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Member Spotlight: Towanda Carter

towandaTowanda Carter was recently recognized by UFCW Region 1 for her outstanding service as a union member and for helping her fellow workers, both at her own workplace and elsewhere.

After noticing unfair treatment of workers at her job working at Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens Inc. in 2005, Towanda and her coworkers filed to unionize with the UFCW Local 888. Her strong morale and sense of member engagement among her colleagues helped them win their first union contract in 2006.

Towanda says that working in a metroarea at a non-profit revealed to her how people are often mistreated at work, especially when they are vulnerable. Although she works for a charitable faith-based organization, management had a very anti-union stance.  The Workers were under-paid, demoralized and lacking adequate company health care–leaving many to seek charity care. Many could not provide for their families without assistance from social welfare programs. That’s why Towanda was so adamant about spreading the word about the benefits of being a union member.

Years later, Towanda is a Chief Shop Steward, representing her fellow union members on both the Bargaining and Labor Management Committees. She has also expanded her efforts to help working people throughout her community, not just her own workplace.

As a Medical Coordinator serving the less fortunate for twenty years, Towanda has been a voice of justice for her fellow union members since the beginning. She has seen her coworkers through countless grievances and group grievances, and mediations and arbitrations–all as part of their ongoing struggle to keep their employer accountable to the collective bargaining agreement they all worked so hard for.

Towanda says she was surprised to learn she had been picked to be recognized for a member award, but honored as well. Her advice for other members trying to ensure that workers have respect on the job and at the bargaining table? “Be proactive. Be active!”

Union members and activists like Towanda make our union strong. Standing together, we can all make a difference.

Sign the Petition to Support Bloomingfoods Workers and Their Right to Organize!

Sign the Petition Here to Take Action!

Bloomingfoods Shift Supervisor Natascha Buehnerkemper via https://www.facebook.com/unite.bloomingfoods

Bloomingfoods Shift Supervisor Natascha Buehnerkemper via https://www.facebook.com/unite.bloomingfoods

Workers at Bloomingfoods Market & Deli co-op grocery store in Indiana have been standing together, calling for a recognition and neutrality agreement while they exercise their right to organize, as well as for their employer to stop consulting with anti-union law firms in order to interfere with the workers’ basic rights.

The right of workers to engage in concerted activities in order to try to improve working conditions is a keystone of labor relations, and is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.

The workers at Bloomingfoods are aiming to ensure that their basic worker rights are protected and upheld, so that Bloomingfoods can remain an important part of the community, and reflects the residents’ values of commitment to social justice, equal rights, and sustainability.

One worker at Bloomingfoods has said that she supports the union movement at her workplace because she wants Bloomingfoods to return to its mission of valuing workers–which means fair wages, improved access to benefits, safer working conditions, and “a bit of security in an incredibly insecure environment.”
Jordan, another employee at Bloomingfoods, has been working there for four years. “In my job,” he says, “I see a lot of people working very hard with pride in the things that they do. Many people with families to support. I feel as though a lot of these people are unrecognized throughout the company. After my years spent with this company, I finally feel as though a union is necessary. I have personal reasons, as well as reasons that other people have confided in me, that have led me to believe that this cannot be done alone. These reasons have been confided to me, and not put out in the open, because job security is not something that can be promised without a union backing us up. It is our legal right to unionize, so that should be reason enough to support employees making this decision. But more than that, now is YOUR chance to speak up. My coworkers and I need the community’s support now more than ever. It cannot be done alone, and it cannot be done in silence.”

You can help them by signing a petition, started by a concerned customer, here.

Some of the many people who have signed have expressed why they feel it was important to do so. One signer said:

“Bloomingfoods believes that it has an obligation to ‘educate the community to the economic, social and other beneficial values inherent in organizing community services…’ In that spirit, it would be counter to their mission to obstruct union organization efforts in any way.”

Another agreed that, “Employees anywhere should be able to exercise their right to organize without opposition.”

You can find more information about the Bloomingfoods workers standing up for a voice on the job by checking out their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/unite.bloomingfoods

Community supporters have voiced their concerns on the facebook page as well, noting that they are willing to take their business elsewhere if they employees are not respected. Other co-op workers who have fought to unionize their workplaces have shown support too.

According to an article in the Indiana Daily Student, “Solidarity Forever!” has become the unofficial motto of the workers of Bloomingfoods. It is only through solidarity that the employees and community members that support them can ensure they have a protected voice on the job. 

In an expression of this solidarity, workers of Bloomingfoods have hosted rallies to garner more community awareness and support, with great turnout. We support the employees of Bloomingfoods as they stand together to can make a difference in their workplace!

 


				

Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: UFCW Steward Idalid Guerrero

It’s now the third week of Hispanic Heritage Month, and we’re celebrating by showcasing the story of a UFCW steward named Idalid Guerrero. Read her story about making a difference in one’s union and community, below:

Idalid GuerreroUFCW stewards play a special role in their plants. They are leaders who protect their co-workers and ensure that our plants and workplaces are safe, everyone is treated with respect, and our jobs stay good jobs. Stewards are also not just leaders in our plants, though. Stewards also play important roles in our communities.

Many stewards take their leadership skills and apply them to fight for people and causes that extend outside the plants. As part of the UFCW union, stewards know workers have strength in numbers and a voice on the job. Because stewards and union workers are united and have a strong voice, they can take our numbers and voices beyond the plants to help fight for those who do not have one.

As a UFCW steward, you are part of a proud tradition of fighting for issues important to workers and working families. From fighting to raise the minimum wage, to combating right-to-work legislation, to pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, stewards use their union voices to fight for all working people.

“As stewards, we know that we are there to be leaders and to help solve problems for our co-workers in our plants. But there are also problems for those who work outside of our plants. They need help too,” said Idalid Guerrero, steward at the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Lufkin Texas, and UFCW Local 540 member. “Getting involved in campaigns and actions outside of the plant gives us a chance to help other workers who might be afraid to speak up for change or might not have a voice on the job. With the support of our union, we can be their voice and bring attention to important issues for all workers.”

Last year, Guerrero joined other UFCW Pilgrim’s Pride workers from across the country in a national lobby day in Washington, D.C. Guerrero and her co-workers met with U.S. representatives and senators and asked them to raise the standards for workers in the poultry industry. “It was a great opportunity to meet other Pilgrim’s Pride workers and share our stories about the nature of our jobs, and how the industry impacts our families, and communities. It was an opportunity for us to come together as union workers and let our political leaders know we have a voice. We are fighting not just for Pilgrim’s Pride workers, but for poultry workers all across America,” Guerrero continued.

Guerrero also participated in a protest held outside of the U.S. Capitol in response to House Republican leaders failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. She and other UFCW stewards and activists joined thousands of people from across the country to march in Washington, D.C. She was just one of the many arrested in an action of civil disobedience to draw attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. “I went to Washington as both a worker and a mother. We deserve reform that is humane and just and keeps families together. I was arrested in solidarity with all immigrants who are calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

UFCW stewards are leaders who stand together to protect workers in their plants and also across the country. To become involved in issues important to workers contact your local union representative or your legislative & political representative (LPR).

“Getting involved in campaigns and actions outside of the plant gives us a chance to help other workers who might be afraid to speak up for change or might not have a voice on the job. With the support of our union, we can be their voice and bring attention to important issues for all workers.”–Idalid Guerrero, UFCW Local 540 member and Pilgrim’s Pride plant steward, Lufkin Texas