February 23, 2015

UFCW International President Elected to AFL-CIO Executive Council, Executive Committee

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C.—Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council and Executive Committee. He released the following statement.

I am honored and humbled to represent the 1.3 million members of the UFCW on the Executive Council and Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO. As a labor movement, we have enormous challenges ahead of us. Workers are counting on us to organize more members, bargain good contracts, and defeat the corporations and politicians who are trying to silence their voice. I intend to play an active role in putting our movement in the best position to meet the needs of working families. We have to be more strategic. We have to communicate with our own members and non-union workers better. We have to become more diverse and immerse ourselves in the communities where our members live and work. Working with President Trumka and my colleagues from all of the AFL-CIO affiliates, I believe we can build a labor movement that is bigger, stronger, and more ready than ever to truly serve working men and women.

February 20, 2015

Statement by UFCW International President Marc Perrone on Walmart’s Wage Announcement

UFCWnews(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement about Walmart’s wage announcement:

“Walmart’s announcement yesterday that it will raise wages for 500,000 hourly associates is an important step forward for Walmart workers and their families. This is not an act of corporate benevolence. It would not have been possible without the courage of countless workers who are standing together, taking risks, and demanding wages and schedules that can support their families. Walmart is responding directly to calls from workers and their allies to pay a living wage.

Because of a strong and organized movement that includes many UFCW members, half a million Walmart workers will now get a raise. Because workers spoke out, $1 billion will now go directly into our economy instead of onto the Walton family’s balance sheet.

Walmart should know that we will continue to stand with workers and the community to be more transparent about exactly how much the company pays each of its 1.4 million associates. Today’s announcement calls to question Walmart’s long-term inconsistencies about its wage claims – even ten years ago it claimed workers were paid an average of $10 an hour.  High turnover leaves the vast majority of Walmart workers toiling at the lowest wage scales which will now pay at least $9 an hour. We know that Walmart can and should do better.

Yesterday marks a victory for Walmart workers but more importantly, a call to action for the UFCW and the entire labor movement.  The largest private employer in the nation is feeling the pressure to do better for its workers. We must seize this opportunity and keep fighting until every single worker – in retail stores, supermarkets and beyond – is paid a living wage.”

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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/UFCWinternationaland www.twitter.com/ufcw.

January 30, 2015

UFCW Intl President Marc Perrone on Safeway Albertsons Merger

UFCWnews(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement in response to Safeway’s merger with Albertsons:

“More than 250,000 Safeway and Albertsons workers are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). UFCW members also work for several other Cerberus Capital Management-operated supermarkets across the country, including Albertsons, Acme, Jewel-Osco and Shaw’s.

“UFCW members have a history of negotiating union contracts with Safeway, Albertsons and Cerberus Capital Management. Together in their union, these workers have been able to ensure that union grocery jobs are the best jobs in the industry with fair pay, decent benefits, and job security – all the while ensuring that their companies are able to be profitable and successful.

“UFCW members in California stores that were divested by Albertsons are pleased to learn that the grocery store chain Haggen will acquire many Albertsons stores in California. Haggen workers in the Pacific Northwest are also members of the UFCW. UFCW members across the country are looking forward to working with Safeway, Cerberus, and Haggen on issues that pertain to the members and industry. Our members plan to continue to serve their customers and their communities with pride.”

December 15, 2014

Marc Perrone Elected President of 1.3 Million Member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Says by uniting together, we can give workers the opportunities they deserve

UFCWnewsCHICAGO, IL—Today, Marc Perrone, a labor leader who has committed four decades to fighting for hard working families, was elected International President of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

As a proud leader and member of the UFCW, Perrone has long fought to organize more members, bargain the best contracts possible, and hold irresponsible corporations accountable. His values as a labor leader have been defined by the belief that every worker has the right to a decent living, a reliable schedule, quality affordable health care, and respect on the job.

“The choice we face today is whether we will stand together and build an economy that lifts up all families, or watch as even more workers fall further behind and struggle to make ends meet,” Perrone said. “Cynics may believe that these divisions and inequities are irreversible. I do not. We, as a union, do not. I strongly believe that by uniting together we can give workers across North America the opportunities they deserve.”

Beginning today, Perrone will spend the coming weeks and months meeting with UFCW members throughout the United States and Canada. As part of this listening tour, Perrone will have one on one conversations, visit worksites, and utilize digital and social media platforms to engage with union members and hear their thoughts and ideas on how the UFCW can grow even stronger.

“The ideas to build a stronger union do not lie within any one individual,” Perrone said. “They lie within all of us. They lie in the collective wisdom and strength of 1.3 million UFCW members who work hard every day to support their families. I want to hear their ideas. I want to hear their vision. I want to hear what we can all do to become an even greater and stronger union for the decades ahead.”

Perrone will be succeeding retiring International President Joe Hansen.

Hansen started as a meatcutter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1962 and used his experience as a rank and file union activist to help lift up UFCW members and all workers. Hansen was elected International President in 2004 and helped steer the UFCW through a Great Recession, the flood of corporate money into politics, the single greatest legislative attack on labor in history, and the rise of income inequality.

“Even in the face of unprecedented challenges, Joe Hansen never lost sight of our members,” Perrone said. “His commitment and dedication to the hard-working men and women we represent will never be forgotten.”

During his tenure, Hansen increased union density in meatpacking and processing, formed important global labor alliances, and helped lead the labor movement’s positions on comprehensive immigration reform.

* For Perrone’s biography, and the announcement of new UFCW officers, please see below:

Biography of International President Marc Perrone:

Marc Perrone joined the Retail Clerks—which later became the UFCW—in 1971 while working as a courtesy clerk at Weingarten’s food store in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  Since that time, he has held various positions within the UFCW, including Region 1-Eastern Director and National Director of Strategic Programs, Collective Bargaining and Organizing. For the last decade, he has served as International Secretary-Treasurer, keeping the UFCW on sound fiscal footing in a challenging climate.

New UFCW Officers Elected:

Under the UFCW International Constitution, the International Executive Board is charged with electing a replacement for a vacancy in the office of International President. The UFCW Executive Board consists of 50 International Vice Presidents, primarily local union leaders, and 5 Executive Committee members.

The UFCW International Executive Board also elected former Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill as International Secretary-Treasurer, Esther Lopez as Executive Vice President, and Stuart Appelbaum as Executive Vice President. Paul Meinema currently serves as Executive Vice President and National President of UFCW Canada. Executive Vice President Bill McDonough retired on October 31.

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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.

 

December 12, 2014

UFCW President Hansen Statement on Final NLRB Rule to Modernize Union Elections

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement in response to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) adopting a final rule to modernize union elections.

“When a majority of workers want to form a union, they should be able to do so in a fair and timely fashion. The rule adopted by the NLRB today is an important step in that direction. Too often, anti-worker employers use every trick in the book—including filing frivolous litigation—to delay union elections as they work behind the scenes to sabotage the outcome. This is simply wrong and by adopting this rule, the NLRB is taking a strong stand for workers’ rights. As the nation grapples with record income inequality, more workers need and deserve the protection of a collective bargaining agreement. This rule will help level the playing field and give workers who want to join together in a union a better opportunity to do so.”

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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.

December 10, 2014

FEDERAL LABOR BOARD JUDGE: Walmart Violated Workers’ Rights

20141128 OURWALMART Milpitas CA-9National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge Orders Walmart to Stop its Illegal Threats to Workers in One of Many Expected Decisions against Walmart

Workers, Supporters Say Walmart Must End Its Abuse of Power and Improve Jobs

WASHINGTON — A National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge issued a sweeping decision yesterday against Walmart for its illegal actions against workers at two California stores. The judge is ordering Walmart to immediately stop making intimidating comments to workers who are part of OUR Walmart, the national organization of Walmart workers calling for better jobs at the company.  Six workers will also have illegal disciplinary actions removed from their records for time that they were on strike.

“Walmart cannot continue its abuse of power any longer,” said Raymond Bravo who will have his record cleared of illegal disciplinary action for the time that he was on strike in 2012. “Our families and our communities cannot thrive when companies like Walmart create an economy of low pay, erratic scheduling and illegal threats.”

In reaction to the first strikes in Walmart’s history in 2012, Walmart managers and a top spokesperson began to illegally threaten workers for coming together and calling for better wages, schedules and an end to the illegal treatment of workers. Yesterday’s decision reverses the disciplinary action taken against six striking workers at the Richmond store and addresses threats made by a Walmart manager in the Placerville store that the store would close if too many workers became part of OUR Walmart and the threat made by a manager in the Richmond store that he would “shoot the union.”

In the decision, the Administrative Law Judge notes that “some associates were offended when [Walmart store manager] Van Riper stated ‘if it was up to me, I would put that rope around your neck’ when associate Markeith Washington put a rope around his (Washington’s) to assist with moving a heavy counter.” Workers at the Richmond store sent a letter to the company about this store manager which stated, “By using racist remarks and threats of physical violence towards Associates he has created a work environment that is threatening, harassing and intimidating.”

The decision is the result of one of several local complaints that the Board has prosecuted against the company.  Recently, after OUR Walmart filed a charge on behalf of a fired worker in Texas, Walmart settled the case rather than have it brought to trial.

Additionally, the Board is in the process of prosecuting Walmart in a national complaint that includes counts of illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 70 workers. According to the complaint, managers and the company’s national spokesperson illegally threatened striking workers and took illegal disciplinary actions against workers who were on legally protected strikes.

“The judge’s decision confirms what Walmart workers have known for a long time – the company is illegally trying to silence and intimidate employees who speak out for better jobs,” said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice. “Walmart is facing increasing outrage from customers, community members and clergy who are standing with Walmart workers bravely calling for an end to abuse of power and for a stronger economy that supports all working families.”

BACKGROUND ON THE NATIONAL COMPLAINT AGAINST WALMART

The Board is in the process of prosecuting Walmart on charges filed just after Black Friday 2012, when Walmart managers escalated their efforts to threaten and discourage workers from going on legally protected strikes. David Tovar, a spokesperson for the company at that time, even went so far as to threaten workers on national television, saying “there would be consequences” for workers who did not come in for scheduled shifts on Black Friday.

Additionally, the complaint covers the illegal firings and disciplinary actions that occurred after 100 striking Walmart workers took their concerns to the company’s June shareholder meeting in Bentonville.

In 2013, American Rights at Work/Jobs with Justice released a white paper documenting Walmart’s extensive and systematic efforts to silence associates. At that time, there were more than 150 incidents in stores across the country, with few signs that Walmart would soon stop targeting those who speak out and act collectively.

 

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

December 1, 2014

Calls for $15 an Hour, Full Time Work at Walmart Sweep Country

Walmart workers continued strikes in protest of company’s disregard for their rights
 
 
141128_DallasWalmartProtest068NATIONWIDE – Tens of thousands of Americans protested at 1,600 Walmart stores across the country on Friday, calling on the company to pay associates a minimum of $15 an hour and provide full-time work. The broad group said the country’s largest employer and the Waltons—Walmart’s majority owners—are abusing their power and hurting American families by allowing Walmart to violate workers’ rights. While the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year, Walmart brings in more the $16 billion in annual profits; and the Walton family has built up nearly $150 billion in wealth.
Walmart workers—members of OUR Walmart—continued a nationwide strike protesting the company’s illegal retaliation against associates who speak out for better jobs.
In Phoenix, Sandra Sok walked off the job Wednesday for the first time and said: “Many of us are living in deep poverty and going hungry because the Waltons won’t pay us a fair wage. When my coworkers speak out about these issues, the company tries to silence us. For all of my brothers and sisters who have experienced illegal threats, I am on strike.” Sandy is paid only $400 every two weeks and has worked at Walmart for nine years.
Reports from protests around the country include:
·         Los Angeles: Walmart workers, on strike to protest Walmart’s retaliation, and community members are continuing a 24-hour fast outside a Walmart store in protest of the hunger that Walmart and the Waltons are forcing onto many of their families.
·         Washington, DC: A live band is gearing up to support striking workers outside the District’s new Walmart, where a group of workers held a sit-down strike on Wednesday. This is the first time that workers at the new store in Washington and in neighboring Virginia are on strike.
·         Albuquerque: A group of “Raging Grannies” will sing to show their solidarity with workers.
·         Denver: Santa Claus, his elves, Walmart workers and hundreds of community supporters are preparing to deliver a bag of coal to Walmart.
·         North Bergen, New Jersey: Members of the clergy are set to deliver a symbolic food bin to the store while chanting “dignity, not charity.”
Walmart workers started walking off the job on Wednesday in cities nationwide. Inspired by workers in Los Angeles who held the first-ever sit down strike in company history, associates in Washington, DC held a sit-down strike Wednesday at the new store on H Street. Workers in Washington, DC and Virginia are on strike for the first time and are joined by workers who walked off the job in cities and towns nationwide.
“The Black Friday rallies and demonstrations represent a dramatic escalation of the growing protest movement among employees of America’s largest private employer. But they also represent the vanguard of a sharp challenge to the nation’s widening economic divide and the declining standard of living among the majority of Americans,” Peter Dreier, Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College, writes in the Huffington Post. “It is sometimes difficult to recognize historical events as they unfold, but it is likely that future generations will look at these Walmart protests as a major turning point that helped move the nation in a new direction, similar to the sit-down strikes among Flint auto workers in 1937, the Woolworth lunch-counter sit-ins by civil-rights activists in 1960, and the first Earth Day in 1970, which jump-started the environmental movement.”
“Our communities are suffering because Walmart won’t pay many of our neighbors enough so they can fill their stomachs,” said Nicole Ramirez from BAYAN – USA Pacific Northwest, an alliance of Filipino organizations. “I am out here with other Filipino youth and students supporting these brave Walmart workers who are on strike for their right to speak out. Our community is calling for $15 an hour and full-time work because we can’t let the Waltons abuse their power and destroy American families any longer.”
Growing pressure on the company to raise pay and provide full-time work comes as an increasing number of Americans and Walmart workers point to OUR Walmart as making significant changes at the country’s largest retailer. Since last Black Friday, the company committed to raise wages for its lowest paid workers, rolled out a new scheduling system that allows workers to sign up for open shifts and improved protections for pregnant workers in response to public calls from OUR Walmart. Workers at more than 2,200 Walmart stores nationwide have signed a petition calling on Walmart and the Waltons to publicly commit to paying $15 an hour and providing consistent, full-time hours.
The Walton family, which controls the Walmart empire, is the richest family in the U.S.—with the wealth of 43% of American families combined. While many Walmart workers are unable to feed and clothe their families, the Walton family takes in $8.6 million a day in Walmart dividends alone to build on its $150 billion in wealth.
Walmart workers began speaking out last week about the severe hunger issues that too many of them are facing because they can’t afford groceries. A group of workers started sharing their stories on Walmart Hunger Games Tumblr after reading about their co-workers’ struggles in a new analysis about Walmart’s role in reinforcing the hunger crisis in America.
For the past three years, Walmart workers have been raising concerns about persistent understaffing at stores and its impact on wasted food, un-stocked shelves, long check-out lines and lower sales, noting that better jobs at Walmart will improve customers’ shopping experience and strengthen the company’s bottom line. The company has reported losing up to $3 billion a year because its shelves go un-stocked. Consumers, analysts, shoppers and workers say that by improving jobs, Walmart can mend its reputation with shoppers, grow the business and help workers support their families.
###
UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Walmart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Walmart publicly commit to adhere to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of its employees.
November 28, 2014

Walmart workers continue strikes in protest of company’s disregard for their rights

As nation rallies against abuse of power,

CALLS FOR $15 AN HOUR, FULL-TIME WORK AT WALMART SWEEP COUNTRY

Walmart workers continue strikes in protest of company’s disregard for their rights

 

***Follow the conversation and see photos at #WalmartStrikers, @ChangeWalmart and blackfridayprotests.org.

UFCWnewsNATIONWIDE — Tens of thousands of Americans are protesting at 1,600 Walmart stores across the country today, calling on the company to pay associates a minimum of $15 an hour and provide full-time work. The broad group says the country’s largest employer and the Waltons—Walmart’s majority owners—are abusing their power and hurting American families by allowing Walmart to violate workers’ rights. While the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year, Walmart brings in more the $16 billion in annual profits; and the Walton family has built up nearly $150 billion in wealth.

With protests already underway, Walmart workers—members of OUR Walmart—are continuing a nationwide strike protesting the company’s illegal retaliation against associates who speak out for better jobs.

In Phoenix, Sandra Sok walked off the job Wednesday for the first time and said: “Many of us are living in deep poverty and going hungry because the Waltons won’t pay us a fair wage. When my coworkers speak out about these issues, the company tries to silence us. For all of my brothers and sisters who have experienced illegal threats, I am on strike.” Sandy is paid only $400 every two weeks and has worked at Walmart for nine years.

Reports from protests around the country include:

  • Los Angeles: Walmart workers, on strike to protest Walmart’s retaliation, and community members are continuing a 24-hour fast outside a Walmart store in protest of the hunger that Walmart and the Waltons are forcing onto many of their families.
  • Washington, DC: A live band is gearing up to support striking workers outside the District’s new Walmart, where a group of workers held a sit-down strike on Wednesday. This is the first time that workers at the new store in Washington and in neighboring Virginia are on strike.
  • Albuquerque: A group of “Raging Grannies” will sing to show their solidarity with workers.
  • Denver: Santa Claus, his elves, Walmart workers and hundreds of community supporters are preparing to deliver a bag of coal to Walmart.
  • North Bergen, New Jersey: Members of the clergy are set to deliver a symbolic food bino the store while chanting “dignity, not charity.”

Walmart workers started walking off the job on Wednesday in cities nationwide. Inspired by workers in Los Angeles who held the first-ever sit down strike in company history, associates in Washington, DC held a sit-down strike Wednesday at the new store on H Street. Workers in Washington, DC and Virginia are on strike for the first time and are joined by workers who walked off the job in cities and towns nationwide.

“The Black Friday rallies and demonstrations represent a dramatic escalation of the growing protest movement among employees of America’s largest private employer. But they also represent the vanguard of a sharp challenge to the nation’s widening economic divide and the declining standard of living among the majority of Americans,” Peter Dreier, Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College, writes in the Huffington Post. “It is sometimes difficult to recognize historical events as they unfold, but it is likely that future generations will look at these Walmart protests as a major turning point that helped move the nation in a new direction, similar to the sit-down strikes among Flint auto workers in 1937, the Woolworth lunch-counter sit-ins by civil-rights activists in 1960, and the first Earth Day in 1970, which jump-started the environmental movement.”

“Our communities are suffering because Walmart won’t pay many of our neighbors enough so they can fill their stomachs,” said Nicole Ramirez from BAYAN – USA Pacific Northwest, an alliance of Filipino organizations. “I am out here with other Filipino youth and students supporting these brave Walmart workers who are on strike for their right to speak out. Our community is calling for $15 an hour and full-time work because we can’t let the Waltons abuse their power and destroy American families any longer.”

Growing pressure on the company to raise pay and provide full-time work comes as an increasing number of Americans and Walmart workers point to OUR Walmart as making significant changes at the country’s largest retailer. Since last Black Friday, the company committed to raise wages for its lowest paid workers, rolled out a new scheduling system that allows workers to sign up for open shifts and improved protections for pregnant workers in response to public calls from OUR Walmart. Workers at more than 2,200 Walmart stores nationwide have signed a petition calling on Walmart and the Waltons to publicly commit to paying $15 an hour and providing consistent, full-time hours.

The Walton family, which controls the Walmart empire, is the richest family in the U.S.—with the wealth of 43% of American families combined. While many Walmart workers are unable to feed and clothe their families, the Walton family takes in $8.6 million a day in Walmart dividends alone to build on its $150 billion in wealth.

Walmart workers began speaking out last week about the severe hunger issues that too many of them are facing because they can’t afford groceries. A group of workers started sharing their stories on Walmart Hunger Games Tumblr after reading about their co-workers’ struggles in a new analysis about Walmart’s role in reinforcing the hunger crisis in America.

For the past three years, Walmart workers have been raising concerns about persistent understaffing at stores and its impact on wasted food, un-stocked shelves, long check-out lines and lower sales, noting that better jobs at Walmart will improve customers’ shopping experience and strengthen the company’s bottom line. The company has reported losing up to $3 billion a year because its shelves go un-stocked. Consumers, analysts, shoppers and workers say that by improving jobs, Walmart can mend its reputation with shoppers, grow the business and help workers support their families.

###

UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Walmart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Walmart publicly commit to adhere to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of its employees.

November 19, 2014

Rep. Gutierrez Joins Farm Workers behind the Thanksgiving Meal to Hold Holiday Feast in front of White House


ufcw im thanksgivingFarm & Food Processing Workers Deliver Letters Calling for Executive Action

See here for archived footage and other important information from today’s event.

Washington, DC—Today, on the cusp of one of America’s most celebrated holidays, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) alongside immigrant farm, food and commercial workers from across the country gathered in front of the White House to remind Americans of the people behind the Thanksgiving meal, and express their support for President Obama taking the most inclusive executive action possible.  The event shined a special spotlight on members of United Farm Workers and United Food and Commercial Workers who presented an array of Thanksgiving foods harvested and processed by immigrant workers, including a turkey, potatoes, pumpkin, and other foods commonly found on America’s Thanksgiving tables.

Said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), “The President is going to act boldly, broadly and soon and across the country the bounty and blessings of Thanksgiving will be joyous.  The President’s actions will mean that millions of American families will not fear deportation and destruction and so many people contributing to our economy, including those who pick, pack and move the food to our tables, will be able to continue helping us all live better.”

In addition to the Thanksgiving table, farm workers delivered letters from across the country, explaining why administrative relief is so important to their families and communities.  Many of the letters included invitations to the President to share a Thanksgiving meal with farm workers in their homes.  (View the original letters in Spanish and their English translations).  One of the letters written by Jaime Sanchez, a fourth year college student and son of farm workers, appeared as an op-ed in his student paper at the University of Chicago–the President’s former place of work.  

“The protracted political debates and the partial solutions offered by House Republicans that ignore the inconvenient truth that America’s food will continue to come to our tables through the toil and exploitation of undocumented farm workers who do the work that no one else is doing.  Instead of a seat at our nation’s table, farm workers live in the shadows where they are subjected to inhumane working conditions, rampant sexual harassment, wage theft and the threat of deportation if they dare to stand up for their humanity,” said Arturo Rodriguez, President of  United Farm Workers (UFW). “That’s why we are here at the White House today, to share with America that we support the President taking the most inclusive executive action possible.  On this holiday of giving thanks, it’s time to give thanks to our Thanksgiving workers by simply extending to them meaningful action that says, ‘If you harvest our food, you’re welcome at the table.’”

Added Esther Lopez, International Vice President and Director of Civil Rights and the Community Action Department at United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, “In the face of cowardly inaction by the House Republican leadership, today we ask President Obama to do what he should have done long ago – use his clearly defined legal authority to provide relief to immigrant workers and their families. We ask the President to put in place a framework that ensures immigrant workers are treated with dignity and respect on the job.”

Their sentiments were bolstered by a chorus of farm and food workers from across the country.

Said Maria G. Lozano Ramirez, a grape harvester from Benson City, WA, “Wine is important to Thanksgiving dinner, but people drink it without thinking about how much work it takes to make that one bottle of wine. How many undocumented farm workers did it take to make it taste so good? We work long hours but without much acknowledgement.”

Pumpkin grower Maria Martha Acevedo Cardenas from Sunnyside, WA recalled the sacrifices behind every Thanksgiving meal, saying, “I’m not asking for pity, but I am asking for what’s fair. Farm workers need immigration reform.  They’re able to eat the best produce, while we are unable to afford the same fruits and vegetables we picked. One day, I would like to be able to buy my own Thanksgiving turkey.”

Added her U.S. citizen daughter, Eustalia (Toy) A. Acevedo, who picks apples in Seattle, WA, “When the average American eats that apple pie or a dish with apples on Thanksgiving, they need to realize without farm workers picking their fruits or vegetables there wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving meal.”

San Juanita Marquez, a poultry processing plant worker from Lumber Bridge, NC, explained the perils of life as an undocumented worker: “If immigration comes to the plant or my house, I could be separated from my children. My youngest children are American citizens, and because I have no family here, they would be left alone and be sent to foster care if I was deported. It would be too dangerous to take them back to Guerrero where children and the elderly are gunned down in gang violence. I ask Obama to stop the deportations – let us work and let us keep our children safe.”

Maria Arteaga, harvests potatoes in Parma, ID.  Several years ago she and her husband were stopped and subsequently deported for “looking suspicious” while on a road trip to Los Angeles.  At the time her small children, including her daughter Areli, then 5, had stayed home with a relative while they were away. “Once I was deported, all I could think about was my children. I had to get back to them. I did what any mother would have done.  I made the sacrifice and returned to the U.S. illegally.”

Added her daughter, Areli, who often helps with corn harvesting when home from college: “I want people, who don’t believe we need immigration reform to think about something before they bite into their corn on the cob: some people, unlike them, can’t be sitting at the table enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with their family because they can’t travel out of the country to see them or because their family has been deported.”

Said Inocencio Bernal Pedroza, who picks celery in Madera, CA: “Farm workers contribute to the U.S. economy, but many of them are undocumented and are not treated equally or acknowledged for their work.  They provide food for American families. Americans should try to have to have their Thanksgiving meal without undocumented farm workers toiling in the fields. There would be no dinner! There’s produce in the supermarkets because farm working hands put it there.”

Alberto Bermejo, who picks peaches in Sanger, CA, said, “If we’re not in the fields picking the peaches, then they won’t be served on Thanksgiving. A little appreciation for what we do would go a long way.”

Juan and Maria Pacheco, achieved American citizenship after years of working at a turkey processing plant in Mifflintown, PA.  Today they called for executive action on behalf of their undocumented coworkers.  Said Juan, “Families all across the country are going to be eating our turkeys next week, but they don’t know the stories behind their Thanksgiving dinner. My wife and I worked in the Empire Kosher turkey plant for fifteen years before we finally earned American citizenship. We have worked hard to earn our American Dream. This Thanksgiving, President Obama has the chance to give that same opportunity to other hardworking families like ours.”

Additional information on today’s event, including the farm worker letters, bios, social media tools and archived footage is available here.

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2014

WALMART WORKERS ANNOUNCE BLACK FRIDAY STRIKES

UFCWnewsTens of thousands of teachers, voters, clergy, environmentalists, civil rights leaders to join workers at 1600 protests, calling on Walton family to pay $15 an hour and provide full-time work

NATIONWIDE – In the wake of the first-ever sit down strike at Walmart, members of OUR Walmart announced today that they will strike across the country on Black Friday in protest of the company’s illegal silencing of workers who are standing up for better jobs. Tens of thousands of Americans said they plan to support workers that day at 1600 protests nationwide—the largest mobilization of working families—calling on Walmart’s owners to raise wages to a minimum of $15 an hour and provide consistent, full-time work.

Even as Walmart brings in $16 billion in annual profits and Walmart’s owners—the Waltons—build on their $150 billion in wealth, the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.

“Walmart’s low pay business model isn’t working for our families, for our customers and for the company, but change is possible,” said Barbara Gertz, a Walmart associate from Colorado. “Walmart needs to listen to workers like us about how to fix these problems by adding hours and improving pay so that we can get the job done. Threatening and firing us for speaking out about how to improve the stores is illegal and shortsighted. That’s why I’m going on strike on Black Friday and why so many of my co-workers are joining me.”

The unprecedented Black Friday mobilization comes as an increasing number of Americans and Walmart workers point to OUR Walmart as making significant changes at the country’s largest retailer. Most recently, after public calls from OUR Walmart, the company committed to raise wages for its lowest paid workers and rolled out a new scheduling system that allows workers to sign up for open shifts. To date, workers at more than 2,100 Walmart stores nationwide have signed a petition calling on Walmart and the Waltons to publicly commit to paying $15 an hour and providing consistent, full-time hours.

A broad group of Americans who plan to protest on Black Friday, including tens of thousands of teachers, voters, members of the clergy, elected officials, civil rights leaders and women’s rights activists say America’s largest employer and richest family are driving the income inequality problems that are holding the country back. In Washington, residents plan to protest at all 60 Walmart stores in the state. In other states, Americans are planning flash mobs, marches and prayer vigils to support striking Walmart workers and call on the company to improve jobs.

“Shame on Walmart and the Waltons for creating a reality where many Walmart workers say they can’t even afford to give their kids Thanksgiving dinner because of their low pay. As someone who has dedicated her career to helping children grow and achieve their dreams, that tears me apart,” said teacher and AFT New Mexico President Stephanie Ly. “This Black Friday, teachers, parents and students will all be out protesting at Walmart like never before saying we’ve had enough. Walmart needs to raise pay and provide full-time work now so workers can feed and support their families.”

The Black Friday strikes and protest announcement comes on the heels of the first-ever sit down strikes in company history in Los Angeles, where workers sat down in Crenshaw and Pico Rivera stores, and 23 people were arrested. Los Angeles is also the site of the first-ever strikes at Walmart. The group of striking workers, from stores throughout California, placed tape over their mouths signifying the company’s illegal efforts to silence workers who are calling for better jobs. Striking workers held signs resembling those of the first retail sit-down strike at Woolworth in 1937, when retail workers at the then-largest retailer in the country called for the company to increase pay, provide a 40-hour work week and stop the retaliation against workers who spoke out.

“While today, the disparity of wealth and poverty in the U.S. is just as outrageous as it was during the Great Depression, Walmart is far larger and more global than Woolworth’s ever was, and thus even more dangerous,” said labor historian Dana Frank. “Like the Woolworth’s women in 1937, the workers in OUR Walmart are challenging a mass retailer with tentacles all over the world to treat its employees with respect, and inspiring a growing national movement against inequality and for the just treatment of all working people.”

A growing number of Americans say Walmart and its owners are robbing workers of a decent living by paying the majority of associates poverty wages and manipulating their hours. The Walton family, which controls the Walmart empire, is the richest family in the U.S.—with the wealth of 43% of American families combined. While many Walmart workers are unable to feed and clothe their families, the Walton family takes in $8.6 million a day in Walmart dividends alone to build on its $150 billion in wealth. Walmart brings in $16 billion in annual profits.

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UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Walmart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Walmart publicly commit to adhere to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of its employees.