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Massachusetts, Vermont and New York Co-op Workers Gather for First Ever Co-op Worker Summit

Workers meet to discuss future of co-ops and the food industry

DSC_0029Charlemont, Mass. – Dozens of co-op workers from three states and representing six both worker- and member-owned co-ops met Saturday at the first-ever regional co-op workers summit. The event, hosted by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1459, was the first of its kind.

“Co-ops have a unique place in our economy,” said Dan Clifford, President of Local 1459. “They are businesses that have the higher purpose of serving the communities in which they operate. As the co-op movement grows, sometimes the voice of co-op workers get lost. This summit was an important step to ensure those voices are heard and that co-ops live up to their highest aspirations.”

Workers from co-ops in Western Massachusetts, New York and Vermont gathered for panels on the future of the co-op movement and their role in improving their workplaces, their communities and the food we all eat. They also heard from Frances Moore Lappé, best-selling author of Diet for a Small Planet, who spoke about the important role that co-ops and co-op workers can have in building a more sustainable global economy.

“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. “We found our voice at Greenfield’s by forming a union, and I know our co-op is stronger because of it.”

“Our communities need high quality, local food and good family-supporting jobs,” said Russell Ziemba, a worker from the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, N.Y. “Co-ops can play a critical role in meeting those needs if they listen to the voice of their workers. That’s why I’m glad I had the opportunity to be here and learn from other co-op workers in my region.”

The co-op workers also issued a series of collective recommendations to the regional and state food system plans, re-envisioning how the food system could serve the needs of citizens even better. They hope by injecting the voice of ground level workers and co-ops into the plan that they can make the plans both more ecologically and economically more sustainable.

 

 

Healthcare Workers Vote “Union Yes!” to Join UFCW Local 1189

uph_0Healthcare workers at United Pioneer Home in Luck, Wis., voted “Union Yes” in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. Workers showed their strong support for having a union voice and joined UFCW Local 1189. Dignity, respect, and a voice on the job were among the reasons the workers felt they needed to belong to a union.

United Pioneer Home workers Rachael Schmid and Heidi Swanson said, “We’re excited to have a voice. When we tried to speak up to make our workplace better, our voices would go unheard and the home’s board of directors would speak for us. This was a problem because they wouldn’t listen to us and they didn’t understand the changes we needed.”

“I’m looking forward to having respect and dignity on the job,” said Sam Everson, who also works at United Pioneer Home.

United Pioneer Home is a retirement home that provides long-term care and housing to senior citizens in the Luck, Wis., community.

After Successful First Year, UFCW GOLD Program Gears Up for 2015

In June 2014, the UFCW accepted 36 promising young members from across the country into the first-ever session of the UFCW GOLD Internship program, which launched in Chicago.

Now, after a wildly successful first year, the GOLD program is preparing for its 2015 session. The UFCW GOLD Internship Program provides growth opportunities for learning and development in order to raise up future union leaders and activists.

The 2015 program will select 36 rank-and-file members in the United States to participate in a seven-week program.  The program will run from June 21 – August 5, 2015.  Interns are required to participate in the entire length of the program.  All interns should have a valid driver’s license and be flexible with travel outside of their home area.

During the program, there will be a four-week action project that interns will be individually assigned.  Action projects will be assigned within one of five areas: Legislative and Political Action; Organizing; Collective Bargaining; Civil Rights; and Health and Safety.  Last year’s action projects included working on a earned sick leave ordinance in the city of Chicago; working on a Retail Bill of Rights in San Francisco; participating in the Summer for Respect alongside Walmart workers fighting for justice on the job; and many other important projects relating to the welfare of working people.

You can learn much more about the upcoming session, and what previous GOLD participants learned from their experiences by visiting the updated website: http://gold.ufcw.org/.

Be sure to also check out the video recap of the 2014 session, where participants share their experiences and talk about what service projects they worked on.

“Getting the chance to come out to Chicago, meeting different people from different locals—it’s been an eye opener,” said 2014 UFCW Local 21 participant Bruce Le.

Fellow participant Samantha Christian also noted that after completing the program she felt like “we are all related—we are all brothers and sisters.  I’ve never been as comfortable with people as I have been with the people I met here.”

Melissa Berry said she applied to become a GOLD participant because she felt that “a lot of people don’t know the role of their union, or what part they can play in it.  I was eager to meet new people and learn about how we can spread the message.”

Tracy Officer, who worked on a service project in the Seattle area, said that “this internship builds us up—it gives us the knowledge to go back to our locals and give them the inspiration to say, ‘We are one.  If you have an issue, we are fighting it together, and you don’t have to do it alone.’  I’ve been in the union for almost twelve years and I didn’t know that until this program.”

The deadline to apply to the 2015 session is April 1, 2015.  You can find both the English and Spanish applications at http://gold.ufcw.org/application/.

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