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UFCW President Hansen Statement on the Mother of Michael Brown

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement regarding UFCW member Lesley McSpadden whose son Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

“At the UFCW, we are a family.  When tragedy strikes one of us, it is felt by all of us.

Our sister Lesley McSpadden, a member of UFCW Local 88, is dealing with the loss of her son Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

We have watched the unfolding events in Ferguson—from Michael Brown’s death to the police response that has targeted peaceful protestors and journalists for exercising their first amendment rights. This entire episode highlights systemic problems that still plague our nation—abject poverty, the lack of good jobs, an absence of racial diversity in the halls of power.

We need to address these challenges head on—and labor has a role to play by offering workers the opportunity for a better life.  In the meantime, we stand in solidarity with our sister Lesley McSpadden and join her calls for a fair investigation and justice under the law.”

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

Paid Family Leave Benefits Working Mothers

family_leave_blog_photoPaid family leave has long been an important issue to both working families nationwide and the UFCW, and recent economic data has shown support for instituting paid family leave in America. A recent New York Times article by Claire Cain Miller looks at the recent drop in the percentage of women in the U.S. workforce – those who are working or want to work.  The article, based on a July 2014 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, asserts that the drop, while small, has an impact on the overall labor force and can be attributed to stalled progress on family-friendly policies. An important fix, they explain, would be providing paid family leave, which would encourage women to stay in the labor force during motherhood.

The report explains that policies and developments like the Earned Income Tax Credit, birth control, household technology, and increased educational attainment among women caused the rise in labor force participation among women. The report also found that in other advanced countries, family-friendly policies played a part in advancing women’s participation in the workforce. The US has not seen a rise in women’s participation in the workforce since 1990, and the report suggests that’s because of the lack of family friendly policies like paid parental leave and paid family sick leave.

Both Miller and the White House report look to California, with a state Paid Family Leave income-compensation program, as an encouraging example of the effect of paid parental leave. The most promising statistics: low-income mothers more than doubled their the time they took for parental leave after giving birth, and they increased significantly the number of hours mothers worked two to three years after giving birth. There’s no doubt that access to paid family leave is an important factor in whether mothers choose to remain in the labor force after giving birth, as it allows the mother to keep her job and financial stability.

That’s why the UFCW is a strong advocate of paid parental and sick leave for both women and men and why we advocate for these kind of policies in Congress and fight for them in our own union contracts. Women, especially those who work low-wage jobs, face many barriers as they struggle to balance work and a family life. Paid family leave would be an important step in ensuring family economic security for both women and men.

The BPA Act: Fighting Breast Cancer among Women in Manufacturing

BPA is a toxic chemical that has been linked to increased rates of breast cancer among women in many job sectors, including food packing. (Infographic by the BlueGreen Alliance)

BPA is a toxic chemical that has been linked to increased rates of breast cancer among women in many job sectors, including food packing. (Infographic by the BlueGreen Alliance & UFCW)

Even today, women who work in middle-class jobs across America face pronounced barriers and gender discrimination in the workplace, as exemplified by the recent Demos report on gender inequality in retail wages. However, workplace inequality can manifest in other, more subtle ways – such as the manufacture of products containing Bisphenol-A, or BPA.

BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical, which alters hormone production and behavior, disrupting the body’s normal functions. In a 2012 six-year study, BPA was found to have a pronounced effect on women who work in the automotive plastics and the food packaging industries.

These women are five times more likely to have breast cancer than women who work in other industries.

BPA, which is found in the epoxy lining of the metal food can and released into the air during the food canning process, was banned by the FDA in the manufacture of baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging. Many private companies have taken further steps to remove BPA from products. However, BPA exposure is still a problem for thousands of manufacturing and packaging workers in America.

In order to address this problem, the UFCW has joined allies such as the Communications Workers of America, the United Steelworkers, and the United Automobile Workers in supporting the Ban Poisonous Additives Act, or the BPA Act.

The BPA Act would remove BPA from food packaging, encourage the development of safe alternatives, and ensure a thorough safety review of all currently used substances in food and beverage containers. It is currently in committee in the House, where it needs to be passed by the House and the Senate and approved by the President before it becomes a law.

This brochure, produced by the BlueGreen Alliance and UFCW, contains useful information about the growing problem of breast cancer among working women.