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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’!”

Aurora Products Workers Win Election for Union Representation at Plant

Aricela-Theo-AlbaOrange, Conn. – On Wednesday, October 8, 175 workers at Aurora Products, a natural food processing company in Orange, Conn. voted to join the 9,000 member strong United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 371 (UFCW Local 371) based in Westport, Conn.

“Our votes were hard fought and won by Aurora workers who are on the line each day and concerned about the livelihoods of their coworkers. I’m happy that we can finally move forward, together,” said Ariceli Martinez, a production line worker who works at the plant.

Workers reached out to UFCW Local 371 wanting to address longstanding issues at the plant without fear of being intimidated or retaliated against.

“We are proud of the hard work and determination workers at the plant have shown throughout the past few months,” said Thomas A. Wilkinson, UFCW Local 371 President. “They reached out to us to make this happen and they saw this effort through Election Day. We have more work to do ahead and are confident that we can help workers win a contract they deserve at Aurora Products.”

Aurora Products, headquartered in Orange, Connecticut is a growing natural and organic processing plant, specializing in dried fruits, nuts, trail mixes, salad toppings, and granolas. Workers will now work with the company to come to an agreement that addresses worker concerns at the plant while helping the company grow.

“We need a chance and a voice,” said Troy Stephenson, a production line worker. “Voting together was just a first step towards making things better for our work environment, for our communities, and for our families.”

UFCW Local 371 is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries.