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UFCW JBS Workers Lobby to Protect Workers in the Beef and Pork Industries

UFCW JBS workers met with USDA/GIPSA Administrator Larry Mitchell along with numerous members of Congress to lobby for meatpacking workers.

UFCW JBS workers met with USDA/GIPSA Administrator Larry Mitchell along with numerous members of Congress to lobby for meatpacking workers.

Last week, UFCW JBS beef and pork workers traveled to Washington, D.C. for a series of lobby days to advocate for workers who are facing hardships in the meatpacking industry. Members from UFCW Locals 7R, 227, 293, 435, 540, 951, 1149, 1161, 1473, and 1776 visited with White House staff, numerous members of Congress, the DOL, and also the USDA.

During their sessions with congressmen and department officials, workers shared their stories of how they are negatively impacted by cattle shortages due to the severe drought, and hog shortages because of the PED virus.

“We’re used to working 50-60 hours a week. Now because of the drought we’re seeing a lot less work because there just aren’t enough cattle to slaughter,” said Tim Gavaldon, a JBS beef plant worker from Greeley, Colo., and member of UFCW Local 7R. “It’s really taking a toll on workers and our communities are hurting financially.”

Workers lobbied for members of Congress to support a new drought relief bill. The California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014 (S. 2016) was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein and includes a section covering emergency supplemental agriculture disaster appropriations for agricultural and migrant farm workers. The bill would provide funds for food, rental assistance, and utilities. UFCW members advocated for similar legislation to be introduced so it includes not just farm workers, but meatpackers and food processors as well.

Workers also expressed their concern about a new healthcare plan that JBS is proposing. At a time when workers are already struggling because of reduced hours, JBS is proposing a substandard health plan that will double, or even triple the health costs for workers. If the new plan goes into effect, the costs are so high that a family could become bankrupt if they decide to have a baby or if there is a medical emergency.

“We came to Washington, D.C., to stand together and tell people on Capitol Hill that the new plan is unacceptable. This new health plan could mean financial ruin for workers and their families. We work hard to help make JBS a profitable company and now they are trying to push this on us for extra profits,” said Ramon Sanchez, a JBS beef plant worker form Cactus, Texas and member of UFCW Local 540.

UFCW JBS workers from across the country will continue to stand together and support each other until they are back to operating at full time and also fight for a fair health plan that protects workers.

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!

Walmart and the Food Stamp Economy

616466_10151288371180091_843792967_o“Walmart takes in about 18 percent of U.S. food stamp dollars, a share that amounted to more than $13 billion last year.” However, with cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Walmart is seeing a huge portion of its customer base drop off, no longer able to afford to shop there. Instead, many are now relying on charities and food pantries.

“It’s this cycle that keeps going around and around,” says Jason Elchert, deputy director for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. “We need to take a deep breath and think about how can we move our country forward.”

Instead of relying on food stamp customers, Walmart could both improve its business and help struggling workers (many of whom are those on food stamps) by paying a living wage.

There of course is the argument–”Won’t that raise the prices at Walmart, essentially defeating the purpose?”

Well, according to a new video from Slate, if Walmart paid its employees a living wage of $13.00/hr, that .68 cent box of Great Value mac n’ cheese would increase to….69 cents.

When there are 40 Walmart associates per store, on average, that are on food stamps, and are actually beneficiaries of the food donation program that Walmart has pledged to “donate $2 billion in cash and food to fight hunger”, something is clearly wrong. Instead of cashing in on of the food stamp economy, or having employees scour the shelves for just-past sell-by dates to collect for those who can’t afford food, Walmart should and can afford to invest in its own business and in restoring the the middle class by paying a living wage. This would also save taxpayers–whose money funds government programs like food stamps–$300 million a year.

Watch the video to get the facts: