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Celebrating UFCW Moms: Local 1189 Rep and Single Mother Tamara Jones on The Importance of the Labor Movement and Why She Loves Being Union

Tamara Jones has been a proud UFCW member for 14 years, and has been on staff since 2007.  She worked in activities at Viewcrest Health Center, in Duluth, Minnesota where she was a union steward and then became a member of the UFCW Local 1116 Executive Board prior to becoming a Union Representative.  She is also the Region 6 Coordinator for the UFCW OUTReach , a member of the UFCW Women’s Network, leader of the Northern Division Community Services Committee, board member of the 7th Senate District DFL Board, Fightin’ 15 Precinct Chair, President of the Carlton County Central Labor Body, member of the AFL-CIO/United Way Community Services committee, serves as a member of the Northeast Area Labor Council Executive Board, serves as a member of the Duluth Central Labor Body Executive Board, serves on the United Way Executive Board, is immediate past-President of the International Labour Council, and is a master Trustee with the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

This is her story:

One of my favorite mothers, Mother Jones (sadly, no relation) said that we should mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Growing up, I remember learning about the labor movement in my history classes. I learned about the railroad strikes, the Chicago Teamsters’ strike, the Pullman strike – and what I remember the most is that people died to make what we take for granted now possible.

It’s a sobering thought, but even today, all over the world, the labor struggle is real. It is violent. And people die. It’s why you should call your Senators and your Representatives and tell them to oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The countries involved, namely Brunei and Malaysia, have horrific records of human rights abuses, and if we condone entering into trade with these countries, we are no better than they are.

It’s a grim reality.

However, there are glimmers of hope. Our union, UFCW, has been a strong advocate for workers around the globe. Through our partnership and support of UNI Global Union, they have successfully negotiated Colombia’s first ever collective agreement in the retail sector at Carrefour Colombia. It has a woman as president and it is thousands strong. UNI Global Union has over 52 agreements signed with multinational corporations across the globe, aimed at improving working conditions, better wages, and ensuring that corporations act responsibly with regards to their workers.

Here at home, UFCW has been blazing trails with its newly-formed constituency group, UFCW OUTReach. UFCW OUTReach is dedicated to building mutual support between our union’s International, regions, and locals and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and their allies in order to come together to organize for social and economic justice for all, regardless of age, race, gender, creed, color, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

I’m proud to sit on the UFCW OUTReach executive board. Since our formation, we have worked to advocate inclusion of transgender health care benefits in our insurance plans. We have worked to educate our locals about the specific issues transgender individuals face when encountering immigration, and have advocated for immigration reform, especially ensuring that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters aren’t sent back into situations where they may be persecuted to death. We have educated many locals about the issues that are important to us as workers and as LGBTQ people, and encouraged them to educate their members as well as their legislators so we can avoid discriminatory legislation. We have partnered with excellent organizations to make sure that we are at the forefront of LGBTQ workers’ rights and are constantly advocating and empowering our rank-and-file members in their workplace to take a stand against discrimination.

The things listed above are things that I’m so proud of our union being involved in, I could burst.

However, what I’m most proud of in our labor movement has a more personal side. I am a single mom of four kids, two girls, aged 9 and 2 ½, and two boys, aged 7 and 5. My seven year-old has sensory processing disorder and ADHD. It has been a long journey to get him to where he is today.

Through my contractually-provided health insurance, he has access to the therapies and medications he needs to be successful in the world.  Through the contractually-obligated medical leave I have, I was able to not worry about being off and meeting my bills when I nearly died when my 2 ½ year-old was born.

Through the support of my brothers and sisters in the union, who have helped me countless times with transporting my children here or there or watching them while I advocate for them at the capitol, or have to take another child to an appointment, or handle a grievance, my children have learned and seen what the union is really about: taking care of each other. Not just in the workplace, but in our daily lives.

They’ve marched on the picket lines, they’ve been to rallies, and they’ve helped with food drives. To them, union isn’t a dirty word or joke. To them, it means family.

I probably overuse this quote from Paul Wellstone, but it really encapsulates everything that is good about the labor movement: “We all do better when we all do better.”

Being part of the labor movement is the only way to ensure that my children will be able to do better, no matter what they choose to do in life. Be it a spy nurse (7 year-old), a construction engineer (5 year-old), a fashion designer-teacher (9 year-old), or the world’s most stubborn person (2 ½ year old), the union has paved their way and will continue to pave their way.

Tamara's daughter Hazel, age 5

Tamara’s daughter Hazel

The whole gang: (From Top to Bottom) Walter, Leo, Marjorie, and Hazel

The whole gang: (From Top to Bottom) Walter, Leo, Marjorie, and Hazel

Tamara's son Walter, age 6

Tamara’s son Walter,

Celebrating UFCW Moms: New UFCW Member Loves Her Job and Security of Being a Union Member

maggieTo continue our celebration of UFCW moms, we’re sharing the story of Local 1000 member Maggie Duhig-Freeman.

Maggie is a single divorced mom working at Kroger Marketplace in Lewisville, Texas, supporting her family and finishing college.

A little over a month ago, Maggie began working at her store and had started training. After her orientation, a 25 year UFCW member and rep came by the store to reach out to new folks and let them know about the union, and to see how members were doing.

Texas is a right to work state, but after Maggie learned about what a union is, she said she definitely wanted to give it a try.

“It sounded like a great idea,” Maggie says, “We talked about how the union can help facilitate interventions if there is ever a workplace dispute. They are there to really support the employees. I haven’t had any trouble at my store, but you never know what can happen!”

Maggie loves the people and her job as a cashier at Kroger Marketplace, and has now been a union member for about a month.

Maggie has never been in a union before but she had many people tell her that she should go for a union job.

“Belonging to the union is inexpensive, and in our store which is very big, it’s nice to have UFCW people, who have relationships with management and other employees who you may not have ever met help you get to know everyone and how things operate. Everyone here is awesome,” she says.

She also notes that if her store were to ever go on strike, the employees have the option to choose whether or not to join it, but as union member she would be out there fighting. “When you’re invested in something, they will go to bat for you.”

Another thing Maggie values about being in the union is her union benefits. The paid family and sick leave and the good union benefits in her contract will be very helpful someday, she says, adding that as a single mom, she needs that sort of support.

In her spare time, Maggie also volunteers, a lot. She is a notary official for the state of Texas, helping her community members get the important documents they need notarized. She has also been volunteering at her community food bank for six years, helping unpack donations—many of which come from her own workplace, where employees including herself and customers can buy bags of groceries as part of a donation program to the Denton County Food Bank.

When she was younger, Maggie also volunteered at several political conventions, where she enjoyed listening to various candidates speeches. This inspired her to be even more involved politically—she now volunteers at polling places and worked the polls for President Obama’s campaign during his second election.

Maggie is a wonderful member of her community, and we are happy to welcome her to the union family and congratulate her on her union job that enables her to take care of her family!

Are you a union mom too? Share your story with us at  http://www.ufcw.org/resources/members/share-your-story/

Celebrating UFCW Moms: Local 655 Member Fights Right To Work; Stands Up for Union Rights that Gave Her and Her Daughter Better Life

theresaWith Mother’s Day right around the corner, we couldn’t think of a better time to celebrate the great work that UFCW mothers do, each and every day!

One such union mom, Theresa Hester of UFCW Local 655, recently shared her story of how the union has changed her life in a testimony before the Missouri State Senate to explain why Right to Work laws are wrong:

In 1998, Theresa moved to St. Louis after graduating from high school. That year, she established three goals her herself: continue her education, provide a better living for herself and her young daughter, and get off government assistance.

For a few years, she moved from job to job, but none allowed her to be able to support her daughter the way she wanted – until 2003 when she started working at Shop ‘n Save and became a member of UFCW Local 655.

Unfortunately, that same year, she and her co-workers were forced to go on strike in order to save their healthcare and benefits.  Theresa experienced union solidarity first-hand, saying “we were out there, walking day and night, fighting for the things we needed to support our families. The thing that stood out to me was how united we were on our common issues during that period. I realized the real power of a union is how people come together.”

Theresa has come a long way since that first eye-opening experience and has now been a Local 655 member for 12 years. She says that being a union member has allowed her to raise her daughter in a good environment, and have the flexible scheduling she needs to attend PTA meetings or participate in after school activities with her daughter. “There’s no greater feeling than knowing you can tell your child that you’ll be at their performance, or Christmas party, or whatever the case may be,” she says.

Additionally, Theresa’s union job has enabled her to meet the goals she set for herself years ago. She now lives in North St. Louis in a home she owns and is able to afford. Not only does she no longer need government assistance, she was able to pay for and attend accounting school.

“I know personally the benefits of having a union job and what it does for hardworking families,” Theresa told the state Senate during her testimony. “I’m free to work any place I choose.”

That’s why Theresa has been speaking out about Right to Work laws in her state. When she talks to her co-workers and friends about the legislation, they are very concerned because the proposed law is so confusing, deceptive, and has such potential to hurt hard-working families.

Theresa argues that legislators should be discussing raising the minimum wage, creating jobs that pay living wages, and investing in education and infrastructure. She knows that Right to Work laws create unsafe workplaces, weaken worker power, and diminish the likelihood of workers having a pension or healthcare.

“Because I have a union job, I sleep easier at night knowing I have great benefits, better working conditions, great healthcare, and a voice that someone will hear,” Theresa says. She gives credit to her local union (UFCW Local 655) and the contract she and her co-workers help to negotiate for making that possible.

Our union family wouldn’t be what it is without your brave, strong, and united voices. Are you a UFCW mom, or a member with a story to share? Tell us at http://www.ufcw.org/resources/members/share-your-story/.