serve as a model for the rest of the community.
“Giving all workers a voice will make employees feel more involved in improving the Co-op,” said Front End Floor Coordinator Evan Adams-Hanson.
“Cooperative principles teach us that co-ops are democratic organizations that work for the sustainable development of our communities. Unionizing Linden Hills Co-op will extend those principles within, to the workers of the co-op, who seek sustainable employment and a collective voice. I look forward to the merging of these principles and ideals that will form a stronger co-op, together,” said Produce Stocker Cassie Nouis.
Cheese buyer Hannah Glaser sees unionization as “an affirmation of mutual support between the staff and business.” Produce Stocker Brian Matson believes “the cooperation of fellow employees in a combined effort to guarantee a better workplace is at the heart of unionization, and that Linden Hills Co-op can be representative of what a community can change if they work together.”