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UFCW Members in Ohio Lobby Against Right to Work

Over 100 UFCW members traveled to Columbus to lobby their state legislators against possible right to work legislation.

Over 100 UFCW members traveled to Columbus to lobby their state legislators against possible right to work legislation.

More than 100 members from UFCW Locals 17A, 75, 1059, and RWDSU traveled to Columbus last Wednesday to lobby their state legislators against possible right to work legislation.

“I’m here because I’m afraid that they’re going to pass right to work and take so much away from working people,” said Anne Bauer, a seven-year UFCW member from Local 75 who works at the Anderson Township Kroger. “The lower wages, the lack of safety, having no voice on the job – it’s horrible. I have to be here to fight for my coworkers, my friends, and my family.”

Many members spoke about the importance of ensuring the people they elected followed through on campaign promises.

“We have to be here to hold politicians accountable,” said Terry Payne, a Local 1059 member who has been at Kroger for 10 years. “We elect them and by being here we’re able to ensure that they’re supporting us. The legislators I’ve talked with have been very receptive. I was encouraged.”

One of the most important reasons for members to lobby is to share their personal stories with legislators which always make a more lasting impact. Roberta Greaver, a UFCW Local 75 member who has worked at Kroger for 35 years, told the legislators she spoke with about her experience visiting one of the company’s stores in the right to work state of Tennessee.

“These legislators don’t fully understand right to work and I’m happy to be here explaining it to them. I’ve seen what this law has done in Tennessee – there is a tremendous difference between their stores and ours here in Ohio. Their benefits are about half and their pay scale is less. After visiting Tennessee, I was so happy to be in Ohio. The Ohio legislature has to understand how much right to work will hurt workers.”

David Becker, a UFCW Local 1059 member who has worked at Meijer in Toledo for five years, said the lobby day motivated him to become more involved in his union and politics.

“When it comes to right to work, everyone should be here. We’re squeezed enough trying to buy food and pay our rent – legislators have to understand that right to work will only make that more difficult. I plan on coming to lobby days as often as I can.”

UFCW Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Lyndon B. Johnson, flanked by Martin Luther King, Jr., signs the Civil Rights Act

Lyndon B. Johnson, flanked by Martin Luther King, Jr., signs the Civil Rights Act

This week, President Obama paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act during a visit to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin and paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In spite of the advances we have made over the last 50 years—including the election of our first African American president—the fight for social and economic justice continues.  Our economy’s increasing reliance on low-wage, part-time work has widened the gap between the rich and poor, and the desperation of so many Americans who just need a job has emboldened many businesses to exploit their workers, cut wages and benefits, and punish those who speak out and try to better their lives.

In the retail sector alone, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States and an important employer of minorities and women, too many workers are struggling to survive in low-wage, part-time jobs with little to no benefits.  That’s why it’s critically important that employers in the retail sector lead the way in providing good jobs with benefits so that workers in this growing industry can make enough to support their families and contribute to their local economies and communities.  Walmart—the world’s largest retailer—is a good place to start.

As the largest private employer in the country, Walmart’s low-wage, part-time business model has had a detrimental impact on our country’s labor, business, and employment climate.  The retail giant’s drive to lower wages has influenced other retailers to do the same and lowered the standard of living for millions of retail workers across the country.

The need to mobilize for social and economic equality has never been stronger, and the UFCW is honored to carry on the work of President Johnson and civil rights leaders by fighting for social and economic justice in the retail industry and in our communities.

New Government Study Confirms Dangers of Working in Poultry Industry

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, DC—A new study released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) confirms what workers in the poultry industry have been saying for decades—it is among the most dangerous places to work in America.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • 42 percent of workers had evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • 41 percent of workers performed daily tasks above the threshold recommended by industry experts
  • 57 percent of workers reported at least one musculoskeletal symptom

The report was commissioned to allay safety concerns about the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed poultry modernization rule, which would increase the speed that birds are processed from 70-91 a minute to a maximum of 175 a minute. Yet the drastic level of injury documented by NIOSH occurred before lines were ever speeded up.

“One injury is one too many,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “Four out of ten workers with carpal tunnel. Nearly six out of ten showing symptoms. This is an epidemic.”

Hansen said the industry, which has fought efforts to give workers a union voice on the job, should stop dragging its feet and adopt the recommendations outlined in the NIOSH report. They include but are not limited to: designing job tasks at the levels recommended by industry experts, providing more than one break during a work shift, and enhancing reporting, screening, and assessment of musculoskeletal disorders.

Hansen called the idea of proceeding with the poultry modernization rule “reckless” given the current rash of injuries across the industry. “The USDA must pull this rule and take a hard look at how to improve safety in our nation’s poultry plants,” he said. “This NIOSH report is both a wakeup call and a warning sign.”

By increasing line speed so dramatically, workers will be at heightened risk of repetitive motion related injuries. Despite this fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to develop a standard that would adequately protect workers.

Hansen said the rule should be scrapped until poultry workers can be guaranteed a safe work environment.

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.