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UFCW Locals Participate in AFL-CIO’s Bonnie Ladin Union Skills Training Program

unionskillslogo_150UFCW local staff members are upgrading their skills at the AFL-CIO’s Bonnie Ladin Union Skills (BLUS) Training Program.  The program is designed for union leaders, staff and community activists and offers hands-on training around the areas of union administration; collective bargaining; organizing; arbitration and grievance handling; communications and media; and best financial practices.

Taught by a group of experienced instructors, the BLUS program brings together rising union activists and community allies with the end goal of helping participants to better serve their unions and communities.  The program was recently named after former union organizer and National Labor College professor Bonnie Ladin, who passed away in 2010.

“I thought the course I took, which revolved around contract negotiations, was one of the best courses that I had the opportunity to attend,” said Rhonda Judd, a manufacturing and processing coordinator at UFCW Local 227. “I encourage my colleagues at other UFCW locals to participate in this training program because it’s well worth it.”

UFCW local staff members are encouraged to participate in the program, which will be held at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Md. Click here for more information and to sign up for the nest round of classes that start in the fall.

Workers in Mountaire Farms Plant Unite for a Voice

Workers, allies, and members of Local 1208 take a stand in front of the Mountaire plant in Lumber Bridge, NC on June 24, 2014.

Workers, allies, and members of Local 1208 take a stand in front of the Mountaire plant in Lumber Bridge, NC on June 24, 2014.

Workers at a Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Lumber Bridge, NC, are uniting together and organizing themselves into a union in order to ably negotiate fair wages, benefits, and better working conditions. With the help of activists from UFCW Local 1208, the group has shown substantial progress in garnering support from coworkers, with at least 700 workers (out of 2000 workers at the plant) expressing support for a union.

Workers like Jasmine Isom, a Mountaire Farms worker and mother, have reported being subjected to extreme heat on the job, discrimination, intimidation, low wages, and denied access to emergency health care following on-the-job injuries. The poor working conditions are a major factor in the need for workers to join together to improve conditions at the poultry plant.

Local 1208 President Keith Ludlum, who helped organize his co-workers into a union in the nearby Smithfield Processing Plant, noted that it took 16 years to organize within the Smithfield plant and committed to doing “whatever it takes” to fight for workers.

The right to form a union is critical to ensuring that workers have a voice on the job, and utilizing that right is the best way for many to ensure they get fair pay and just treatment while at work. The Mountaire workers in Lumber Bridge are the latest newcomers to the millions of workers across the country that are seeking for and finding that voice.

CertainTeed Workers Say “Yes” to a Union Voice with the Chemical Workers

Eighty workers at the CertainTeed drywall plant in West Virginia, voted to have a union voice and joined UFCW Local 45C. Pictured left to right: Ron Moore, Andrew Gaiser, Josh Mazey, Carl  Sweeney, Lance Heasley.

Eighty workers at the CertainTeed drywall plant in West Virginia, voted to have a union voice and joined UFCW Local 45C. Pictured left to right: Ron Moore, Andrew Gaiser, Josh Mazey, Carl
Sweeney, Lance Heasley.

Eighty workers at the CertainTeed drywall plant in Proctor, West Virginia, voted “Union Yes” on June 6 to join the International Chemical Workers Union Council.

Lance Heasley is a former steward and member-activist with UFCW Local 45C and works as an instrument technician at Axiall, where he and his fellow union members make chlorine and other caustic chemicals. Many of them, including Lance, live side-by-side with workers at the CertainTeed and know each other socially. So, when Lance heard his friends and neighbors talk about how hard it could be working at CertainTeed, he started talking to them about the difference a union could make.

He began to go out of his way to have conversations with CertainTeed workers and slowly built a committee of interested workers. He reached out to the ICWUC organizing department and worked with them to sign up CertainTeed workers on authorization cards. Workers began texting and calling each other and holding meetings to talk about the need for a union at CertainTeed. One of those workers was Carl Sweeney.

One of the major issues for Carl was being able to speak up and speak out without fear of retaliation. “I wanted to go to work every day and not worry about what I said or if I’d be the next one out because someone didn’t like me,” said Carl. “I wanted to speak up when I saw something unsafe and know the problem would be fixed, not seeing me as the problem for bringing it up.”

As soon as the CertainTeed workers filed with the National Labor Relations Board for an election, the company brought in an anti-union law firm and began holding mandatory anti-union meetings and one-on-one sessions to persuade workers to back down. But they stood strong and stayed united, despite company attempts at intimidation.

“I knew I could lose my job, but I also knew something had to change,” said Carl. “We had to stick together, stay united, to make CertainTeed a better place to work.”

That work paid off and Carl and his coworkers are looking forward to addressing their concerns at the bargaining table – including rapidly rising healthcare costs, favoritism, and safety concerns in the workplace.