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December 11, 2008

WORKERS AT THE WORLD

Tar Heel, N.C. – Workers at Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, North Carolina, chose union representation with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).  Workers voted 2041 to 1879 for a voice on the job.

“When workers have a fair process, they choose a voice on the job,” said UFCW Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill. “This is a great victory for the Tar Heel workers. I know they are looking forward to sitting down at the bargaining table with Smithfield to negotiate a contract. The UFCW has constructive union contracts with Smithfield plants around the country. Those union contracts benefit workers, the company and the community. We believe the workers here in Tar Heel can achieve a similar agreement.”

Ronnie Ann Simmons, a veteran of 13 years at the plant said, “We are thrilled. This moment has been a long time coming. We stuck together, and now we have a say on the job.”

Workers at 26 Smithfield-owned facilities around the country already have UFCW representation.

November 20, 2008

HYRUM JBS/SWIFT WORKERS STAND UP FOR VOICE ON THE JOB

Hyrum, Utah – More than 1,100 workers gained union representation with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 711 yesterday at the JBS/Swift beef plant (known locally as the E. A. Miller plant) in Hyrum, Utah, after voting overwhelmingly for a voice on the job.

“We stood together for a better future for our families,” said Isaias Lopez, a 22-year veteran of the plant. “That was the first step. Now, we can work on a first contract that brings greater opportunity to our workplace.”

The Hyrum plant has been in operation for over seventy years and became part of the JBS family with their acquisition of Swift meatpacking almost two years ago. It had been the only JBS/Swift plant in the United States that did not have union representation.

“This victory means we’ll have a voice at work,” said plant worker Adalberto Soto. We voted ‘UFCW Yes.’ It was an easy decision, and it was the right decision for our families and our future.”

“When we sit down with management to negotiate that first contract,” continued Soto, “We won’t sit down alone. We’ll stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our ten thousand brothers and sisters at all the JBS/Swift plants across the country, and with all workers in the packing and processing industry. The more workers who unite in our industry—the   more powerful we are to make better lives for our families.”

Yesterday’s result of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election was a culmination of a worker-led campaign designed to give these men and women a stronger voice on the job and more opportunity for their families.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the Hyrum workers,” said Max Aldama, a member of UFCW Local 1149 and an employee at JBS/Swift’s Marshalltown, Iowa plant who assisted workers in organizing their Hyrum plant. “JBS/Swift has always been willing to work honestly and openly with us in Marshalltown, and I know they’ll live up to the high standards they have always set and kept for themselves.”

November 10, 2008

PriceRite Workers and Grocery Workers

Providence, R.I.—On November 7, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), grocery workers and community members gathered at the Providence PriceRite store on 325 Valley St to reach out to shoppers. Workers handed out flyers to customers and talked to them about the need for good union jobs, especially in this troubled economy.

PriceRite is owned by Wakefern–the same company that owns and/or supplies ShopRite stores in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey, where the vast majority of workers have a union. Those ShopRite workers say their union, the UFCW, gives them benefits like good wages, quality, affordable health care, and respect on the job–the kind of benefits that make grocery jobs the good, middle-class jobs that strengthen communities.

PriceRite stores are primarily located in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Workers in these states also began reaching out to customers today. PriceRite workers say they are not being allowed the same freedom to choose a union–without company interference.

“”I’ve seen PriceRite run all over immigrant workers and disrespect them in lots of ways,”” said PriceRite worker Charles Heirsch. “”That’s not good for workers or families here in Providence.””

“”It’s just unfair,”” said Ronnie Cabral, Jr., a PriceRite employee. “We need the union here, too, so we can get better pay and health care, and job security.””

A majority of PriceRite workers are part-time, and are not eligible for health care. When workers can’t get health care, it means more uninsured families in Providence–and taxpayers footing the bills for government health care. PriceRite workers are reaching out to community members to help make their employer understand: in this troubled economy, the last thing Providence needs is dead-end, low-paying jobs that don’t provide health care coverage.

“”We’re not just workers–we’re a part of the community,”” says Heirsch. “”If we can improve jobs at PriceRite, it will help working families and make our middle class stronger. That’s why we need a union at PriceRite.””

July 19, 2008

CASE FARMS POULTRY WORKERS FORCED TO WITHHOLD THEIR LABOR

(Winesburg, Ohio) More than one hundred frustrated poultry workers walked off the job at Case Farms poultry plant yesterday in a fight for living wages and respect on the job. Over a year ago these same workers chose United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 880 to be their voice on the job and to bargain a fair and living wage for them.
After months of hard bargaining and despite the best efforts of a Federal Mediator, Case Farms refused to budge from its tiny economic offer that would pay them less than their non-union counterparts in North Carolina who do the same work.  Faced with this unreasonable and unfair position, the workers voted overwhelmingly (294-12) to reject the offer and to withhold their labor.
Despite this clear message, the company continued to stonewall in negotiations. A privately owned company, Case Farms has decided to make non-union status and profits for owner more important than paying a fair and living wage to its Winesburg workers. After the company committed numerous alleged unfair labor practices, the workers decided that they were left with no choice, that the company had no interest in treating them fairly, and that the only thing they could do was withhold their labor until the company decided to be fair to them.
Chicken is the number one meat product in the U.S. yet Case Farms is paying its dedicated workforce a paltry $8.10 per hour, on average, which translates into an annual income of $16,000 — 20% below the federal poverty level for a family of four.
Poultry processing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. The dangerous conditions faced by workers in the poultry industry have been documented by academics, the media and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Poultry workers typically perform physically demanding, repetitive work, during which they stand for long periods of time at fast moving production lines while using ultra-sharp knives and scissors. Working in extreme temperatures they often make up to 40,000 repetitive cutting motions per shift.
In addition to the plant in Winesburg, OH, Case Farms operates poultry plants in Morganton and Goldsboro North Carolina. Case has a history of forcing workers to withhold their labor in order to achieve fair treatment by management.
The UFCW International Union represents more than 1.3 million members in the U.S. and Canada, including 250,000 workers in the poultry and meatpacking industries. UFCW Local 880 represents more than 22,000 workers across Northern Ohio including supermarket workers and food processing workers.
March 27, 2008

SUPERMARKET WORKERS NATIONWIDE MOBILIZE FOR GOOD JOBS AND AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Grocery workers are standing up to protect good jobs with affordable health care at supermarkets across the country today. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union in multiple cities are outside of major supermarkets communicating with customers in support of the 26,000 Safeway and Ahold workers in Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., who may be forced on strike because the companies refuse to offer a fair contract that reflects their success.

Supermarket giants Safeway and Ahold, owner of Giant Foods in the metro Washington, D.C. area, are refusing to provide access to affordable health care and living wages their employees have earned. This race to the bottom hurts communities who often have to bear the impact from greedy corporations that force hard-working families onto social services for basic needs.

Workers are taking action and reaching out to customers at Safeway and Ahold-owned stores coast-to-coast today, from Southern California and the Puget Sound to Chicago and along the East Coast.

UFCW members at Safeway-owned stores, Dominick’s and Genuardi’s, and Ahold-owned Stop & Shop stores are concerned about the companies’ bargaining agenda and how it could hurt the industry.

“Safeway and the other big grocery chains already reached agreements with workers in other parts of the country that provide affordable health care and decent wages.  It’s really important that these companies treat all of its employees fairly,” says Melissa Champion, UFCW Local 21 member and Seattle Safeway employee.

Caitlin Lawson, UFCW Local 328, works at Ahold-owned Stop & Shop in Massachusetts.  She said, “When we were fighting for health care and decent wages for part-timers, the workers in Baltimore and Washington took a stand with us.  Now I’m proud to let my company know that I’m still in this fight for a fair contract for all supermarket workers.”

The contract covering workers in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore expires on March 29, 2008.  Over the past 18 months, UFCW members have mobilized in unified actions to support supermarket bargaining.  The central website, www.groceryworkersunited.com, has been a focal point for solidarity actions and coast-to-coast UFCW member solidarity.

Just this week, a grocery worker from Chicago posted a message to UFCW members on the East Coast encouraging solidarity.  Jeff, a UFCW Local 1546 member, wrote, “Remember you are fighting not only for your contract talks, but for the rest of them across the nation. We will be watching here in Chicago because we will be starting grocery talks with Safeway near the end of the year.”

The actions today are the latest steps in the national unity bargaining movement among UFCW members working in the grocery industry.   The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, with nearly one million in the grocery industry.

January 17, 2008

COLORADO PREMIUM WORKERS VOTE

Greeley, CO—Meatpacking workers at Colorado Premium stood strong against employer intimidation to vote in favor of representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 on Wednesday, January 16, 2008.

Colorado Premium workers were dedicated to seeking a union to address basic worker needs on the job—protection from dangerously fast line speeds and access to bathroom breaks.  The results of the first election held on December 7, 2007 were thrown out for unlawful employer conduct. NLRB charges were then filed against Colorado Premium after the company intimidated union supporters and offered raises and other bribes to workers who voted against joining the union.

According to American Rights at Work, union elections are marred by a huge number of illegal actions nationwide. Because the penalties for violating the NLRA are so weak, employers have little incentive to avoid illegal tactics if they will succeed in intimidating workers into abandoning the union effort.

“”The Colorado Premium workers struggled for a voice on the job. Their victory did not come easy. This second election is remarkable considering how difficult it is for workers to organize in the face of employer intimidation,”” said Kevin Williamson, UFCW International Vice President and Director, Region 6.

July 18, 2007

UFCW MEMBERS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REACH TENTATIVE AGREEMENT WITH NATIONAL GROCERS

Community-Worker Solidarity, Regional And National Support Win The Fight For Quality, Affordable Health Care And A Living Wage For All Workers

Washington, DC—Last night, over 60,000 grocery workers in Southern California represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reached a tentative agreement with the country’s largest supermarkets: Kroger, Safeway, and Supervalu.

Details of the contract will be available Monday after workers vote on whether to ratify the agreement on Sunday, July 22.

Southern California UFCW members had the support of community and religious leaders, shoppers, sister unions and UFCW members nationwide throughout the six months of negotiations in their effort to gain improved health care coverage and fair wages.

“This contract goes a long way in maintaining good jobs with health care, wages that pay the bills, and a loyal productive workforce in the grocery industry that is good for workers, communities, and businesses,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.

Throughout the negotiations process, UFCW members demonstrated solidarity and strength in bargaining for a fair contract. Seven UFCW locals in Southern California all worked together in bargaining and coordinating campaign actions and strategies.

Coordinated action with supporters and customers played a pivotal role in gaining a positive settlement. Union members, community members, religious groups, grocery workers, and supporters knocked on thousands of doors, handed out flyers, sent emails and letters of support, wrote editorials, attended rallies and marches, spoke out in churches, and signed pledge cards supporting UFCW members.

The coordinated effort in Southern California is part of a UFCW nationwide unity bargaining program. By supporting each other regionally and nationally, as well as engaging customers and community members in their struggle, grocery workers are improving grocery industry jobs for themselves and their communities.

To learn more about other bargaining campaigns, go to: www.groceryworkersunited.org.

May 30, 2007

MEATPACKING WORKERS STAND UP FOR A VOICE ON THE JOB

(Windom, Minn.) – Meatpacking workers at PM Beef stood strong against employer intimidation to vote in favor of representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1161 on Friday, May 25, 2007.   The 500 PM Beef workers, who work in a full-scale cattle slaughtering and processing plant, sought out a voice on the job to address basic worker needs on the job – protection from dangerously fast line speeds and access to bathroom breaks.

“The PM beef workers fought hard for the opportunity to have a voice on the job.  Their victory is significant considering how difficult it is for workers to organize in the face of employer intimidation,” said Kevin Williamson, UFCW International Vice President and Director, Region 6.

The majority Latino workforce withstood a heavy-handed anti-worker campaign by the company.  Using hired gun lawyers, PM Beef pulled workers from the processing line to hold mandatory meetings with supervisors.  Workers were subjected to one-on-one meetings with plant management for a month leading up to the election date.

According to American Rights at Work, more than 78 percent of workers face these kinds of captive audience meetings when organizing a union.  Employers like PM Beef use the forced meetings to question workers about how they plan to vote, spread misinformation about the union and make workers fearful for speaking out in support of union representation.

What are rarely addressed in captive audience meetings are real solutions to the problems that inspired workers to organize.  At PM Beef, that included the company’s policy of requiring workers to pay for their own knives when one broke or became unusable on the line.

“Workers withstood one-on-one meetings with bosses to maintain their solidarity and courage to vote together for UFCW representation,” said Williamson.  “Their successful campaign will inspire other area meatpacking and other processing workers to stand up for respect and dignity on the job.”

The UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers in the meatpacking, poultry and food processing industries and has been on the frontlines of advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform (www.ufcw.org/issues/immigration).

May 1, 2007

WAL-MART

Washington DC—A new report entitled Discounting Rights released by Human Rights Watch outlines the systematic denial of Wal-Mart workers’ right to organize. It confirms what Wal-Mart workers have been saying for years. Workers seeking a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have faced:

  • Wal-Mart works aggressively to create a climate of fear and intimidation where workers fear they’ll be fired, disciplined, or lose benefits if they try to form a union.
  • Wal-Mart routinely surveills and spies on union organizers and pro-union employees and selectively enforces company policies against pro-union workers.
  • Wal-Mart engages in “unit packing” and other tactics to prevent organizing efforts. When workers have successfully organized, Wal-Mart has refused to bargain, or has shut down stores and units where workers have organized.

Wal-Mart is a company that refuses to remedy its mistreatment of workers. Not only does the company have a history of methodically violating workers’ right to join a union, the Wal-Mart record on worker rights is a laundry list of abuse. Wal-Mart has racked up a striking number of wage and hour violations. The company faces the largest gender discrimination case in the history of this country. Wal-Mart has decreased health care coverage to employees while touting its commitment to offering affordable care. Evidence suggests that Wal-Mart may have even adopted a strategy of eliminating long time workers and discouraging overweight or otherwise unhealthy workers from applying—both as measures to reduce payroll and health care costs.

In recent months, Wal-Mart spin doctors have been working to change the company’s public posture. Unfortunately, being a responsible employer means improving actual corporate practices. That begins with not interfering with employees’ internationally recognized right to join a union.

February 6, 2007

Jose Guardado, Meatpacking Worker and Union Activist

My name is Jose Guardado and I worked at the Nebraska Beef meatpacking plant in Omaha, Nebraska for 8 years. I worked on the kill floor where we faced more than 2500 steers each day.

I came to this country to follow the American dream. I thought that in the most powerful country in the world, workers were free to express themselves. I thought the laws protected workers who wanted to form a union. I was wrong. Instead, I found that when employers break every law, abuse workers and silence our voices, no one does anything to stop them.

My co-workers and I wanted a union at work to fight back against the dangerous working conditions, the lack of respect, and abusive treatment. We all signed cards showing our support for the UFCW.

The law wasn’t enough to stop Nebraska Beef from campaigning against us. The company terrified workers from standing up for their rights. They threatened to fire union supporters, threatened to call immigration and deport the Latinos and threatened to close the plant. They promised to slow down the line and treat everyone better. On the day of the elections, Nebraska Beef brought in a bunch of workers from another company plant to vote against the union.

Workers were scared. No one wanted to lose their job. The company won the vote by a small number. The line was sped back up and no one was given what was promised to them.

Then, Nebraska Beef began firing union supporters. I knew they were watching and waiting for me to make a mistake, so I was very careful. But the company fired me. My insurance was terminated weeks before they fired me and I had to pay $1,000 out of my own pocket for doctor’s visits and medicine. Meanwhile, they still took $20 out of the last three paychecks for health insurance that I didn’t have.

This company took away my livelihood and hurt my family just to keep us from organizing a union. Many other workers were fired or quit because they were so afraid.

Now, workers at Nebraska Beef still suffer the abuse and indignity that existed before the union campaign. Workers are still being threatened and fired. And, there is no way to ever have a fair election there.

We need this law to protect workers’ rights. We need this law to help workers who want to have safer working conditions and a better life with union representation.