Organizing

RSS

UFCW International Vice President Pat O’Neill Honored for Efforts to Help Walmart Workers

imageLast week, UFCW International Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill was honored by the UMass Dartmouth Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center during their annual awards banquet.

For 35 years, the center has served “as a bridge between working people, their communities, organizations, and UMass Dartmouth.” Their awards and dinner banquet are one of the largest gatherings of labor leaders and activists in the area.

The Southeastern Massachusetts labor movement joined the center in honoring UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill for his work with the UFCW’s Walmart campaigns.

“I am honored to accept it on behalf of the 1.3 million members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union,” said Pat as he accepted his award.

He continued:

Brothers and sisters, we are at crossroads in the labor movement. There is no sugarcoating it.Workers are struggling to make ends meet. More and more families are falling behind. Income inequality is getting worse. Minimum wage workers are living in poverty. Hard working immigrants are still living in the shadows.

But in too many corners of our movement, labor is trying to address 21st century challenges with 20th century solutions. It is not working. Some will tell you we need more time—that things will get back to normal eventually.

I say if you’re heading toward a cliff at 100 miles an hour, you don’t need more time. You need a change in direction. That is why I am so proud of our dynamic and forward-looking Walmart campaign.

There are those who say Walmart is too big, too entrenched, and too powerful. That we don’t stand a chance against the world’s largest retailer.

Every important battle for justice has had its share of naysayers. It is always easier to analyze than to mobilize.

Here is what I believe—when we stand together and work together and fight together and dream together—there is nothing we cannot achieve. Last week, Walmart workers and their allies sent shockwaves across the country. They shut down Park Avenue in front of Alice Walton’s $25 million penthouse. They set up a blockade of K Street in front of the Walton Family Foundation in Washington, DC. And they delivered thousands of petitions to the Phoenix home of Walmart Chair Rob Walton calling on the company to give workers $15 dollars and full-time hours. The media coverage surrounding these events was substantial and a clear message was sent to the Walton family and Walmart executives: workers will not be pushed around.”

UFCW Locals 1455 and  328 were in attendance to support Pat as well.

 

Flexon Workers in New Jersey Vote Union “Yes”, Join RWDSU

Flexon-RWDSU-300x186More than 120 workers at Flexon in Newark, New Jersey, overwhelmingly voted to join RWDSU Local 262. The workers – who manufacture lawn and garden hoses sold through retailers including Target, Walmart, Home Depot, and Costco – won the union voice they sought in order to address a number of problems in their workplace.

“We were fed up and decided that we needed representation, a voice on the job and job security,” said day shift worker Heriberto Moran, who has worked at Flexon for 32 years.

Flexon employees wanted to create better jobs and reached out to RWDSU Local 262. Workers said they were tired of working for minimum wage with no annual wage increases. Workers said they would work 12 hour shifts – sometimes seven days a week – and had no benefits or healthcare plan.  The workers’ campaign flourished despite intimidation and harassment by management. Workers weren’t surprised, given the lack of respect from management that they had grown accustomed to.

Workers were bombarded by daily letters, captive audience meetings, faced numerous threats of plant closure, undocumented status threats, threats of deportation and strike threats throughout the campaign by numerous company representatives.

Member Spotlight: Jerry Knapp

IMG_7253Recently, long-time UFCW Local 1500 member Jerry Knapp was recognized for his years of active service to his union and fellow union members by Region 1, and was awarded with a member award along with several other members who have made a difference in their workplaces. He was taken aback when he learned he was being recognized, Jerry said, but it was nice to know someone knew he existed. After talking with Jerry, it was clear to us why someone would take notice of Jerry and his time in the UFCW:

Since 1966, Jerry has worked as a union member at Shoprite in Fishkill, New York. Working as a department manager at one time, he is now happily employed as a clerk as he nears retirement. In 1994, Jerry was named the Primary Shop Steward at his store–a role in which he still has today. Jerry says that his job “is a good job because of the union,” and that as UFCW members, he and his coworkers aren’t abused or taken advantage of, and they earn good pay and benefits.

But Jerry knows that these things that make a good union job good are only obtainable when people are active in their unions. Jerry has attended countless area meetings, participated in the negotiating process, and been there to advise fellow members on their rights and responsibilities. Being active and engaged, says Jerry, enables union members to have a say in what happens on the job, to choose your lifestyle, and have your career needs and desires heard, as opposed to working for a non-union company that can make promises and change their minds about policies at the drop of a hat. With a union, he notes, you have the right to go back to the bargaining table.

Not only is Jerry involved in his workplace, but in the wider community and Local as well. Jerry has helped other folks achieve the union difference through his organizing efforts, and he has worked to help elect politicians who will represent and look out for the working people in his area. Jerry’s peers have noted that his work has not only earned him the respect of his coworkers, but of management as well. It’s clear that at the end of this year when Jerry goes into retirement, which will be his 49th year of service in the union, he will be dearly missed at work by all.

His advice for others that want to get more involved in the union is to ask themselves what they think they need or want out of their job or in the workplace, and then go after it. If you don’t take advantage of the power you have as a union member by negotiating or working together, notes Jerry, then you don’t have the right to complain.

“Don’t sit back,” he says. “The union starts with ‘U’!”