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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.

Labor Unions Make a Difference in Working Lives of Black Women, New Report Finds

black women reportA new report released last week by Black Women’s Roundtable examines the state of black women across the country over the last six decades and shows that while significant progress has been made since Brown v. Board of Education, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other key historic markers, there are many crucial social and economic issues that still need to be addressed. The report, titled Black Women in the United States, 2014, draws on data from the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services and shows that while black women are more vulnerable to health problems and violence than other groups, they are making social and economic strides in terms of education and business and have benefitted from union membership.

In particular, black women in the U.S. have maintained a higher rate of unionization than other groups.  In addition, black women who are covered under collective bargaining agreements make higher wages and have greater access to benefits than women of all races or ethnicities who are not unionized.

A full copy of the report can be found at

http://ncbcp.org/news/releases/BWR.Final_Black_Women_in_the_US_2014Report.pdf.

Dream Defenders Draw on Peaceful Protest Methods of MLK to Create Social Change

There are only a few days left in Black History Month, but we continue to celebrate those who fight for civil rights throughout the year. The Dream Defenders, a group dedicated to  social change, does so by “training and organizing youth and students in nonviolent civil disobedience, civic engagement, and direct action while creating a sustainable network of youth and student leaders to take action and create real change in their communities.”

credit: dreamdefenders.tumblr.com

The Dream Defenders work to directly confront the sources, sponsors, and supporters of racism and the criminalization of “our generation.” The mission of the Dream Defenders is carried out using peaceful methods, like those carried out by Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. Listed under “Pledge” on their website, the Dream Defenders organization says “We defend the right of all to a quality education and to live lives free of police brutality, racial profiling, and mass incarceration. We defend the right of all to happiness with whomever they choose. We believe that nonviolence, love & unity will always triumph over racism and hate. We will not rest, until victory is won.”

These values directly correlate with what union members fight for every day, and will continue to do so, because workers rights are civil rights. The Dream Defenders also note that a huge part of the crisis they are trying to combat is the economic disparity more and more people are living in. Together, unions and our allies, such as the Dream Defenders, are working to create change like raising the minimum wage that will reverse increasing poverty rates. Through their many campaigns, like “The World is Ours: Voter Mobilization and Civic Engagement”, Dream Defenders also works on economic, social, and political issues that The UFCW actively works toward as well.

Learn more about the Dream Defenders and their quest to end inequality by following them on Twitter @Dreamdefenders

Check them out at last year’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington here.