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December 12, 2017

UFCW to USDA: GAO Report Proves Poultry Industry’s Push to End Line Speed Limits Is Dangerous

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, as well as leaders of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees, that explains why a recent petition by the National Chicken Council to eliminate line speeds at poultry plants must be rejected. The letter cites last week’s report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on safety and health in the poultry industry as confirmation of the UFCW’s concerns.

An excerpt from President Perrone’s letter can be read below.

If this petition is accepted, poultry companies will be allowed to run their food processing lines as fast as they please. Allowing this to occur will put hard-working poultry workers at greater risk of being injured and consumers at greater risk of becoming ill from eating improperly inspected chicken.

Read the full letter here.

BACKGROUND

  • The GAO report confirmed that America’s meat and poultry industry is forcing workers to endure dangerous conditions, including amputation hazards, exposure to harmful chemicals, and fast-paced repetitive tasks that often lead to musculoskeletal disorders.
  • The report supported findings by Oxfam that poultry workers struggle to get adequate bathroom breaks at current line speed limits, even to the point of endangering their health.
  • Other GAO reports in 2005 and 2016 also found significant problems with safety and health in the poultry industry.
  • In addition to worker risks, countries with higher line speeds have higher rates of foodborne contamination in poultry plants.

 

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

December 7, 2017

GAO Report Confirms Dangers in the Poultry Industry

As Chicken Council Pushes for Fewer Regulations, Investigation Reveals Lax Enforcement of Existing Rules 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, issued the following statement in response to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on safety and health in the poultry industry:

“The hard-working people who work in poultry plants have some of the most dangerous and physically demanding jobs in America. This report sadly confirms that many of these skilled professionals who keep our food safe are struggling to keep themselves safe at work. They have earned and deserve better. 

“The dangers endured by poultry workers that are highlighted in this report also underscore why a recent request by the National Chicken Council to increase line speeds defies common sense and is being clearly driven by greed. We urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take this report seriously and reject that request so that poultry workers and the food we all consume can be kept safe.” 

BACKGROUND

  • This GAO report confirms the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t consider worker safety when allowing new and dangerous chemicals to be used in poultry plants, and that OSHA can’t or won’t adequately protect poultry workers from injury.
  • The GAO also found a pattern of poultry companies repeatedly denying access to federal safety and health inspectors, leaving workers in at least 15 plants across the South working in potentially dangerous environments.
  • This report supports findings by Oxfam that poultry workers struggle to get adequate bathroom breaks, even to the point of endangering their health.
  • Other GAO reports in 2005 and 2016 also found significant problems with safety and health in the poultry industry.
  • In addition to worker risks, countries with higher line speeds have higher rates of foodborne contamination in poultry plants.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.  

 Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

 

November 1, 2017

UFCW Statement on Senate Democrats’ Better Deal Proposal on Collective Bargaining

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, made the following statement regarding Senate Democrats’ Better Deal Proposal on Collective Bargaining.

“We must build an economy that works for all – not just those at the top. By strengthening the collective voice and negotiating rights of workers, the better deal proposal on collective bargaining begins to do just that.

“Our hope is that every member of Congress will support these more modern workplace policies because this is about more than unions, this is about helping their constituents and all hard-working men and women who have earned the right to a better life.”

The Better Deal Proposal on Collective Bargaining seeks to:

  • Create a mandatory mediation and arbitration process to ensure corporations and newly formed unions reach a first contract.
  • Strengthen penalties on predatory corporations that violate workers’ rights, and combat misclassification of workers as supervisors and independent contractors.
  • Strengthen workers’ right to strike for basic workplace improvements, including higher wages and better working conditions.
  • Ban state laws that undermine worker freedoms to join together and negotiate.
  • Provide millions of public employees with the freedom to join a union and collectively bargain with their employers.
  • Streamline the National Labor Relation Board’s (NLRB) procedures to secure worker freedoms and effectively prevent violations.
  • Protect the integrity of union elections against coercive captive audience meetings.
  • Use federal purchasing power and policy to help expand opportunities to negotiate.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

October 26, 2017

UFCW Statement on the Agricultural Guestworker Act

Bill would cut food processing wages by 50 percent and put the safety of our food at risk 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, released the following statement regarding the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 4092), which passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 17-16 on October 25.

“The Agricultural Guestworker Act is a direct threat to American jobs, wages, and food safety. 

“It will flood the meat processing sector with hundreds of thousands of untrained visa holders, effectively destroying middle class jobs that are currently held by hard-working American families who play a critical role in the safety of our food. 

“This bill will also make it easier for guestworkers to be exploited and encourages them to take on work that is demonstrably unsafe without years of training. 

“Any member of the House who cares about protecting good American jobs and wages will do the right thing and oppose the Agricultural Guestworker Act.”

Background:

  • The Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 4092) will bring 450,000 visa holders to work in agriculture and meat processing jobs that are currently held by hard-working American families.
  • The bill had bipartisan opposition when it passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, with Republicans Steve King (IA-4) and Louie Gohmert (TX-1) joining Democrats to vote no. Five other Republicans refrained from voting.
  • The impacts of this bill on the meat and poultry industry, and the U.S. workers employed within them, would be devastating. Food processing workers are highly trained professionals who not only perform a very difficult and highly skilled job, but also serve as a much-needed layer of protection for consumers when it comes to food safety.
  • Rather than require that new H-2C workers be paid at similar rates so that they cannot be used to displace workers and drive down wages, the bill simply requires that employers attempt to recruit workers at $10.88 per hour. If U.S. workers don’t apply at that wage rate, the employer would be authorized to bring in hundreds, or even thousands, of guestworkers at the $10.88 figure—a fraction of what meat and poultry workers in America currently earn.
  • This bill encourages irresponsible employers to displace American workers by bringing in hundreds of thousands of guestworkers across multiple sectors of our economy – effectively forcing U.S. workers out of currently good-paying jobs.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

 

October 23, 2017

UFCW Joins with NAACP and AFT in Defense of DACA 

Joint Legal Action Cites Trump Administration’s Disregard of Due Process for DACA Recipients 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Citing a disregard for the due process rights of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union announced that it has joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in a lawsuit against President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security for the Trump administration’s termination of DACA.

The joint legal action makes clear that the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA disregarded the due process rights of the DACA registrants, and failed to engage in the required analysis or rulemaking procedures required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, both of which are laws put into place to safeguard the public against this very type of impulsiveness by leaders in powerful positions.

Marc Perrone, president of the UFCW International Union, issued the following statement about joining the lawsuit: 

“While we support the effort to find a bipartisan solution to protect the rights of DACA recipients, ending DACA without regard to due process or proper rulemaking is not only a betrayal of the 800,000 individuals who have always and only called the United States their home, it needlessly jeopardizes the rights and procedures that protect every American citizen.  

 “No matter one’s politics or the administration, every person in this country deserves due process. Moreover, our government can’t function without adhering to certain rules and procedures. Ignoring them jeopardizes the rights and freedoms of us all.  

“With respect to DACA recipients, these young men and women love this country, and it is their home. They work side by side with us, live in our communities, and are dedicated members of our union family and countless others. They, like all of us, want nothing more than to build a better life for themselves and their families.

 “The legal action we have taken with the NAACP and AFT is critical to protecting and ensuring the rights and freedoms of DACA recipients, and every person who calls this nation their home.”

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

October 11, 2017

UFCW to USDA: Keep Line Speed Limits at Poultry Plants

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, sent a letter to the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Carmen Rottenberg, explaining why a recent petition by the National Chicken Council to eliminate line speeds at poultry plants poses a dangerous risk to American families. 

President Perrone’s letter can be read below.

Dear Madam Acting Deputy Undersecretary Rottenberg:

With the health and safety of over 250,000 thousand hard-working poultry workers in mind, 70,000 of whom are members of our union family, we write to urge you to reject a petition submitted by the National Chicken Council (NCC) to run food processing lines with no speed limits.

This petition, submitted to you in early September, would allow select poultry plants to run their lines with no speed limits, endangering both workers and consumers. Even more troubling is that this petition essentially requests that USDA create this new “no speed limit” rule behind closed doors with no opportunity for notice and comment by the public as the regulatory process requires.

As you must know, poultry workers hold some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in America. The implications of this rule change are striking, for example:

  • Industry statistics show poultry workers are at twice the risk of being injured on the job compared to other workers and suffer illnesses at a rate that is seven times as high.
  • A 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office showed that forcing lines to move faster will expose poultry workers to higher rates of injuries and illnesses.
  • Increased line speeds will also make it harder for both federal inspectors and quality control workers to properly check birds for contamination that could make consumers sick.

Given the facts noted above, the petition from the NCC clearly poses a dangerous risk to American families.

When the USDA chose not to raise line speed limits for poultry plants in 2014, there was large public interest in the open and transparent process (which we participated in) that ensured all perspectives on this proposed modification were heard – including those of the NCC. A wide array of people and interests, from workers on poultry lines to experts across the country, agreed then as they do now that faster line speeds will make this industry dramatically less safe, both for workers and consumers.

For the sake of keeping hard-working families safe – whether they’re preparing, buying, or eating chicken – the USDA must reject this petition.

Sincerely,

Anthony “Marc” Perrone

International President

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.  

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

 

September 5, 2017

UFCW Condemns White House Decision to End DACA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, issued the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA):

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is cold-hearted, cruel, and a betrayal of what America stands for. 

“Hundreds of thousands of young, hard-working men and women who love America will now be needlessly punished for childhood circumstances. These young people have grown up in this country, passed background checks, pay taxes, go to school, and have worked hard to build a better America. They have earned and deserve fair treatment, but instead their lives are being thrown into chaos with this announcement. 

“President Trump’s decision will not make America great again; rather, it will tear families apart, damage communities, and further fuel a terrible divide that is already hurting the nation we all love. 

“On behalf of the 1.3 million members of our union family, we urge all Members of Congress to immediately do what is right and protect these Dreamers.” 

Background:
  • Terminating DACA needlessly removes 800,000 hard-working men and women from our workforce.
  • It will cost $433.4 billion in GDP loss over a decade.
  • It will cost employers $3.4 billion in unnecessary turnover costs.
  • Contributions to Medicare and Social Security will be cut by $24.6 billion over a decade.
  • Some 6% of DACA recipients have launched businesses that employ American citizens.
  • Almost 55% of DACA recipients have purchased a vehicle, and more than one in ten have purchased their first home.
  • Source: ILRC, The Economic Cost of Ending DACA

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.  

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

 

August 23, 2017

Letter to Whole Foods Board of Directors: Amazon’s Acquisition Must Protect Hard-Working Employees

UFCW International President Marc Perrone releases letter calling on Whole Foods Board of Directors to protect Whole Foods Workers from Threat of Amazon. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, sent a letter to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, and the entire Whole Foods Board of Directors, calling on them to take specific steps to protect the jobs, wages, and benefits of employees who may be negatively impacted by Amazon acquiring their company.

“Amazon’s acquisition is a threat to Whole Foods workers and their families,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “They deserve a clear commitment from the entire board that their jobs, wages, and benefits will be protected from Amazon’s automated business model. Whole Foods Board of Directors has a responsibility not only to shareholders or to Amazon, but to the hard-working Whole Foods employees who made this company a success.”

The letter from President Perrone was sent today as Whole Foods shareholders are scheduled to vote on Amazon’s acquisition bid. It calls on the company to make clear, publicly, the actions it will take to protect its employees, and their wages and benefits, from Amazon’s business model – which eliminates jobs through automation.

The letter states:

“Realistically, we expect shareholders to approve of your company’s merger with Amazon. Our union family’s only hope is that you will consider the well-being of every employee who works inside your stores. These hard-working men and women are not numbers on a balance sheet; rather, they have families to support and lives to build. They may not matter much to you or Amazon, but they matter to us.”

President Perrone also makes clear the risks for Whole Foods if they fail to do what is right:

“The question now is whether shareholders and the Board of Whole Foods will consider the loss of Whole Foods jobs and the brand impact once customers realize Amazon has sacrificed these workers – the very people who made Whole Foods stores so successful.”

The entire letter is attached below:

Dear Whole Foods Board of Directors,

Today we write to express our concerns about Amazon acquiring Whole Foods on behalf of our union family, which represents more than one million retail workers and their families – most of whom work inside grocery stores.

Amazon is well known for disrupting industries, but they are equally known for their preference of putting automation over real people. From piloting a store with zero cashiers to expanding its army of warehouse robots to testing drone delivery, Amazon is clearly determined to profit by creating a future where automation replaces good jobs – and many of the people who work at Whole Foods will be the latest to pay this steep price.

The question now is whether shareholders and the Board of Whole Foods will consider the loss of Whole Foods jobs and the brand impact once customers realize Amazon has sacrificed these workers – the very people who made Whole Foods stores so successful.

Realistically, we expect shareholders to approve of your company’s merger with Amazon. Our union family’s only hope is that you will consider the well-being of every employee who works inside your stores. These hard-working men and women are not numbers on a balance sheet; rather, they have families to support and lives to build. They may not matter much to you or Amazon, but they matter to us.

Given President Trump’s recent criticism about Amazon’s business practices, the regulatory approval process seems likely to raise several troubling questions. With that in mind, we ask you to take the following steps to better protect Whole Foods employees if this merger receives regulatory approval.

The steps we believe Whole Foods should take include:

Protect Whole Foods Employees. Public reports have referenced eliminating Whole Foods cashiers and other positions, and embracing automation to do an increasing number of tasks within stores and warehouses. If these reports are wrong, and these jobs are safe, Whole Foods should publicly commit to protecting them from Amazon automation.

Protect Wages and Benefits. Will Whole Foods employees be asked to take pay cuts or lose hours or benefits? In the past, Whole Foods has talked about its good wages and benefits, but in more recent comments, CEO John Mackey has seemingly blamed employees for the company’s loss of customers. Your employees deserve to know whether they will pay the ultimate price with lower wages, worse benefits, and lost hours.

In the coming weeks and months, Whole Foods employees will anxiously await to hear how this merger will benefit them. They deserve to hear more than platitudes. They deserve specifics about how Amazon’s actions will impact them. Moreover, loyal customers who regularly shop at Whole Foods deserve to know the truth about how their neighbors and friends who work at Whole Foods stores will be impacted.

Again, we urge you, as members of the board and shareholders, to take the right steps to protect the jobs of hard-working Whole Foods employees.

We hope you will take these concerns seriously, and that you realize hard-working Americans are watching closely to see whether Whole Foods and Amazon do the right thing.

Sincerely,

Marc Perrone

President, United Food & Commercial Workers International Union

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

August 22, 2017

Perrone Makes Case for Amazon’s Growth to Face More Scrutiny

UFCW President calls on federal agencies and elected officials to stand up to Amazon in The Hill op-ed

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, wrote an op-ed for The Hill that details how Amazon’s growing monopoly over the retail sector has negative impacts for American workers.

EXCERPTS FROM THE OP-ED:

All of us, no matter what political leanings we have, will be impacted by Amazon’s monopolistic desire to control the retail market and replace good jobs with automation. This isn’t hyperbole.

In 2016, 43 percent of all online sales went through Amazon; the online retailer also accounted for more than half of all online sales growth last year.

Amazon controls a huge swath of the steadily growing online marketplace and it gives them a distinct advantage over regional and national competitors – which results in job cuts. Public filings show that Amazon played a large role in eliminating more than 50,000 jobs from Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy. And in March, MarketWatch estimated that Amazon’s dominant growth could remove as many as 1.5 million retail jobs within five years.

All of this begs the question, if Amazon forces millions of service and retail sector jobs to be lost, if they squeeze suppliers to the bone, if they devastate commercial construction because much fewer retail spaces are built, and if they make it impossible for grocery or retail workers to earn a better life because they can no longer find work, where do elected leaders think “good American jobs” are going to come from?

Click here to read the full op-ed.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

July 27, 2017

Amazon Will Destroy More Jobs Than It Could Ever Create

As Jeff Bezos becomes the richest person in the world, it’s clear Amazon’s retail monopoly benefits him above all others.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents over one million retail workers, released the following statement in response to Amazon’s claims of hiring 50,000 new warehouse workers:

“While Amazon claims they’re creating 50,000 new jobs, they conveniently ignore how their business model, in addition to offering brutal working conditions inside their warehouses, will destroy tens of thousands – if not millions – of retail jobs through automation. 

“Amazon is a retail monopoly that threatens every corner of our nation’s economy. Left unchecked, it will eradicate jobs, small businesses, and countless American retailers across the nation. 

“Sadly, while Jeff Bezos may revel in becoming the richest person in the world, his business and company will be responsible for pushing countless people into poverty. The question now is this: Will America’s leaders have the courage to speak out against the Amazon monopoly, or will they remain silent?” 

BACKGROUND

  • Public filings show that Amazon played a large role in eliminating more than 50,000 jobs in recent years from Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy.
  • MarketWatch estimated that Amazon’s dominant growth could cause as many as 1.5 million retail jobs to be lost within five years.
  • An investigation from ProPublica showed that Amazon routinely favored their own, more expensive listings, or Amazon-made products, over those from smaller sellers.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.  Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.