March 4, 2004

Hansen Takes Charge at 1.4 Million Member Food and Commercial Workers Union

Milwaukee Meatcutter Brings History Of Commitment to Diversity, Activism, Organizing And Global Solidarity To Union’s Top Leadership Position

Doug Dority Retires After Four Decades Of Union Building

 Joe Hansen, on far left, at a rally for the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride …more

A Milwaukee meatcutter took charge today as International President of the 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). Joe Hansen, member of UFCW Local 653— rank-and-file activist, volunteer organizer, union representative, regional director, the head of the union’s packinghouse division, and the UFCW’s International Secretary -Treasurer since 1997— was the unanimous choice of the union’s International Executive Board to fill the unexpired term of retiring International President Doug Dority.

Hansen, as a young worker learning a skilled trade, proudly became a member of Local 73 of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America in 1962 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His skills went beyond cutting meat. He had the ability to connect with non-union workers, win their trust and help them to organize. Hansen volunteered to spread the union message and quickly became a key part of the union’s organizing program. He was an outspoken rank-and-file activist who won election to local union office, and in 1973 became an international staff representative.

After the 1979 merger of the Meat Cutters and the Retail Clerks that created the UFCW, Hansen rose rapidly in the new union serving as an organizer, an executive assistant to a Regional Director, and then as Director of the North Central region. He won election as an International Vice President in 1986. In 1990, Hansen was assigned as Pacific Region 14 Director and then as Director of the UFCW’s Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division.

Joe Hansen has always made the connection between aggressive organizing and improving the lives of union members. The more organized workers in a community or industry, the greater their clout at the bargaining table. From his own experience, Hansen focuses on motivating and activating union members to organize other workers. “”We have more than a million potential organizers with our membership. Our challenge is to inspire, empower and lead our members in organizing the millions of non-union workers. Organizing activism is first on our agenda for the future,”” said Hansen.

Joe Hansen was one of the labor movement’s first leaders to recognize the importance of organizing and representing the new wave of immigrants that was filling the packinghouses and food processing plants of the Midwest and South. Hansen saw that the future of his union would be men and women of many colors, speaking a multitude of languages, and coming from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. “”Solidarity among all workers— regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or immigration status— is the foundation of our movement, and our strength to meet the challenges of the future,”” according to Hansen. He is a leader within the AFL-CIO for addressing the needs of immigrant workers, and serves on the Federation’s Immigration Committee.

Hansen’s vision of the future sees global solidarity as the counter to corporate globalization. He was elected to serve as President of Union Network International (UNI) at its first World Congress in Berlin in 2001. UNI is an international labor organization representing 15 million workers in 900 unions in more than 100 countries across the globe. “”As corporations spread their reach around the world, we must extend our hands in solidarity to workers in all lands. Organized workers are the most powerful force in the world. Solidarity works worldwide,”” Hansen has pointed out in speeches in the U.S. and abroad.

Hansen has played a key role in support of local union collective bargaining. He has advised local unions, challenged employers, rallied supporters and walked picket lines. He has seen over the past decade that rising health benefit costs are the number one cause of strikes. Hansen has reached a firm conclusion on the single most important legislative and political issue: “”We must have comprehensive national health care reform. No worker should be forced onto the picket line to save health care for their families. November 2004 is the time to elect a President and Congress that will protect health care benefits for working families.””

Hansen, as well the other members of the UFCW International Executive Board, thanked Doug Dority for his service and commitment to the UFCW. Hansen said on behalf of the entire Board, “”Doug Dority is a union builder and an organizer. He is part of the soul of this union. He taught a generation of leaders and representatives that our commitment is always first and foremost to the members. We are stronger, more effective and better prepared for the future because of Doug Dority. He will forever be our brother.””

After more than 40 years of union service that began when he organized the grocery store where he worked in Lynchburg, Virginia, Dority, UFCW International President since 1994, decided to retire from his union office. He will continue, however, to work with labor and other progressive organizations on efforts to win national health care reform. Dority had planned to announce his retirement in January, but delayed retiring until the Southern California strike had been successfully resolved.

Michael E. Leonard, International Executive Vice President and International Director of Strategic Programs, also announced his retirement effective March 2, 2004.

The UFCW International Executive Board elected Anthony M. Perrone as International Secretary-Treasurer, William T. McDonough as International Executive Vice President, and Michael J. Fraser as International Executive Vice President. Perrone currently serves as International Executive Vice President and International Director of Organizing. McDonough currently serves as International Vice President and Region 8 Director. Fraser currently serves as International Vice President and Canadian National Director. Sarah Palmer Amos continues to serve as International Executive Vice President and International Director of Collective Bargaining and completes the five-person International Executive Committee.

(Under the UFCW International Constitution, the International Executive Board is charged with electing a replacement for a vacancy in the office of International President. The UFCW Executive Board consists of 52 International Vice Presidents, primarily local union leaders. Hansen’s term will run through 2008.)