Jesus Hernandez, a UFCW/RWDSU L-1S member who works at Macy’s in Herald Square, NY recently was featured in The Union Label’s “Walk In My Shoes” series. Here’s his story in his words:
I have been an associate at Macy’s in Herald Square for going on eight years now. I started out in the Bedding Department on the 6th floor and was later promoted to the Home and Electric Department on the 8th floor. Macy’s Herald Square is the flagship of the Macy’s department store chain; it is located in Herald Square in Manhattan, NY. The store covers an entire city block, with more than two million square feet of retail space, it’s one of the largest stores in the world. My union, RWDSU Local 1-S represents nearly 4,000 active employees in Herald Square and at the Queens, Parkchester and White Plains Stores.
I have been a Shop Steward for about four years, helping the employees on my floor when they have issues with everything from scheduling to handling conflicts on the floor. I’ve worked non-union before. What I have found in a unionized store is that we have a voice on the job. In a busy department store like Macy’s, there are a lot of misunderstandings and disagreements. But, because of the union, workers know they are protected against unreasonable customer complaints. I’ve helped fellow members understand that they don’t have to tolerate abusive treatment to keep their jobs, because the union has their back. One of the main issues I see as a steward is scheduling. We have provisions in our contract with Macy’s that requires fair and set scheduling, but we see management violate that a lot. When that happens, we file a grievance on behalf of the employee. RWDSU Local 1-S has negotiated a fair contract, it is up to me and the other shop stewards to help enforce it. Our contract has required Macy’s to provide paid sick leave since before it was mandatory in New York State. I’ve seen Macy’s management try to avoid allowing employees to take their leave. And, I’ve been able to help those employees file grievances so they can receive the time off they are entitled to.
Being a union shop steward, for me, is like standing up to the classroom bully. I get to let them know that we won’t tolerate that kind of behavior. I like my job, and I like being able to help customers who come in to the store, but it makes me feel great to be able to help my coworkers.
Thank you, Jesus, for sharing your story and for everything you do to make our union family strong!
“When I first started at the hospital, I didn’t know anything about what the union did for me or my co-workers. However, once I got involved, I quickly learned that UFCW doesn’t just represent workers at their workplaces; it helps communities, charities, and fights the government for better legislation for all working people. That is who I am . A helper.”
Eric Flett was born in Ste Rose du Lac, Manitoba, about 15 minutes from where he lived, the Ebb and Flow First Nation. Eric lived there with his parents and nine siblings until he was about four years old, when his family moved to Winnipeg. He said it wasn’t easy adjusting from reserve life to city life in the North End. But thanks to his mother’s strict parenting, Eric stayed on the straight and narrow, maintained a childhood free from bad influences and graduated from Sisler High School in 1986.
Eric attended his first ceremonial sweat lodge when he was 14. A sweat lodge is traditionally a place where prayer and song ceremonies are performed, so that we can be cleansed. However, it wasn’t until he was around 20 years of age that his interest and understanding were truly formed, and from that point on he has been continually active in ceremonies and traditions.
When Eric took part in the Sun Dance Ceremony, his niece was very sick and he wanted to dance for her. This ceremony usually involves the community gathering together to pray for healing. Individuals make personal sacrifices on behalf of a loved one or the community.
From here, Eric continued to participate in his culture’s activities and received training from his Elders. Today Eric plays a leadership role in the community, a role that is entrusted to those who earned the rights and training to lead a sweat lodge and other ceremonies.
These earned rights are what help Eric succeed in his day-to-day life as well as work. Eric became a UFCW Local 832 member in 1990, when he was hired as a healthcare aide at the St. Boniface Hospital. He thought this was a perfect fit, as he loves helping people and refers to himself in his Ojibwa language as “helper.” Today, he works as a porter in the diagnostic imaging department, still helping people.
His involvement with the union began about 10 years ago when he was elected to the audit committee of UFCW, which continues today. Besides his porter position, Eric is also a shop steward and sits on Local 832’s executive board.
When asked why he is so active in his union, he replied, “When I first started at the hospital, I didn’t know anything about what the union did for me or my co-workers. However, once I got involved, I quickly learned that UFCW doesn’t just represent workers at their workplaces; it helps communities, charities, and fights the government for better legislation for all working people. That is who I am . A helper.”
On his off days, Eric enjoys watching TV, golfing and continuing to practice his culture.
In the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, UFCW members from local unions around the country are coming together to help ensure everyone in their communities can enjoy a good holiday meal.
No one should have to struggle alone
UFCW/RWDSU Local 338 members volunteered at The INN in Hempstead. A not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization, The INN provides a broad variety of essential services to assist those challenged by hunger, homelessness and profound poverty and is the largest private social service agency of its kind on Long Island. The Hempstead soup kitchen was founded on the principle that everyone would be treated with dignity and respect – a belief shared by our union family.
Meanwhile, UFCW Local 328 members pooled their resources to make a difference in the lives of 220 families:
Thanks to the kindness and generosity of our membership, we will be able to provide over 220 Thanksgiving bags to families in need this holiday season. We truly are a @UFCW union family! pic.twitter.com/j5gffhxG5T
The hard-working men and women of UFCW Local 152 used a little good old-fashioned competitive spirit to collect 2,475 cans and other food items for their local area food banks. Each store/facility faced off to see who could collect the most canned goods. Top contributors will celebrate with a pizza party for their coworkers, but the real winners are area families who will be the beneficiaries of the collected items.
Cooked with Love
UFCW Local 342 members helped out with their annual Thanksgiving drive by not only donating goods, but also volunteering their time. On Saturday, November 17th, volunteers gathered at Mariner’s Temple Baptist church to make sure families in their community could have a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal. Food for the drive was collected in bins at the local union offices leading up to the event.
Thank you to everyone who has helped out so far! If you have a story of how UFCW members are helping their communities this holiday season, we’d love to hear from you! Please email us at email@example.com.
When Lisa Colon’s daughter had to have three emergency surgeries in a week, she did what any good parent would do—prioritize the health of her child and do her best to take care of her while she recovered.
As a single mom balancing family and a career as a CNA at Chapin Center Nursing Home, Lisa had to put in for FMLA leave to take time off from work, but was horrified to find her request for the urgently needed time off denied by her employer.
Wanting to shift their workplace culture to one that prioritized the needs of the staff and respected the hard work nursing home employees put in to provide quality care for the residents, Lisa and her coworkers decided to take matters into their own hands and join the UFCW to make sure no one felt left out to dry in times of need.
“They helped me out 100%,” Lisa says. “It still brings tears to my eyes,” she says of that trying time, “but thanks to my union I still am able to have a job, and my family is healthy now.”
Being a single mom and balancing work was still hard, but knowing the union would be there for her helped provide peace of mind and a sense of security. Before becoming a union member, for instance, Lisa was no stranger to pay inequity. “It hurts,” she says about knowing how much longer it takes for some women to reach the wages of their white male counterparts. “I work just as hard, or even harder than a male co-worker. Especially when I was a single parent—I had to work just as hard and take care of my children.”
She explains that her union contract guarantees good wages and fair treatment. “Being part of a union ensures I receive the equal pay I’ve earned. Equal pay, and equality at work, allow me achieve my goals, and go further in life.”
In addition to organizing her workplace, Lisa went on to become a shop steward, where she worked to help fellow members get pay issues and other problems they encountered resolved.
UFCW stewards are members who volunteer or are elected to take on a more active role protecting the rights of their coworkers on the job. They are knowledgeable about what benefits and policies the union negotiates with their employer and they help keep an eye out to make sure everyone is getting treated fairly.
These days, Lisa works as a union representative at UFCW Local 1459 and serves on their Executive Board. She hopes her story helps inspire others to get involved and take action when they see a change that needs to be made.
Lisa is half Puerto Rican and was born in the continental U.S, but moved to Puerto Rico as a young child, and returned not knowing any English. Before her involvement with the union, she’d never voted or registered to vote. Now she helps get the word out about how vital voting is to protecting the rights of working people.
“We need more push and shove, more education,” she says, frustrated that more of her peers don’t have a plan to vote in the upcoming election. “If more people knew that their vote counts, and used it, we could win.”
Her message for people going through a hard time in this political climate—experiencing things like unfair wages and more—is to stay strong, because you’re not alone.
OUTreach, the UFCW constituency group for LGBTQ+ and allies, is offering five scholarships to our union members to attend the 2019 Creating Change Conference in Detroit, Michigan from January 23-27. Creating Change Conference is organized by the National LGBTQ Task Force. It is the foremost political, leadership and skills-building conference for thousands of committed people to develop and hone their skills and share victories. Scholarship recipients will learn from a broad range of social justice issues and develop skills to bring back to their workplaces and local unions. Past session topics include labor, gender equality, community organizing, criminal justice, immigration and more.
OUTreach Executive Board members have participated as one of the leading workshop presenters, putting our union, UFCW, as a key advocate for the working class and a key voice on labor issues at this conference. In a time where the labor movement and everything we have fought for is under attack, OUTreach’s dedication to organizing social and economic justice for all workers and ensuring full equality for LGBTQ+ workers at work and in their union reflects our union’s commitment to building a resilient working class that is not divided by hate.
Providing these scholarships to UFCW members is a crucial step in recruiting and developing our own rank-and-file leadership within our union and in the broader movement. It is with this vision in mind that OUTreach offers five scholarships to UFCW members to join our contingent at next year’s conference.
If you have any questions or want to learn more about OUTreach, please contact Michele Kessler at 610-513-9927 or Jean Tong at 213-590-7177.
OUTreach Scholarship Application
Details and Instructions
What: Creating Change Conference When: January 23-27, 2019 Where: Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center
Conference Registration Fee
Hotel and Meals
Eligibility and Requirements:
Applicant must be an active UFCW member.
Applicant must be able to take time off to attend the conference in its entirety.
Arriving at the Marriott Renaissance Center in Detroit, MI, no later than 9am on January 23 and leaving the hotel no sooner than 12pm on January 27.
Applicant must submit a short paragraph to answer the following:
What does being a union member/activist/shop steward mean to you?
Why are you interested in attending this conference, what do you hope to get from this experience?
Please share an example of you standing up for yourself or others.
Applicant must submit a letter of recommendation from his/her/their local union. (Please see attached form)
Sharon is a UFCW Local 1000 member. She was diagnosed with cancer within weeks of qualifying for enrollment in her UFCW sponsored health and welfare plan. She describes it as a blessing.
“The insurance was great and worked well with my doctors at OU. I got into treatment immediately, the week after my diagnosis. If I didn’t have my union coverage, I’d have to wait in line for weeks for charity options.”
Sharon is in remission and back at work Assistant Bakery/Deli Manager at HAC Cash Saver 188 in Guthrie, Texas.
Thank you for sharing your story, Sharon! If you are a UFCW member with a story to tell about how being a union member has made your life better, we’d love to hear from you.
The UFCW is continuing to build on the success of last year’s launch of the Labor Against Cancer initiative in the battle to end blood cancers.
For more than 30 years, the UFCW has partnered with LLS to fund and support some of the world’s best and brightest blood cancer researchers to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life for patients and their families. To date, we have raised over $86 million to help fund research that has advanced treatments such as chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, and smart drugs, which have become the standard for many other cancers.
In the past 10 years the United States has officially declared over 1,000 disasters. And over the last century, more than 25 million Americans have been affected. And that’s not including disasters declared at the state and local level. And, in the Fall of 2017, alone, three major hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – were estimated to have impacted 25.8 million Americans.
Chances are, one day you’ll be affected. Planning now means you’ll have better control of the situation.
“6 IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE A DISASTER STRIKES”
1.) KNOW WHERE YOUR GAS SHUTOFF VALVE IS LOCATED*
*If unsure, ask your gas company.
Shutting off gas before an emergency can help avoid gas leaks and explosions.
2.) KNOW WHERE YOUR ELECTRICAL SHUTOFF IS*:
*If unsure, ask your local electric company.
Electrical problems cause an average of 25,900 house fires each year. The risk grows during a disaster. Shut off breakers or pull out fuses in the breaker or fuse box.
3.) MAKE AN EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION PLAN FOR YOUR FAMILY:
An emergency communication plan means family members know where to go, what to do, and how to reconnect and reunite when disaster strikes.
4.) MAKE SURE YOU HAVE INSURANCE. DOES IT COVER FLOOD OR EARTHQUAKE?
Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster. Just a few inches of water can cause thousands of dollars of damage.
5.) AND PLAN FOR YOUR PETS:
Locate pet-friendly shelters for your furry friends. Many emergency shelters can’t accept pets, for public health reasons. Service animals are always welcome.
6.) KNOW EVACUATION ROUTES:
Many communities have evacuation routes, learn about them. Minutes matter during a disaster.
Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over warm ocean waters and move toward land. Potential threats from hurricanes include powerful winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, tornadoes, and landslides. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The Pacific hurricane season runs May 15 to November 30.
Can happen along any U.S. coast or in any territory in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans.
Can affect areas more than 100 miles inland.
Are most active in September.
IF YOU ARE UNDER A HURRICANE WARNING, FIND SAFE SHELTER RIGHT AWAY
Determine how best to protect yourself from high winds and flooding.
Evacuate if told to do so.
Take refuge in a designated storm shelter, or an interior room for high winds.
Listen for emergency information and alerts.
Only use generators outdoors and away from windows.
Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters.
Know your area’s risk of hurricanes.
Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
If you are at risk for flash flooding, watch for warning signs such as heavy rain.
Practice going to a safe shelter for high winds, such as a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter. The next best protection is a small, interior, windowless room in a sturdy building on the lowest level that is not subject to flooding.
Based on your location and community plans, make your own plans for evacuation or sheltering in place.
Become familiar with your evacuation zone, the evacuation route, and shelter locations.
Gather needed supplies for at least three days. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets.
Keep important documents in a safe place or create password-protected digital copies.
Protect your property. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves in plumbing to prevent backups. Consider hurricane shutters. Review insurance policies.
When a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving
Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
Restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include food and water sufficient for at least three days, medications, a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
Review your evacuation zone, evacuation route and shelter locations. Plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead.
Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
When a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving
Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm updates and emergency instructions.
Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.
Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
When a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving
Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.
When a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving
If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are.
Close storm shutters, and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.
Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not drive around barricades.
If sheltering during high winds, go to a FEMA safe room, ICC 500 storm shelter, or a small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor that is not subject to flooding.
If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water.
Listen for current emergency information and instructions.
Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery outdoors ONLY and away from windows.
Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.
Be Safe AFTER
Listen to authorities for information and special instructions.
Be careful during clean-up. Wear protective clothing and work with someone else.
Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock.
Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.