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May 24, 2018

Union health insurance: a better value

Mike Watts lives with his family in Kentucky, where he has been a Kroger employee for over 30 years. When his son was born with special needs, Mike’s union health insurance allowed him to provide the high quality care his son needed when he was born.

“I have both of my children on the union insurance since they’ve been born. Me and their mother have quite our options. She also works for Kroger in management and we decided the union insurance was definitely the far better value.

In management, she basically had insurance also and then with the insurance that I had which was through the union we found out there was a better premium on that, we also found it paid for more and there was less out of pocket, the copays were better.

Landon, he was born with special needs. This is where we found out we really got a great value with the union insurance because we’ve had to deal with a lot of doctors appointments.

His medical outlook is good. He’s as normal as any other child. We’re just super excited that we’ve got the insurance to have him have the care that he needs and clearly we feel like it’s given him a better life because of it.”

May 16, 2018

UFCW Endorses Poor People’s Campaign Revival

Week two of the Poor People’s Campaign (5/21 – 5/26) is themed “Linking Systemic Racism and Poverty: Voting Rights and Immigration.” UFCW members around the country, from Washington state to Boston and Harrisburg, joined allies to bring attention to these issues that are affecting Americans from all corners of the U.S.

Founded by Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis, the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary, and hundreds of local and national grassroots groups, The Poor People’s Campaign is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the nation’s distorted morality.

“The Poor People’s Campaign believes, as our union family does, that our economy can and should work better for everyone,” said Marc Perrone, president of the UFCW International, in a statement of support he made in April.

“Telling the millions of people who are struggling alone, to work harder, complain less, or pray more won’t work.

“Wage inequality, the assault on voting rights, underemployment, and the attacks on immigrant and refugee communities are all part of a systemic effort to disenfranchise poor communities.

“We’re proud to support The Poor People’s Campaign because, if successful, it will bring hard-working families more power to build better lives.”

Over the last few months, the Revs. Barber and Theoharis have traveled across the country, shining a spotlight on both America’s harsh, persistent poverty and the powerful organizers working to combat it. They’ve visited Lowndes County, Ala.; Detroit and Highland Park, Mich.Marks, Miss.Harlan County, Kent.; and South Charleston, W. Va. 

The trips have also helped prepare organizers in the states for the 40 days of action, which will conclude with a mass mobilization at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, June 23.

On Tuesday, April 10, 2019, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released The Souls of Poor Folk, an audit of America 50 years after Dr. King and many others launched the original Poor People’s Campaign to challenge racism, poverty, and a host of other intersected issues.

The report, which was presented at the National Press Club by IPS with support from the Urban Institute, shows that, in many ways, we are worse off than in 1968. Legislative actions and legal decisions have gutted the Voting Rights Act and severely restricted the ability of people of color, women, and young people to vote. There are 15 million more people living in poverty and nearly eight times as many inmates in state and federal prisons.

 

 

May 14, 2018

UFCW Helps to Stamp Out Hunger in Communities Across the Country

On May 12, the UFCW once again partnered with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) to sponsor the 26th annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive—the largest single-day food drive in the world—and helped to collect millions of pounds of non-perishable food made by union members for local food banks. The UFCW has served as a national sponsor of the NALC’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive for the past three years. In that time, the food drive has collected more than 150 million pounds of food.

Nationally, an estimated 42 million Americans, or one in six, struggle with food insecurity, which is defined as not knowing where the next meal is coming from. Over 13 million children are living in a food insecure household, and 5.4 million seniors currently face hunger in our country. The consequences of food insecurity are profound, and contribute to developmental problems for children, and depression among adults, especially seniors.

This food drive has been a way for our union family to address food insecurity in our country and show our friends, neighbors and community members that we care and they are not alone.

Here are a few images from this year’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive:

May 8, 2018

Have you thanked a third shift worker?

From stocking shelves to providing late-night medical care, when the rest of the world goes to sleep, many UFCW members’ work days are just getting started.

Last year on National Third Shift Workers Day (celebrated on the second Wednesday in May), to recognize the hard work and sacrifice made by those who work overnight to keep our communities running smoothly, International President Marc Perrone surprised several UFCW Local 2008 members at Kroger in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a late night visit in honor of National Third Shift Workers Day.

“To our members, and everyone who works through the night so that we can all enjoy the day – thank you,” said Perrone. “Thank you for making our communities better and for making a real difference in so many lives across this nation.”

UFCW International President Marc Perrone and Steve T. Gelios, president of UFCW Local 2008, with UFCW Local 2008 third shift workers at a Little Rock, Arkansas, Kroger.

Mark Ramos, president of UFCW Local 1428 in California, was also burning the midnight oil and visiting stores overnight to personally thank the hard-working men and women of the third shift for all they do.

“I was on third shift for 14 years when I worked in the stores,” said Ramos. “When I first started working nights, it took a few months to get used to it. You know, you never really get 8 hours of sleep. I’d take two naps instead. You learn to make it work.”

Ramos preferred to work third shift because the predictable schedule and hours let him take care of his kids and spend more time with his family during the day. The same applies for many of the members he spoke with during his visits.

“They are amazing folks. Most of them have families, and they work and then go home and do other things. The working moms who work that shift are some of the most incredible, courageous workers I know.”

 According to multiple studies, shift work is hard on both the body and mind. The risk of workplace injuries, obesity and depression are all increased if a person works overnight. Studies also suggest that third shift work impacts hormones that regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn lead to a higher risk of serious health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.

Despite these risks, there is no federal law requiring third shift workers to be provided with any extra pay or benefits. But in UFCW contracts all across the country, we negotiate premium pay for third shift workers to help provide them with the better life they’ve earned and deserve.

“Thank you for recognizing us,” said Beverly Martin, a UFCW Local 8-Golden State member who works at Savemart in California. “I work the third shift and have for six years now. We get looked-over for a lot of things.”

 “I provide Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday dinners for my fellow night crew members,” Martin went on to say. “By the time it’s our lunch, the food from the daytime party is gone or there’s not enough to go around. It may not seem like much to a day worker, but little things like that can really help to build up our team at night. So, here’s to those of us who work at night.”

April 16, 2018

A UFCW Retiree Recalls How She Typed Her Way Into History

 

“I had never made a speech before,” Blair said. “But I knew I had to say something.”

Fifty years ago, Bonnie Blair worked as a secretary at the Retail Clerks International Union in Memphis, Tennessee, which is now UFCW Local 1529. Her job ranged from typing bylaws to billing and bookkeeping for the local.

On February 1, 1968, two Memphis garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck. This tragedy was a tipping point for sanitation workers in Memphis, where black garbage haulers were prohibited from riding with the white drivers—forcing them to ride in back with the trash. Henry Loeb, who was mayor of Memphis at the time, refused to pay the workers a fair wage.

A few days after the tragedy, the sanitation workers, including garbage-collector-turned-union-organizer T. O. Jones, demanded the right to join a AFSCME Local 1733 for better wages and working conditions. Jones and the workers asked if someone from the Retail Clerks International Union could help type letters to Mayor Loeb from 33 men, asking him to meet with the workers and recognize their union. Blair agreed to help the workers.

Blair worked with T. O. Jones and typed each of the 33 letters on an IBM electric typewriter, and made carbon copies of each letter. When every man had signed their names, Jones delivered the letters to Mayor Loeb’s office. The mayor’s refusal to meet with the workers sparked the famous “I Am a Man” strike.

Blair continued to type the correspondence for the workers during the strike. Once night, she drove to a union hall, where hundreds of the sanitation workers were meeting, to deliver the material she had typed to Jones. When she got there, Jones asked her to speak to the crowd.

“I had never made a speech before,” Blair said. “But I knew I had to say something.”

She went to the stage and addressed the workers. “Don’t give up,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged. You have every right to be here and have a contract. God is on your side.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis on March 18 in support of the strike, which had attracted thousands of supporters. Blair and her husband joined the rally. Dr. King returned to Memphis to help the workers on April 3, and gave his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. He was killed the next day. The Sanitation Workers Strike ended on April 16 with a first union contract for the workers that included wage increases.

Blair has remained activist for social and economic justice, and attended the I AM 2018 Conference in Memphis this month, which marked the 50th anniversary of the Sanitation Workers Strike and Dr.  King’s death. She has advice for young activists who continue to fight for positive change 50 years later.

“Serve God where you are and do the right thing,” she said.

April 11, 2018

UFCW Member Spotlight: Joe Pacacha

For over 40 years, Joseph Pacacha has been going in to work at Riverbed Foods in Pittsburgh, PA where he helps process  quality store-branded soups, broths, gravies, and sauces for some of the nation’s top grocery chains. But when he’s not on the clock, Pacacha, like so many other unsung every day working men and women, spends his free time volunteering to make his community a better place.

Pacacha restores old bamboo fly fishing rods and donates them to Project Healing Waters, an organization that is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.

“It’s very rewarding. I’m just proud to be a part of it, really,” said Pacacha. “I may never see the people who get these rods, but just knowing that you’re helping out, it’s very worthwhile.”

How you can help

If you’ve got an old bamboo fly rod, serviceable as is or in need of repair, that you would like to donate to Project Healing Waters, you can send it to Joe Pacacha at PO Box 38, 536 Walnut Ave., Hunker PA 15639. For information on making monetary donations to Project Healing Waters, visit www.projecthealingwaters.org . Contributions specifically for the bamboo rod project should be identified as such on your check.


Are you or do you know a UFCW member who is doing great things in your community? Tell us about it at submissions@ufcw.org.

 

April 6, 2018

April 10th is Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day is recognized on different days depending on the year and the country because it symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Another way of looking at it is that if men and women both started working January 1, 2017, then men got to stop working December 31 and the women have been working since then for free. That’s because women made 22% less on average in 2017 than men. The gap only gets wider when you also take race and ethnicity into consideration.

According to the Economic Policy Institute:

“While April 10th is the overall Equal Pay Day, the gaps for women of color are even larger. As compared to white men, women of color have to work even further into 2018 to make up for the wage deficit they experienced in 2017. Black women’s equal pay day is August 7th, Native American women’s equal pay day is September 27th, and Latina equal pay day doesn’t come until November 1st, almost an entire second year of working to equal typical white male wages in 2017.”

The good news is that even though all the factors that contribute to women earning less than men are complicated, simply belonging to union and having the support that comes from being part of a union family goes a long way in evening out the wage gap. Unions raise wages in women-dominated service occupations (which include food service and janitorial services). Union women working in those industries make 87% more in total compensation and 56% more in wages than their nonunion counterparts. And overall, hourly wages for union women are 9% higher on average than for nonunionized women.

Peace of Mind

“There are probably Federal Laws that protect non-union workers but having such language in your contract makes it easier. I know my union will fight for me,” says Jennifer Rios. “Under a union contract, depending on your job classification, we’re all paid the same. We all move through the same progression steps. With the guaranteed wage increases, I’m able to do a little extra for my family, such as planning a family outing bowling.”

“The guaranteed wage increase helped me and my family a lot,” echoes Local 338 member Evony, who works at Duane Reade in New York. “It’s helped me pay my bills and doing more for my kids. Unlike non-union workers, we know we’re getting our set raise.”

Crystal Quarles worked at a teacher for nearly 15 years and made $8/ an hour with no health insurance. When she started at Kroger in 2014, she joined the UFCW Local 700 without hesitation. Because of her 6 month wage increases she is now at her top rate of pay. As a single mom, she is very glad to have a contract where women are paid the same amount as men for the same work.

Equal Opportunity

Being paid different amounts for the same level of work isn’t the only thing that keeps women stuck earning less. Sometimes, it’s lack of access to higher paid positions. There again unions help ensure equal access to opportunities for advancement for all workers.

In March of 2014 Marlenny Solaris, a UFCW Local 342 member, heard there may be a job opening she could bid on at the nursing home where she worked.  This Porter job was typically performed by men in the Porter classification, and she was told by the Supervisor that it was not a woman’s job. When the Home did not put the posting up, Solaris bid on another job and got it. Only after she received her new position did her supervisor post the full-time Porter classification job Solaris had originally expressed interest in.

Local 342 Representatives backed Solaris when she again applied for the now posted Porter position and then she got it.  This paved the way for more women who have since taken jobs at the nursing home as Porters. Her situation also shows how the ways in which women can be prevented from having access to higher-paid positions can be complicated, because without a union there to represent her, there’s little chance Solaris would have been able to even apply for the position she was qualified for and had expressed an interest in.

Training

Union membership also helps provide training to help level the playing field for hardworking men and women, regardless of gender.

“I didn’t have to take out a student loan to become a pharmacy Technician,” says Margarita Alejandro, a UFCW Local 1428 member who works at CVS in California. “Thanks to my union contract I’m able to get on the job training from my clerk position to technician and to make more money and provide for my family.”

 

November 28, 2017

Giving back this holiday season

With the relationships UFCW members build with customers in our stores, we see first hand the difficult decisions many in our communities are forced to make every day in order to provide for their loved ones. That’s one reason we’re eager to help those in our communities in need — because no one should have to struggle alone, especially during the holiday season.

From hosting “giving trees” to organizing food drives, UFCW locals all across the country are kicking into high gear to help make the holidays a little brighter for the folks who could use a little extra support.

In the northeast, UFCW Local 1500 is doing a Toy Drive for the John Theissen Children’s Foundation. Since 1992, the foundation has collected over 920,000 new toys and have donated them to sick and underprivileged children in hospitals and child-care facilities.

Local 152 does an annual Teddy Bear Drive to collect stuffed animals for Santa to give away at the holiday dinner dance for ARC of Burlington County, which provides a variety of disability services including adult day care and in home supportive services.

Earlier this month, RWDSU/UFCW Local 338  delivered 200 turkeys donated by Local 338 members to several food pantries and charitable organizations throughout New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County as part of the union’s annual “Turkey Drive.”

Local 338 members weren’t the only ones out making sure everyone could have a nice holiday feast. On the other side of the country, Local 1428 members in California held a turkey giveaway over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Are you a UFCW member with a story of how union members in your area are giving back? Drop us a line at submissions@ufcw.org or send us your story on our Facebook page and let us know how you are making a difference.

 

 

November 19, 2017

2017 UFCW Charity Foundation Scholarship Winners Announced

Every year the UFCW scholarship program offers scholarships to UFCW members or their immediate family members who want to further their education and demonstrate a commitment to their communities and to UFCW values.  Since 1958, the fund has distributed more than $2 million in scholarships.*

Past winners have gone on to make significant contributions to society and to the UFCW – entering a range of fields including public service, medicine, law, business and teaching.  Many have returned to the UFCW as staffers, organizers, and community activists who contribute to our mission.

*UFCW-employed officers and staff, and their immediate families are not eligible for this program.

Here are this year’s winners:

Region 1:

JuliAnna Picardi
Local 328

Region 2:

Melissa Quintero Segura
Local 1208

Region 4:

Rebecca Price
Local 227

Region 5:

Alison Martin
Local 1995

Region 6:

Ellyse Kealy
Local 881

Region 7:

Matthew Moore
Local 555

Region 8:

Chelsea Diaz
Local 1428

Canada:

Michael Piaseczny
Local 175

October 20, 2017

National Food Bank Week

This week is National Food Bank Week, a reminder to start thinking about the ways we can help others as the holiday season approaches. Food banks are, sadly, an all too necessary and common feature of life in the United States today, where low wages leave too many families forced to choose between paying bills and buying groceries.

Every human being has a fundamental right to be free from hunger and the right to adequate food. That means having enough money to buy food, but also having access to grocery stores and the time and resources to cook healthy meals. Nutritious food can be expensive, making a balanced diet a luxury for many. Loss of a job, a family tragedy, poor health, or an accident can leave anyone unsure of where the next meal is coming from.

We know better than anyone how hard UFCW members work to put food on the table for America’s families – and our union family also believes that no hardworking man or woman should struggle alone.

In 2016, in partnership with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) in their “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive, UFCW members helped break a Guinness World Record—80 million pounds of food collected for the largest single day food drive in world history.

Thank you to all the volunteers and staff of the food banks who so many depend on. By working together, we know we can get rid of hunger in our communities.