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July 10, 2012

Decline in Working Class Jobs Hurts Our Kids

New research about the bifurcation of American society has produced some alarming information about the opportunity gap in our country.

Although there is of course inequality in the standards of living among America’s adults, the inequality in opportunity for our children is sometimes overlooked.  But it is a growing problem. According the the article from the NYTimes, in the decades to come, our country will be even more divided than it is now.  In decades past, kids of college-grads and high-school grads invested similarly in their children. Now, however, more affluent parents spend much more on their childrens’ futures, while the less affluent have decreased in those investments.

 Aside from money, the most important thing affluent parents are giving to their kids is time. In fact, affluent parents have quadrupled the amount of time they spend with their kids, whether it be at home, supporting them at a sporting event, or driving them to any plethora of extracurricular activities.  Meanwhile, high-school educated parents have increased child-care time, but only slightly. In the previous generation of families, things were opposite, and it was the working-class families who spent more time together. But now, the attention gap in the first three years of life for working-class family kids, when it is most important, is only growing.

Of course, the gap in the amount of money we spend on our kids is growing too. Affluent parents have increased the amount they spend on their kids enrichment activities by $5300 a year, whereas the financially stressed have only increased the amount they spend per year to $480.

Data taken in 1972 shows that kids from the bottom quartile of earners participated in about the same number of activities as the kids from the top quartile.  The facts today are starkly different.  Rich kids are now involved in twice as many activities as poorer kids, and twice as likely to excel in those activities.

This growing chasm among the classes is also causing the less fortunate children to become more pessimistic and detached. One researcher noted that “It’s perfectly understandable that kids from working-class backgrounds have become cynical and even paranoid, for virtually all our major social institutions have failed them — family, friends, church, school and community.” These kids are less likely to participate in voluntary service work that could provide them with a sense of purpose, they do worse in school, and their opportunities are limited.

A long series of cultural, economic and social trends have merged to create this sad state of affairs. Traditional social norms were abandoned, meaning more children are born out of wedlock. Their single parents simply have less time and resources to prepare them for a more competitive world. Working-class jobs were decimated, meaning that many parents are too stressed to have the energy, time or money to devote to their children. 
Affluent, intelligent people are now more likely to marry other energetic, intelligent people. They raise energetic, intelligent kids in self-segregated, cultural ghettoes where they know little about and have less influence upon people who do not share their blessings. 
The political system directs more money to health care for the elderly while spending on child welfare slides.
Equal opportunity, once core to the nation’s identity, is now a tertiary concern. America’s leaders need to change this, and take advantage of all of the human capital in our country rather than the most privileged two-thirds of it. Let’s focus on bringing back working class jobs so that our kids will have a bright future.
Click here to read the full article by David Brooks from NYTimes.com
July 2, 2012

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION NAMES TWO UFCW OFFICIALS TO IMPORTANT TRADE ADVISORY COMMITTEES

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk have named two key officials from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) to important trade advisory committees. Mark Lauritsen, International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division, has been named to the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC). Arne Anderson, Director of the Strategic Resources Department, has been named to the USTR’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade (ATAC). Both committees will advise Vilsack and Kirk on negotiating objectives and bargaining positions for future trade agreements. “We understand the important role trade can play in supporting jobs in the agricultural and food industries,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “Mark and Arne’s appointments will help ensure the voice and concerns of workers are represented during these important negotiations.” ###

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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.

June 25, 2012

HANSEN STATEMENT ON SUPREME COURT RULING AGAINST ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW

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 Supreme Court’s decision striking down most of Arizona’s immigration law.

“The Supreme Court has rightly struck down the majority of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. This decision is a repudiation of those advocating a patchwork of extreme state laws and reaffirms the federal government’s constitutional role in setting immigration policy. We are disappointed the law’s provision encouraging racial profiling survived and hope it will be overturned in the near future. It is time to move forward on this critical issue. President Obama started that process by issuing a common sense order to prevent the deportation of young immigrants who serve our nation. It is now time for Congress to get to work on comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those who work hard and play by the rules. Only then can we truly fix our broken immigration system.”

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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.

June 15, 2012

FOOD WORKERS UNION APPLAUDS OBAMA’S COMMITMENT TO YOUNG IMMIGRANTS

UFCW International President Joe Hansen urges Congress to act on this critical issue for working families

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – United Food and Commercial Workers Union International President (UFCW) Joseph T. Hansen released the following statement today in response to President Obama’s announcement of relief for undocumented youth:

“President Obama today made an important investment in the American dream for thousands of hard-working immigrant students and veterans by removing the threat of deportation and creating a clear path to full civic and economic participation for promising young people.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of high performing children of immigrants who were raised in the United States—including honor roll students, star athletes, and aspiring teachers, doctors, lawyers and U.S. soldiers—graduate from high school. Despite their academic achievements, they have been effectively barred from contributing fully to our communities. Today, thanks to President Obama’s bold leadership, the threat of deportation has been lifted for those aspiring American dreamers.

President Obama is embracing these promising students and soldiers who have demonstrated a commitment to hard work and a strong desire to be upstanding members of our society.

The UFCW, the voice for workers in the food and retail industries, is proud of the thousands of young immigrant activists who have organized into one strong, clear voice for fairness. They are weaving the unique fabric of American society – hard work, entrepreneurship, loyalty to country, ingenuity and invention. We are proud to stand with them, and with President Obama, as we work together to bring hope and a brighter future for every worker in our country.”

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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 16, 2012

Statement on the Supreme Court

(Washington, DC) – UFCW International President Joseph Hansen released the following statement:

“A sharply divided Supreme Court closed the door on millions of women working at Walmart today and overturned 40 years of legal precedence in discrimination cases.  In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that Walmart’s written general discrimination policy was proof enough to overturn a lower court’s determination that Walmart women could join together to address widespread gender discrimination claims as a class.  This decision does not make any ruling on the merits of the women’s discrimination claims.

“Today’s decision is deeply disturbing.  The highest court in our nation has turned its back on collective remedy for workers facing widespread injustices.  The UFCW will continue to demand accountability from Walmart to its workers who deserve fair treatment, fair pay and respect on the job.

“Last week, thousands of Walmart workers announced the Organization United for Respect at Walmart because workers know that they are stronger as a group. Employers like Walmart have long attempted to isolate workers and prevent them from solving problems together.  This decision will not stop workers from joining together, through collective action, or prevent them from continuing to pursue their individual claims against Walmart.

The UFCW believes that Walmart is not too big for justice and will continue to hold Walmart to fair workplace standards.  Its 1.4 million associates deserve better.”

Making Change at Walmart seeks to promote the American values of equality, dignity and respect in the workplace. The campaign is making change by working directly with Walmart Associates to claim the respect on the job they deserve, holding Walmart corporate managers accountable to hourly employees and the public for their practices and joining with community leaders in major cities across America to make sure that any new jobs offered by Walmart meet strong standards for healthy, growing communities.

April 25, 2012

Statement by UFCW International President Joe Hansen Calling for Walmart CEO and Board Chair Resignations

(Washington, D.C.) – Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and Chair of Change to Win, today released the following statement to join Walmart associates in the demand for leadership changes at the retail giant.“The corruption scandal and reported cover-up exposed an unacceptable failure of leadership within Walmart. Walmart Chairman Rob Walton and CEO Mike Duke must resign immediately in an effort to restore integrity and accountability for Walmart associates, shareholders, customers, and communities. “The New York Times exposed a widespread pattern of Walmart executives bribing government officials to secure permits to build stores in Mexico, followed by a cover-up led by corporate leaders including Duke and Walton. The article raises serious questions about whether Walmart has used the same tactics for its expansion in the United States and across the globe. “For decades, Walmart has pursued a growth-at-any-cost strategy in cities and towns across the United States and globally. In the U.S., we have watched Walmart secure the building permits, variances, and zoning changes to open its stores, in spite of concerted community opposition.“The public deserves a wholly independent and thorough investigation of Walmart’s practices. Communities across the globe should take heed of Walmart’s reported unlawful and unethical practices in Mexico, as the company works at a rapid pace to in expand its retail stores in South Africa, India, and China, to name a few, in addition to its global supply chain operations.”

April 23, 2012

Statement by UFCW International President Joe Hansen on Walmart

(Washington, D.C.) – Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and Chair of Change to Win, today released the following statement in response to the New York Times expose of Walmart’s corruption and purported cover-up by senior company officials.

“The New York Times story about the Walmart Mexico corruption scandal and reported cover-up exposes serious violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and demands an immediate and thorough investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Walmart senior management exposed its lack of corporate morality and internal ethics to workers, shareholders, consumers and community members.

“Walmart has spent millions of dollars to rehabilitate its image and buy the support of key allies in an effort to break into new markets while making promises about the benefits of its business model. But by pursuing a relentless strategy in the U.S. and abroad of ‘growth at any cost’ in pursuit of profits, Walmart’s senior management has proven that it is willing to trample on worker rights, discriminate against women, damage small businesses and the environment, and now potentially violate laws in the U.S., Mexico and other countries.

“The reported cover-up by Walmart executives at the highest levels exposes a core truth: Walmart cannot be taken at its word. A Department of Justice investigation into foreign bribery is an urgently needed first step. Congress should immediately convene hearings to examine whether Walmart is using these unethical business practices in their U.S. operations.”</p

October 31, 2011

Apply Now for a Union Plus Scholarship!

Applications are now open for the 2012 Union Plus Scholarship Program, which provides $150,000 in scholarships to union members, their spouses and dependents.

In addition to demonstrating academic ability, applicants are required to submit essays of no more than 500 words describing their career goals, detailing their relationship with the union movement and explaining why they are deserving of a union scholarship.

Individuals must be accepted into an accredited college or university, community college or recognized technical or trade school at the time the award is issued. Graduate school students are also eligible for Union Plus Scholarships. There is no requirement to have participated in any Union Plus program in order to apply.

Nearly 2,100 students in union families have received money for college through the Union Plus Scholarship Program. This year’s application is entirely online—allowing students to complete their application over time and save their responses. The application deadline is January 31, 2012. To apply, please visit www.UnionPlus.org/Education.

October 21, 2011

Statement by UFCW President Joe Hansen on Walmart

(Washington, D.C.) — The following is a statement from UFCW International President Joseph T. Hansen on Walmart’s plan to roll back health care coverage for part time workers:

“”Walmart’s plan to roll back health care coverage for part-time workers and raise premiums for full-time employees should set off alarm bells for American workers. This lowering of working standards will have repercussions throughout the retail industry—particularly for part-time workers.

“”Retail jobs are the jobs of the future. In fact, retail is one of the only sectors of our economy that’s growing. Many of those jobs will be part-time. Much like manufacturing once did, retail jobs will define how it is to live and work in America in the 21st Century. It’s critically important that retail employers compensate their workers with pay and benefits that allow them to live in the middle class.

“”That’s why retail workers have been sticking together in their union for decades. Together in the UFCW, they’ve bargained good health care coverage for more part-timers than any other union. In doing so, they’ve brought up the economic standards for hundreds of thousands of workers, their families, and communities.

“”Yet today, many retail workers are forced to work two or more jobs to make ends meet, partly due to the fact that companies are moving to a part-time model. Outside of companies where workers have a union voice on the job, most retail part-time jobs do not come with the benefits that workers need to take care of their families. So, despite working multiple jobs, many workers must rely on government health care or go without.

“”As the largest retail employer in the country, Walmart could – and should – lead the way in making sure that retail jobs are good jobs—the kind that come with good benefits and wages for all workers. That’s why for years, the UFCW has fought to change companies like Walmart and push them to be more responsible employers. A few years ago, when the public learned that many of its workers were on Medicaid because they could not afford the company’s health care plan or did not qualify to be on it, the UFCW and our community partners pressured Walmart to make a commitment to expand their health care coverage for part time workers.

“”But it looks like Walmart is once again succumbing to corporate greed, and putting profits ahead of people. The Waltons are one of the wealthiest families in the country; they own the largest corporation in America, and that means they have a responsibility to provide good jobs and help shore up our middle class – not take advantage of the economic crisis. We at the UFCW call on the Waltons and Walmart to provide good jobs with affordable health care benefits for part-timers and full-timers alike. It’s the right thing to do for the future of our economy, our country, and our communities.””

May 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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