News and Updates
July 24, 2005
Washington, D.C. — The segment of the American workforce most likely to suffer injury or death on the job was targeted in a scam operation by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. ICE officers masqueraded as safety instructors to round up documented and undocumented construction workers in North Carolina with a flier announcing a mandatory Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) meeting, earlier this month, then arrested 48 undocumented workers who attended the meeting.
“OSHA is responsible for worker safety and health,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “For ICE to stage a sham OSHA meeting in order to round up and arrest people undermines OSHA’s mission, and is a step backwards for state and federal efforts to reduce worker injuries and deaths. The word being brought back to worksites, after a scam like this, is that OSHA can’t be trusted. That kind of perception diminishes OSHA’s ability to do the critical work of protecting America’s labor force.”
There are more than 10 million foreign-born workers in the US, making up about 15% of the workforce. Immigrant workers have the highest rates of on-the-job injuries and fatalities. Hispanic workers suffer 69% of all on-the-job injuries/deaths. In the meatpacking industry, more than half of the workers are foreign-born, and in some plants, up to 80% of the workers are immigrants.
“This unscrupulous action has shattered the trust between OSHA and the workers who depend on the agency the most,” said Hansen. “More and more often, it is immigrants who work in the most dangerous industries such as construction or meatpacking. How can OSHA reach these at-risk workers with safety information now? To these workers, OSHA no longer means safety, but betrayal. The Bush administration must denounce the kind of trickery that undermines safety.””
July 24, 2005
“”To realize our goal of organizing significant numbers of low-to moderate-wage Latino and immigrant workers in the face of fierce employer resistance during the next decade, we must move aggressively to apply new resources and make changes in our own organization,”” said UFW President Arturo Rodriguez. “”We are convinced the Change to Win Coalition mirrors our commitment of finding new ways to refocus on organizing and vigorously pursue anti-worker employers.””
“”The Coalition is thrilled to have the Farm Workers join our efforts to improve the lives of millions of American workers,”” Coalition Chair Anna Burger said today. “”This is a significant moment in American labor history. The Union of Ceasar Chavez is the heart and soul of the labor movement, and its affiliation with our Coalition sends a powerful signal that we are on the right course.””
“”The Farm Workers represent the highest aspirations of all American workers,”” Burger said. “”Their historic commitment to organizing low-to moderate-wage workers is the essence of the Change to Win Coalition’s vision of giving hope to millions of workers seeking the American Dream.””
The Change to Win Coalition was formed on June 15, 2005 to marshal the collective strength of its unions (listed below) to develop and implement strategies to bring the labor movement into the 21st century. Since its inception, two additional unions, the Carpenters and the Farm Workers, have joined the original five. The Change to Win Coalition unions represent nearly 6 million workers.
July 24, 2005
Seven hundred and fifty workers at two Koch’s Foods poultry processing units in Morristown, Tennessee have filed a petition for a union election to be conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Workers at the Morristown plant approached the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1995, seeking a voice on the job. Workers have been organizing at the plant for the past month. A majority of workers at the two units have signed UFCW union authorization cards.
“UFCW currently represents Koch’s Foods workers at two plants in Mississippi,” said George J. Saleeby, International Vice President and Director of UFCW Region 3. “Koch’s workers in the Morton and Forest plants are able to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions. The workers in Morristown came to us because they also want a voice on the job.””
The U.S. government requires workers and the union of their choice to have at least 30% of their co-workers sign union authorization cards in order to file for a NLRB election. During an election, eligible workers at the location vote for or against the petitioning union. When a union is voted in by 50% plus one person, both the company and union sit down to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract for the workers and to improve workplace conditions.
June 23, 2005
Kennedy, Corzine and Weiner Introduce New Health Care Legislation to Hold Companies, like Wal-Mart, Accountable
Washington D.C. – Today, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Jon Corzine and Representative Anthony Weiner announced the introduction of the Health Care
Accountability Act (HCAA) to expose the growing problem of profitable companies, like Wal-Mart, forcing workers onto public health care designed for the needy. The legislation is an important first step in the growing national campaign to “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” launched by WakeUpWalMart.com.
The HCAA bill will expose the “”Wal-Mart Health Care Tax”” – the price we all pay because Wal-Mart fails to provide its workers with affordable health care. Not only do more than 600,000 Wal-Mart workers go without company provided health insurance, but tens of thousands of their employees are forced to rely on taxpayer funded public health care.
“”Wal-Mart’s poverty wages, high deductibles and strict eligibility requirements force tens of thousands of their employees to rely on taxpayer funded public health care,”” said President Joe Hansen. “”The Wal-Mart health care crisis costs taxpayers over $210 million and counting. It is simply un-American and unfair for a company with over $10 billion in profits to shift their costs onto us.””
The HCAA requires all states to gather and release the number of employees that companies have on taxpayer funded public health care. The gathering and disclosure of this data is critical to estimating the considerable cost taxpayers already bear because of the failure of large, profitable employers who force workers and their families onto public health care assistance.
“”Programs like Medicaid provide a critical safety net for low-income women and children, the disabled and the elderly and shouldn’t be a profit center for large companies like Wal-Mart,”” said Senator Ted Kennedy.
In at least 12 states, Wal-Mart has more employees, spouses and dependents on state public assistance than any other employer in the state. In the state of Georgia, for
example, more than 10,000 children on PeachCare (the state’s health care program for low income children) had parents working for Wal-Mart at an estimated cost of $10 million per year. The next largest employer only had 734 children in the program.
“”Americans pay a high price for Wal-Mart’s race to the bottom. We deserve to know the truth about the high cost of Wal-Mart’s greed,”” said Paul Blank, Campaign Director for WakeUpWalMart.com.
At the press conference, WakeUpWalMart.com revealed the “”Wal-Mart Health Care Tax”” bill, a 3-foot-by-6-foot replica of an actual “”Wal-Mart bill.”” The bill displays the estimated dollar cost U.S. taxpayers pay for Wal-Mart’s failure to provide health insurance to their workers. A large map of the United States was also displayed to symbolize “”America’s Hidden Health Care Cost”” – the 4-foot map of the United States that will display how little state data is available and how hidden the cost to taxpayers and our health care system remains.
Wal-Mart, a company with $10 billion dollars in net profit last year, fails to provide health care for more than 52% percent of its 1.3 million workers. In 12 of 13 states with released and analyzed data, Wal-Mart workers rely on public health care, like Medicaid, more than the workers of any other employer.
As a result, in state after state, Wal-Mart is directly shifting its health care responsibilities onto American taxpayers. Central to the campaign will be a grassroots effort to build public and political pressure against Wal-Mart to address its part in America’s health care crisis, as well as a call for legislative action that will ensure Wal-Mart – not taxpayers – pays its fair share for health care in each and every state.
The “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” campaign initiative is part of a nationwide effort to change Wal-Mart led by wakeupwalmart.com
June 15, 2005
Statement of Joe Hansen, International President, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
WASHINGTON — The following is a statement by Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, at the ‘Change To Win’ Coalition meeting:
Yesterday, the International Executive Board of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) unanimously endorsed a reform proposal to restructure the AFL- CIO, and to revitalize the labor movement.
Today, we join with some of the largest and most dynamic unions in the labor movement in a coalition for change.
These actions reflect the UFCW’s commitment to build a 21st century labor movement that can bring hope, and a plan of action for a better life, to a new generation of workers. We recognize that today’s realities-a new global economy, unrestrained corporate power, hostile government-present a formidable challenge to our movement. But, we must always remember that from our greatest challenges come our greatest accomplishments.
Labor in the 20th century stood at its lowest point in the 1930s. But, at our lowest point, we also stood on the verge of our greatest growth, our greatest strength and our greatest impact on the economy and society. From the depths of economic depression in 1935, we rose, within 20 years, to our largest percentage of the workforce, and we created the working middle class.
Today’s workers face the steady erosion of their power in the workplace, in the economy and in the political process. Rising profits, increasing productivity and a growing economy have not brought rising wages, better benefits, or economic security. There is a power imbalance between workers and the giant corporations that dominate the world economy.
The UFCW and our coalition partners are committed to redressing this imbalance, and to rebuilding worker power.
The current AFL-CIO administration asserts that there is little difference between our reform agenda and their AFL-CIO Officers’ Proposal.
There are profound differences in our visions for the future for America’s workers. We believe in organizing, not simply for more members, but in organizing to build worker power. The foundation of worker power is in increasing the number of union workers in an industry or occupation. Our proposals specifically direct resources to organizing in a union’s core industries. Our proposal provides for a leadership structure that promotes diversity and full participation and gives authority to the affiliates representing the majority of members.
Rebuilding worker power will give workers the hope for a better future. Workers with hope will organize, they will stand up, they will act in solidarity at work, in the community and in the political process. The starting point for our new movement to rebuild worker power is here, and it starts with us. This is the beginning.
We are going forward to bring a platform for change to the AFL-CIO convention. We will engage all other unions in a dialogue for change. Our purpose is not to divide, but to unite unions in a dynamic new movement for today’s workers.
The unions you see here are the unions representing the emerging 21st century workforce — young people, women, minorities, new immigrants and older workers forced to extend their work lives. From hospitality to retail to services, and from health care to transportation to construction, our unions are fighting the battles, confronting the employers and organizing the workers that are the future in America.
Yesterday, the UFCW Board also authorized the executive officers to disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO. This action was not taken lightly. We are committed to a united, reformed labor movement. But, the status quo will not stand. We will not be chained to the past, our obligation is to the future of our members.
As I said, in the 1930s, we were at our lowest point, but also on the verge of our greatest accomplishments. When the CIO left the AFL in the 1930s, it did not set us back, it propelled the movement forward. The CIO was committed to organizing the workforce of the day — mass production workers — and it changed the labor movement.
I believe today we are taking the steps that will change the labor movement and change the future for workers.
May 19, 2005
LANDOVER, Md. – Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s announced decision to defy the public’s will and veto the Fair Share Health Care Fund Act tomorrow is a despicable example of the governor playing politics rather than addressing the critical issue of Maryland’s rapidly growing number of uninsured, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 said.
“We had hoped that when considering the Fair Share bill, Gov. Ehrlich would be big enough to get beyond his cozy relationships with Wal-Mart and other Big Business backers, and side with the majority of people in the state,” Local 400 President Jim Lowthers said. “But it appears that the governor is turning his back on working families.”
A poll released in January showed that nearly 8 in 10 Maryland voters agree that businesses with 10,000 employees or more should be required to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care insurance, which is what the Fair Share legislation would require. Maryland lawmakers answered the public’s call, passing the Fair Share bill with overwhelming support.
Lowthers pointed out that Maryland’s Fair Share law has been widely praised nationally, and that legislators in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Wisconsin have introduced similar legislation. “We believe the people’s representatives in Maryland will override the veto when they convene next year,” he said, “but it’s a shame that Gov. Ehrlich has chosen to throw up this roadblock on behalf of Wal-Mart.
Gov. Ehrlich’s decision to announce the veto in Somerset County at the site where Wal-Mart plans to build a new distribution center, and in the presence of a top Wal-Mart executive, is a political ploy that may backfire, Lowthers warned.
“Ehrlich will say that this is about jobs, but it’s really about taking advantage of taxpayers,” he said. “Even with Fair Share, Wal-Mart was forging ahead with its plans to build the distribution center because it can’t afford not to, considering the sweet deal the Ehrlich administration has handed this billion-dollar company.”
Maryland not only is contributing $500,000 to improve infrastructure to facilitate access to Wal-Mart’s planned distribution center, but the state also is paying almost half of the cost to purchase the 178-acre site, according to published reports. In addition, the company is being handed $5.7 million in tax credits.
“Maryland taxpayers are going to paying for these jobs for years to come, particularly since most of the employees, like other Wal-Mart workers, won’t be able to afford the company’s health care plan and will apply for public assistance,” Lowthers said. Wal-Mart employees eligible for the company’s plan must hand over about a fifth of their paychecks to cover Wal-Mart’s premiums, often more than $200 a month per worker – a steep price considering most earn between $8 and $10 an hour.
Wal-Mart appears to be the only large employer that falls below the minimum 8 percent, although Wal-Mart claims the difference is minimal. Research by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, however, indicates that Wal-Mart spends as little as 2 percent to 3 percent of its payroll on health care, draining $30 million a year from our local economies in tax-supported benefits.
Meanwhile, some of Maryland’s other largest employers, like Giant Foods and Northrop Grumman, are already paying their fair share. These companies, each of which employ more than 10,000 workers in the state, pay well above the 8 percent of their payrolls to provide decent health coverage. In the case of Giant Foods, a competitor of Wal-Mart’s, “doing the right thing puts Giant at a disadvantage and gives Wal-Mart an unfair advantage in the grocery business,” Lowthers said.
Pointing to a recent $1,000-a-head fundraising dinner for Ehrlich hosted by Wal-Mart, Lowthers challenged the governor to explain how he would solve a health care crisis that is aggravated by the employment policies of his political benefactor.
“Maryland legislators answered the call to fix our health care system, taking a good first step by passing the Fair Share bill,” Lowthers said. “Ehrlich, however, has chosen to ignore the health care needs of Maryland’s working families while agreeing to subsidize the poster child for bad corporate citizenship.
“Marylanders have every right to ask themselves whose side Ehrlich is on,” he said.
UFCW Local 400 represents approximately 40,000 workers in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
May 18, 2005
Omaha, Neb-Community leaders and activists from Omaha are urging Nebraska Beef to live up to community standards and guarantee its workers their democratic right to vote for union representation without coercion or intimidation.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 271, Omaha Together One Community (OTOC), members of the clergy, and elected officials are calling on Nebraska Beef, one of the largest beef-kill operations in the country, to drop its systematic and illegal anti-worker tactics and allow workers to participate in an upcoming union election without fears of reprisals. The Community leaders are calling for Nebraska beef to allow fair-minded, community monitors to bear witness in the run up to the voting and to ensure that the company lets the election take place in an environment free from coercion and intimidation.
On April 6, 2005, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered a new election at Nebraska Beef after citing the company for violating workers’ rights in an August 2001 election, after UFCW had filed charges on behalf of the workers. The NLRB upheld a hearing officer’s findings that the company used a broad range of intimidation tactics to deny workers a voice on the job in the 2001 election, including:
Illegal interrogation of employees concerning their union sympathies;
Illegal threats of job and benefit loss if workers selected a union as their collective bargaining representative; and
Illegal threats to change working conditions if they selected the union.
Deliberately providing an inaccurate eligible vote list, which the hearing officer ruled was a “”bad faith effort to impede the union’s access to voters.
The mostly Latino workforce has endured continued mistreatment at the hands of company managers. Jose Guardado a worker at Nebraska Beef for more than seven years and union supporter said, “”I was fired for standing up for a voice at work. They made up some excuses, but I know it was because of my union activism. I would expect this to happen in El Salvador, but I was hoping workers had grater liberties in America.”” Guardado was an observer in the 2001 election and rendered testimony at the NLRB hearings. “”Only if the company allows the community to be witness of how they treat the workers we can hope for things to be different,”” Jose added.
UFCW Local 271 successfully fought on behalf of seven workers who had been fired in retaliation for standing up to management and demanding safer working conditions. In addition, the company has had to pay back wages in settlement charges filed by UFCW Local 271 for illegally firing three employees who protested unsafe working conditions.
May 17, 2005
Washington DC – WakeupWalmart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, called on its 50,000 supporters to immediately contact and pressure Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich not to veto the “”Fair Share Healthcare”” legislation.
As adopted, by both the Maryland State Senate and the House of Delegates, the “”Fair Share Healthcare”” bill requires companies with more than 10,000 employees to live up to their responsibilities as profitable employers and pay their fair share for health care.
Contrary to some reports, the Maryland bill does not specifically target Wal-Mart.
There are 4 corporations in Maryland with more than 10,000 employees (Giant Foods, Northrup Grumman, Johns Hopkins, and Wal-Mart). Wal-Mart is simply the only company that fails to live up to its moral responsibility of providing its workers with adequate health care. The bill is designed to ensure large employers don’t use state public health assistance as a method of providing healthcare for their workers.
“”With over $10 billion in profits last year it is morally bankrupt that Wal-Mart fails to pay its fair share of health care costs,”” said Paul Blank, WakeUpWalmart.com’s campaign director. “”It is sad to see Governor Ehrlich say no to health care for families and children and yes to tax subsidies for multi-billion dollar corporations.””
The Fair Share Healthcare legislation in Maryland is part of growing effort by the UFCW, WakeUpWalmart, and numerous civic and community groups, who are determined to make corporations, like Wal-Mart, live up to their responsibilities. The goal of such legislation is to ensure that large companies do not shift their healthcare costs on to taxpayers at a time when our healthcare system is already in crisis.
May 16, 2005
Washington, DC – International President of United Food and Commercial Workers, Joe Hansen, today released the following statement on AFL-CIO Reform:
The UFCW joins today with the Laborers’ Union, SEIU, Teamsters, and UNITE HERE in rejecting the AFL-CIO Officers’ Proposal and in calling for genuine reform that will build worker power.
The AFL-CIO Officers’ Proposal continues the status quo, and does not provide for genuine reform to build worker power. The UFCW supports, and will work for, a unified labor movement, but unity must be based on a shared commitment to revitalize the movement to empower workers. Unity without purpose is meaningless.
The status quo will not stand. We must build a 21st century labor movement for a new generation of workers. We are proud of our past-American unions have brought generations of working families prosperity, opportunity, and dignity-but, we must change now to meet the challenges of a changing world.
Unrestrained corporate power operating in a global economy is attempting to strip workers of their voice in the workplace, the economic well-being of their families, and the integrity of their government. A growing labor movement that engages and organizes workers, according to where they work and the jobs they do, can create a powerful force to raise living standards, provide for secure health care and retirement, make government responsive, and restore the American dream for working families.
We must start by changing the structure of the AFL-CIO and redirecting the resources of the labor movement to build worker power. As the cornerstone of reform, organizing should be the focus of unions to increase the number of organized workers in their core jurisdictions. The percentage of organized workers in an industry or occupation is the foundation of worker power. The AFL-CIO should be structured to further core industry organizing.
Affiliated unions representing the majority of union members should play an expanded role in the leadership and direction of the Federation. To maximize the power of workers, the Federation should provide central coordination for multi-union bargaining and organizing.
Only a growing labor movement can give workers a stronger voice in politics, and elect a worker-friendly government at the federal, state, and local levels.
May 12, 2005
WAKEUPWALMART.COM: 51 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND 21,788 AMERICANS JOIN TOGETHER TO DEMAND WAL-MART CHANGE
Washington DC – As a sign of the growing political and grassroots pressure against Wal-Mart, 51 Members of Congress, led by Representative Rosa DeLauro, released a letter today calling on Wal-Mart to address their worrisome record on gender discrimination. The letter to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott calls on the company to disclose their wage data for Congressional review so Congress can “”further understand why Wal-Mart pays its women associates less than men and promotes its female workers less frequently than their male counterparts.
The Congressional letter by Rep. DeLauro and her congressional colleagues follows her public support for WakeupWalmart.coms Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart Mothers Day campaign. On April 26th, Rep. DeLauro, Rep. George Miller, Rep. Hilda Solis, Rep. Linda Sanchez, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky joined together to call on all Americans to support the Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart campaign. The Love Mom, not Wal-Mart campaign was designed to foster a nationwide grassroots effort to apply public pressure on Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, to end gender discrimination.
This is fantastic news. The 51 members of Congress join over 21,000 Americans who think Wal-Marts practice of discrimination against its female employees must end. Americas campaign to change Wal-Mart is growing as more and more Americans wake up to the high cost of Wal-Mart, said Paul Blank, campaign director for the WakeUpWalMart.com
As part of WakeupWalmart.coms Mothers Day campaign, over 21,788 Americans signed the Love Mom, not Wal-mart pledge that they would not shop at Wal-Mart at Mothers Day until the company addressed the issue of gender discrimination. Thousands of Americans also signed the Mother of all Mothers Day Cards – an 8-foot-by-8-foot card – which is being mailed to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. On May 7th, WakeupWalmart.com also held a national Day of Action in 26 states and 70 cities and towns to raise awareness about Wal-Marts record of discrimination covering 1.6 million Wal-Mart women who are part of the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history.
What we are witnessing right now is a growing movement to change Wal-Mart. It will grow every day, from state to state and from town to town, until Wal-Mart becomes a fair and responsible corporate citizen, added Blank.
WakeUpWalmart.com, the campaign to change Wal-Mart, is backed by the UFCW. Since the groups launch, on April 5th, over 50,000 concerned citizens have joined the growing effort.