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UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill Honored for Efforts to Help Walmart Workers

imageLast week, UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill was honored by the UMass Dartmouth Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center during their annual awards banquet.

For 35 years, the center has served “as a bridge between working people, their communities, organizations, and UMass Dartmouth.” Their awards and dinner banquet are one of the largest gatherings of labor leaders and activists in the area.

The Southeastern Massachusetts labor movement joined the center in honoring UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill for his work with the UFCW’s Walmart campaigns.

“I am honored to accept it on behalf of the 1.3 million members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union,” said Pat as he accepted his award.

He continued:

Brothers and sisters, we are at crossroads in the labor movement. There is no sugarcoating it.Workers are struggling to make ends meet. More and more families are falling behind. Income inequality is getting worse. Minimum wage workers are living in poverty. Hard working immigrants are still living in the shadows.

But in too many corners of our movement, labor is trying to address 21st century challenges with 20th century solutions. It is not working. Some will tell you we need more time—that things will get back to normal eventually.

I say if you’re heading toward a cliff at 100 miles an hour, you don’t need more time. You need a change in direction. That is why I am so proud of our dynamic and forward-looking Walmart campaign.

There are those who say Walmart is too big, too entrenched, and too powerful. That we don’t stand a chance against the world’s largest retailer.

Every important battle for justice has had its share of naysayers. It is always easier to analyze than to mobilize.

Here is what I believe—when we stand together and work together and fight together and dream together—there is nothing we cannot achieve. Last week, Walmart workers and their allies sent shockwaves across the country. They shut down Park Avenue in front of Alice Walton’s $25 million penthouse. They set up a blockade of K Street in front of the Walton Family Foundation in Washington, DC. And they delivered thousands of petitions to the Phoenix home of Walmart Chair Rob Walton calling on the company to give workers $15 dollars and full-time hours. The media coverage surrounding these events was substantial and a clear message was sent to the Walton family and Walmart executives: workers will not be pushed around.”

UFCW Locals 1455 and  328 were in attendance to support Pat as well.

 

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!