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UFCW Western States Council Release Report Studying Grocery Workers and Grocery Industry

UFCW WSC GRAPHIC 4UFCW Western States Council has released a report written by Saru Jayaraman and the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and researched by Professor Chris Benner and the Food Chain Workers Alliance from the University of California, Davis. The report is titled, Shelved: How Wages and Working Conditions for California’s Food Retail Workers Have Declined as the Industry has Thrived, and the full report can be read here. The release of the report by the UFCW Western States Council is part of its ongoing effort for legislation that will push large grocers to be more responsible and  give more money back to the workers who have made the industry thrive.

Key findings in the report include:

Declining Wages and Rising Poverty: As the Industry Grows, Paychecks Shrink
While California retail food employment has grown in the past decade, food retail workers’ wages have declined. According to Census data, in 2010 dollars, median hourly wages of grocery store workers – the largest segment of food retail workers – fell from $12.97 in 1999 to $11.33 in 2010, a decline of 12.6%. Moreover, the proportion of food retail workers earning poverty wages increased dramatically, from 43% in 1999 to 54% in 2010.

Pervasive Hunger: Grocery Workers Can’t Afford Enough to Eat
In surveys, workers reported a dramatic result of the wage decline described above: they now suffer double the rate of “low” and “very low” food security as the general U.S. population. In other words, workers who sell food in California, the largest producer of food in the U.S., are twice as likely as the general populace to be unable to afford sufficient quantities of the food they sell or the healthy kinds of food their families need, despite the financial health of the food retail industry.

Race Still Matters: Racial Inequities in Workers’ Treatment on the Job
Racial inequities also play a significant role in determining food retail workers’ wages and working conditions, especially in Los Angeles County, California’s most populous county. The differential between workers of color (specifically Latinos and Blacks) and whites was fully 3 to 5 times greater in Los Angeles than in the statewide workforce with regard to workers being sent home early with no pay, having a shift canceled on the same day it is scheduled, not being offered a lunch break, and not being paid for all hours worked.

Investors Before Workers: “Financialization” Drives Standards Down
More than half of the decline in union market share is attributable to the closings of stores belonging to a single chain, Albertsons, where significant indebtedness resulting from an ill-conceived 2006 merger reduced the company’s ability to invest in its store infrastructure or maintain competitive pricing. Also, union decline by market segment occurred almost entirely in traditional groceries while non-union growth occurred almost entirely in discount/general merchandise stores and natural/ organic/gourmet markets. Over the same period of wage and union decline (2000 to 2010), high wage, partially unionized employer Costco gained 2.5% in market share, making it California’s single largest food retailer, with 13.3% market share statewide.

New Site Highlights Growing Inequality, Walmart’s Impact on All Working Families

FB-image-waleconThe following post from Making Change at Walmart describes a new website they have created that depicts what life is like for the associates who make America’s largest retailer the success it is, as they gear up for Walmart’s Annual Shareholder’s Meeting.

 

 

Walmart made $16 billion in profit last year. The Walton family, who owns and controls Walmart, holds $144 billion in wealth – as much as 42% of Americans combined. Yet hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers are struggling to get by on less than $25,000 a year. Many are forced to turn to government assistance programs just to get by. And Walmart workers aren’t the only ones who are hurt by the Walmart economy, where the low-road, profit-at-any-cost business model rules.

Today marks the launch of a new site that aggregates the real life stories of trying to get by in the Walmart economy. The site provides a space where all people can share their examples of how the Walmart economy is impacting them.

WHAT IS IT?

As Walmart workers gear up for Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting, they will be holding actions all across the country. At these events, Walmart workers and their allies will build a wall that represents the true face of the unfair divide growing in this country. On it, we will place photos, images and objects that represent the struggle to get by in the Walmart economy. This could include anything from pictures of broken down cars people can’t afford to fix and student loan bills to photos of empty lots where business been driven out and pay stubs.

WHY ARE WE BUILDING IT?

It’s time we speak out against the Walmart economy that is hurting our nation. We can’t let the 1% of this country hide in their gated communities without having to see the reality the rest of us face every day. We want to pull back the veil of shame that surrounds economic struggles in our country and show that inequality–driven by families like the Waltons–is something all of us are facing, whether that means struggling to pay bills, drowning in debt or being unable to retire.

HOW CAN I CONTRIBUTE?

You can help Walmart workers show the Waltons and families like them how the Walmart economy impacts us all. Visit www.WalmartEconomy. com and post your story or symbol of the economic struggles we all face in our day-to-day lives. This is our chance to tell the true story of trying to get by in America.

You can submit images, videos and stories to the website www.WalmartEconomy.com/submit or on Instagram and Twitter using #WalmartEconomy.  The stories and images will then be displayed on WalmartEconomy.com for all to see.

Sample Tweet: The #WalmartEconomy means (fill in the blank with your story).

OR

1.     Go to walmarteconomy.com/submit

2.     Select in the left corner if it will be text, photo or video

3.     Enter your name and email in the right corner

4.     Write your text and/or upload your photo/video

5.     Check the boxes on the bottom “I accept the Terms of Submission”

6.     Click submit in the bottom right

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.