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February 2, 2009

Packinghouse Workers Win Solid Wage and Benefits Increases with Smithfield Foods

(Washington, DC) – Two new contracts—one covering 1800 Smithfield/Farmland Foods workers in Crete, Neb., and the other covering 250 Smithfield/Armour Eckrich workers in Mason City, Iowa—raise living standards for meatpacking workers and their families. The contracts negotiated by members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 271 and 6 provide solid wage increases, lower worker health care costs with improved health care benefits, and retirement security.

More than 10,000 workers at twelve UFCW local unions that are bargaining (or have recently settled) new contracts with Smithfield have been taking unified worksite actions over the past eight months. This unified bargaining approach is sending a strong message to Smithfield that UFCW members are willing to stick together for contracts that raise working conditions and living standards for meatpacking workers across the industry. One of the goals of the program was to show UFCW members at each plant that no one stood alone. Unity bargaining is producing the best contracts in the pork industry and changing the lives of workers.

“We just settled a contract that secures middle class wages and benefits for our families and we did it by working together with our UFCW brothers and sisters in Nebraska and across the country, said Bob Hampton,” chief steward at Local 6 in Mason City. “Smithfield workers are sticking together to make Smithfield jobs quality, middle class jobs you can raise a family on.”

In Mason City, the new four-year contract:

–Increases wages by $1.40 over the four year term of the contract.

–Maintains affordable health insurance and adds improved well child care and a variety of improvements in health care benefits.

–Improves vacation pay.

–Improves retirement.

–Improves sick pay.

In Crete, the new four-year contract:

–Increases wages by at least $1.50 over the four year term of the contract.

–Improves health care coverage with controlled costs to workers.

–Secures retirement.

–Improves working conditions.

These contracts are the latest of several major collective bargaining wins for UFCW packing and food processing members across the country.  The UFCW represents 250,000 workers in this industry.  Smithfield workers at the company’s largest pork processing plant recently voted to join the UFCW after a 15-year campaign.

 

November 20, 2008

Meatpacking Workers Win Solid Wage and Benefits Increases in New Agreement with Smithfield/Patrick Cudahy

(Washington, DC) – A new contract covering 1450 Smithfield/Patrick Cudahy workers in Cudahy, Wis., raises living standards for meatpacking workers and their families. The contract negotiated by union members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1473 provides solid wage increases, lower worker health care costs with improved health care benefits, and greater pension security.

“This is a good contract,” said production worker and UFCW Local 1473 member Ilma Santiago. “Good wages, good health care, and good pension benefits.”

The new five-year contract provides:

  • Wage increase of $1.26, increasing base-wage rates to $12.66  an hour with a top rate of  $32.08 an hour
  • A $175 lump-sum payment
  • Improvements in wellness health care coverage—and a five percent decrease in worker health care costs
  • Increases pension and improves retirement security
  • A $200 annual tool allowance
  • Increases life insurance
  • Increases sick allowance pay
  • Improves vacation benefits
  • Improves funeral and bereavement pay

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

“It’s good to have a union, especially in these tough economic times—a UFCW contract means security for my family,” said Santiago.

September 3, 2008

Restoring the American Dream

Washington DC—Martin Luther King Jr. once described Americans and our American way of life this way: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

That statement is as profound—and instructive—today as it was a half century ago when Dr. King wrote those words from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama.

Labor Day traditionally kicks off the final sprint to Election Day. From now until November 4, Americans will engage in a national debate about who to entrust with the awesome responsibility of leading our nation. It is up to every single American to determine the tone and character of that debate. We have a choice. We can conduct this debate on the merits of each candidate, knowing that we are, all of us, tied in a single garment, endeavoring in the serious work of setting the future course for our children and grandchildren. Or we can use this national debate as a platform to breed division, conflict, and racial fears as some extremists are already doing in newspapers and over the airwaves.

We cannot solve the challenges before us unless we truly recognize that we must solve them together. Americans may come from different backgrounds and outlooks—but we share the same hope of achieving the American dream. All of us want to take part, and do our part, in a society that provides a better life for every American.

I believe Senator Barack Obama is the best candidate—the American dream candidate—not only for working people, but for all Americans. He believes in the promise of the American dream because he has lived it. He believes that, in America, if you work hard you ought to share in the success of your labor. In America, you ought to be able to earn wages and benefits that can raise a family.

From ending the war in Iraq to shoring up the economy, from ensuring health care for every American to solving our energy crisis, Barack Obama has thoughtful, well-formulated proposals designed to put America back on track—and make the American dream a real possibility again for working families. That’s why it is so gravely distressing to see the nefarious efforts of those who would turn back the clock in America by fueling racial fears and inciting racial conflicts around Senator Obama’s candidacy.

Americans need serious debate about how best to meet the challenges of our ailing economy. We need real, workable proposals on how to fix our health care system and make college more affordable for our kids. It’s critically important for the U.S. to regain its place as a leader on the world stage. Yet there are those who persist in distracting us with divisive and morally repugnant racial fear mongering.

In this election, working people have an incredible opportunity to turn our country around. We can reject the politics of division and conflict. We can say: “Not this time, not this election.”  Union members know better than most, as Martin Luther King says, “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” We know that an injury to one is an injury to all. And grave injury is caused by those who would demean this election with racial rhetoric.

Let’s focus the debate on the prospects for a better tomorrow in which all workers will have their rights protected and their hard work respected; a tomorrow with affordable health care for all Americans, economic prosperity and national security. If we conduct a responsible national debate, we can elect a new president who will bring about positive economic change—a president who will not put corporate interests above those of working people. We have a clear choice on the November presidential ballot. Barack Obama offers change and hope—he brings a commitment to the cause of working people. With his leadership, we can change America, and restore the American dream.

September 25, 2007

UFCW Reviving the American Dream for Meatpacking Workers

New Hormel Chain Agreement Raises the Bar for Meat Industry Contracts

(Washington, DC) – A new contract covering 4,000 Hormel workers in five locations secures big wage increases, health care improvements and greater pension security for meatpacking workers and their families. The contract sets a new standard for wages and benefits in the meat industry-one that will allow packing and processing workers to truly live the American Dream.

Five UFCW local unions took unified worksite actions over the past six months – actions that sent a strong message to Hormel that UFCW members are willing to fight and stick together for a contract that would secure wages and benefits that can support a family.

“We haven’t had a contract like this one since the late 1970s.  Wages, health care, and pensions are all increased,” said Mike Marty, a member of UFCW Local 22 in Fremont, Neb.   “We achieved it by working together, engaging our membership across the country and building good old fashioned union solidarity,” Marty said.

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members in five locations – Austin, Minn.; Algona, Iowa; Fremont, Neb.; Beloit, Wis.; and Atlanta, Ga. voted to ratify a new four-year contract that includes:

–considerable wage increases including  $1.40/hr base wage increase over four years for production workers and $1.80/hr base wage increase for maintenance workers. The increases bring the average wage for production workers to $15.75 an hour-the top of the industry.

–significant improvements in preventive health care, well baby and well child care, hospice care, home health care, vision care, mental health and substance abuse care, and cancer screening as well as big improvements in dental care. These improvements were achieved with no increase in deductible, and only a minimal increase in co-premiums.

–improved retirement security including increased “pension multipliers” which will mean a greater than 10 % increase in pension checks.

The Hormel contract is the latest of several major collective bargaining wins for UFCW members across the country.  Supermarket workers have engaged in unity bargaining and coordinated worksite actions over the past nine months – resulting in groundbreaking contracts with major national supermarket chains on both the East and West Coasts, Texas, and the Midwest.

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April 26, 2004

Kroger Risks Revenue Hemorrhage With Attack On Worker Health Benefits

Workers In Houston, Cincinnati, Louisville, Las Vegas, Northern California, Denver, Seattle And Detroit Mobilize For Fight To Save Health Care

Kroger stockholders were recently stunned when the company forked over more than a $100 million to the supermarket operator’s leading competitors as a payoff from the more than 4 month long Southern California grocery strike. Waging war on workers’ health benefits doesn’t come cheaply, and the nation’s largest supermarket chain had to pay the bill after it agreed to cover its competitor’s losses when it joined with Safeway and Albertsons to take on 70,000 Southern California members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in a fight over affordable health care.

Kroger did not limit its revenue loss to California. It also sent workers into the streets and its customers off to its competitors when it forced a strike over health benefits in West Virginia last year. Now, Kroger is risking a revenue hemorrhage as its short-sighted, benefit-busting demands could send tens of thousands of the company’s workers into the streets from Houston to Seattle, and from Cincinnati to Denver. The majority of Kroger’s revenue stream could dry up if the company fails to reach agreements that maintain affordable health care.

“”Kroger has consistently underestimated workers’ resolve in the fight for affordable health care. For the company health care benefits are a matter of dollars and cents, for workers health care benefits are a matter of life and death,”” said UFCW International Collective Bargaining Director Pat O’Neill.

In a nationwide effort, the UFCW International is systematically laying the groundwork in preparation for the possibility of multi-city strikes. From picket signs to community outreach, coordinated programs are being planned to mobilize support for affordable health care, as well as to assist the workers forced to strike to keep their health care.

While the details vary from city to city, the thrust of the company’s attack is to effectively eliminate affordable health care in the future. Houston is currently the hot spot for a potential strike. Company demands there would impose costs that would push health care out of reach for many workers, and could leave substantial number of workers without any coverage at all.

“”Kroger needs to make a commitment to maintaining affordable benefits. The workers have made record profits for the company. Some of those profits now should be used to maintain the workers’ benefits. Attempts to eliminate affordable health care will only lead to the elimination of profits, customers and market share. Workers will negotiate in good faith to keep the stores open and the customers served, but workers will fight for health care,”” stated O’Neill.