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Working America has Health Care Options for Those Who Still Need Coverage

WAWorking America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has a Health Care program available to UFCW members who don’t have collectively bargained health insurance. The program provides a simple way for members to learn about health care options, the costs, and how to sign up for insurance. With the health care open enrollment ending date two weeks away, it is important for members to check out the Working America Health Care program and get themselves and their families covered before February 15. If members don’t have health coverage during 2015, they may have to pay a penalty.

The Working America Health Care program offers members an easy way to help them find the best plan that fits their needs. With the program members can:

-Have someone help walk them through tax credits and subsidies to pay for health insurance; and

-Talk to licensed health care professionals who can help them pick the most affordable insurance option.

If members sign up for an insurance plan that is supported by the Working America Health Care program, members will also receive access to a personalized Health Advocate service. The Health Advocate service can help coordinate care and answer any coverage claims or clinical questions.

Visit the Working America Health Care program website to enroll in health insurance and then access a Health Advocate.

Below please also find an informational flyer in English and Spanish.

UFCW Local 540 Hosts Immigration Workshop

On January 23-25, UFCW Local 540 hosted an immigration workshop and informational session with more than 50 attendees as part of the UFCW’s Union Citizenship Action Network (UCAN). During the workshop, participants discussed President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration known as Deferred Action for Parents (DAP), along with learning about the naturalization process and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The session was run by UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of the Civil Rights and Community Action Department Esther López.

In November, the President put the DAP program in place to remove the threat of deportation for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Many UFCW local unions are hosting similar forums to help members determine whether they qualify, gather necessary documentation, prescreen their applications, and answer important legal questions.

The naturalization and citizenship part of the training provided participants with the platform to learn about the critical skills and tools needed to assist eligible UFCW members and their families to go through the naturalization process to become U.S. citizens. In addition to learning about the naturalization process, participants were also trained to provide assistance to workers or their family members who qualify for immigration benefits under the Obama Administration’s June 2012 memorandum on DACA.

For more information about DAP, visit www.ufcw.org/immigrationaction. If you are interested in sample documents that can help in this process, please contact Amy Gray atagray@ufcw.org. In addition, DAP flyers in English and Spanish are available on the UFCW Political Toolkit at www.ufcwtoolkit.com.

If your local union is interested in hosting a training or taking advantage of upcoming immigration training opportunities, please contact Eduardo Peña at epena@ufcw.org.

UCAN-L540 1 UCAN-L540 2

Member Spotlight: Local 1500’s ‘Battling’ Barbara Balos

Originally posted on Labor Press

16e5cef5ebc8d47ba5afdd323a28d900_w225_h169_scIn her 25 years with UFCW Local 1500, Barbara Balos, 48, has helped run several major chain supermarkets throughout the city. For the last several years, the Long Island mom has been the non-foods manager at a bustling Bronx Pathmark, overseeing ordering, deliveries and more. Balos has a knack for getting things done – and that steady determination has not only helped her employers succeed, it’s also helped win better conditions for co-workers; raise a ton of money for numerous charitable organizations, and even change the way New York State protects its children.

“I have been a shop steward for Local 1500 for about 8 years, and have many wonderful opportunities with the union,” Balos says.

Many times, Balos is called upon to help correct unsafe working conditions like an overflowed grease pit or wonky loading dock – the kinds of things that could land an unlucky employee in the hospital.

Lately, however, Balos’ problem-solving skills have been tested trying to help co-workers reclaim lost hours guaranteed under their union contract, and securing new apartments for hard-pressed employees who’ve been reduced to part-time status as an unintended consequence of the Affordable Healthcare Act, and no longer able to make the rent.

One co-worker was forced to flee an abusive home environment and actually ended up on the street, while another had his Brooklyn apartment sold beneath his feet.

“Believe it or not, it happens a lot,” Balos says. “Unfortunately, a lot of the people I work with are part-timers. They’re getting 16-hours a week, and it’s tough to make ends meet. With the Obama care law, we’ve had problems with part-timers not getting enough hours, because they can’t go over that 30-hour threshold, so a lot of times, management will cut back on hours. But we help out our own.”

Over the course her union career, Balos has repeatedly met with members of the New York City Council, to make sure they understand just how important labor unions continue to be for workers like her.

“People are afraid to talk to management and stand up for their rights, or even to ask a question,”  says Balos. “Many times, management will try to get away with things they shouldn’t.”

Just this past Christmas, Balos says the nicest present she received was a phone call from an older co-worker who faced the very real possibility of losing his job after arbitrarily being reassigned to a position he was not well-suited.

“I became a shop steward because I truly enjoy helping people and consider the other members as my family,” Balos says. “We rally around each other.”

Balos initially became politically active about 11 years ago, following a devastating incident which compelled her to try and convince the New York State Legislature to toughen the laws concerning convicted sex offenders.

“At the time, anyone who was a level 2 or 3 sex offender got off their probation period, and were off the sex offense registry,” Balos says. “There was talk from some senators about passing a bill to keep those offenders on the registry for life. So, I wrote to my local senator, told my story, and got a few thousand petitions signed to change the law.”

Not long after that, the Local 1500 shop steward was shocked to learn that her moving appeal would be heard on the floor of the New York State Senate.

“It was a great honor to help out,” Balos said. “We won that battle and got the laws changed. It was wonderful to know that I was a part of that.”

Balos continues to be passionate about activism, especially union activism.

“I think people are trying to cut corners and cut costs,” Balos says. “But our union can be tough. And management, no matter where they are, doesn’t want that.”

For the last few years, Balos’ daughter has been working at a non-union shop while attending college. For the Balos household, the enduring importance of organized labor is not some abstract ideological question to batted around endlessly by elites. Its efficacy is demonstrated daily in real life.

“When [my daughter] first started there, literally ever day, she should would come home saying, ‘I’m going to get fired. My boss is going to fire me because I asked for this day off. He just fired another person for no reason,’” Balos says. “There have been a lot of things that she goes through where I tell her – if you were union, that would not happen.”