“Dear Ambassador Froman, Americans Need and Deserve Higher Wages, Not Higher Health Care and Drug Costs.”

AMP Higher Wages Not Higher HC Costs SG Sept2015 (1)Washington, D.C. — Today, Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the largest private sector union in the nation, sent a letter to United States Trade Representative Michael Froman that details his frustration with U.S. negotiators pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to include 12 years of data protection for life-saving biologics. The letter can be seen here. Excerpts from the letter are below.

“For months, an alliance of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents have raised alarms about the TPP being negotiated by and for special corporate interests. In light of recent information, those fears seem more likely than ever to be true.

“U.S. negotiators are pushing for the TPP to include 12 years of data protection for life-saving biologics. This demand puts the profits of big pharmaceutical companies above the health and welfare of every American family and effectively risks lives by delaying access to lower cost generic drugs.

“For U.S. negotiators to insist that the TPP protect these high drug prices rather than the hard-working Americans who buy them is completely unacceptable. Americans need and deserve higher wages, not higher health care and drug costs.

“With the 2016 elections looming, hard-working families all across the country are paying attention to this trade agreement. If a final deal raises their drug prices rather than their quality of life, elected officials will have a difficult time supporting it.

“Given how much this deal may cost everyday American families, we respectfully urge you to reconsider how far our country will go to reach a final agreement.”


United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) online at www.ufcw.org

We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.

Why Unions Matter: Helping Families Through Times of Need

Richard with his mom and dad

Richard with his mom and dad

A year and a half ago, when Richard Kern was 18, he was diagnosed with malignant Melanoma.

While going through treatment, his medical bills soared to exceed $100,000. Thankfully, Richard’s mom is a member of UFCW Local 1059. Because of the collective bargaining agreement UFCW Local 1059 fought for at Kroger where Mrs. Kern works, her health insurance covered a vast majority of Richard’s overwhelming medical costs.

“My bill was in the triple digits instead of the sextuple digits,” said Richard. “Without her union, I would not be going to college. We would have sold at least one of our cars. I’d be working a full-time job or two part-time jobs. And we likely would have had to cash in retirement funds and all the life insurance policies we have. We would have had to give up nearly everything just to pay for a surgery to keep me alive. If it wasn’t for my mother’s union, my family would have been finished.”

Richard can now say he is a cancer survivor. But tragedy very recently struck his family again, when his father had a stroke. Richard’s father was airlifted from his local hospital in Lacaster, Ohio, to the facilities at Ohio State University where doctors fought to keep him from having another stroke.

“Again, the UFCW came to the rescue,” says Richard. “We haven’t yet gotten all the medical bills but the life flight alone was thousands upon thousands. He had two procedures done, saw neurologists, vascular surgeons, cardiologists, and neuro vascular surgeons, along with spending five days in arguably the best hospital in Ohio. The bills will be astronomical. But again, without my mom’s health insurance that the UFCW bargained for at the table, we would have had to pay for it all out of pocket. Which, to be blunt, never would have happened. We would have never been able to pay it all off. Ever.”

“Ever since my battle against cancer”, said Richard, “I’ve been on a mission. And after my dad’s medical troubles, the fire in my heart was set all over again. My goal is to make a speech at the Democratic National Convention. I want to send the message that without unions, the middle class is beyond screwed. I want to send the message that every single person in this country deserves a living wage, not the minimum wage. And I want to send a message that everyone is entitled to quality health insurance. I am living, breathing proof that unions save lives, as is my father.”

Richard says that by fighting for workers’ rights, the union “literally kept me and my dad alive.” Help Richard spread his message, by posting on social media, shopping union-made, or simply telling a worker in your local grocery store or in your favorite retail shop thank you for their service.

Together, unions and the millions of hard-working Americans they represent will continue fighting for workers’ rights and improving the quality of life for the middle class.


Union, Yes: Unions Help Kids in Our Communities

Unions-Help-Children-Move-Up-LadderA new study shows yet another benefit of unions you may not be aware of: The New York Times this week wrote about a study that “suggests that unions may also help children move up the economic ladder.”

The paper–written by researchers at Harvard, Wellesley and the Center for American Progress–essentially finds that children born into low-income families have a greater chance of ascending “to higher incomes in metropolitan areas where union membership is higher.”

The Times article points out that it seems that no other link to upward mobility is as strong as the one found in the study. It’s also another reason why the decline in union membership is so troubling.

Beyond the effect of unionization on parents’ wages, the researchers found that this trend is also attributed to the fact that “unions are effective at pushing the political system to deliver policies — like a higher minimum wage and greater spending on schools and other government programs — that broadly benefit workers.” Perhaps the best and most recent examples of this are seen in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, where the minimum wage has been raised significantly.

And the correlation between increased union membership and increased income earning percentile for children doesn’t just apply to children in the lowest percentile, but children of all households.

Interestingly, the study also found that “children with fathers who belong to a union have significantly higher wages than children who don’t. But when it’s the mother who belongs to a union, only the wages of daughters rise.”

When trying to determine why, the Times notes that “it’s possible that the explanation is sociological: Daughters with a mother who belongs to a union may be more likely to work themselves, which means they’re more likely to have higher wages. Or, put differently, union membership is helping to change social norms.”

What norms are unions changing exactly? “Giving workers a greater sense of agency.” That sense, that union workers have the power to speak out if they are mistreated, then spreads to their peers.

Richard B. Freeman, one of the study’s authors, summarizes the takeaway nicely: “things that have a small effect at the individual level can have a larger aggregate effect.”