UFCW Stewards


Tyson Poultry Plant Sanitation Workers Join the RWDSU

Sanitation workers at a Tyson poultry plant came together to join RWDSU Southeast Council to have a union voice like the RWDSU members who currently process poultry in the same plant.

Sanitation workers at a Tyson poultry plant came together to join RWDSU Southeast Council to have a union voice like the RWDSU members who currently process poultry in the same plant.

More than 30 QSI Contract Sanitation workers came together for a union voice on the job and voted to join the RWDSU Southeast Council. The workers in Buena Vista, Georgia, work sanitation inside a Tyson poultry plant. Workers at QSI Contract Sanitation say they needed a voice on the job to address the lack of a grievance procedure and improve their jobs at the plant.

“Every one of us voted to join the RWDSU. We are looking forward to seeing improved working conditions and higher wages in the near future,” said Leon Burke, a five-year employee at QSI.

The poultry processing workers at the Tyson plant are already members of the RWDSU and played a critical role in assisting QSI Contract Sanitation workers win a union voice. After speaking with their RWDSU co-workers, QSI workers realized the only way they could resolve the lack of a grievance procedure and improve their jobs was by joining a union and negotiating a union contract.

“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the RWDSU Tyson steward leadership and members,” Burke continued.

Shop Stewards Say Kroger: “End Anti-Worker & Anti-Union Messages to New Marketplace Store Employees”

Via Local 400

On Tuesday May 13, 2014 Richmond/Tidewater Kroger Shop Stewards in Virginia held a seminar to learn more about strengthening the power of our union through new member sign up, engaging members in the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations this summer, and the importance of organizing the new employees at the Kroger Marketplace stores by taking direct action at a Richmond area Kroger Marketplace.

kroger strong“The power of the union is in you all, its members,” said Local 400 President Mark Federici. “The power only arrives when you all stick together and show the number one food retailer in the country that you deserve to share in their successes.”

Despite the afternoon’s steamy temperatures, two bus loads of Kroger shop stewards from both Local 400 and Local 23 in Pittsburgh, Penn., alongside faith leaders, community allies and other supporters headed to Kroger Marketplace store 519 in Henrico, Va. to show solidarity, talk with customers, and deliver a letter to management. The letter demanded an end to the anti-worker and anti-union messages the management is circulating on behalf of Kroger. It brought home the point that joining our union is a decision the employees should be allowed to make together in an influence-free and intimidation-free work environment.

The group of about 150 activists sporting “Solidarity with Virginia Kroger Workers” t-shirts and buttons, marched and chanted, “we are Kroger strong, we are union strong” and “we are the union, the mighty mighty union!” to the beat Local 23′s drum line in front of the store. Check out the photos here!  At the same time, a delegation of Local 400 President Mark Federici, Local 23 President Tony Helfer, Kroger stewards and Richmond area faith leaders went into the store to hand-deliver the letter and talk to employees. To see how management received the letter be sure to visit Local 400′s website here.

Black History Month Member Spotlight: Mike Dillard

For this week’s member spotlight, we chatted with Local 75 member and steward Mike Dillard. Mike has worked at Kroger stores in Cincinnati, Ohio and in nearby Kentucky for 25 years now, and has seen how being a union member truly makes a difference in the workplace. Today, he is an assistant meat manager.

In honor of Black History Month, he also shared with us some stories of his his grandfather and father, who lived during the height of the civil rights movement.

Local 75 member and steward Mike Dillard

Local 75 member and steward Mike Dillard

His father, a retired one star general and doctor, was the second black general in Ohio, and was a participant in several marches for equality in the 60′s. His grandfather, Mike tells us, was a doctor during World War I. However, when Mike’s grandfather Charles served during the war in the army, they refused to recognize his M.D., and made him scrub latrines instead. Although Mike remembers this story of his grandfather’s with sadness, he notes that he went on to later found a radiology center at the University of Michigan, with pride.

Mike also shares that he recently discovered that he and his family are direct descendants of a unit in the Civil War called the Black Brigade. Mike explains that during the Civil War, many African Americans living in Kentucky moved slightly further north into Ohio because it was less hostile towards them, and to escape the Confederacy which had moved up into Kentucky. When the confederates were on the verge of attacking the Cincinnati area, Union troops began taking black men against their will and put them to work to fortify the city and build trenches. But upon hearing this, one of the Union generals was outraged that these men had been forced to work, and demanded their release and an apology. Once the group of African American men returned to their homes, they were then asked if they would be willing to volunteer their time helping build defenses and fortifications for the city. Despite the previous gross violation of their human rights–being made to work against their will–nearly 1,000 African American men from the area agreed to help the Union troops. This group of men was dubbed the Black brigade, and became the first of many such groups to form throughout the country–building bridges and trenches, hauling cannons, and assisting the cause in many other ways. Mike notes that thanks to the help of this Black Brigade, the Confederacy was effectively kept out of Ohio and they saw no bloodshed.  There is even a memorial statue in a nearby park that commemorates the group, Mike says.

Unfortunately, Mike has experienced some conflict in his own experiences too, having dealt with a verbally and at one point physically abusive manager for a time. Thankfully, being a union member meant that Mike had the support he needed to get out of the situation. Mike says he tries to use what he has learned as a union worker, as well as his family’s rich history dealing with fighting for civil rights, to help his fellow union members.

“I’m a nice guy and I try to keep an open mind and good rapport with managers and my fellow associates,” say Mike. When Mike tells us that it is “better to get more bees with honey than it is with vinegar”, we are reminded of the teachings and actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin, both Civil Rights leaders who valued peaceful protest rather than violence.

As Mike reflects, he notes that the fight for equal civil rights and the fight for equal workers rights often have the same goal. When telling someone about the union at work, Mike explains that “you have a stronger voice with more people, just like with civil rights, you know if you have one person yellin’, you’re not going to be heard as much as 10,000 people yelling” for the same cause. “With both the union and with the civil rights movement, you have solidarity. It’s about being fair, and everyone having the rights that they should have.”

Do you have a story to share about being a union member, or about participating in the civil rights movement? Let us know here!