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September 2, 2015

Honoring the History of Labor Day

via activerain.com

via activerain.com

While most Americans view Labor Day as the last long weekend of the summer and another day off work, the history behind the holiday was actually a result of one of the most intense and violent struggles for workers’ rights.

In 1894, during a time of severe economic and social unrest, thousands of workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike to protest the way George Pullman, founder and president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, treated his workers.  Pullman was one of the wealthiest men in the Chicago area, and subjected his workers to high rents and low pay in the company town he had built for them near the factory.  His actions forced many of his workers into debt and poverty.  When his workers rebelled and went on strike with the support of Eugene Debs and the American Railway Union, Pullman gained the support of President Grover Cleveland, who ordered federal troops to intervene—leading to a bloody confrontation and the deaths of more than 30 Pullman workers.  Soon afterwards and amid growing criticism to the brutal response to the striking workers, President Cleveland established Labor Day as a national holiday in an effort to appease organized labor.

One hundred and twenty-one years after the Pullman Strike, our country is still grappling with economic and social unrest as income inequality persists and the right of workers to stick together for better workplace conditions continues to be challenged.  Too many American workers are struggling to survive in low-wage, part-time jobs that hamper their ability to move up the economic ladder. And the sheer desperation of many Americans who simply want to work has enabled many companies to cut wages and hours, misclassify workers as independent contractors or hire temporary workers to avoid providing benefits, subject their workers to erratic scheduling practices, and punish those who speak out for better workplace conditions.

Many of these abuses are a direct result of the smaller number of unionized workers.  Fortunately, America’s workers are realizing that the key to economic prosperity for working people is power in numbers.  Across the country, thousands of low-wage, part-time workers are leading the fight to narrow the wealth gap by sticking together for better wages and benefits. Like the Pullman workers, they are standing up to their wealthy employers through strikes and protests in the face of threats and intimidation.  Some have even lost their jobs in their fight for a voice on the job.  Despite these setbacks, they continue to call attention to our country’s increasing reliance on low-wage, part-time jobs and its devastating effect on American workers.

This Labor Day, let’s take time to remember those before us who stood up to powerful corporate and political interests to fight for a better life and a more equitable society.  Let’s honor them by focusing on the power we all have to define a brighter path forward for the millions of workers and their families who deserve and have earned a better life.

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.

July 24, 2015

UFCW Statement on A&P Bankruptcy Developments

A&PFor Immediate Release: July 24, 2015

Contact: press@ufcw.org

Montvale, N.J. – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union International President Marc Perrone, released the following statement on behalf of UFCW Locals 27, 100R, 152, 342, 371, 400, 464-A, 1245, 1262, 1360, 1500, 1776 and RWDSU/UFCW Locals 338 and 1034, after meeting with A&P executives to discuss the future of A&P and its proposed sale.

“For years, the hard-working men and women of A&P not only did their jobs, they personally and financially sacrificed to invest in A&P’s success. These sacrifices were made for the sake of their families, their co-workers, and the customers and communities that they deeply care about. Now, at this critical time, after repeated mismanagement and strategic mistakes made by company executives, A&P is asking for even more. Enough is enough!

“Instead of asking for more sacrifices to pay-off a select group of executives and corporate investors, A&P should be focusing on their workers and their families during this challenging time.

“We want to be very clear, our members and their families sacrificed. They invested financially and personally in the success of these stores and they remain committed to working hard to make these stores a success for any responsible buyers. But make no mistake, we will not take part in any effort that asks them to give up what they have earned and deserve.

“Looking ahead, we will work cooperatively and constructively with anyone, but we will fight back with everything we have if A&P or its financial backers attempt to further exploit our members. For A&P to ask our members to give up their rights and benefits is simply unacceptable. Moreover, it is an insult given that it is our hard-working members who have and will make these stores a success. In fact, what will make these stores a true financial success is new and responsible management, not more sacrifices by A&P’s hard-working men and women.

“If A&P, its executive team, or its investors want to play the blame game, they should all look in the mirror.

“Now is the time for A&P to do what is right and we fully expect that they will honor their responsibilities to its employees, our members, and their families.”

July 24, 2015

UFCW Statement on A&P Bankruptcy Developments

A&PFor Immediate Release: July 24, 2015

Contact: press@ufcw.org

Montvale, N.J. – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union International President Marc Perrone, released the following statement on behalf of UFCW Locals 27, 100R, 152, 342, 371, 400, 464-A, 1245, 1262, 1360, 1500, 1776 and RWDSU/UFCW Locals 338 and 1034, after meeting with A&P executives to discuss the future of A&P and its proposed sale.

“For years, the hard-working men and women of A&P not only did their jobs, they personally and financially sacrificed to invest in A&P’s success. These sacrifices were made for the sake of their families, their co-workers, and the customers and communities that they deeply care about. Now, at this critical time, after repeated mismanagement and strategic mistakes made by company executives, A&P is asking for even more. Enough is enough!

“Instead of asking for more sacrifices to pay-off a select group of executives and corporate investors, A&P should be focusing on their workers and their families during this challenging time.

“We want to be very clear, our members and their families sacrificed. They invested financially and personally in the success of these stores and they remain committed to working hard to make these stores a success for any responsible buyers. But make no mistake, we will not take part in any effort that asks them to give up what they have earned and deserve.

“Looking ahead, we will work cooperatively and constructively with anyone, but we will fight back with everything we have if A&P or its financial backers attempt to further exploit our members. For A&P to ask our members to give up their rights and benefits is simply unacceptable. Moreover, it is an insult given that it is our hard-working members who have and will make these stores a success. In fact, what will make these stores a true financial success is new and responsible management, not more sacrifices by A&P’s hard-working men and women.

“If A&P, its executive team, or its investors want to play the blame game, they should all look in the mirror.

“Now is the time for A&P to do what is right and we fully expect that they will honor their responsibilities to its employees, our members, and their families.”

May 6, 2015

Celebrating UFCW Moms: Local 1189 Rep and Single Mother Tamara Jones on The Importance of the Labor Movement and Why She Loves Being Union

Tamara Jones has been a proud UFCW member for 14 years, and has been on staff since 2007.  She worked in activities at Viewcrest Health Center, in Duluth, Minnesota where she was a union steward and then became a member of the UFCW Local 1116 Executive Board prior to becoming a Union Representative.  She is also the Region 6 Coordinator for the UFCW OUTReach , a member of the UFCW Women’s Network, leader of the Northern Division Community Services Committee, board member of the 7th Senate District DFL Board, Fightin’ 15 Precinct Chair, President of the Carlton County Central Labor Body, member of the AFL-CIO/United Way Community Services committee, serves as a member of the Northeast Area Labor Council Executive Board, serves as a member of the Duluth Central Labor Body Executive Board, serves on the United Way Executive Board, is immediate past-President of the International Labour Council, and is a master Trustee with the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

This is her story:

One of my favorite mothers, Mother Jones (sadly, no relation) said that we should mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Growing up, I remember learning about the labor movement in my history classes. I learned about the railroad strikes, the Chicago Teamsters’ strike, the Pullman strike – and what I remember the most is that people died to make what we take for granted now possible.

It’s a sobering thought, but even today, all over the world, the labor struggle is real. It is violent. And people die. It’s why you should call your Senators and your Representatives and tell them to oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The countries involved, namely Brunei and Malaysia, have horrific records of human rights abuses, and if we condone entering into trade with these countries, we are no better than they are.

It’s a grim reality.

However, there are glimmers of hope. Our union, UFCW, has been a strong advocate for workers around the globe. Through our partnership and support of UNI Global Union, they have successfully negotiated Colombia’s first ever collective agreement in the retail sector at Carrefour Colombia. It has a woman as president and it is thousands strong. UNI Global Union has over 52 agreements signed with multinational corporations across the globe, aimed at improving working conditions, better wages, and ensuring that corporations act responsibly with regards to their workers.

Here at home, UFCW has been blazing trails with its newly-formed constituency group, UFCW OUTReach. UFCW OUTReach is dedicated to building mutual support between our union’s International, regions, and locals and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and their allies in order to come together to organize for social and economic justice for all, regardless of age, race, gender, creed, color, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

I’m proud to sit on the UFCW OUTReach executive board. Since our formation, we have worked to advocate inclusion of transgender health care benefits in our insurance plans. We have worked to educate our locals about the specific issues transgender individuals face when encountering immigration, and have advocated for immigration reform, especially ensuring that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters aren’t sent back into situations where they may be persecuted to death. We have educated many locals about the issues that are important to us as workers and as LGBTQ people, and encouraged them to educate their members as well as their legislators so we can avoid discriminatory legislation. We have partnered with excellent organizations to make sure that we are at the forefront of LGBTQ workers’ rights and are constantly advocating and empowering our rank-and-file members in their workplace to take a stand against discrimination.

The things listed above are things that I’m so proud of our union being involved in, I could burst.

However, what I’m most proud of in our labor movement has a more personal side. I am a single mom of four kids, two girls, aged 9 and 2 ½, and two boys, aged 7 and 5. My seven year-old has sensory processing disorder and ADHD. It has been a long journey to get him to where he is today.

Through my contractually-provided health insurance, he has access to the therapies and medications he needs to be successful in the world.  Through the contractually-obligated medical leave I have, I was able to not worry about being off and meeting my bills when I nearly died when my 2 ½ year-old was born.

Through the support of my brothers and sisters in the union, who have helped me countless times with transporting my children here or there or watching them while I advocate for them at the capitol, or have to take another child to an appointment, or handle a grievance, my children have learned and seen what the union is really about: taking care of each other. Not just in the workplace, but in our daily lives.

They’ve marched on the picket lines, they’ve been to rallies, and they’ve helped with food drives. To them, union isn’t a dirty word or joke. To them, it means family.

I probably overuse this quote from Paul Wellstone, but it really encapsulates everything that is good about the labor movement: “We all do better when we all do better.”

Being part of the labor movement is the only way to ensure that my children will be able to do better, no matter what they choose to do in life. Be it a spy nurse (7 year-old), a construction engineer (5 year-old), a fashion designer-teacher (9 year-old), or the world’s most stubborn person (2 ½ year old), the union has paved their way and will continue to pave their way.

Tamara's daughter Hazel, age 5

Tamara’s daughter Hazel

The whole gang: (From Top to Bottom) Walter, Leo, Marjorie, and Hazel

The whole gang: (From Top to Bottom) Walter, Leo, Marjorie, and Hazel

Tamara's son Walter, age 6

Tamara’s son Walter,

May 5, 2015

Celebrating UFCW Moms: Single Mom Sought Education and Career for Better Life, Gives Back to Union and Community

At age 25, Amy was a single parent raising two children with no job, no car, no education and no place to live. She knew the only way to give her children the life they deserved would be through hard work and determination – and when Amy walked across the stage to receive her GED, her two children, Chassity and Joey, sat in the front row cheering her on.

Amy’s determination to give her kids a better life led her to her get a job at Kroger where she found that having a union contract could give her the stability she and her family needed. She saw right away that there was a place for her to take a leadership role in her union. She became a steward because she saw that her co-workers needed a strong voice on the job. 

Over the course of the last decade, Amy has helped to negotiate her union contract three times, serving as part of the team that meets with Kroger management and bargains the wages, benefits, and working conditions for more than 12,000 UFCW Local 227 members across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Now, in her capacity as the Chief Steward at her store, Amy helps ensure that Kroger implements the union contract correctly, and makes certain that her co-workers understand and take advantage of the full range of benefits they’re guaranteed. 

Amy’s hard work and commitment to improving her family’s life and her workplace has spilled over into the community. She served as the PTA President at Tates Creek Elementary for three years, and in 2014 ran for City Council – losing narrowly in a primary.

Determined, committed UFCW moms like Amy continue to inspire us and are an important part of our union family! Stay tuned as we celebrate more moms across the UFCW in our lead up to Mother’s Day.

Amy, shown here with former President Clinton while she was representing UFCW Local 227 at a rally

Amy, shown here with former President Clinton while she was representing UFCW Local 227 at a rally

 

May 4, 2015

Celebrating UFCW Moms: New UFCW Member Loves Her Job and Security of Being a Union Member

maggieTo continue our celebration of UFCW moms, we’re sharing the story of Local 1000 member Maggie Duhig-Freeman.

Maggie is a single divorced mom working at Kroger Marketplace in Lewisville, Texas, supporting her family and finishing college.

A little over a month ago, Maggie began working at her store and had started training. After her orientation, a 25 year UFCW member and rep came by the store to reach out to new folks and let them know about the union, and to see how members were doing.

Texas is a right to work state, but after Maggie learned about what a union is, she said she definitely wanted to give it a try.

“It sounded like a great idea,” Maggie says, “We talked about how the union can help facilitate interventions if there is ever a workplace dispute. They are there to really support the employees. I haven’t had any trouble at my store, but you never know what can happen!”

Maggie loves the people and her job as a cashier at Kroger Marketplace, and has now been a union member for about a month.

Maggie has never been in a union before but she had many people tell her that she should go for a union job.

“Belonging to the union is inexpensive, and in our store which is very big, it’s nice to have UFCW people, who have relationships with management and other employees who you may not have ever met help you get to know everyone and how things operate. Everyone here is awesome,” she says.

She also notes that if her store were to ever go on strike, the employees have the option to choose whether or not to join it, but as union member she would be out there fighting. “When you’re invested in something, they will go to bat for you.”

Another thing Maggie values about being in the union is her union benefits. The paid family and sick leave and the good union benefits in her contract will be very helpful someday, she says, adding that as a single mom, she needs that sort of support.

In her spare time, Maggie also volunteers, a lot. She is a notary official for the state of Texas, helping her community members get the important documents they need notarized. She has also been volunteering at her community food bank for six years, helping unpack donations—many of which come from her own workplace, where employees including herself and customers can buy bags of groceries as part of a donation program to the Denton County Food Bank.

When she was younger, Maggie also volunteered at several political conventions, where she enjoyed listening to various candidates speeches. This inspired her to be even more involved politically—she now volunteers at polling places and worked the polls for President Obama’s campaign during his second election.

Maggie is a wonderful member of her community, and we are happy to welcome her to the union family and congratulate her on her union job that enables her to take care of her family!

Are you a union mom too? Share your story with us at  http://www.ufcw.org/resources/members/share-your-story/

May 1, 2015

Celebrating UFCW Moms: Local 655 Member Fights Right To Work; Stands Up for Union Rights that Gave Her and Her Daughter Better Life

theresaWith Mother’s Day right around the corner, we couldn’t think of a better time to celebrate the great work that UFCW mothers do, each and every day!

One such union mom, Theresa Hester of UFCW Local 655, recently shared her story of how the union has changed her life in a testimony before the Missouri State Senate to explain why Right to Work laws are wrong:

In 1998, Theresa moved to St. Louis after graduating from high school. That year, she established three goals her herself: continue her education, provide a better living for herself and her young daughter, and get off government assistance.

For a few years, she moved from job to job, but none allowed her to be able to support her daughter the way she wanted – until 2003 when she started working at Shop ‘n Save and became a member of UFCW Local 655.

Unfortunately, that same year, she and her co-workers were forced to go on strike in order to save their healthcare and benefits.  Theresa experienced union solidarity first-hand, saying “we were out there, walking day and night, fighting for the things we needed to support our families. The thing that stood out to me was how united we were on our common issues during that period. I realized the real power of a union is how people come together.”

Theresa has come a long way since that first eye-opening experience and has now been a Local 655 member for 12 years. She says that being a union member has allowed her to raise her daughter in a good environment, and have the flexible scheduling she needs to attend PTA meetings or participate in after school activities with her daughter. “There’s no greater feeling than knowing you can tell your child that you’ll be at their performance, or Christmas party, or whatever the case may be,” she says.

Additionally, Theresa’s union job has enabled her to meet the goals she set for herself years ago. She now lives in North St. Louis in a home she owns and is able to afford. Not only does she no longer need government assistance, she was able to pay for and attend accounting school.

“I know personally the benefits of having a union job and what it does for hardworking families,” Theresa told the state Senate during her testimony. “I’m free to work any place I choose.”

That’s why Theresa has been speaking out about Right to Work laws in her state. When she talks to her co-workers and friends about the legislation, they are very concerned because the proposed law is so confusing, deceptive, and has such potential to hurt hard-working families.

Theresa argues that legislators should be discussing raising the minimum wage, creating jobs that pay living wages, and investing in education and infrastructure. She knows that Right to Work laws create unsafe workplaces, weaken worker power, and diminish the likelihood of workers having a pension or healthcare.

“Because I have a union job, I sleep easier at night knowing I have great benefits, better working conditions, great healthcare, and a voice that someone will hear,” Theresa says. She gives credit to her local union (UFCW Local 655) and the contract she and her co-workers help to negotiate for making that possible.

Our union family wouldn’t be what it is without your brave, strong, and united voices. Are you a UFCW mom, or a member with a story to share? Tell us at http://www.ufcw.org/resources/members/share-your-story/.

April 9, 2015

Union Plus Benefits for UFCW Members

UFCW_MCWe all know that there are countless benefits to being a union member and the difference having a union voice makes.  And there’s another benefit for union workers: the UFCW Credit Card.

The UFCW is endorsing this credit card program because it has been specially designed to meet the needs of hard-working UFCW members and their families. With this card, members can enjoy exclusive savings and rebates on useful products and services.

The UFCW Credit Card program offers many options for UFCW members and their families. Cardholders will have access to special benefit offers just for union members*, such as:

  • Rebates on auto down payments
  • Cash back when they purchase AT&T smartphones
  • Exclusive motor club benefits with 24-hour roadside assistance
  • Special grants to help pay off student debt
  • Discounts on computers and other tech products

Show your union pride while saving as you shop!

 

*Terms apply. Please visit UFCWCard.com.
The UFCW Credit Card is issued by Capital One N.A. pursuant to a license by MasterCard International Incorporated.

March 16, 2015

Women’s History Month: The Fight for Maternity Leave and Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers Continues

rtbDid you know that the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t mandate maternity leave? The rest of North America, most of South America, Russia and Europe, Australia and some African an Asian countries all mandate both maternity AND paternity leave, but in the U.S., leave isn’t guaranteed by law for either parent.

Only nine countries don’t have laws that guarantee some paid leave for new mothers: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Tonga — and the United States. It’s 2015. How is this possible?

Although there have been many improvements in labor conditions for women in recent years, paid maternity leave is unattainable for countless women working in the United States.

But many progressive organizations, worker groups, and unions like the UFCW are fighting to change that.

In a recent status report on the well-being of women world-wide, the Clinton Foundation noted that “paid maternal leave supports women’s continued employment, job stability, and longer-term wage growth.”

Jessica Milli, a senior research associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has also noted that “women still take on a disproportionate part of the care burden and have to take more time off. This has huge implications for their earnings, and their overall experience in the workplace.”

Thanks to worker activism, some employers are seeing the value in providing more paid maternity leave for their female employees, and are realizing that they are far more likely to retain their staff by doing so.

Recently, telecom company Vodafone announced that it will start giving full pay for the first 16 weeks of maternity leave for women and 100% of salary for a 30-hour week for the first six months after their return to work, making the company one of the first multinationals to introduce a worldwide minimum level of maternity pay.

Not only is this a significant help to women at the company, but Vodafone also revealed research that showed global businesses worldwide could save $19 billion a year by providing 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave.

The analysis found that recruiting and training new employees to replace women who leave the workforce after having a baby costs $47 billion– far higher than the $28 billion cost of the extra benefits.

At Walmart–America’s largest retailer and private employer of women–there is still much work to be done in regards to getting better treatment for pregnant workers. In response to unethical and potentially unlawful treatment of pregnant workers and the widespread financial hardship forced onto working women at Walmart, Walmart moms formed together to create the group Respect the Bump.

Since banding together they have called for Walmart to publicly commit to better pay and protections at the country’s largest employer of women. With the support of the country’s leading women’s rights advocates, the group developed a list of urgent policy changes the company must make to ensure that the women who are helping the company profit are not living in poverty or putting their health at risk.

Thelma Moore, a member of Respect the Bump, was fired for taking time off to ensure her pregnancy was viable after an in-store accident. “Walmart could be paving the way for good jobs for working moms like us,” said Moore. “Instead, we’re fighting for bathroom breaks when we’re pregnant and steady schedules that let us get reliable childcare and put food on the table.”

The mothers of Respect the Bump are still working hard to advocate for better treatment, but in early 2014 their efforts payed off when Walmart quietly overhauled its pregnancy policy to provide basic accommodations for employees experiencing complications with their pregnancies, in a shift that could ease the way for hundreds of thousands of its other female employees who could have babies down the road.

Women’s History Month is the perfect time to reflect on how far women workers have come, but it should also serve as in important reminder that women are still not always treated equally in the workplace. For women, belonging to a union helps ensure a level playing field, protect against gender discrimination, and provides greater benefits than non-union counterparts.