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January 23, 2014

Member Spotlight: Mechelle Cunningham

In this week’s member spotlight, we’re highlighting the story of another longtime UFCW member, who like last week’s spotlight member, is also from West Virginia.

Local 23 member Mechelle Cunningham caught our attention when we saw how she spearheaded a collection drive at her workplace–Giant Eagle in Morgantown, West Virginia. After hearing about a friend who had donated some water and that trucks were bringing water to people in her state who were affected by the chemical spill in and around Charleston, WV, Mechelle looked at the 3 pallets of water on the store floor in front of her and told her manager she wanted to purchase them and have them removed from the store floor. Her manager, knowing the cost was around $560 dollars, said, “Today?” Mechelle’s response was automatic.

Local 23 members Robin Gable, Teresa Policicchio, Mechelle Cunningham, and Anna Sisler.

Local 23 members Robin Gable, Teresa Policicchio, Mechelle Cunningham, and Anna Sisler.

“I didn’t think about the price–I just knew that my fellow employees would gather together to purchase that water to send down there. I told her that one way or another we’d get the money, and we did!” Together, Mechelle, her fellow union members, and other members of the community were able to send 17 pallets of water to those in need.

For Mechelle, being a union member means “standing up for your rights, and helping one another”. When talking with Mechelle, its clear that the ‘helping one another’ part is big for her, as demonstrated by her role in the donation of the water pallets: “We all really help one another and donate for different causes and support each other, and especially with something that large for our community, you know, people not having water–that’s a main thing, you have to have that.”

Mechelle is coming up on her 40th year as a UFCW member and has experienced first-hand how being in a union means there’s always someone there to help–“to back you and support you”.  Mechelle finds that oftentimes, many people don’t know about the union, and until they sit down and talk about it, don’t fully understand what it is. “I just have such a strong belief in the union,” says Mechelle, which is why she helps spread the word at work about how people–often younger members who haven’t been through strikes for better working conditions like she has–can protect their rights. By sharing her own experiences as a union member, and how it has helped her, she finds that she is helping them understand, even when there isn’t something currently happening.

Active community members like Mechelle inspire us every day. Do you know a UFCW member whose story we could share? Tell us about them at http://www.ufcw.org/resources/members/share-your-story/

 

August 7, 2013

OUR Walmart Statement on OSHA Settlement with Walmart

UFCWnewsWashington, DC– Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it has reached a settlement with Walmart on a large number of repeated and serious worker safety violations including a lack of proper training on handling of hazardous chemicals and dangerous conditions related to poorly maintained equipment. In response, OUR Walmart members issued the following statement:

“The national settlement reached today between OSHA and Walmart resolves the highest penalties any individual Walmart store has ever faced as a result of health and safety violations – over $350,000. The problems detailed in the settlement are issues we have been raising for years, but it’s clear that the company has consistently failed to listen to our concerns, let alone address them.

“This is just the latest indication of Walmart’s malfeasance throughout the supply chain, and these serious problems represent a major danger to workers, the environment, and the company’s future. As workers we routinely face inadequate fire safety measures, including blocked fire exits, and do not receive proper training on how to safely handle hazardous chemicals. Poorly maintained equipment, including balers and compactors, represent another hazard, made worse because these machines often lack appropriate mechanisms to ensure worker safety.

“We like our jobs and want what’s best for the company. We hope that today’s settlement sends a message to Walmart that cutting corners on safety comes at great costs, not just to employees, but also to the company.  Moreover, Walmart needs to go beyond the settlement, start listening to its workers, and investigate its stores throughout the country to see if these violations are widespread and where they find violations, fix them. These issues are about the very basic right employees have to work in safe environments.”

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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.

 

 

STATEMENT FROM STACY MITCHELL ON OSHA SETTLEMENT WITH WALMART

In response to today’s settlement, Institute for Local Self Reliance senior researcher Stacy Mitchell issued the following statement:

“Walmart’s negligence in managing hazardous chemicals is yet another illustration of its disregard for the environment and the health of workers and communities. While Walmart publicizes its solar installations, behind the scenes, the company is continuing to cut corners and harm the environment throughout its operations and supply chain.”

 

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November 16, 2012

Statement in Response to Unfair Labor Practice Charge Filed by Walmart Seeking Injunction from UFCW Picket Lines

Washington, D.C. –  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement in response to Walmart’s unfair labor practice charge filed against the UFCW which seeks an injunction from UFCW picket lines:

Walmart is grasping at straws to try to stop a groundswell of voices from associates and their supporters who are protesting the company’s unlawful attempts to silence workers.  Associates are exercising their freedom to speak out in protest of Walmart’s unfair actions against their coworkers.  Supporters like UFCW members, religious leaders, community members and other activists are taking action to support Walmart associates and demand the company listen to its workforce to improve working conditions.   There’s nothing in the law that gives an employer the right to silence workers and citizens.

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The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by UFCW, we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, women advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials, and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.

November 16, 2012

Statement by UFCW International President Joe Hansen on Walmart’s Corrupt Business Practices

(Washington, 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 New York Times ongoing reporting on Walmart’s corruption and purported cover-up by senior company officials.

“The New York Times reported today that Walmart’s own internal reviews show more extensive corruption and internal cover-up than previously reported or admitted to by the company.  Walmart CEO Mike Duke and Chairman Rob Walton have failed to take any responsibility to shareholders, associates or the federal government for their leadership of the company in the face of reported illegal conduct.

“High paid public relations campaigns cannot undo illegal activity.  Walmart paid lip service to the bribery scandal and, even worse, engaged in illegal activities to silence its associates.  Walmart shareholders, associates and customers deserve answers.

“The reported cover-up by Walmart executives at the highest levels exposes a core truth:  Walmart cannot be taken at its word.  We ask that Congress immediately convene hearings to examine whether Walmart’s U.S. operations were engaged in any illegal or unethical practices, and whether they continue to do so.”

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The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. 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 http://www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by UFCW, we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, women advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials, and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.

 

August 9, 2012

WALMART WORKERS PAINT GRAPHIC PICTURE OF WORKING CONDITIONS THROUGHOUT SUPPLY CHAIN

Workers Describe Jobs Rife with Retaliation, Hazards and Low Pay

LOS ANGELES – Workers representing four links in Walmart’s global supply chain – food production, processing, warehousing and retail – today filed a formal ethics complaint with Walmart’s corporate executives in Los Angeles. The complaint outlines systemic violations of Walmart’s own Statement of Ethics and Standards for Suppliers.

Standing in front of the proposed site of a Walmart store in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, workers and supporters described working conditions that include enslavement, injury, hazardous equipment, retaliatory firings and chemical exposure in the production, transport and sale of Walmart merchandise.

“This is a pattern. No matter the country, no matter the workplace, no matter the worker, we see that Walmart and its contractors’ deny responsibility, ignore serious problems and fire workers who stand up for change. This behavior should not be rewarded with more stores,” said Guadalupe Palma, a campaign director with Warehouse Workers United, an organization committed to improving warehousing jobs in the Inland Empire.

Warehouse workers who move Walmart goods in Southern California are part of an increasing number of workers stepping out of the shadows and calling attention to unsafe and illegal treatment of workers employed by Walmart and its contractors.

“So many of my coworkers are living in pain because of the pressure to work fast or lose our jobs,” said Limber Herrera, a warehouse worker in Riverside. “We often breathe a thick black dust that gives us nosebleeds and headaches. We want Walmart to take responsibility and fix these bad working conditions.”

Workers and supporters also presented copies of two petitions to Walmart that garnered a combined 250,000 signatures and cast light on conditions faced by seafood workers who work for Walmart suppliers. Ana Rosa Diaz, one of eight guestworkers who exposed forced labor at Walmart supplier C.J.’s Seafood in Louisiana last month, spoke at the event. Only after Diaz went on strike and 150,000 people pledged their support was Walmart forced to admit to labor violations and suspend its contract with the supplier.

“We know that hundreds of other guestworkers at other Walmart suppliers are facing abuse,” said Diaz, a member of the National Guestworker Alliance. “The U.S. Department of Labor has confirmed our claims of abuse at C.J.’s Seafood. Now it’s time for Walmart to sit down with us to agree to a solution to stop abuse across its supply chain.”

In Thailand, it was revealed in June that a major Walmart shrimp supplier was engaged in debt bondage. After workers struck, causing media and consumer scrutiny, the Walmart supplier, Patthana, pledged to end its practice of debt bondage. However, many workers in Walmart’s supply chain remain vulnerable to other abuses. At a Thai pineapple factory, Vita Foods, that also supplies Walmart there are reports of human trafficking similar to those at Patthana, including that children under the age of 15 have been bought and sold to work there.

“Globalization for the working poor of the world means that American warehouse workers today have more in common with factory workers in Thailand’s shrimp and pineapple factories than with the one-percenters in their own country who profit from their labor. Hyper-exploitation is the global labor standard Walmart has chosen to pursue. This just means the fight for justice for Walmart’s workers is that much bigger. Thailand may seem far away to the Walton heirs, but we are going to bring the plight of Thai workers to the suburbs of Arkansas. You bring home the profits, you bring home the struggle too,” said Chancee Martorell, executive director of the Thai Community Development Center, representing the Thai workers.

Through the organization OUR Walmart, store associates are fighting for and winning changes at Walmart to help workers, who are struggling to support their families on low-wages, reductions in hours, unaffordable healthcare, unjust terminations and unsafe and discriminatory working conditions. In Riverside, after warehouse workers filed a comprehensive complaint with the state of California detailing broken equipment, limited access to water, extreme heat and other violations of state law, two warehouse workers were suspended indefinitely. Both Carlos Martinez and David Garcia won their return to work after filing charges with the state.

“We are standing up for ourselves and our co-workers to make real changes at Walmart and we will not be silenced,” said Greg Fletcher, a father of two sons and a member of OUR Walmart. “Even though Walmart is the biggest company in the country, the company is not above the law. When we stand together and hold Walmart accountable, we are winning protections for workers, our community and our economy.”

Fletcher is a six-year Walmart associate in Duarte, California.

Members of the Chinatown community joined the rally saying residents are not interested in the expansion of low wage jobs, retaliation, injury and dangerous working conditions and a destruction of the local community.

“We stand with the workers against retaliation, injury and dangerous working conditions. It is illegal, and it is immoral,” King Cheung, a member of the Chinatown Committee for Equitable Development. “For the world’s largest retailer, Walmart pays its workers substandard low wages. Chinatown deserves better than Walmart. Walmart is well known for bad treatment of its workers. It is also well known for harming small businesses and communities. That is why we do not want Walmart here in LA Chinatown.”

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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.

May 30, 2012

Staying Informed and Updated on Your Plant’s Ammonia Safety Program

Several of our UFCW members who work in meatpacking, poultry and food processing plants spend their days working around refrigeration systems that use ammonia – a Highly Hazardous chemical. It is easy and important for stewards to find out if their company is complying with OSHA’s standards about how to operate safely with Highly Hazardous chemicals. The main standard is Process Safety Management (PSM). PSM gives workers and their representatives the right to ask for information about the ammonia system.

OSHA’s PSM Standard applies to most meat packing, poultry, and food processing plants. One PSM requirement is that the company must conduct an audit of their compliance every three years. Stewards can request to see the recommendations from the past two audits and find out what actions have been taken. By looking at the audit results and the follow-up stewards can see if the company is taking their PSM seriously.

“When I was sent out for training, I received a lot of information about PSM that I realized could be helpful to not only me, but also my co-workers at the plant,” said Jim Oldenburg, a steward at JBS and a member of UFCW Local 1473 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Even though every worker at the plant cannot receive specialized PSM training, workers do have the right to stay informed about their plant’s PSM program and come to their stewards with questions or concerns. To help his co-workers at the plant, Oldenburg submitted a list of PSM questions and responses to the company. These questions were developed by the Industrial Refrigeration Consortium at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

“People look to me to help them and I’m doing everything that I can for them every day. Having this information available is just one of them,” said Oldenburg.

Here are the ten questions Jim submitted to management. According to the PSM standard your company must respond adequately to your concerns. Their responses to these questions can give you a sense of the condition of your plant’s ammonia safety program. If you need help evaluating the company’s response you can email the UFCW Health and Safety Representative for Process Safety Management at bthielen@ufcw.org.

1. When was our last compliance audit?

2. Can you show me the closeout of recommendations from the last compliance audit?

3.  Can you provide me a copy of the most recent incident report and documentation that shows how we closed out recommendations/from the incident report?

4.  When was our last Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) conducted and can you show me documentation that closes out the recommendations from the last PHA?

5. How often do we certify our plant’s written operating procedures for the covered process?

6.   What training program do we have for our operators and what are the means used to verify they have understood the training?

7.   How often do we do refresher training?

8.       Based on our plant’s mechanical integrity program, what is the next piece of equipment scheduled for retirement and when is it scheduled to come out of service?

9.  What criteria do we use to evaluate contractors that work on our covered process?

10.  What was the last change made to our system and can you show me the documentation for that change?

 

June 9, 2010

One Year After Tragedy in Garner, Safety Regulations Can

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following is a statement from Jackie Nowell, Director of Occupational Safety and Health at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:

A year ago today – June 9, 2009 – it was a warm afternoon in Garner, North Carolina when a powerful explosion leveled the ConAgra Foods plant. A tragic error in judgment while installing a new water heater led an outside contractor to repeatedly release natural gas from a pipe into an enclosed room near the center of the building and an unknown spark set it ablaze.

The resulting explosion and toxic ammonia release killed four people and injured 70 others. It was a preventable tragedy that destroyed lives, livelihoods and a community of friends and neighbors. The United Food and Commercial Workers represented the more than 300 ConAgra workers affected by the blast and saw first-hand the devastation caused by this explosion.

Conflagrations like this one killed and injured workers from Missouri to Michigan, and yet no regulations existed to prevent contractors from purging gas lines into closed spaces. Working with authorities and experts from across the country we set about to change this. Our fight became marked by even greater urgency after five workers were killed in yet another gas purging explosion in Connecticut that February.

Along with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, who investigated this explosion, we urged the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – who provides safety codes for building contractors across the country – to adopt regulations that would prevent contractors from purging explosive gasses into enclosed spaces. But after heavy lobbying from the natural gas and propane industries, the NFPA wilted like old lettuce and failed to stand for the safety of America’s workers.

So here we are, one year later. The plant in Garner rather is scheduled to close, bringing a second round of devastation to the community. We know we can’t bring back these workers, these friends, these family members back to their community and their loved ones. The broken system at the NFPA has failed to learn from these tragedies and has bowed to industry pressure to let these deadly indoor gas purges continue unregulated.

This is frankly unacceptable. As Debra Petteway, a Food and Commercial Workers member who worked in the ConAgra plant and lost her son to the explosion said, “Louis Watson was my son, he was my only son, and now he’s gone. They didn’t have to die, and if someone doesn’t fix this, it’s going to happen again.”

Ms. Petteway is right. The NFPA, who is supposed to protect workers like her son, has shirked their duty.

So one year later, the “experts” charged with protecting America’s workers have failed to learn from this tragedy or from the legions before or after. How much longer will we wait with no regulatory or legislative action for the safety of American workers? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and our legislators must not wait for these quasi-governmental regulatory bodies to demonstrate their craven kowtowing to industry demands any longer. We need comprehensive legislative or OSHA regulation so that the lessons of those who gave their lives in these explosions are not forgotten and all those that come later are protected from a similar fate.

December 8, 2009

New OSHA Administrator David Michaels Confirmed

The U.S. Senate has confirmed David Michaels as the new OSHA Administrator.

Michaels was nominated by President Obama earlier this year. He is an epidemiologist and professor at the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. He has conducted many studies on the occupational exposure to toxic chemicals, and has served as assistant secretary of energy for Environment, Safety and Health.

This is the first time, since the previous administrator’s resignation in 2008 that OSHA once again has a permanent administrator.

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.

October 2, 2009

US Chemical Safety Board Fails to Recommend Safety Standards for American Workers

Savannah, GA—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today again criticized the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) for not recommending strong standards to prevent deadly explosions in food processing and other facilities that use natural gas.

The union reacted to the CSB’s safety bulletin on the deadly explosion at the ConAgra Slim Jim manufacturing facility in Garner, North Carolina the morning of June 9, 2009. The explosion killed three people, injured scores of others and severely damaged the plant.

“Once again the CSB has failed to take the most basic steps for the safety of American workers,” said Jackie Nowell, Occupational Safety and Health Director for the UFCW. “By not recommending urgent standards on fuel gas purging they leave the lives of thousands of workers at risk.”

The CSB failed to recommend changes in fire codes that would restrict the practice of purging gas piping and set criteria for performing it safely. While CSB Chairman John Bresland commended the state of North Carolina for their action to change their codes, unfortunately, the CSB did not recommend the same for national fire codes.

“If the CSB continues to fail America’s workers by not taking a stronger stand for safety, it’s time for change at the CSB,” said Nowell.

The UFCW represents more than 900 workers at the facility, and is the union for thousands of food processing workers in similar facilities nationwide.