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UFCW Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Lyndon B. Johnson, flanked by Martin Luther King, Jr., signs the Civil Rights Act

Lyndon B. Johnson, flanked by Martin Luther King, Jr., signs the Civil Rights Act

This week, President Obama paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act during a visit to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin and paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In spite of the advances we have made over the last 50 years—including the election of our first African American president—the fight for social and economic justice continues.  Our economy’s increasing reliance on low-wage, part-time work has widened the gap between the rich and poor, and the desperation of so many Americans who just need a job has emboldened many businesses to exploit their workers, cut wages and benefits, and punish those who speak out and try to better their lives.

In the retail sector alone, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States and an important employer of minorities and women, too many workers are struggling to survive in low-wage, part-time jobs with little to no benefits.  That’s why it’s critically important that employers in the retail sector lead the way in providing good jobs with benefits so that workers in this growing industry can make enough to support their families and contribute to their local economies and communities.  Walmart—the world’s largest retailer—is a good place to start.

As the largest private employer in the country, Walmart’s low-wage, part-time business model has had a detrimental impact on our country’s labor, business, and employment climate.  The retail giant’s drive to lower wages has influenced other retailers to do the same and lowered the standard of living for millions of retail workers across the country.

The need to mobilize for social and economic equality has never been stronger, and the UFCW is honored to carry on the work of President Johnson and civil rights leaders by fighting for social and economic justice in the retail industry and in our communities.

This Equal Pay Day, We Still Strive for Equal Pay for Equal Work

Equal-Pay-Day-AdHere’s a sad fact: the average working woman would have to keep working until today, almost two weeks into April, to make what a man doing the same job made in 2013. We call today Equal Pay Day, a day to remember that women still only get paid 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make and to demand equality in the workplace. Over the course of their working lives, women make between $400,000 and $2 million less than they would if they were paid fairly.

That’s why it’s so important that the Senate has decided to consider the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would stiffen penalties for corporations that discriminate against women.

It’s been nearly 50 years since President Kennedy signed legislation that first barred gender-based pay discrimination. But when Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, can get away with paying women $5,000 less than men a year, it’s clear we need stronger protections.

Equal pay isn’t just a woman’s issue – it’s a family issue. Families increasingly rely on women’s wages to make ends meet — women are now the primary or only breadwinner in 40 percent of households. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for groceries, rent, doctors’ visits, and their children’s education.

When workers form a union to bargain for wages and benefits, women are protected from pay discrimination. In fact, studies show that a union voice improves a women workers’ wages more than a year of college. But UFCW members know that all workers deserve fair pay.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is a huge win-win for women workers and their families. Now we need to speak up and let the Senate know that it’s time for paycheck fairness, and that we’re ready to hold them accountable if they don’t act.

Click here to write your Senator today!

Moms Take On Walmart, AND WIN!

Reposted from Making Change at Walmart

wm momsUnder pressure from mothers working in their stores and women’s groups, Walmart recently altered its policy around accommodating pregnant women. As reported last weekend in the Washington Post, Walmart reworked its policy so that women with pregnancy-related complications that could be considered “temporary disabled” and would be eligible for “reasonable accommodation.”

While this policy fails to provide reasonable accommodations regarding physical demands for all pregnant women, it is a step forward in protecting the health of the most vulnerable pregnant women and their babies.

The change in policy comes after an intense mobilization effort on behalf of pregnant Walmart workers. Members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) initially began discussing the troubles they had during their pregnancies online. After comparing notes, the women found that all around the country, pregnant Walmart workers faced very similar challenges.

“Lots of women are afraid to even say they’re pregnant at Walmart, because they’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs or be forced to leave,” said Tiffany Beroid, a Walmart worker and OUR Walmart member.

Beroid was one of the original members of what later became known as “Respect the Bump.” When she was seven months into her second pregnancy, she started experiencing complications. Her blood pressure would swing widely and her doctor insisted that she alter her behavior at work for the safety of her and her baby.

When Beroid took her doctor’s note requesting light-duty work to her managers, they waited a week to respond while she was unable to work. When they did get back to her, they said they didn’t have any light-duty work at her pay scale ($.40 above other positions) and therefore she would have to take a leave of absence.

According to the Washington Post:

“With no work, Beroid couldn’t afford tuition payments for her community college nursing program, which meant missing the final exam; she’ll have to take the class over. Her husband, a security guard, pulled 18-hour shifts to keep paying the rent.”

Along with her new friends from Respect the Bump, Beroid and others began to mobilize. In Minnesota, workers held an event around scheduling issues for single mothers. They sent a letter to Walmart’s headquarters about how pregnant women and mothers were being treated. A group of Walmart workers who are also shareholders put a resolution on the ballot of Walmart’s upcoming shareholders’ meeting calling for a change in pregnancy policies.

Shortly thereafter, Walmart overhauled their pregnancy policy. While the announcement is a huge acknowledgement of the workers who have been urging Walmart to change, they say there is still a long way to go. Now it’s essential that the new policy is enforced and that reasonable accommodations are extended to all pregnant women.