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March 16, 2015

Women’s History Month: The Fight for Maternity Leave and Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers Continues

rtbDid you know that the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t mandate maternity leave? The rest of North America, most of South America, Russia and Europe, Australia and some African an Asian countries all mandate both maternity AND paternity leave, but in the U.S., leave isn’t guaranteed by law for either parent.

Only nine countries don’t have laws that guarantee some paid leave for new mothers: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Tonga — and the United States. It’s 2015. How is this possible?

Although there have been many improvements in labor conditions for women in recent years, paid maternity leave is unattainable for countless women working in the United States.

But many progressive organizations, worker groups, and unions like the UFCW are fighting to change that.

In a recent status report on the well-being of women world-wide, the Clinton Foundation noted that “paid maternal leave supports women’s continued employment, job stability, and longer-term wage growth.”

Jessica Milli, a senior research associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has also noted that “women still take on a disproportionate part of the care burden and have to take more time off. This has huge implications for their earnings, and their overall experience in the workplace.”

Thanks to worker activism, some employers are seeing the value in providing more paid maternity leave for their female employees, and are realizing that they are far more likely to retain their staff by doing so.

Recently, telecom company Vodafone announced that it will start giving full pay for the first 16 weeks of maternity leave for women and 100% of salary for a 30-hour week for the first six months after their return to work, making the company one of the first multinationals to introduce a worldwide minimum level of maternity pay.

Not only is this a significant help to women at the company, but Vodafone also revealed research that showed global businesses worldwide could save $19 billion a year by providing 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave.

The analysis found that recruiting and training new employees to replace women who leave the workforce after having a baby costs $47 billion– far higher than the $28 billion cost of the extra benefits.

At Walmart–America’s largest retailer and private employer of women–there is still much work to be done in regards to getting better treatment for pregnant workers. In response to unethical and potentially unlawful treatment of pregnant workers and the widespread financial hardship forced onto working women at Walmart, Walmart moms formed together to create the group Respect the Bump.

Since banding together they have called for Walmart to publicly commit to better pay and protections at the country’s largest employer of women. With the support of the country’s leading women’s rights advocates, the group developed a list of urgent policy changes the company must make to ensure that the women who are helping the company profit are not living in poverty or putting their health at risk.

Thelma Moore, a member of Respect the Bump, was fired for taking time off to ensure her pregnancy was viable after an in-store accident. “Walmart could be paving the way for good jobs for working moms like us,” said Moore. “Instead, we’re fighting for bathroom breaks when we’re pregnant and steady schedules that let us get reliable childcare and put food on the table.”

The mothers of Respect the Bump are still working hard to advocate for better treatment, but in early 2014 their efforts payed off when Walmart quietly overhauled its pregnancy policy to provide basic accommodations for employees experiencing complications with their pregnancies, in a shift that could ease the way for hundreds of thousands of its other female employees who could have babies down the road.

Women’s History Month is the perfect time to reflect on how far women workers have come, but it should also serve as in important reminder that women are still not always treated equally in the workplace. For women, belonging to a union helps ensure a level playing field, protect against gender discrimination, and provides greater benefits than non-union counterparts.

March 9, 2015

UFCW President Perrone Statement on Adoption of Right to Work in Wisconsin

“By standing against hard-working families, Governor Walker should be ashamed, but we know he is not.”

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, D.C.Marc Perrone, International President of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement in response to the adoption of right to work in Wisconsin.

“Every elected leader has a sacred responsibility to stand up for America’s hard-working families and to help them achieve a better life. Higher wages, better benefits, equal pay for equal work, protection from discrimination and exploitation; those are the rights that unions offer and which we fight for every single day. These are the true rights that Governor Scott Walker wants to take away from the union men and women who work hard, sacrifice, and help make Wisconsin and America a better place.

The truth is by standing against hard-working families, Governor Scott Walker should be ashamed, but we know he is not. He has chosen to pursue a radical agenda that willingly ignores that this law will devastate countless workers and their families. Make no mistake, this law gives irresponsible corporations, let alone politicians, the right to exploit and mistreat countless men and women all across Wisconsin.

Let me be clear, this fight is not over. We will stand up and fight for the right to protect our hard-working union family and the rights of countless families in Wisconsin and all across America who earn and deserve a better life.”wisconsin


Key Facts: Value of Union Membership for Hard-Working Men and Women

  • Union workers vs non-union workers earn higher wages, receive better benefits, and have more job security than non-union workers. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Union Members – 2014”, January 2015, Table 2. Available at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm
  • Women are more likely to get equal pay for equal work by being a union member. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Union Members – 2014”, January 2015, Table 2. Available at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm
  • LGBT workers are less likely to be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity as a union member.  Source: Frank, Miriam. “Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America”, Temple University Press, 2014.


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.

September 5, 2014

Union Plus Job Loss Grant Helps UFCW Member Start Fresh

Former UFCW member Karyn Neeley

Former UFCW member Karyn Neeley

Losing a job can happen to the best of us. The challenge is to maintain your strength, your determination, your resiliency and of course your union values. Karyn Neeley of Rosamond, Calif., and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1036, is making it through a tough time with her head held high and her values intact—with help from a $300 Union Plus Job Loss Grant.

Karyn spent 11 good years in UFCW, working as a meat and seafood manager and even representing her local as a steward and a vice-president. In the time since then, she’s done other work, including in the banking industry. But she’s kept her union card, as well as her Union Plus Credit Card—and that was the key to receiving her Job Loss Grant.

The Union Plus Credit Card program is uniquely designed to meet the needs of hard-working union members and their families with competitive rates, U.S.-based customer service and more.

In addition, it’s the only credit card that offers exclusive assistance programs1 to help UFCW members and their families who are facing hardship. One of those assistance programs is the Job Loss Grants of $300 for those who have carried the card for three months or more and who meet the other eligibility requirements.

“I’ve carried a Union Plus Credit Card for many years,” Karyn says. “I was opening my bill one day and in the statement there was some information about Job Loss Grants. I thought, you know what, let me try it.”

Karyn completed and submitted the application along with the other documentation required to consider her grant request. Her application was approved and soon thereafter she received her $300 check. “It was wonderful getting the Union Plus Job Loss Grant when I needed it,” she says. “I used it to pay some bills.”

These days Karyn is ready to get back into the workforce. She’s considering a number of options, including putting her training as a licensed cosmetologist to work. But if she could find the right opportunity in a supermarket, she’d jump at the chance to be in a UFCW workplace once again.

“After all my years in UFCW I know what a difference having union pay and benefits can make,” she says, “including the opportunity to carry a Union Plus Credit Card.”

Do you carry a Union Plus Credit Card? It features Disability, Job Loss, Strike and Hospital Grants for eligible cardholders1. It also features a competitive rate and all customer service calls answered in the U.S. You can learn more by visiting UFCWcard.com.

At UnionPlus.org you can learn more about these programs, as well as special services that are available to all union members and retirees.


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 1Certain restrictions, limitations, and qualifications apply to these grants. Additional information and eligibility criteria can be obtained at UnionPlus.org/Assistance.

 Credit approval required. Terms & Conditions apply. Union Plus Credit Cards issued by Capital One, N.A.


June 11, 2014

Union Plus Offering Free Webinar for Union Families About Making College More Affordable

560x292UFCWcredit-CashierEager to learn more about how to make college more affordable?

Union Plus is inviting union members and union leaders to register for a free, upcoming webinar covering how to make college more affordable.

During the webinar, they’ll be announcing some exciting new grants and a sweepstakes to help union members and participants in Union Plus programs get student loan debt relief.

Join them for the 1-hour FREE Union Plus webinar on June 17  to learn about special benefits for union families.

You’ll learn more about:

  • Tips & strategies for making college more affordable
  • College counseling discounts
  • College test prep discounts
  • Textbook discounts
  • Free student loan counseling
  • Union Plus Scholarship
  • COMING in JUNE: $500 Student Debt Eraser
  • COMING in JUNE: $20K Student Loan Giveaway
  • Q&A session
  • And more!

Sign up for free today for the Learn Your Way to Earning Your Way Webinar on:

  • Tuesday, June 17, 2014
  • 1:00 pm EST

Can’t attend the webinar live? Register to receive a free recording.


Keep an eye out for more information by checking out Union Plus on Twitter and Facebook.







March 20, 2014

UFCW Member Faces Life after Surgery— with Disability Assistance from Union Plus

unionplussliderFrom Union Plus

For 17 years, Michael Roque of Somers Point, N.J.–a member of UFCW Local 152–did a job he was good at, caring for the elderly and bringing joy to their lives. But, after having to undergo brain surgery, the long recovery has brought big changes to his life, along with the financial strain of being unable to work full time. Now regaining his strength, Roque is thankful for the Union Plus Disability Grant1 that provided financial assistance at a critical time.

For much of his career as an activities aid in a nursing home, the symptoms from Roque’s epilepsy were kept in check. But a 2004 car accident left him experiencing three to four seizures a month. Eventually, there was no alternative but to have surgery, even though it would mean a recovery period of a year or more, while getting by on his wife Donalyd’s salary.

Assistance from Union Plus has been a huge help during such a difficult time. “I learned about the Disability Grant by chance,” Roque says. “After I got a Union Plus Credit Card, I started getting emails from Union Plus, and one of them described the Disability Grant program. With everything we were going through, it sounded like it would be great for us.”

Union Plus provides a range of unique assistance programs1 to help eligible UFCW Credit Cardholders who are facing hardship. Disability Grants of $1600 to $2700 are available to Union Plus Credit Card holders who have had the card for three months or more and who meet the eligibility requirements.

“The people at Union Plus were extremely helpful all throughout the application process,” Roque says. “They answered all my questions, stayed in touch, and we received help in less than a month.”

The last year has been a tough time in many ways, but Roque is progressing in his recovery and feeling better than he has in a long time. “I haven’t had a seizure since the surgery,” he says. “I’m getting my strength back each day.”

Roque looks forward to returning to work in the coming months. He may be unable to perform his old job, due to the stress and physical requirements, but with his years of experience and his degree in public health, he is confident of finding a good opportunity where he can put his skills to work.

“My life has changed a lot in the last year,” he says. “But I’m moving ahead now. I really appreciate the help that Union Plus provided when we needed it most.”

Do you carry a Union Plus Credit Card? They feature Disability, Job Loss, Strike, and Hospital Grants for eligible cardholders, plus, a competitive rate and all customer service calls are answered in the U.S. You can learn more by visiting www.UFCWCard.com

Also available to eligible UFCW members is the Union Plus Mortgage program, which provides a range of assistance programs, including interest-free loans and grants to help you make mortgage payments when you’re disabled, or become unemployed. Over the life of the Union Plus mortgage assistance program, more than $10.1 million in assistance has been provided to union members. 

At UnionPlus.org you can learn more about these programs, as well as the Union Plus benefits and services that are available to union members and retirees. These include legal services, credit counseling, health savings programs, and the Save My Home Hotline.


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1Certain restrictions, limitations, and qualifications apply to these grants. Additional information and eligibility criteria can be obtained at UnionPlus.org/Assistance.

Credit approval required. Terms & Conditions apply. Union Plus Credit Cards issued by Capital One, N.A.

March 26, 2012

Retail Employees Work Towards a Better Economy and a Better Life

Today’s post is the first in what will be an ongoing series on the retail industry, its impact on our economy, and the opportunities and challenges its workers face.

A recent article in Good Magazine focused on telling the stories of workers in the service industry that anyone who works in the sector is all too familiar with. The piece is filled with examples of workers who are overworked, underpaid and do not have any job security or benefits. The fear of not being able to pay the bills, getting sick or getting fired at any moment is plaguing workers in an industry that will become the backbone of the American economy.

Retail jobs are growing, and they’re poised to become as important to the 21st Century American economy as manufacturing jobs once were. Yet, despite the growing demand of the service industry, retail jobs don’t always come with a path to the middle class, and instead leave workers struggling to meet their basic needs. If we want to have a middle class in America, it is crucial that millions of American retail workers have good jobs with solid work schedules, and a paycheck and benefits that pay the bills.

Make no mistake, retailers actively work to make these jobs “bad” jobs. Driven by the bottom line of profit, and emboldened by a struggling economy and a plethora of applicants, they’ve purposely created a broken system and negative working environment for workers. With the exception of a few responsible retailers whose workers have a union voice, most retail employers don’t pay a living wage. They depend on high turnover. They’re stingy with schedules in order to avoid paying overtime and providing benefits.

Retailers trap their workers in a cycle of inconsistent schedules and wages that leave them struggling to make ends meet and support their families. Many workers have to balance two or three different jobs at a time in order to make a 40 hour work week possible. The middle class cannot survive or prosper if its foundation of workers is scrambling between several jobs just to pay the bills or put food on the table.

Retailers and other service industry employers do this to send a clear message to workers: you don’t deserve good jobs. In surprising, stark contrast to the way we felt about manufacturing jobs, Americans are starting to believe retail jobs – the very foundation of our new economy – shouldn’t be decent, dependable, middle class jobs. Many workers are just grateful to have a job at all, and they expect low wages and benefits because it is part of the system that has been ingrained in them.

These workers will play a significant role in the American economy. It’s shocking to think about the consequences of a generation of workers whose primary job opportunities offer them no path to the middle class.

Many people see their retail jobs as temporary or as a stepping stone to other careers, so they don’t want to invest a lot in a position they believe will not serve them in the long run. But the fact is that many will end up staying in their service industry jobs because those will be the only opportunities available to them. That’s why retail workers need to unite and take action now to fight against the industry’s push to make retail jobs “bad jobs.”

Workers in retail can be empowered by coming together on the job, recognizing that they are a critical part of the national workforce, and demanding to share the success with profitable national and international retailers. Union workers at retailers like Macys, H&M, Modells, and Bloomingdales already know that having a union voice on the job means they’ll be compensated and treated in a way that reflects their hard work. They’re able to bargain the middle class wages and health care benefits they earn and deserve.

With a union on the job, empowered retail workers can bolster the growing service industry and re-create the modern middle class that workers had in the past, and what we certainly need now.

September 28, 2010


WASHINGTON – As activists, advocates and working families from across the country prepare to rally for good jobs in Washington on October 2, 2010, a new national poll conducted by Lake Research for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) shows that the American public is overwhelmingly in favor of government action that addresses income inequity and that seeks to level the playing field for all American workers.

At a near universal level of agreement, voters strongly believe our economy needs to be defined by jobs with benefits and wages that can support a family. It is exactly this message that families from across the country are coming to Washington on Oct. 2nd to deliver to Congress.

“American voters want our nation’s lawmakers to focus on creating economic policies that support and sustain good, quality jobs,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “They want politicians who will stand up to the fringe elements of our society and to stand for pragmatic solutions to our economic challenges.”

One Nation is about turning our attention to the needs of people,” said Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP. “A strong economy is only strong if it provides good jobs that support families and bring opportunity. We need to get our country moving; we need to get on common ground, we are coming together this Saturday to start this process; we are going to turn out in force this election cycle, and elect leaders who put people first.”

“The UFCW poll shows that a huge majority of Americans agree we must improve job quality, even as we focus on creating new jobs,” said Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).That’s just one of the reasons why on October 2 we’ll be joining thousands of our friends on the National Mall calling for jobs, justice, and, yes, comprehensive immigration reform.”

Over the last 30 years, workers’ wages have remained essentially stagnant, while worker productivity skyrocketed by 75 percent. For three decades, American workers have been producing more, but taking home paychecks that don’t reflect their hard work. Consequently, we see the biggest pay gap in nearly a century.

“The only way to achieve lasting economic recovery and to ensure future prosperity is to address the wage inequity crises that is plaguing our nation’s workers,” added Hansen. “If our elected officials fail to address this issue, our nation can never fully regain its financial footing.”

With so much of the cable television debate focused on the noisy fringes of our society, it seems that the aspirations and needs of the vast majority of hard-working Americans are getting drowned out by the noise and the nonsense of the extreme elements of the political debate.

The reality, as this poll shows, is that the American people want pragmatic government solutions and sensible legislative actions that address job creation and that ensure a foundation for secure and stable communities.

Voters have a clear vision of what kind of economy they want, and while they understand the current economic situation is difficult, they still believe that all jobs should pay a living wage, come with affordable, quality health care, and offer real retirement security.

The poll, taken among 700 randomly selected registered voters nationwide, shows: 

  1. Concern about the economy goes beyond the present; voters are deeply questioning the types of jobs America will have in the future. Eighty-seven percent of voters are very or somewhat concerned that America’s future jobs will be low-wage and low-benefit — including 65 percent who are very concerned.
  2. Eighty-nine percent of voters agree that economic development should result in jobs with good wages and benefits that can support a family.
  3. Eighty-four percent of voters agree that economic recovery means creating jobs with good benefits so people can afford to take care of their families, not low- wage jobs with no benefits.
  4. Eighty-four percent of voters favor requiring that government contracts go to companies that provide good paying jobs and benefits so that their employees don’t end up on welfare programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

According to the Lake poll, a majority of voters believe job growth must be good job growth. In a number of polls, Lake Research has found that a key economic frame for Americans is to have good-paying jobs—no matter what the sector.

To make that happen our elected officials must actively engage in the policy decisions that guide economic growth and job creation, and they must correct the current wage gap so that as worker productivity increases, paychecks also increase.

In addition to pushing for economic policies that address income inequality and quality job growth, the UFCW, NCLR and other civil rights organizations will be using the One Nation Working Together rally to push for comprehensive immigration reform as a key component of economic recovery and prosperity.

Study after study has shown that meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform would help bolster the economy and ensure that there is fairness and justice in America’s workplaces.

“Failure to enact immigration reform impedes our economic recovery efforts because under the current system, unscrupulous employers exploit undocumented immigrants to lower wages and working conditions for all workers,” added Murguia. “Reform that requires undocumented immigrants to come forward, pay taxes, and learn English to obtain legal status would strengthen labor standards for all, by eliminating the ability of bottom-feeding employers to rip off workers.”

The UFCW will continue working with leaders like NCLR and NAACP, as well as other labor organizations, to organize and mobilize our members and their families around key issues facing our communities—from job creation to labor law reform to immigration reform.

March 21, 2010


Washington DC— Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed health care reforms that will better serve all Americans. Thanks to the commitment of President Obama and Democratic Members of Congress, we now have reform legislation that has eluded our nation’s grasp for a century.


This is an achievement that will rank among the highest in our national experience.


For the countless hard-working families across the country suffering at the hands of our nation’s badly broken health care system, the passage of this bill represents an unprecedented leap forward in the struggle to ensure all Americans have access to affordable health care—and makes good on President Obama’s promise to lead our country through the difficult challenges facing the American people on this issue.


With the passage of this bill comes an end to the worst of insurance company abuses. No longer will Americans have to fear being denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. There will be no more lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits. No more will insurance companies be allowed to retroactively cancel insurance coverage when a policy holder becomes ill.


Aside from reigning in insurance company greed, the bill also extends coverage to millions of Americans who would otherwise go without, reduces prescription drug costs for seniors, while encouraging employers to fulfill their obligation of providing benefits to their workers.


UFCW members participated in the health care debate in nearly every congressional district across the country. They made calls and wrote letters, rallied and marched, visited district offices and traveled to Washington D.C., to meet with elected representatives. UFCW members won’t forget the representatives who voted “yes” on these reforms and stood with working people and families rather than the insurance company lobbyists.

December 30, 2009


PITTSBURGH, PAYesterday the Pittsburgh City Council voted unanimously to enact a prevailing-wage law for service and retail jobs in publicly subsidized development. The passage of this legislation was due to a strong coalition of faith, environmental, community and labor organizations, including United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 23. Workers in building and food service, grocery store and hotel industries will benefit from this bill, including thousands of UFCW members working in those industries.
The Pittsburgh Prevailing Wage bill will make sure that collectively-bargained wage and benefit standards for workers in those industries are maintained in publicly-subsidized development. Wage standards assure pay of between $10 and $14/hr plus health insurance and other benefits to all jobs created by subsidies of over $100,000 in projects of over 25,000 square feet.
“This is a major victory for working families in Pittsburgh,” said Tony Helfer, President of UFCW Local 23. “It means developers who take our money must promise to maintain the standard wages—and that’s good for everyone: workers, business, and our community. Service and retail industry jobs like these are the jobs of the future, and yesterday the City Council voted to make sure those jobs will pay enough to raise a family and benefit our community.”
Over the past five months, the Pittsburgh UNITED coalition of labor, faith, environmental, and community groups worked tirelessly to help formulate and pass this legislation, which will have a positive impact on the city’s economic future. They knocked on doors, called their council members, gathered petition signatures, and attended numerous council hearings.
“If my tax money is going to be used to build a grocery store,” said Marc Mancini, a UFCW member and local grocery worker who worked to get the law passed, “I don’t want it used to create minimum-wage jobs that would undercut what I make and create competition that could hurt my employer while not actually helping any Pittsburghers earn a good living.”

September 8, 2009

AmeriCold Workers Win Solid Wage and Benefit Increases in First Union Contract

(CRETE, Neb.) – Workers at the Americold plant in Crete, Nebraska, obtained their first-ever union contract. This five-year contract negotiated by union members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 271 provides solid wage and benefit increases.

“This contract gives us wages that protect full-time, families supporting jobs in our community,” said Gene Muff, an Americold worker and a member of UFCW Local 271. “When all workers in the heartland stand together for a voice on the job, we can raise everyone’s wages, benefits and working conditions.”

With this contract, 150 workers at Americold will join the more than 250,000 workers in the poultry and meatpacking industries nationwide who have a union contract with the UFCW.

The new Americold contract includes:

– Average wage increases of $1.44/hr for the first year and an additional 30 cents per hour for the next four years;
– A formal system to resolve workplace issues;
– Time and a half pay for holiday work;
– Night shift premium wages;
– Affordable family health coverage;
– Job advancement opportunities based on seniority;
– Funeral leave and paid vacation benefits.

The Americold contract is the latest of several major collective bargaining wins for UFCW packing and food processing members across the country.

For more information, contact Gonzalo Salvador at (202) 466-1591 or press@ufcw.org


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