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December 1, 2015

Bob’s Tire Company Workforce Votes Union “YES” in Historic Victory

This month, the story of a group of immigrant workers who organized and formed a union with UFCW Local 328 at Bob’s Tires Company in New Bedford, Massachusetts, back in September was highlighted in the November issue of Common Ground.

The following is adapted from Local 328’s website:

On Wednesday September 23rd, 2015, the workers of Bob’s Tire Company in New Bedford, Massachusetts voted 65-5 in favor of having UFCW Local 328 represent them during contract negotiations with the company. This was a significant and historic victory for the city of New Bedford, which maintains a very large Central and South American workforce. The workers of Bob’s Tire belong to the K’iche’ ethnic group from Guatemala, and their decisive victory marked the first time a group of workers from the Mayan community have organized with a union.

12045729_10153558385527557_3645819820551464456_oMeetings with the workers from Bob’s Tire, who are employed by the temporary agency BJ’s Temp Service, began when a delegation of well over half the workforce attended a meeting at CCT, a New Bedford community organization that specializes in fighting for social and economic justice for Latin Americans in the city. Between two meetings held over the course of five days, over 75% of the workers signed union authorization cards, leading us to file a petition shortly thereafter.

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Director of CCT Adrian Ventura (far left) with the worker committee from Bob’s Tire Company.

None of this work could have been possible without the help the Local received from the head of CCT, Adrian Ventura. Adrian’s exhaustive efforts for years in the field of social justice advocacy speak volumes not only of his character, but of his commitment to the workers of New Bedford. Working with Adrian and Jobs with Justice, the Local continued to hold meetings with the workers  Election Day rapidly approached.

aspacioWhen polls finally opened at 6am at the New Bedford facility, and over the next two hours a majority of the workers cast their ballots until the first block of voting concluded at 8am. The polls opened again at 11am, allowing anyone who had yet to cast a vote to do so, and then closed for the last time at 1pm. As one of the committee members, company officials, community group leaders and union organizers looked on, the representative from the National Labor Relations Board in Boston began tallying the ballots. By the end, a very large pile of “YES” ballots sat next to a diminutive pile of “NO” ballots. The results were signed by the company and the Local, and the first step of a long process toward social and economic justice for the workers of Bob’s Tire was over.

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The enormity of this success cannot be understated. A 65-5 vote is not only indicative of the strength of the collective willpower of the workforce at Bob’s Tire, but it is also a reflection of what can be achieved when workers come together to demand a higher quality of life for themselves and for their families. These workers have sent a strong message to the owners of not only this company, but to businesses throughout the city: injustice will not be tolerated, and that workers are willing to stand collectively against it. The workers at Bob’s Tire also sent a message to New Bedford’s K’iche’ community, its Latin American community, and to the city as a whole: the time for worker action is now. The workers at Bob’s Tire are willing to fight to improve their working conditions, their wages, and their benefits. We hope that other workers in the city and beyond take note, and recognize that by working together and speaking as a strong, unified voice, great things can be achieved. In the meantime, congratulations to the workers at Bob’s Tire Company, and we look forward to working with you in the weeks, months, and years to come.

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Tomas Ventura, member of the Bob’s Worker Committee and the union observer for the election, holding the final tally.

To see more photos of the workers from Bob’s, see the photo album. (photo credit to Lisa Maya Knauer)

For more news coverage, click here.

November 23, 2015

Victory at Wedge Co-Op in Minneapolis

20151118_171802Last Monday, workers at Wedge Community Co-op in Minneapolis voted to form a union with UFCW Local 1189, making it the first co-op grocery in the Twin Cities area, home to many co-ops, to unionize.

The Wedge employees began their union drive last December, because they wanted to unionize in order to make their jobs sustainable and mirror the values at their workplace, which promotes a sustainable food system. The co-op’s management had already complied with a neutrality agreement they’d signed with unionized warehouse workers. “It was really a worker-driven thing,” Local 1189 Organizing Director Abraham Wangnoo said of the recent victory. “You could just see the excitement in a lot of the people who’d been part of this whole thing.” He added that the workers wanted to be able to “maintain a voice on the job and a sense of control and leadership in the operation of the co-op.”

Once the results of the election are certified by the National Labor Relations Board, the the 136 grocery workers will be part of the UFCW union family

A union drive at the Wedge Table, a cafe and market in the area that is also owned by the Wedge, is still ongoing.

 

 

October 15, 2015

Honoring a Devoted UFCW “Cancer Kicker”

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Originally posted by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Frank Meehan spent two decades spearheading the United Food & Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) effort to raise money to defeat blood cancers. As president of the Long Island, NY Local, he was one of the first leaders to act upon the union’s national relationship withThe Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Then last spring, in a twist of fate, he ended up losing his life to one of the aggressive leukemias he’d been hoping to see cured.

“It’s so ironic. He worked so hard for this cause,” said his wife Pam. “He kicked off UFCW’s involvement for years. For him to pass from acute myeloid leukemia (AML) just blew us all away.”

Meehan, who was 75, looked and felt fine when he went for his annual physical in December. He had a low level of vitamin B12 that he couldn’t seem to kick but that was it. When a doctor did a bone marrow biopsy in March just to be safe, he was diagnosed with AML. The initial treatment knocked out his white blood cells and when he developed a complication, it couldn’t be treated and he got pneumonia. He died on Easter Sunday, only three weeks after being diagnosed.

At first his family was angry. He did so much to fight leukemia. Why would this happen to him?

“But then you ask why it would happen to a small child,” said Pam Meehan. “There’s no answer. It’s just a devastating loss.”

This year’s Light The Night Walk is a special one for Local 1500 as members are participating in the Oct. 17 event in East Meadow in honor of Meehan. The “Cancer Kicker” group has traditionally raised more than $50,000 a year for LLS by hosting walks at Shea Stadium, bowling tournaments, comedy shows, raffles and bus trips to Atlantic City, When Meehan retired in 2005, the local raised more than $100,000 in his honor and donated it to LLS.

“Frank lived a life of openhearted generosity and cared for all who met him,” said Tony Speelman, secretary-treasurer for Local 1500. “He touched the lives of thousands of working men and women through his kindred spirit, generosity and loving demeanor. He was a friend, a father, a husband, a grandfather, but no title could ever sum up the essence of Frank Meehan. He was simply one of a kind.”

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The labor leader was at the forefront of battles to improve the working conditions of thousands of union members. A part-time grocery store worker who rose to become a store manager, he became an organizer and union representative, and was elected president of Local 1500 in 1984.

David Timko, LLS’s senior vice president for volunteer engagement, said that once Meehan understood the LLS mission and the tragedy of blood cancers, he took up the cause. The union held him in high regard and he was an inspiration to others, Timko said. While sick in the hospital, he signed a release to donate blood and other samples for research.

“He lived such a rich life and did so much for others,” Timko added. “He spent so many years fundraising for LLS and he passed away just as we were beginning to make progress.”

Pam Meehan said she continues to have great hope for upcoming research. For her husband, doctors said that getting AML was like flipping a switch. One minute you’re fine, the next you’re sick.

“I hope somewhere out there someone will find a way to turn that switch off and save other people from going through this,” she said.

Donate to Local 1500’s team here.

UFCW a Powerful Voice

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has been a powerful voice for LLS for an amazing 32 years – raising close to $77 million! In 2015 alone, the UFCW raised $1.9 million in the U.S. and more than $2.5 million in Canada. Fundraising activities included charity golf tournaments, auctions, dinners, bottle drives, bowling events and sporting clay shooting events along with participation in LLS campaigns such as Light The Night, Team In Training and other activities.

The UFCW is now focusing on getting more of its locals to participate in the Light The Night Walk and it looks like that number will triple this fall.

Here are just a few examples of how the UFCW has been involved. Local 328, representing workers in Rhode Island, southern Massachusetts. and eastern Connecticut, reached the $1 million milestone recently through its annual golf tournament. In addition, UFCW Local 75 in the Cincinnati/Dayton area raised $110,000 with a charity golf tournament, Shoot for a Cure event and participation in Light The Night. UFCW members affiliated with The Beer Store supported a bottle drive for LLSC throughout Canada that raised more than $1.7 million.

The UFCW, the largest private sector union in the country, represents workers in the grocery industry as well as nursing homes; retail clothing stores; poultry, meatpacking and food processing plants; and in numerous other retail and food manufacturing areas.

October 8, 2015

Hispanic Heritage Month Worker Profile: El Super Worker Fermin Rodriguez and His Fight for Justice

IMG_0467As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting the story of Fermin Rodriguez, who has bravely stood up for his coworkers and their collective union rights.

Fermin is a member of UFCW Local 770, and works at El Super–a California-based, Mexican owned supermarket chain. Fermin had worked for El Super for 9 years, until the company illegally terminated him, simply for standing up for workers’ rights.  The company tried to silence him due to his union activity, and the union’s charges lead the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to obtain a court injunction that ordered the grocer to return Fermin to work

Since September, 2013, Fermin and his fellow workers had been working without a contract because El Super refused to bargain with them even after the workers fought off the company’s decertification attempt to take away their Local 770 union representation. In response, the workers launched a boycott to protest the company’s unfair labor practices at their store. Since then, workers like Fermin have continued to speak up about what the company is doing, and have gained support from other workers and community members from far and wide.

In late July, Federal Distict Court Judge George King granted the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) request for a rare “10j” injunction to stop El Super’s unfair labor practices and immediately remedy their unlawful treatment of workers. In the face of El Super’s coercive and threatening conduct designed to silence workers, Chief Judge George H. King issued the significant “10j” injunction, ordering not only the immediate reinstatement of Fermín, but the restoration of workers vacation accrua which El Super had taken away. The Company also conceded in the face of these actions that it would return to the bargaining table.

Fermin is proud of this victory but is clear that this fight isn’t just about him–“it’s about respect for all workers and basic protections on the job. The ability to take sick leave when we or a family member is ill; a fair wage that reflects our contribution to the company’s giant profits; and guaranteed full-time hours for those willing to work.”

To speak out about how he and his coworkers are engaged in a campaign to stand up for worker rights, Fermin came to Washinton, D.C. this week to #StartTheConvo at the White House Summit on worker voice.

His message? “Don’t let yourself be exploited. Fight for your rights. Join a union. Unions are there to protect all workers from exploitation and ensure that employers respect workers’ rights.”

Fermin also used the opportunity to discuss how unions are at the forefront of fighting for immigrant workers’ rights: “It is imperative for workers to realize that they shouldn’t be afraid and know that they have rights. Regardless of whether workers are documented or undocumented, the union is here to help all workers. It is important to know that we, Latino workers, come to this country to work hard, contribute to the economy of this country, and fight to better the lives of our families. It is important for this to be taken into account and finally pass immigration reform.”

In his remarks, Fermin also touched on the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month, and what it means to him: “It is an honor and gives me a sense of pride in my work and my contribution. Latinos come to the USA to improve our living standards and to help our families here and back home. Whether we are from Mexico or other countries in Central America, Hispanic Herititage Month is important to us because we come here to work hard, not only for ourselves but to help this country as well.”

 

 

September 16, 2015

UFCW LOCALS IN MISSOURI APPLAUD DEFEAT OF RIGHT TO WORK

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People packed into the Missouri legislature

Jefferson City, Missouri – Dave Cook, President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655, Steven Straher, President of UFCW Local 88, and Tom Price, President of UFCW Local 2, representing 20,000 workers across Missouri, released the following statement today in response to Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of right to work legislation being sustained by the legislature.

 
“Today is a victory for hard-working men and women and their families all across Missouri.
 
“It should be noted that Republicans, Democrats, Independents, union and non-union families stood together to stop “right to work” legislation. We thank legislators from both sides of the aisle for voting to preserve the rights of middle class workers. 
 
“Our families spent the summer hosting phone banks and canvassing every corner of Missouri to build community support for this very moment.
 
“Governor Nixon’s veto of harmful and unfair “right to work” legislation was sustained because Missourians saw this bill for what it really was – an attack upon every worker in our state regardless of party.
 
“Although this battle is over, we will never stop fighting for hard-working Missouri families who hope for and deserve better lives.”
 
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We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.
 
September 1, 2015

The True Meaning of Labor Day

DSC_0180Today, The Hill published an Op-Ed by UFCW International President Marc Perrone and Executive Vice President Esther Lopez. In it, they remind us all that Labor Day isn’t just about celebrating the end of summer and cooking out. It’s a day to celebrate all hard-working men and women in America, including those who have been left out, thanks to our broken immigration system. Read the full op-ed below:

While many Americans look at Labor Day as the last weekend of summer and another opportunity to sit back and enjoy a barbeque with friends and family—the holiday was created to celebrate the accomplishments of hard-working men and women.

Labor Day is about celebrating the sacrifices working people have made to the shared prosperity of this country. It’s about valuing people, regardless of where they were born, for their work and the contributions they make to the economic well-being of our great country.

This Labor Day, we must challenge the political status quo that has left too many hard-working men and women to struggle alone in the shadows.

Nowhere has the failure of the status quo been more evident than in the struggle fix our country’s broken immigration system. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, over 8 million of which are active in the workforce. We’re talking about workers, parents, community leaders, friends and neighbors whose hard work and daily contributions to our economy merit full participation in our society.

While an overwhelming majority of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform, our national dialogue continues to be hijacked by endless fearmongering and the antics of presidential campaigns jockeying for 2016.

Case in point, Donald Trump.

Donald Trump’s eccentric soundbites have not only dominated the conversation, they have further divided and obfuscated the serious debate over our country’s immigration crisis. Along with Mr. Trump’s unrealistic campaign promise to build a wall along our 2,000-mile long southern border, his calls for overturning the 14th amendment and constitutional right of birthright citizenship are radical and dangerous.

Immigration reform will clearly be a key issue as we head into the 2016 presidential elections. Both parties have a responsibility to engage in a substantive debate about how we can actually fix a broken immigration system that penalizes workers and families. Too much is at stake to let this important issue be driven by extreme proposals and divisive rhetoric.

All politicians, those in office and those running for office, need to understand that the inaction that has pervaded our political system is unacceptable. Inaction is not an option for millions of hard-working men and women who aspire to be Americans.

Above all, we as a country cannot afford to continue down a path that enables and permits employers to exploit all workers by cutting wages, lowering benefits, and punishing those who dare to speak out for a better life.

We would hope that every candidate acknowledges the fact that if you live and work hard in America, if you’re contributing to the prosperity of this nation, you should have the opportunity to become an American.

This Labor Day, let’s honor and respect the work of all hard-working people.

For the sake of a better America we all must believe in, let’s put divisive partisan politics aside and challenge our 2016 candidates to do what is right for the country, and not themselves.

Perrone is the president of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. López is executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

August 14, 2015

UFCW Immigration Work will be Honored in September

imm awardThe UFCW’s immigration programs will be honored by the Center for Community Change at its annual “Change Champion Awards” ceremony on September 17 in Washington, D.C.

Under the leadership of UFCW International President Marc Perrone and UFCW Executive Vice President Esther López, the UFCW is proud to lead the fight for immigration reform through two signature immigration programs which reach all levels of the union and our nation.

The first, known as Union Citizenship Action Network (UCAN), provides members a platform to learn from seasoned immigrants’ rights advocates about the critical skills and tools needed to go through the naturalization process and become U.S. citizens. The second program is designed to help UFCW members get ready for Deferred Action for Parent Arrivals (DAPA).

Representing workers from all over the globe, the UFCW has seen the devastation caused by the broken immigration system in the United States. From ICE raids in meatpacking plants, to the endless threat of deportation, members and immigrant communities across the United States have been failed by the inaction of elected officials. Their deafening silence in the face of exploitative labor practices that have driven down wages, benefits, and the working conditions of all workers only serves to perpetuate a crisis that continues to grow.

Congress has yet to pass legislation, but the UFCW is not sitting back and waiting for politicians to act. Local unions are hosting workshops to help members determine whether they qualify, gather necessary documentation, prescreen their applications, and answer important legal questions. The UFCW is committed to ensuring that when a legal ruling on DAPA is finally rendered, UFCW members will either be ready to file for it or fight for it.

The UFCW is proud to accept this award and is committed to fighting for the rights of all hard-working men and women.

August 13, 2015

UFCW Local 23 Helps Pass Paid Sick Leave Law in Pittsburgh

L23 Pitt Paid Sick Leave PassesLast week, Pittsburgh passed a law that guarantees paid sick days for every worker in the city.

The victory was made possible by UFCW Local 23 members who spent weeks canvassing and building community support for the law.

Thanks to their hard work, more than 50,000 Pittsburgh workers will be eligible to earn paid time off so that they have the opportunity to stay home and get better when they become ill. L23 Pitt Paid Sick Leave Canvass

UFCW Local 23 is building on the momentum from this victory and pushing for a statewide paid sick leave law so that all workers in Pennsylvania can enjoy the same benefit.

August 11, 2015

On the Ground with a GOLD Intern

ATL JWJMyron Coguox works at Food 4 Less and is a member of UFCW Local 324.

I spent my GOLD internship working alongside Jobs with Justice in Atlanta. The overall goal of the summer was to help motivate people to organize and have a union voice on the job to help them improve their jobs and lives.

When I arrived, I knew very little about the South and it was sometimes difficult for me to reach people within the community. I come from California and found Georgia to be quite different from home. This experience has opened up my eyes to how difficult organizing can be inside a right to work state.

I spent a lot of my time canvassing a community called East Point and it was challenging. Beyond being perceived as the “new” person in town, what made my job particulary difficult was the fact that East Point is an exceptionally conservative community. The people I met weren’t always so receptive to labor unions. To overcome this, I would always share my personal experiences to help establish trust. If they trusted me, they would be more likely to talk with me about how together we can stand up for more jobs and better wages.

Working in Georgia made me realize how much working people suffer. Areas with low incomes and few jobs are in desperate need of change. This summer taught me that the best way to bring that is for people to band together both inside and outside of their workplaces.

I’m looking forward to going home and sharing everything I’ve learned with my local union. Most importantly, I won’t take the strength of our solidarity for granted.

June 3, 2015

Food Front Co-Op Workers Vote Union Yes

Food Front Victory PhotoWorkers at Food Front Co-op stores have voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 555. After an overwhelming vote in favor of joining the union, 91 workers will become members of UFCW Local 555.

Food Front Co-op has two stores in the Northwest and Hillsdale neighborhoods of Portland. With more than 10,000 member-owners, democratic governance is a foundational value at Food Front. As union members, store workers will now have their own democratic voice in the co-op.

“We are the union at Food Front,” said Russell Kwong. “Our union will help assure customers that we are treated fairly and that the co-op is run democratically. Improving our standards at the co-op benefits employees, customers and owners — and subsequently the whole community.”

For Food Front workers, a union voice on the job reinforces the collaborative values that brought them to the co-op. In the coming weeks, workers will sit down with management to negotiate a first contract that solves existing problems and improves working conditions.

“The bottom line is that we wish to be respected, heard, treated equally and most of all supported,” said Kira Davis, a store worker. “I believe that creating our union can help strengthen us. As a union, we will empower everyone through education, communication and action.”