June 20, 2013
On June 18th and 19th over 150 UFCW members and staff came to Washington D.C. to talk face to face with their Members of Congress about the important issues facing working men and women.
“I’ve worked at Cargill for 11 years and I would say 95% of my coworkers are Latino. We all want comprehensive immigration reform so that we can feel like we have a welcoming home. It’s especially difficult to see coworkers with family members who are separated because not all of them are able to come to America. We want a fair path to citizenship so that families can be reunified.”
With the Senate currently debating S. 744, a comprehensive immigration reform bill, Local 5 member Lachele Thomas, who works at Safeway in Salinas, California, found the very real prospect of helping to pass this landmark legislation exciting.
“This is historical. It’s almost overwhelming. I’ll be so proud if I can look back and know that we helped pass immigration reform.”
It was also an excellent time to talk with Members of Congress about properly shaping bills that have already been passed. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) slated to take full effect in 2014, Local 1262 member Delores Jackson, a Shop Rite employee in Rochelle Park, New Jersey, was happy to be sharing her concerns about fairly implementing the law.
“I’m very excited to be here. I want them to hear my point of view. I’ve been with the union for years. We fought hard for our current benefits and we deserve to keep them. I’m hoping I can convince some of these politicians to help us with this ACA problem. I want to keep my good health care. I don’t want it to change. I can’t afford to pay more for less health care coverage – that’s just not right. Usually politicians just talk to us – it’s time we came up here and talked with them. They need to hear our voice. They need to know how it is for us.”
One of the big takeaways, especially for members who had never lobbied before, was how effective their participation can be. For Humberto Munoz, a member of Local 5 who works at Safeway in Salinas, California, the experience was rewarding.
“I met my Congressman – visiting him in his office was a great experience. I realized being here that they do listen and that talking with them really can make a difference.”
With members and staff from California, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Maryland showing up, it truly was a national lobby day.
If anyone reading this is thinking about getting more involved politically – stop thinking about it and start doing it. Shante Vinalon, a Local 1996 member who works at Kroger in Decatur, Georgia, was happy she did.
“I’ve worked at Kroger for 8 years. This is my first time lobbying in DC. Meeting and sitting down with Representatives one on one is empowering. I get an understanding of where they’re coming from and they get an understanding of where we’re coming from. I’m able to see who is for us and who is against us. I like it. It’s a great experience. Everyone should do it. I plan on encouraging all my friends back home to do it.”
UFCW’s National Lobby Day proved to everyone that politicians are a lot more approachable than they sometimes seem. If we want our concerns to be heard, we have to be willing to speak up.