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Rep. Gutierrez Joins Farm Workers behind the Thanksgiving Meal to Hold Holiday Feast in front of White House


ufcw im thanksgivingFarm & Food Processing Workers Deliver Letters Calling for Executive Action

See here for archived footage and other important information from today’s event.

Washington, DC—Today, on the cusp of one of America’s most celebrated holidays, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) alongside immigrant farm, food and commercial workers from across the country gathered in front of the White House to remind Americans of the people behind the Thanksgiving meal, and express their support for President Obama taking the most inclusive executive action possible.  The event shined a special spotlight on members of United Farm Workers and United Food and Commercial Workers who presented an array of Thanksgiving foods harvested and processed by immigrant workers, including a turkey, potatoes, pumpkin, and other foods commonly found on America’s Thanksgiving tables.

Said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), “The President is going to act boldly, broadly and soon and across the country the bounty and blessings of Thanksgiving will be joyous.  The President’s actions will mean that millions of American families will not fear deportation and destruction and so many people contributing to our economy, including those who pick, pack and move the food to our tables, will be able to continue helping us all live better.”

In addition to the Thanksgiving table, farm workers delivered letters from across the country, explaining why administrative relief is so important to their families and communities.  Many of the letters included invitations to the President to share a Thanksgiving meal with farm workers in their homes.  (View the original letters in Spanish and their English translations).  One of the letters written by Jaime Sanchez, a fourth year college student and son of farm workers, appeared as an op-ed in his student paper at the University of Chicago–the President’s former place of work.  

“The protracted political debates and the partial solutions offered by House Republicans that ignore the inconvenient truth that America’s food will continue to come to our tables through the toil and exploitation of undocumented farm workers who do the work that no one else is doing.  Instead of a seat at our nation’s table, farm workers live in the shadows where they are subjected to inhumane working conditions, rampant sexual harassment, wage theft and the threat of deportation if they dare to stand up for their humanity,” said Arturo Rodriguez, President of  United Farm Workers (UFW). “That’s why we are here at the White House today, to share with America that we support the President taking the most inclusive executive action possible.  On this holiday of giving thanks, it’s time to give thanks to our Thanksgiving workers by simply extending to them meaningful action that says, ‘If you harvest our food, you’re welcome at the table.’”

Added Esther Lopez, International Vice President and Director of Civil Rights and the Community Action Department at United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, “In the face of cowardly inaction by the House Republican leadership, today we ask President Obama to do what he should have done long ago – use his clearly defined legal authority to provide relief to immigrant workers and their families. We ask the President to put in place a framework that ensures immigrant workers are treated with dignity and respect on the job.”

Their sentiments were bolstered by a chorus of farm and food workers from across the country.

Said Maria G. Lozano Ramirez, a grape harvester from Benson City, WA, “Wine is important to Thanksgiving dinner, but people drink it without thinking about how much work it takes to make that one bottle of wine. How many undocumented farm workers did it take to make it taste so good? We work long hours but without much acknowledgement.”

Pumpkin grower Maria Martha Acevedo Cardenas from Sunnyside, WA recalled the sacrifices behind every Thanksgiving meal, saying, “I’m not asking for pity, but I am asking for what’s fair. Farm workers need immigration reform.  They’re able to eat the best produce, while we are unable to afford the same fruits and vegetables we picked. One day, I would like to be able to buy my own Thanksgiving turkey.”

Added her U.S. citizen daughter, Eustalia (Toy) A. Acevedo, who picks apples in Seattle, WA, “When the average American eats that apple pie or a dish with apples on Thanksgiving, they need to realize without farm workers picking their fruits or vegetables there wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving meal.”

San Juanita Marquez, a poultry processing plant worker from Lumber Bridge, NC, explained the perils of life as an undocumented worker: “If immigration comes to the plant or my house, I could be separated from my children. My youngest children are American citizens, and because I have no family here, they would be left alone and be sent to foster care if I was deported. It would be too dangerous to take them back to Guerrero where children and the elderly are gunned down in gang violence. I ask Obama to stop the deportations – let us work and let us keep our children safe.”

Maria Arteaga, harvests potatoes in Parma, ID.  Several years ago she and her husband were stopped and subsequently deported for “looking suspicious” while on a road trip to Los Angeles.  At the time her small children, including her daughter Areli, then 5, had stayed home with a relative while they were away. “Once I was deported, all I could think about was my children. I had to get back to them. I did what any mother would have done.  I made the sacrifice and returned to the U.S. illegally.”

Added her daughter, Areli, who often helps with corn harvesting when home from college: “I want people, who don’t believe we need immigration reform to think about something before they bite into their corn on the cob: some people, unlike them, can’t be sitting at the table enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with their family because they can’t travel out of the country to see them or because their family has been deported.”

Said Inocencio Bernal Pedroza, who picks celery in Madera, CA: “Farm workers contribute to the U.S. economy, but many of them are undocumented and are not treated equally or acknowledged for their work.  They provide food for American families. Americans should try to have to have their Thanksgiving meal without undocumented farm workers toiling in the fields. There would be no dinner! There’s produce in the supermarkets because farm working hands put it there.”

Alberto Bermejo, who picks peaches in Sanger, CA, said, “If we’re not in the fields picking the peaches, then they won’t be served on Thanksgiving. A little appreciation for what we do would go a long way.”

Juan and Maria Pacheco, achieved American citizenship after years of working at a turkey processing plant in Mifflintown, PA.  Today they called for executive action on behalf of their undocumented coworkers.  Said Juan, “Families all across the country are going to be eating our turkeys next week, but they don’t know the stories behind their Thanksgiving dinner. My wife and I worked in the Empire Kosher turkey plant for fifteen years before we finally earned American citizenship. We have worked hard to earn our American Dream. This Thanksgiving, President Obama has the chance to give that same opportunity to other hardworking families like ours.”

Additional information on today’s event, including the farm worker letters, bios, social media tools and archived footage is available here.

 

 

 

 

WALMART WORKERS ANNOUNCE BLACK FRIDAY STRIKES

UFCWnewsTens of thousands of teachers, voters, clergy, environmentalists, civil rights leaders to join workers at 1600 protests, calling on Walton family to pay $15 an hour and provide full-time work

NATIONWIDE – In the wake of the first-ever sit down strike at Walmart, members of OUR Walmart announced today that they will strike across the country on Black Friday in protest of the company’s illegal silencing of workers who are standing up for better jobs. Tens of thousands of Americans said they plan to support workers that day at 1600 protests nationwide—the largest mobilization of working families—calling on Walmart’s owners to raise wages to a minimum of $15 an hour and provide consistent, full-time work.

Even as Walmart brings in $16 billion in annual profits and Walmart’s owners—the Waltons—build on their $150 billion in wealth, the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.

“Walmart’s low pay business model isn’t working for our families, for our customers and for the company, but change is possible,” said Barbara Gertz, a Walmart associate from Colorado. “Walmart needs to listen to workers like us about how to fix these problems by adding hours and improving pay so that we can get the job done. Threatening and firing us for speaking out about how to improve the stores is illegal and shortsighted. That’s why I’m going on strike on Black Friday and why so many of my co-workers are joining me.”

The unprecedented Black Friday mobilization comes as an increasing number of Americans and Walmart workers point to OUR Walmart as making significant changes at the country’s largest retailer. Most recently, after public calls from OUR Walmart, the company committed to raise wages for its lowest paid workers and rolled out a new scheduling system that allows workers to sign up for open shifts. To date, workers at more than 2,100 Walmart stores nationwide have signed a petition calling on Walmart and the Waltons to publicly commit to paying $15 an hour and providing consistent, full-time hours.

A broad group of Americans who plan to protest on Black Friday, including tens of thousands of teachers, voters, members of the clergy, elected officials, civil rights leaders and women’s rights activists say America’s largest employer and richest family are driving the income inequality problems that are holding the country back. In Washington, residents plan to protest at all 60 Walmart stores in the state. In other states, Americans are planning flash mobs, marches and prayer vigils to support striking Walmart workers and call on the company to improve jobs.

“Shame on Walmart and the Waltons for creating a reality where many Walmart workers say they can’t even afford to give their kids Thanksgiving dinner because of their low pay. As someone who has dedicated her career to helping children grow and achieve their dreams, that tears me apart,” said teacher and AFT New Mexico President Stephanie Ly. “This Black Friday, teachers, parents and students will all be out protesting at Walmart like never before saying we’ve had enough. Walmart needs to raise pay and provide full-time work now so workers can feed and support their families.”

The Black Friday strikes and protest announcement comes on the heels of the first-ever sit down strikes in company history in Los Angeles, where workers sat down in Crenshaw and Pico Rivera stores, and 23 people were arrested. Los Angeles is also the site of the first-ever strikes at Walmart. The group of striking workers, from stores throughout California, placed tape over their mouths signifying the company’s illegal efforts to silence workers who are calling for better jobs. Striking workers held signs resembling those of the first retail sit-down strike at Woolworth in 1937, when retail workers at the then-largest retailer in the country called for the company to increase pay, provide a 40-hour work week and stop the retaliation against workers who spoke out.

“While today, the disparity of wealth and poverty in the U.S. is just as outrageous as it was during the Great Depression, Walmart is far larger and more global than Woolworth’s ever was, and thus even more dangerous,” said labor historian Dana Frank. “Like the Woolworth’s women in 1937, the workers in OUR Walmart are challenging a mass retailer with tentacles all over the world to treat its employees with respect, and inspiring a growing national movement against inequality and for the just treatment of all working people.”

A growing number of Americans say Walmart and its owners are robbing workers of a decent living by paying the majority of associates poverty wages and manipulating their hours. The Walton family, which controls the Walmart empire, is the richest family in the U.S.—with the wealth of 43% of American families combined. While many Walmart workers are unable to feed and clothe their families, the Walton family takes in $8.6 million a day in Walmart dividends alone to build on its $150 billion in wealth. Walmart brings in $16 billion in annual profits.

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UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Walmart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Walmart publicly commit to adhere to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of its employees.

BREAKING: WALMART WORKERS HOLD SIT IN AT LOS ANGELES STORE

Workers in Southern California Begin First Sit-Down Strike in Company History to Protest Retaliation

***Follow the conversation at #WalmartStrikers and watch live stream at Blackfridayprotests.org*** 

strikeLOS ANGELES – OUR Walmart members, some of whom were part of the first Walmart strike in October 2012, have just sat down near registers and next to racks of a Walmart store in Crenshaw. The group of striking workers, from stores throughout California, has placed tape over their mouths signifying the company’s illegal efforts to silence workers who are calling for better jobs. Even as the mega-retailer brings in $16 billion in annual profits and Walmart’s owners build on their $150 billion in wealth, the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.

“Stand Up, Live Better!  Sit Down, Live Better!” the group chanted before sitting down.

Workers are holding signs resembling those of the first retail sit-down strike at Woolworth in 1937, when retail workers at the then-largest retailer in the country called for the company to increase pay, provide a 40-hour work week and stop the retaliation against workers who spoke out.

“I’m sitting down on strike today to protest Walmart’s illegal fear tactics and to send a message to management and the Waltons that they can’t continue to silence us and dismiss the growing calls for $15 an hour and full-time work that workers are raising across the country,” said Kiana Howard, a mother and Walmart striker.

“Walmart and the Waltons are making billions of dollars from our work while paying most of us less than $25,000 a year,” Howard continued. “We know that Walmart and the Waltons can afford fair pay, and we know that we have the right to speak out about it without the company threatening the little that we do have.”

To date, workers at more than 2,100 Walmart stores nationwide have signed a petition calling on Walmart and the Waltons to publicly commit to paying $15 an hour and providing consistent, full-time hours. After taking the petition to members of the Walton family, supporters committed to returning to stores on Black Friday if jobs aren’t improved by then.

“Walmart is a giant engine creating vast wealth for one family and heartbreaking poverty for many working families, just like Woolworth’s in the 1937, when 100 young women in Detroit sat down and occupied a Woolworth’s store, and won wage increases and many other demands,” said Dana Frank, an expert on the U.S. labor movement, professor of history at University of California, Santa Cruz and the author of Women Strikers Occupy Chain Store, Win Big: The 1937 Woolworth’s Sit-Down. “The strike was enormously popular, because it struck a chord in the public: Woolworth’s, like Walmart, was paying its workers poverty wages, but raking in spectacular profits that the public knew about. In Crenshaw today, as brave Walmart workers sit down to protest the company’s threats against employees who speak out for better jobs, it’s time for Walmart to finally heed the  growing movement calling on it to improve jobs and respect working people.”

“We cannot continue to allow our country’s largest private employer to pay workers so little that they can’t put food on the table for their families and then punish those who speak up about it. Walmart’s actions are immoral, illegal and they are destroying the American values that we all hold dear,” said Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The sit-down strike comes on the heels of a New York Times story on how persistent understaffing at Walmart stores is contributing to wasted food, un-stocked shelves and lower sales. For the past three years, workers have been raising concerns about understaffing and theimpact on the company’s wellbeing with managers, shareholders and executives. Investors and analysts are also reacting today to the company’s third-quarter financial reports, which indicate that persistent staffing problems are keeping the company from improving customer traffic and growing the business.

Hundreds of community supporters plan to join striking workers later this evening at 5 p.m. outside the Walmart store located at 8500 Washington Blvd in Pico Rivera, where the first protests against Walmart’s illegal retaliation were held in 2012.

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.



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