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September 10, 2012

Tyson Workers Receive Long-Awaited Payment from Wage and Hour Lawsuit Settlement

$32 million Settlement Ends 12-year Legal Battle to Get Paid for Hours Worked

(Washington, D.C.) – After a 12 year legal struggle, more than 12,000 Tyson poultry workers in 41 plants in 12 states will receive their payments from the largest settlement against a major poultry company at $32 million.  Thanks to the tenacity and dedication of thousands of workers from across the country and the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, workers involved in the suit will receive payments averaging $1,200 in lost wages.

The success of the Tyson’s settlement for poultry workers is just one in a series of actions where workers continue to fight and take a stand for workers’ rights in poultry and meatpacking plants around the country. Similar cases have been brought and resolved against Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride plants as well. The UFCW continues to work to make sure that every meatpacking and poultry worker is paid honestly and fairly for the work they do. A suit that was filed in 1999 was the first action of its kind to force poultry companies to obey the nation’s basic wage and hour laws.

“This lawsuit and the new pay practices in the meatpacking and poultry industry are just one way union workers raise standards for every worker in their industry,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “While this settlement is long overdue, our efforts have ensured that thousands of workers have been paid correctly for years now.”

The affected Tyson poultry employees work at plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

These payments will inject much-needed money into America’s rural economy and reward a hard-working and dedicated group of poultry workers.

The lawsuit charged Tyson with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and cheating their poultry plant employees out of wages by failing to pay workers for the time they spend putting on and taking off protective gear they wear to keep the food they process safe and for their own protection. The poultry company also violated the basic wage and hour laws by failing to provide workers with their required break time.

“Every American deserves to get paid for the work they do,” Hansen continued. “We’re changing the way meat and poultry industries do business by ensuring that workers are paid for all of their time on the job.”

Workers, the UFCW, and activists started to take collective action for workers’ rights to fair wages and treatment at the workplace in 1999. Between 1999 and 2001, they took their action on the road and spread the word of their mission through a bus tour and leafleting other Tyson workers. In that brief time, almost 4,000 workers signed up to join. The federal lawsuit developed following a U.S. Department of Labor survey that found over 60 percent of the nation’s poultry companies were in violation of basic wage and hour laws.

The collective case representing the workers from several plants from across the country went through several judges until a judge in November 2006 declared that the case under the different plants could not be presented as a singular case and dismissed it. The workers and their supporters continued their legal action despite the large setback and filed their cases on a plant-by-plant basis. More than 17,000 workers start signing up to join the suit under the new case conditions.

In September 2011, the workers sent a settlement agreement to the court, which the court later approved. After almost 12 years, workers receive notice in January 2012 that they will finally be receiving their settlement payments.

In order to qualify for the settlement, current workers must have signed up to be part of the lawsuit back in 2008 and former employees were required to send back the W-4 form included with the payment notice, so that tax withholdings could be properly calculated.

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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.

September 7, 2012

Massachusetts Co-ops Stick Together and Join Local 1459

Adam Grandin works in the kitchen of the Green Fields Market in Greenfield, Mass., as part of a food co-op with stores in two towns in Western Massachusetts. Over a period of time, Grandin and many of the workers at his store, and the other Franklin Community Co-op – Mc-Clusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls – had grown increasingly frustrated with a workplace that had moved further and further from a cooperative vision.

Health care was unaffordable and the lack of respect by management for employees’ hard work made the work environment increasingly unfriendly.

 Fed up and deciding to do something about the unfair working conditions at the co-op, Grandin and his coworkers formed an organizing committee and reached out to UFCW Local 1459. Once approximately two-thirds of the 75 workers at the Franklin Community Co-op demonstrated their interest in unionizing, Grandin and the others moved forward in the process. 

“Some people had a false idea that the union was coming in to take over,” said Grandin. “It wasn’t the union coming in to take over, it was workers coming together for change.”

While the co-op board backed the workers, organized opposition forced another vote.  Other union workers, members of Local 1459, Jobs with Justice, and the local Occupy movement united with co-op members to show their support for the organizing workers. And it paid off.

On August 15th, the co-op board recognized the workers’ new union, Local 1459, and they will soon begin
bargaining for a new contract.

“I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to the co-op,” said Grandin.

The efforts of workers fighting for better jobs, as well as the Locals of UFCW and other organizations in our communities can together make progress our country’s working people.  Fair treatment and good jobs should be a right, and when we stick together, they are a reality.

August 31, 2012

STATEMENT BY THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION REGARDING SHOOTING AT A NEW JERSEY SUPERMARKET

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement issued by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW):

“The UFCW is shocked and saddened at the news of a shooting at the Pathmark supermarket in Old Bridge, New Jersey, early this morning. The full details of this tragedy are still being investigated, and UFCW is working to assist our members, Pathmark, and local authorities in any way we can. While the investigation continues, UFCW will be offering professional counseling services to Old Bridge Pathmark workers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the workers who have been affected by this terrible tragedy. We will continue to monitor the situation and offer our support to our members, Pathmark, law enforcement, and the Old Bridge community.”

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. UFCW Local unions 464A and 1262 represent workers at the Old Bridge, N.J. Pathmark.

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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.

August 30, 2012

UFCW STATEMENT REGARDING THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION’S ANTI-WORKER PLATFORM

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement issued by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:

“The Republican Party’s anti-worker platform at their convention in Tampa, Fla., this week further highlights the GOP’s disconnect from the realities of everyday Americans. Instead of offering any serious solutions for creating jobs with benefits and wages that can support a family and addressing the growing gap between the rich and the poor, convention speakers like Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Nikki Haley have resorted to pitting workers against workers by lashing out at labor unions.

“America’s workers are the cornerstone of our country’s middle class, and making it easier for hard working men and women to stick together through a union would put more company profits in the hands of working people and strengthen America’s middle class. While Republican candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, claim to care about the middle class, they have challenged the very idea of the right of workers to stick together and bargain for basic rights—including fair pay, health care and retirement benefits.

“The best way for workers to have a say about their working conditions is by sticking together as a union, and the UFCW will continue to fight any action by Romney, Ryan and followers like Christie, Walker and Haley who favor the wealthy one percent over America’s workers and the poor.”

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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.

August 28, 2012

Fighting Fire with Food and Support

In July of 2009, a terrible fire broke out at the Patrick Cudahy meatpacking plant in Milwaukee, WI. The massive Smithfield plant was completely consumed by the fire, threatening lives, costing millions of dollars in damage, and displacing over 1,400 workers, leaving them without work.

The devastating fire at the Patrick Cudahy plant prompted UFCW Local 1473 to immediately reach out across the labor community.  The Patrick Cudahy Worker Relief Fund was formed, and generous donations were made.  Local 1473 members then worked with the the Milwaukee County Labor Council and the Hunger Task Force to establish a food bank specifically for the Patrick Cudahy workers.  The Hunger Task Force, which, prior to the fire had relied on the Patrick Cudahy plant to supply many of the products in their food bank, was now helping to feed the displaced workers.

With the support of the Hunger Task force and other organizations, members were able to stick together and move toward recovering from the fire. Three years later, members are back at the plant to continue their work and support for organizations like the Hunger Task Force that play such an important role in their communities.

Last week, members from UFCW Local 1473 again joined partners Smithfield, Patrick Cudahy, and Pick ‘n Save in the latest event for the Feeding the Hungry campaign. The 40,000 pound donation went to the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, WI. Some of the members of Local 1473 still work at the nearby Patrick Cudahy meat processing plant, continuing to help produce products such as hams and bacon, which were part of the donation to the Hunger Task Force. This latest Feeding the Hungry donation exhibited the special and continued relationship members share with the Hunger Task Force.

Local 1473’s story is a powerful reminder that even in times of disaster, when people stick together, there is always hope.

The UFCW is committed to ensuring that families across the country have the relief and the opportunities they need to weather the current economic crises. As the foodworkers’ union, with members working in grocery stores, packing plants, and food processing plants, UFCW members and locals have long been involved in programs to help the hungry and provide for those in need. One of the most successful, and certainly the largest, of these programs is the joint UFCW/Smithfield Feeding the Hungry (FTH) Program – a three-year, multi-city, coast to coast effort to donate and deliver more than 20 million servings of protein to food banks through Feeding America’s network.

All across the country UFCW members are on the frontlines of efforts to improve and strengthen their communities, and this partnership reflects their unwavering commitment to protect and advocate for families during tough times. This partnership is about bringing together organizations with the resources, the relationships and the know-how to ensure that vulnerable communities across the country have access to well-supplied food banks. Our goal is simple: Get good, nutritious food to as many families, in as many communities, as possible.

August 14, 2012

Local 1208 Serves as Role Model in Community

UFCW Local 1208 has been very busy this year! So far in 2012, Local 1208 has seen both tremendous progress in both the Smithfield Plant they represent, and in their local community of Tar Heel, North Carolina. This progress is due to the actions, member related and community outreach events, and the key role Local 1208 has taken in transforming the working environment for those living in Tarheel and its surrounding counties. Below, see a few of the things Local 1208 has been up to!

Defferred Action Event- St. Pauls, NC 
This event was coordinated by a group of local students. The forum included a PowerPoint presentation given by immigration lawyers, which discussed President Obama’s newest immigration reform.  The floor was opened for questions about the new reform, immigration, and deportation.  Many UFCW members attended, and Local 1208 had the chance to share its support of both immigrants and immigrant reform. Local 1208 is also currently working with attorneys across North Carolina to coordinate labs that will assist people with the application process as new reforms roll out.  Way to make everyone feel welcome!

Community Health Fairs- Fayetteville and Red Springs, NC
Local 1208 this year continued their tradition of participating in Community Health Fairs, which offer free information and services from local health care organization and the communities they serve. Local 1208 offered a range of information about work place safety, health laws (OSHA Q/A), and workers’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace.

Monthly Obama Sticker Contest- Tar Heel, NC
Each month, Local 1208 rewards it members for showing support for Obama by holding an Obama sticker contest.  The contest involves picking a car at random from the Smithfield Packing Plant (which they represent) parking lot that boasts a “UFCW for Obama” bumper sticker. Not only does each monthly winner receive a VISA gift card, but they also earn the right to have their picture proudly publicized throughout the plant during the corresponding weekly action, encouraging others to participate.  

Head over to the Local 1208 facebook page to see what else the Local is doing!
 

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.

August 9, 2012

Young Union Members Step Up to the Plate at UALE Leadership Summer School

This summer, two young women from Local 400 gave up some time in the sun to learn more about something close to their hearts- union leadership.
To do so, Brittany Metts, 20, from Safeway #1276 and Stephanie Pryor, 29, from Giant #326, attended  the 37th United Association for Labor Education (UALE) Northeast Summer School for Union Women in Amherst, Massachusetts. 
Metts and Pryor were chosen to attend the Summer School because they have been active Local 400 members throughout the community, attending rallies, meetings and events- helping to give the younger members of Local 400 a voice. 
“For Local 400, engaging the young membership has always been key, with the average age of our membership being 24-years-old,” said Local 400 president Tom McNutt. “Brittany and Stephanie have shown great potential participating in actions around Giant and Safeway negotiations. The UALE Summer School is a great avenue for them to acquire additional skills to provide the best possible support for the youth of Local 400 today and to be able to assume a greater leadership tomorrow.”  
The leadership courses Metts and Pryor enrolled in were focused on developing skills regarding collective bargaining, labor law, grievance handling, public speaking, organizing, safety and health, and mobilizing for political and legislative activity. 
Metts’ favorite class was leadership, where she learned the importance of listening, identifying situations and obstacles when in a leadership role, and communicating effectively. The biggest accomplishment she had while at UALE was gaining more confidence in herself as a leader.
Metts also offered some suggestions of her own to her union sisters in the room, who were struggling with reaching out to the younger union members:
http://www.ufcw400.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/summerschool.jpg
Brittany Metts and Stephanie Pryor

“It’s all about being personable and telling your story,” she said. “You can’t put an age on maturity. Yes, I’m only 20 but I have gone through some experiences that say a 40-year-old just experienced,” Metts added. “We as humans, as women, have a lot more in common than you think, if you just take the time to listen.”

Some sage advice.
Pryor also weighed in, noting that, “it’s important to have an open mind and just take a moment to talk with people around you in your stores.”
Pryor’s favorite class was collective bargaining, where the students participated in a mock negotiations exercise.
“We learned all the tactics management play and how to read their body language,” she said. “Though I was lucky enough to be on the union side of the table during the exercise it was still tough knowing that the ‘members’ would be counting on you. It really opened my eyes to the pressures the leadership of our union faced at the bargaining table with Giant and Safeway recently.”
Metts and Pryor hope to serve as leaders for the young adults in Local 400 and their communities, although it seems as if they have already made a difference among their peers. When they return, they plan to put their new skills to work by leading a youth workshop for the members who are under the age of 35. The workshop will help generate a network of young Local 400 members to meet and discuss not only issues at work, but other challenges life has to offer as well.
“We want to engage the young members and grow the network so they can be the voice of young workers at rallies, events and most importantly inside their facilities,” said Metts
Metts and Pryor would also like to close the gap that sometimes exists between the older and younger generation of workers.
“We want both generations to understand that there are so many mentors around you and stepping outside of your comfort zone is a good thing,” explained Metts. “We all are in this family, we are all union brothers and sisters and regardless of age, we need to stick together.”
“It’s terrific that our union sisters Brittany and Stephanie are taking the initiative and reaching out to the younger membership,” McNutt said. “After all, they are the future of the labor movement, they are the future of Local 400, so educating members on where the labor movement has been and where it’s going is essential.”
July 27, 2012

UFCW Members Show Community Spirit in Rockmart, Georgia

UFCW/ICWUC Local 90-T in Rockmart, Georgia took time out this week to volunteer at their local Home Spun Festival – registering voters, giving away water bottles, and talking to friends and neighbors about what it means to have a union voice on the job.

The Home Spun festival is a tradition dating back 35 years in Rockmart, but this year marks Local -T’s first official involvement in the festival. The local staff and members in attendance were in agreement that it won’t be their last!

What a great way to spend the day – union brothers and sisters coming together for the good of the community to share information on voting and workplace rights. Do you have more stories about union members giving back in their communities? If so, send them along to submissions@ufcw.org and your story could be featured right here on the blog!

July 12, 2012

National Labor College Graduates the Class of 2012

Here on the blog, we like to recognize those who work hard and strive to help the cause of the working family.

Congratulations to the 78 newest graduates of the National Labor College Class of 2012!

The students graduated this past Saturday with Bachelors degrees, representing 25 unions across the nation including UFCW, as well as Working America, the AFL-CIO’s Community affiliate.
 
“Today, it is vitally important that we have NLC graduates with the skills necessary to put our members back to work and to effectively respond to the strident challenges we face to our basic right to bargain collectively,” said John Sweeney, President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO. “By balancing work, education, union roles, and family responsibilities, the graduates have achieved a tremendous accomplishment.”

Several students were highlighted for their outstanding contributions to the NLC community:

  • Helen Foreman-Hines of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was awarded the prestigious President’s Award.
  • Mark King, president of the student government association and member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was elected by his fellow graduates as class speaker and received a distinguished paper award for his senior thesis.
  • Jon Leinbaugh of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA) and Joseph Walsh of the Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) were awarded the 2012 Bert and Annabel Seidman Prize for Advancing Social Policy.
  • Trenton Reich of Working America and Paul Simon of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) received distinguished paper awards for their senior theses.


About National Labor College
Established as a training center by AFL-CIO in 1969 to strengthen union member education and organizing skills, today the NLC is the nation’s only accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union leaders, members and activists. Learn more at www.nlc.edu.