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May 16, 2011

Push for conditions on Walmart buy of Massmart

As the South African Competition Tribunal wound down hearings on the proposed merger of Walmart and Massmart on Monday, the country’s Competition Commission changed its recommendation on the deal. The Competition Commission said the merger should only go through if Walmart hires back 503 workers fired by Massmart as it prepared for Walmart’s offer.

The global coalition of trade unions contesting the merger have demanded that if the Tribunal approves Walmart’s entry it should only do so with strict, enforceable conditions that promote the interests of domestic suppliers and place the interests of Massmart workers at their core. Central to this are the reasonable demands for post-transaction group centralized bargaining, a closed shop and reinstatement for dismissed workers.

During the hearings, Walmart repeatedly refused to make any commitments on its post-merger behavior but on Monday it offered a few. The multinational said it wouldn’t cut staff for two years; it would honor labor agreements for a period assigned by the Tribunal, and after the merger it would volunteer 100 million rand ($US 14 million, or about 0.003% of annual sales) to develop a three-year program to develop local suppliers, with trade unions sitting on the committee.

“It’s a positive step that Walmart recognizes that it needs to accept conditions on the deal,” said Christy Hoffman, deputy general secretary of UNI Global Union, which is part of the global union coalition. “While welcoming the commission’s recommendation, we question how serious Walmart is when it puts an offer on the table that falls far short of what is needed to ensure local procurement and protection of union and workers’ rights.”

The South African Competition Tribunal heard the final arguments today as it considers whether or not to allow retail giant Walmart to buy local chain Massmart and enter the African market. If it allows the deal to go through, it can decide what conditions are necessary to protect the local economy.

Walmart said on Monday that it will appeal any conditions set by the Tribunal or walk away from the deal, according to media reports.

Throughout the weeklong hearing, a global coalition of trade unions is contesting the merger – South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU), UNI Global Union, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) of North America— supported a call to block Walmart’s entry into South Africa. They presented testimony on Walmart’s anti-union and anti-worker policies in other parts of the world, most notably the USA, with the company attempting to explain these away by virtue of “”cultural norms.”

“Walmart cannot run from its history or current anti-worker behavior in many parts of the world,” said Michael Bride of UFCW. “What it is finding as it continues to try and expand business in urban centers in the US and other countries around the globe is that its anti-worker stance is not serving it well.”

The announcement from the Competition Commission was a notable reversal after it originally recommended the deal proceed without restriction.

“”We were heartened to discover that the Competition Commission, having weighed the evidence, changed its recommendation on the basis that it now agreed with the union’s consistent view that the retrenchment of workers prior to the merger was connected with the merger, contrary to the claims of Walmart and Massmart,” said Bones Skulu, SACCAWU General Secretary.

The coalition says that the Tribunal should not be bullied into accepting the deal. Their responsibility is to protect the local economy and to encourage Foreign Direct Investment that will develop the economy in a positive way for the benefit of all South Africans.

May 9, 2011

Walmart

Pretoria, South Africa – A global coalition of trade unions will present its arguments on why Walmart should only be allowed to enter the South African market if it abides by certain conditions that will safeguard the economy and South African workers.

The South African Competition Tribunal resumes its hearings today on the proposed entry of Walmart into South Africa via the takeover of Massmart.

The global coalition of unions contesting the merger South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU), UNI Global Union, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) of North America will present evidence showing that the Tribunal should only allow the deal to go through if Walmart agrees to conditions on treatment of workers, union rights and sourcing products locally.

“We have prepared a clear case that shows that Walmart has a history around the world of suppressing union and worker rights,” said Christy Hoffman of UNI Global Union, the worldwide union federation representing 20 million workers. “In countries where the company has not been legally obligated to accept a union, like the United States and Canada, it has brutally suppressed all of workers organising attempts. Even in countries where it was forced to accept a unionised workforce, Walmart has been attacking their rights every chance it gets.”

The South African Government will join the union coalition in presenting its concerns about the impact of the merger of the size of the proposed Walmart / Massmart transaction on employment and competition.

The government has demanded that binding conditions be put in place to hold Walmart accountable to the promises it is making the South African people, including respect of trade union rights and existing collective agreements, job security, local procurement and support for small business, respect for the rule of law and non-discriminatory practices in order to ensure that the deal does not undermine the New Growth Path.

To demonstrate Walmarts devastating effects, SACCAWU in conjunction with the UFCW solicited written testimony from international economists and labour experts to submit to the Competition Tribunal. This includes a new affidavit from Kenneth Jacobs, Chair of the University of California Berkeley Centre for Labour Research and Education. Jacobs has studied extensively Walmarts effects on workers and the local communities where it operates in the United States.

“Given Walmarts well-documented history of violations of labour and employment law elsewhere,” Jacobs said in his report, “if the Tribunal does elect to permit Walmart to acquire Massmart Holdings, Inc., conditions should be attached to the acquisition that would prove legal backing to Walmarts commitments to the Commission.”

Jacobs says that Walmart has depressed retail wages in the communities it operates and in many cases has put more costs on taxpayers because its employees are more likely to need public assistance for healthcare and other costs. He also says Walmart’s procurement model puts tremendous pressure on suppliers to cut costs, with the result that many suppliers have been shown to pay employees below the legal minimum wage or otherwise violate the law in order to meet the targets.

“In the United States, we have clearly seen the race to the bottom as the Walmart Model has come to dominate the industry,” said Michael Bride of the UFCW. “The Competition Tribunal has the opportunity to stop this from happening in South Africa and to impose conditions that will protect economic growth.”

The Tribunal hearings began in March but were postponed in order to allow the unions and government to share their evidence. Arguments will be heard for the next week.

March 23, 2011

Union coalition welcomes decision by Competition Tribunal to stay proceedings

(Pretoria, South Africa)–The proposed entry of Walmart to South Africa via the takeover of Massmart was due to be heard this week by the Competition Tribunal.

The global coalition of unions opposed to the merger–South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU), UNI Global Union, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) of North America–came to the hearing ready to proceed today.

The South African Government then applied for a postponement in order to present evidence to challenge the economic evidence of the companies.

The Tribunal issued a ruling which would have essentially made a fair process impossible. The government would have been allowed to present its evidence in the future, but the unions would not be allowed to see or use this evidence before going forward today.

SACCAWU protested this unfair decision and asked for the hearing to be suspended while the decision was under appeal.

In a dramatic reversal, the Tribunal stayed the entire case until May 9.

“”It is only fair that all evidence be on the table before we go forward,” said Christy Hoffman, Deputy Secretary of UNI Global Union. “It was the best outcome in a difficult situation.”

“”It is paramount that a decision of this magnitude—whether to give a giant like Walmart access to the South African economy—is made with care and through due process,” said Michael Bride of UFCW. “While today’s decision was far from perfect, we applaud the Tribunal for creating a fairer process in the end.”

January 17, 2011

Global Labor Coalition Challenges Walmart Bid

(Johannesburg, January 17, 2011)—A global coalition of labor, comprising of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU), Geneva-based UNI Global Union and the North American United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) attended Massmart’s shareholders meeting. Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart has made a bid to acquire the South African retailer.

The unions spoke at the shareholders’ meeting and attended a worker demonstration outside.

Speaking at the event, Tyotyo James first Deputy-President of COSATU said, “Despite the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa remains one of the most inequitable societies in the world. The acquisition of 51% of Massmart by Walmart will cut out even more local ownership of one of the major retail players in the country. Although Walmart has tried to convince the public otherwise, history has shown us that the entry of the world’s largest company would not be good for the consumers, suppliers, or people of South Africa.”

Mduduzi Mbongwe, Deputy General Secretary of SACCAWU, the union which represents Massmart’s workers, said, “Walmart has come into our country and tried to claim that it is union-friendly. But, we know from our friends and colleagues from around the world, and especially in the United States of America—the company’s home country—of Walmart’s relentless attacks on workers and unions.

Our short experience in trying to engage with Walmart thus far has been discouraging. If the company continues on this path without taking the concerns of workers and their union seriously, the outcome can only be industrial strife, which would not be good for workers or investors.”

Alke Boessiger, Head of the Commerce Sector for UNI Global Union said, “I attend here today with the fraternal greetings of 20 million union members who are members of UNI, and we stand in solidarity with SACCAWU and the workers in Massmart at this crucial time. From my vantage point I’ve heard from union leaders in places as diverse as Chile and Japan as they’ve dealt with Walmart’s entry into their countries. The one key lesson I can offer to the people of South Africa is that now, when the company is making their initial bid, is the time for the country and union to set strong standards that protect workers, local suppliers, and community interests.”

Michael Bride, Deputy Organizing Director for Global Strategies of the 1.3 million member strong UFCW International Union of USA and Canada said, “Walmart’s anti-worker and anti-union bias is well known in North America.  From closing a store in Canada after it voted for the union to the dissemination of anti-union propaganda among its U.S. staff, Walmart is widely acknowledged as the most anti-union company in America.

But Walmart is more than that – we must also tell the story of the devastating effect that Walmart’s business model has on communities, small businesses, and companies in the supply chain. I am honored to stand with our South African brothers and sisters and am compelled to tell them the full story of the Walmart effect.”

SACCAWU will challenge the proposed takeover via South African competition law and in the political realm, and will continue to directly educate its union membership about the implications for workers should the takeover proceed.

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November 24, 2009

Tyson and UFCW Mark Two Decades of Workplace Safety Progress

Dakota Dunes, S.D. – The nation’s leading meat processor and the country’s largest union representing meatpacking and food processing workers have just completed the 20th year of a workplace ergonomics program that is making meat processing jobs safer.

The ground-breaking program initiated by Tyson Fresh Meats, formerly known as IBP, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, has involved workplace improvements that have helped reduce worker injuries and illnesses, such as strains and sprains.

Ergonomics, which is the science of designing the workplace to fit the worker, had not been extensively used in the meat industry until the company and union reached an agreement after an historic OSHA citation and settlement in late November 1988 followed up with the joint Tyson-UFCW program to develop a comprehensive ergonomics research program.

The program got underway in early 1989, with the company’s Dakota City, Nebraska, beef complex serving as the pilot plant, and production workers represented by UFCW Local 222, were actively involved.  Due to the success of the pilot, the program was quickly expanded to all of the company’s beef and pork plants.

Some of the key elements of the program include ongoing ergonomics training for production workers; the involvement of hourly workers as ‘ergonomic monitors;’worksite analysis and the redesign of work stations and equipment; and a medical management program focused on early detection and treatment of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Tyson and UFCW leaders believe the program has made a difference.  For example, the OSHA recordable injury and illness rate at the Dakota City plant is currently running 67 percent below the rate recorded in 1991.  Meanwhile, the current rate of injuries and illnesses at Dakota City requiring the involvement of a physician is 73 percent below 1991 levels.

“Over the past 20 years, our company has devoted millions of dollars in ergonomically designed equipment and process improvements, as well as training, which we believe have helped prevent workplace injuries and illnesses,” said Jim Lochner, chief operating officer of Tyson Foods.  “However, the real key to the success of this program has been the workers who serve as safety and ergonomics monitors.  The input we’ve received from hourly production workers and the participation of our plant and corporate management teams, have been invaluable.”

“What this program shows is that when workers have input on working conditions, when they are part of the decision-making process, you come up with a better, safer environment—and that’s good for everybody,” said UFCW Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division Director Mark Lauritsen.  “It works because everyone is involved from Tyson management to UFCW leaders, ergo monitors and production workers.”

“The union and Tyson have worked together to make this ergonomics program what it is today (and) I think we’re way ahead of the industry with our program,” said Marvin Harrington, President of UFCW Local 222, which represents workers at the Dakota City plant.  “We’re proud the program is part of our UFCW contract with Tyson.  We train UFCW members on how to identify hazards and recommend fixes.  Having both Tyson management and UFCW members engaged on detecting hazards makes for an efficient process.”

Tyson has been involved in numerous engineering projects designed to modify work stations and equipment in order to reduce physical stressors on the job.  Examples include redesigned knife handles, height-adjustable work stations, use of lighter-weight saws/power tools, hydraulic/mechanical assists to lift or separate product, lower overhead chains and conveyors to eliminate reaching over shoulder height, product diverters on conveyor lines to bring product closer to workers, comfortable/level floor surfaces, improved illumination and job rotation.   The company has also worked to reduce the vibration generated by certain tools and modified personal protective equipment to make it fit better and be more comfortable.

“We’ve implemented some major mechanical and process changes in our beef and pork plants over the years,” said Tom DeRoos, Corporate Ergonomics Program Manager for Tyson.  “This includes equipment designed to replace some of what had previously been done manually by production workers.  For example, many of our pork plants have automatic loin trimmers to remove fat from surface of the pork loins.”

Ergonomics were part of the design of Tyson’s new, multi-million dollar beef processing floor at Dakota City.  The new addition, which became operational in early 2006, includes adjustable work stations as well as a production flow designed with worker safety and health in mind.

But not all of the ergonomic improvements have involved major changes.  “Many of them have been what we call ‘quick fixes,’ which are projects that can be done in a matter of a few days,” said Dennis Golden, Training Manager/Ergonomics Liaison at Tyson’s Dakota City plant, who has been involved in the ergonomics program since its inception.  “For example, since late 1988, we’ve implemented more than 3,600 quick fixes at our Dakota City plant, making minor adjustments such as moving a gear box or relocating a knife sanitizer to make the work station more comfortable for team members.”

“I’ve been involved with the ergo program from the start as a UFCW member serving on a monitoring committee and as a union representative,” said Carmen Hacht, Local 222 Recorder.   “The key to making it work is monitors making the rounds, surveying workers, documenting the kinds of strain people are feeling, then following up and making sure that the fixes make a positive difference.”

Effective medical management is also essential to the ergonomics program. Its focus is early reporting and treatment of any workplace injuries or illnesses. “We require our team members to report all work-related injuries or illnesses, no matter how minor they believe them to be,” said DeRoos.  “By immediately assessing and treating such injuries or illnesses, we’re often able to help reduce the severity and duration.”

Tyson Fresh Meats currently operates eight beef plant and six pork plants in the United States.  In addition to Dakota City, this includes beef plants in Amarillo, Texas; Denison, Iowa; Joslin, Illinois; Emporia, Kansas; Finney County, Kansas; Lexington, Nebraska; and Pasco, Washington.  The company’s pork plants are in Logansport, Indiana; Louisa County, Iowa; Storm Lake, Iowa; Perry, Iowa; Waterloo, Iowa; and Madison, Nebraska.   The UFCW represents workers at Tyson plants in Dakota City, Joslin, Perry, Logansport and Waterloo.

About Tyson Foods, Inc.

Tyson Foods, Inc., founded in 1935 with headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, the second-largest food production company in the Fortune 500 and a member of the S&P 500. The company produces a wide variety of protein-based and prepared food products and is the recognized market leader in the retail and foodservice markets it serves.  Tyson provides products and service to customers throughout the United States and more than 90 countries.  The company has approximately 117,000 Team Members employed at more than 300 facilities and offices in the United States and around the world.  Through its Core Values, Code of Conduct and Team Member Bill of Rights, Tyson strives to operate with integrity and trust and is committed to creating value for its shareholders, customers and Team Members. The company also strives to be faith-friendly, provide a safe work environment and serve as stewards of the animals, land and environment entrusted to it.

About the UFCW

The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries, including 22,000 who work at Tyson plants.  UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. The UFCW and its predecessor unions have represented workers in the packing and processing industries for more than 100 years. Union contracts in the industry ensured equal pay for equal work for African Americans and women decades before equal pay became a larger societal goal. The UFCW has also been a leading national voice on workplace safety and health, helping spearhead protective federal legislation and OSHA regulations on waste containment, ergonomics, diacetyl, and combustible dust, among other initiatives.

May 12, 2009

Local 1529 Holds Community Forum Calling on Congress to Pass Employee Free Choice

UFCW Local 1529 members and community leaders met on May 7th in a community forum to discuss how the current economic crisis affects their livelihoods and offer Main Street solutions to hard working Americans. The town hall meeting in West Memphis, Arkansas, was part of a statewide and national mobilization of everyday working Americans who are coming together to bring about change in the workplace through passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

Speakers included Leo Chapman, former mayor of West Memphis and first
African American elected to that position, Irvin Calliste, International
Representative for the Steelworkers’ Union and President of the
Memphis AFL-CIO Labor Council, and Billy Myers, International
Representative for the United Food & Commercial Workers Union.

At the meeting, Chapman said workers would have more opportunities if it were easier to join a union. “”Look at the people where they’re behind, if
they were unionizing they would be in a better position than they are
today. We want to enjoy the same rights and privileges as anyone else.”

Calliste noted that unions are a core part of our country, saying, “Because of unions, this country thrived. It’s not a coincidence that when union membership declined, the middle class started declining with it. Unions are responsible for the great middle class in this country.”

Billy Myers urged UFCW and community members to mobilize for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field so workers can have more opportunities to get ahead. “I tell the workers it’s illegal [the company anti-union campaigns]. They can’t fire you for union activities. But in the back of my mind, I know it happens. Right now there’s no level playing field, the company has all the power. We must change that.”

Passing Employee Free Choice is crucial to growing the middle class and building an economy that works for everyone.  It will allow workers to have a voice at work and to bargain collectively for higher wages, benefits, and job security.  The bill seeks to level the playing field between workers and their employers because it would give workers–not their employers–the power to choose to join a union either through majority sign-up or through an election.

October 30, 2008

Doing the Work of America: Food and Commercial Workers Mobilize for Immigrant Worker Rights

DOING THE WORK OF AMERICA: FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS MOBILIZE FOR IMMIGRANT WORKER RIGHTS

Immigrant Workers Put Food on the Table for America’s Families

> En Español

UFCW Statement on Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride

The nation’s largest private sector union and the largest workers’ organization in the food industry, the 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), is mobilizing to protect the rights of immigrant workers who now comprise the majority of the workforce in much of America’s meat and food processing industry.

UFCW members and leaders are “”getting on the bus”” for the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Minneapolis, Houston, and Chicago.

“”We are bringing a message of hope to immigrant workers. The workers who are doing America’s work— the hard work— the dangerous work— the work that puts food on the dinner table for America’s families. We believe, that if you do the work, you’ve earned the opportunity for legal status, a living wage and respect for your rights. We are calling on America to recognize the contribution of some its most valuable workers,”” said UFCW President Doug Dority.

The UFCW has been aggressively organizing immigrant workers in the meatpacking industry for more than three decades. From Southeast Asian refugees during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to Latin American and African immigrants of today, the UFCW has been fighting to open the door to the American dream for a new generation of immigrants. A century ago, immigrants from Central and Southern Europe sweated and struggled in the meatpacking industry as chronicled in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Today, in non-union plants, conditions rival those of a century ago with high injury rates, high turnover and low wages.

“”Employers ruthlessly exploit immigrant workers, who often have no understanding of workplace rights and who live in constant fear of deportation. While the government cannot effectively stop employers from recruiting and importing immigrant workers solely for the purpose of economic exploitation, the government does effectively suppress these workers in the struggle against exploitation through allowing employers’ to threaten INS enforcement action against them. To protect American workplace standards, we must legalize and organize immigrant workers to stop the widespread abuse of worker rights,”” according to Dority.

The Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride draws on the experience of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Building bridges to the broader community and drawing strength from the struggles of the past connects today’s immigrants to a support network that can mobilize the social and political power to open the eyes, move the heart and change the laws of America to recognize the rights of immigrant workers.

UFCW activities are featured at stops in Omaha, Nebraska, and Fayetteville. North Carolina.

A rally in Omaha will focus on a community-wide, industry-wide organizing effort in the area’s meatpacking industry. From organizing soccer leagues to organizing unions, community and UFCW activists are building a model for empowering immigrant workers and winning community support. Nebraska’s Republican Governor responded to the effort with a proclamation of a “”Bill of Rights”” for meatpacking workers. The effort has led to organization and a union contract for immigrant workers at three Omaha area plants.

UFCW contracts for immigrant workers have produced tangible improvements in workers’ lives including wage increases and affordable, family health insurance. Union contracts also:

> protect immigrant workers from unfair firings;

> protect workers from discrimination based immigration status; and,

> provide workers with representation and impartial arbitration to protect their rights.

The contracts also establish multi-cultural funds that provide resources for programs such as safety training in Spanish and English as a second language classes.

According to Dority, “”Every worker has an interest in stopping the exploitation of immigrant workers. If employers can get away violating the rights of any worker, they will soon be able to exploit all workers. Immigrant workers are the victims in a system that wants their labor, but would at the same time deny them the rights and rewards of their work. That’s not the American way. When the buses stop in New York, the work begins to re-ignite the flame on the Statue of Liberty to light the way to human rights for this generation of immigrants.””

The UFCW has been fighting back against workplace discrimination against immigrant workers. With a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the UFCW produced an award- winning Spanish-language video, “”Acuérdense Siempre de Sus Derechos”” (Always Know Your Rights), to help workers protect themselves against employer abuse. Copies of the video are available by emailing press@ufcw.org

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April 30, 2008

NATIONAL COMMISSION INVESTIGATING MISCONDUCT BY IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AGENTS HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING IN DES MOINES

DES MOINES – A recently formed national commission examining raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents held its third regional hearing today at Plymouth Church in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The goal of today’s hearing is to shine a spotlight on the government’s activities,” said commission member and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. “Our Constitution is at stake, and if our government can’t following the Constitution, that is a serious problem that must be addressed.”

The hearing focused on the impact of workplace immigration raids in Marshalltown, Iowa, Grand Island, Neb., and Greeley, Colo., and examined how the execution of these raids is part of a wider pattern of ICE misconduct occurring across the country.

“”This is our third regional hearing and the fact that at each one we are hearing similar testimony of heavy handed tactics by immigration agents, as well as examples of clear violations of workers’ constitutional rights, is deeply troubling and points to the systemic and recurring nature of these injustices,” said Joseph T. Hansen, founding chairman of the National Commission and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union president.

The hearing in Des Moines was part of a series of regional public meetings that the commission is holding to explore the execution, implications and ramifications of workplace immigration enforcement. The commission will also look into claims that ICE has engaged in violations of the 4th amendment.  After a thorough investigation, the commission will produce a public report that highlights its findings and makes recommendations about how the system should be reformed.

“Many of the misdeeds that we have heard from occurred to workers who are in this country legally; U.S. citizens who have lived in the United States their whole lives, people who were born here or who immigrated properly to this country,” added Vilsack. “That is what concerns me, and why it is critical that these activities are exposed and adequately addressed.”

To date, ICE has refused to address the concerns raised by the witnesses who have testified.

“This commission has heard from workers, from religious leaders, from elected officials at every level of government and from psychological and legal experts,” added Hansen. “For ICE to try to ignore the pain these workers have gone through, as well as the testimony of respected leaders and elected officials about the devastation and destruction these raids cause families and communities, is simply unacceptable. We will continue to draw public attention to their actions until the system is appropriately reformed.”

The national commission was created in response to a series of raids that took place at meatpacking plants in America’s heartland.  On December 12, 2006, thousands of innocent workers were detained at meatpacking plants in six states during workplace raids carried out by federal ICE agents. The UFCW represents workers at five of the plants, including Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Grand Island, Neb.

On September 12, 2007, the UFCW filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to protect the 4th amendment rights of all Americans and enjoin the government from illegally arresting and detaining workers, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, while at their workplace.

In addition to Vilsack and Hansen, a broad group of leading policy experts serves on the commission. The commission held its first hearing in Washington, D.C., on February 25, 2008, and the second hearing in Boston on April 7, 2008. Future hearings are scheduled in Atlanta, Ga., for May 29, 2008.

Civilian-driven commissions have played an important role in U.S. history. When African-Americans were arrested, beaten and killed during the civil rights movement, the tragedies fueled the McCone Commission in 1965 and the National Advisory Commission in 1968.

When Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established to investigate these unacceptable civil rights violations.

Citizen review panels are often created to help renew a commitment to rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, especially when those rights are violated by local police brutality.

 

April 8, 2008

NATIONAL COMMISSION INVESTIGATING MISCONDUCT BY IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AGENTS HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING IN BOSTON

BOSTON – A recently formed national commission examining raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents held its second regional hearing today in the Massachusetts State House. The hearing focused on the local impact of workplace and community immigration raids in Massachusetts and Connecticut and examined how the execution of the raids is part of a wider pattern of ICE misconduct occurring across the country. The commission also heard testimony about anti-immigration measures in Rhode Island.

“”The testimony today provided compelling and often heartbreaking evidence of the widespread devastation that immigration raids have inflicted on workers, their families, communities and local economies,”” said Joseph T. Hansen, founding chairman of the National Commission and United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union president. “”The fact that so many of the emotional and economic wounds inflicted by ICE agents remain so raw, and the fact that so many questions remain unanswered long after the raids, makes ensuring accountability for these questionable actions by a government agency that much more important.””

The head of ICE, Julie L. Myers, was invited to testify, but declined to appear before the commission.

The hearing in Boston is part of a series of regional public meetings that the commission is holding to explore the execution, implications and ramifications of workplace immigration enforcement on local communities. The commission will also look into claims that ICE has engaged in violations of the 4th amendment. After a thorough investigation, the commission will produce a public report that highlights its findings and makes recommendations about how the system should be reformed.

“”As our commission travels the country and talks to more and more workers and experts, we are seeing troubling and repeated patterns of misconduct emerging,”” Hansen added. “”This commission will continue to aggressively pursue the facts and will ensure that they get a full and complete public airing. “”

The commission was created in response to a raid that took place at meatpacking plants in America’s heartland two years ago. On December 12, 2006, thousands of innocent workers were detained at meatpacking plants in six states during workplace raids carried out by federal ICE agents. The UFCW represents workers at five of the plants, including Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Grand Island, Neb.

On September 12, 2007, the UFCW filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to protect the 4th amendment rights of all Americans and enjoin the government from illegally arresting and detaining workers, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, while at their workplace.

A broad group of leading policy experts serves on the commission, including former Governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack. The commission held its first hearing in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 2008. Future hearings are scheduled in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 29, 2008 and in Atlanta, Ga., on May 29, 2008.

Civilian-driven commissions have played an important role in U.S. history. When African-Americans were arrested, beaten and killed during the civil rights movement, the tragedies fueled the McCone Commission in 1965 and the National Advisory Commission in 1968.

When Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established to investigate these unacceptable civil rights violations.

Citizen review panels are often created to help renew a commitment to rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, especially when those rights are violated by local police brutality.

Visit www.icemisconduct.org for more information.

February 25, 2008

NATIONAL COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE MISCONDUCT AND VIOLATIONS OF THE LAW BY IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT (ICE) AGE

WASHINGTON —A new, national commission convened today to examine the policies and practices of enforcement actions by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).
The Commission will investigate claims of unconstitutional workplace enforcement actions, including massive round ups and detention of workers, as well as economic disruption stemming from the country’s failed immigration enforcement policies.
“Our broken immigration system does not provide ICE license to break the law and violate the Constitution during enforcement actions,” said Joseph T. Hansen, founding Chairman of the National Commission and United Food & Commercial Workers International Union President.
On December 12, 2006, thousands of innocent workers were detained at meatpacking plants in six states in workplace raids carried out by federal ICE agents. The UFCW represents workers at five of the plants, including Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Grand Island, Neb.
In a series of regional hearings, the commission will hear from legal, law enforcement, and immigration experts, among others, to examine the ramifications of ICE enforcement actions. The Commission will look into claims that ICE has engaged in violations of the 4th Amendment. And after thorough investigation, it will produce a public report that highlights its findings and makes recommendations to ensure that workers do not check their constitutional rights at the door when they report to work.
Civilian-driven investigations have played an important role in U.S. history. When African-Americans were arrested, beaten, and killed during the civil rights movement, the tragedies fueled the McCone Commission in 1965 and the National Advisory Commission in 1968. When Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established to investigate these unacceptable civil rights violations. Citizen review panels are often created to help renew a commitment to rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, especially when those rights are violated by local police brutality.
In the coming weeks, the Commission will release its schedule of hearings planned through June 2008.