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October 21, 2005

Tyson Foods Force Thousands of Workers onto Picket Lines in Alberta, Canada

Strikers Hospitalized from Brutal Attacks

(Washington, DC) – As the temperature begins to cool here in the United States, a bitter and brutal cold has crept into the air surrounding the Tyson beef plant in Brooks, Alberta, Canada.  More than 2,300 workers, many of them workers who are refugees from the Sudan, have been forced onto the streets and onto picket lines in a battle to preserve a decent standard of living.  Tyson is leaving workers and their families out in the cold, again.

Workers at the Brooks plant stood up for a voice with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 in August, 2004, eager for basic workplace protections such as an end to harassment, improved safety training, and better handling of biological hazards.   More than 600 Sudanese immigrant workers were lured to Alberta with the promise of a good job and bright future.  Tyson’s disregard for the basic safety needs of its workforce, immigrant and native, is reprehensible. Picket lines went up on October 12, 2005 after Tyson Foods threw out a proposal by a mediator appointed by the Alberta government to facilitate a first-contract agreement.

“UFCW members and Tyson workers in the United States stand firmly in support of our Canadian brothers and sisters as they stand up against Tyson’s greed,” said Joseph T. Hansen, UFCW International President.  “We are committing every resource available to support our striking workers in Alberta on the frontlines against Tyson’s inexcusable greed.”

Provincial law enforcement officers stood by yesterday as replacement workers and management verbally and physically assaulted Sudanese workers with racially-motivated jeers and anti-immigrant insults.  Several strikers were reportedly beaten with metal pipes, left injured in a ditch before being transported to the hospital.

“Tyson recruits workers from all over the world to bring them to work in their North American operations in a race to the bottom.   Exploitation of a vulnerable immigrant workforce is part of their business plan.  Now, it is particularly galling to see that the Tyson is allowing racially-motivated violence to take place on the picket line,” continued Hansen.

Tyson’s behavior in Alberta follows a pattern it sets in the United States – doing everything in its power to lower wages, cut benefits and reduce workplace standards for employees, particularly immigrant workers.  In 2003, Tyson forced long-time meat processing workers in Jefferson, Wisconsin onto picket lines for nearly one year in order to lower wage and benefit levels for unionized workers in the United States.  In this instance, Tyson’s message to the black immigrant workforce is clear: we brought you to this continent so that we can pay you less than native workers.

Tyson Foods is the Wal-Mart of the meat industry – dominating 27 percent of all beef, pork and chicken sales in the U.S.  But size doesn’t give it the excuse to drag workers’ wages, health care benefits, and workplace standards to the even lower levels.  The company carries very little debt and share prices have increased by 25% in the last year.  Tyson has no financial need to demand sub-standard wage and benefit levels for workers in the U.S. or Canada.

The Brooks facility handles 40% of all beef slaughter in Canada.   It operates under the name “Lakeside Packers.”  Tyson has owned the plant for ten years.

UFCW members in the U.S. will be marching and leafletting in support of the strikers at the Millions More Movement on the National Mall in Washington, DC tomorrow.

October 20, 2005

WakeUpWalMart.com response to Wal-Mart’s Announcement to Toughen Standards

WakeUpWalMart.com issued the following response to Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott’s announcement today that Wal-Mart would work to tighten standards at its overseas suppliers.

“”Unfortunately, Wal-Mart’s exploitation of workers is not limited to its use of sweatshop labor overseas. Our campaign is building a sea of public pressure to force Wal-Mart to end its race-to-the-bottom business model.

For too long, the American people have paid the price as Wal-Mart has relied on sweatshop labor to produce its cheap products. We will continue to work hard to get Wal-Mart to change its outrageous practices of exploiting sweatshop labor and failing to meet international labor standards. But, sweatshop labor is only the beginning of the long list of problems that Wal-Mart must address.

We welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue with Wal-Mart about how it can improve working conditions both here and abroad, but we know that actions speak louder than word. We hope Wal-Mart will accept our ‘Six Demands for Change’ and work with us to form a partnership for change.

Over the next several months, our campaign will continue to highlight the disastrous effect Wal-Mart is having on communities, families and our country. We hope Wal-Mart won’t respond with rhetoric and vague small steps, but will take bold action to change their greedy, arrogant ways.””

October 20, 2005

Prime Minister Must get Involved “”Before Someone Gets Killed”” at Tyson Plant

UFCW Canada Press Release — The national director of the union on strike at a Tyson Food’s plant (Lakeside Packers) in Brooks, Alberta, Canada has stepped up his call for Prime Minister Paul Martin to facilitate a resolution “”before someone gets killed””, in the wake of three picketers and the union’s local president all being hospitalized after being attacked by Tyson company personnel.

Click here to watch live video taken at the scene of the car accident.

“”On Thursday three picketers ended up in hospital after they were viciously outnumbered and beaten by Lakeside managers,”” recounted Michael J. Fraser, the national director of UFCW Canada, “”and now they attempt to murder the President of the local union by ramming his car off the road.””

“”Premier Klein has said he’s not prepared to intervene. Then let Prime Minister Martin show leadership and use his power to facilitate a resolution. Tyson’s Lakeside Packers is a federally licensed and inspected plant. Tyson’s tactics have created an explosive situation. This is not the Wild West or the Old South. Assault and attempted murder are not acceptable bargaining tactics.””

It is the second time this week Fraser has called on the Prime Minister to get involved. Fraser made his latest comments while enroute to Alberta where yesterday Doug O’Halloran, the president of UFCW Local 401, was chased and forced off the road by cars driven by Lakeside Packers management personnel.

O’Halloran is now listed in guarded condition.

Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, the owners of Lakeside Packers, forced the strike after rejecting a settlement drafted by a mediator appointed by the Alberta government to facilitate a first-contract agreement.

October 13, 2005

MOURNING THE FALLEN

One year ago today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union unveiled a massive display on in the heart of Washington DC to mark the sacrifices by the sons and daughters of working America serving at the call of their government in Iraq.

On that day, 7,480 U.S. soldiers had been wounded and 1,076 killed.  Today, the number of those wounded stands at 14,641 while the number of those killed is 2,161.

The UFCW will never forget the sacrifice of our service men and women, their courage and commitment, and the grief of their families.

For the families of those who have fallen, we mourn your loss. For those who have been crippled and maimed in the service of their country, we honor your heroism and support you in your struggle.

We will continue to update the display at the corner of our building on K St. NW and 18th St. NW in Washington DC as a reminder to the corporate lobbyists and foreign policy think tanks that dominate the canyons of K St. NW, as well as the leaders around the corner at the White House and up the hill in Congress, that the policies they advocate and the decisions they make have a flesh and blood impact on our sons and daughters.

In Washington, the war in Iraq may be a matter of policy and politics. In working America, the war in Iraq is a matter of life and death, human sacrifice and suffering.

The UFCW will never forget. We want to make sure that those in power never forget either.

October 13, 2005

WAKEUPWALMART.COM REACHES RECORD MILESTONE AND ANNOUNCES NEW NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP

Oct. 13, 2005 – Washington, D.C. – WakeUpWalMart.com, the group leading the national fight to change Wal-Mart, announced today it had achieved a record milestone of public support. In the last six months, over 103,052 Americans have joined the WakeUpWalMart.com movement. The WakeUpWalMart.com campaign enjoys growing grassroots support in all 50 states, and is one of America’s fastest growing social and political movements.

“”We are witnessing the creation of a new social and political movement led by ordinary Americans, from all across the country, who are coming together to change Wal-Mart into a responsible corporation,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com. “”The national momentum to change Wal-Mart is both incredible and unprecedented.””

Today, WakeUpWalMart.com also announced an exciting new partnership with two of the largest grassroots organizations in the country – Jobs with Justice and ACORN. The alliance between Jobs with Justice, ACORN, and WakeUpWalMart.com builds an unparalleled force for change with thousands of activists, on-the-ground organizers and community groups ready to help change Wal-Mart in every town and city in America. Jobs with Justice and ACORN will be instrumental in helping WakeUpWalMart.com raise public awareness of why Wal-Mart needs to change beginning with Wal-Mart Week in November and extending through the entire holiday season.

“”This is a new day in the fight to change Wal-Mart. We have created an unprecedented, bottom-up force for change which will demonstrate why Wal-Mart needs to change now,”” added Maude Hurd, ACORN’s national president.

“”We are building the largest grassroots movement in history to change Wal-Mart. Our movement is led by community coalitions who believe America’s largest corporation should reflect the best in American values,”” said Fred Azcarate, executive director of Jobs with Justice.

ACORN
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities. Since 1970, ACORN has grown to more than 175,000 member families, organized in 850 neighborhood chapters in 75 cities across the U.S. and in cities in Canada, the Dominican Republic and Peru.

Jobs with Justice
Jobs with Justice (JwJ) is a national network of local coalitions that connect labor, faith-based, community, and student organizations to work together on workplace and community social justice campaigns. JwJ coalitions now exist in over 40 cities in 29 states in all regions of the country.

October 4, 2005

UFCW HELPS MORE THAN 1,000 KATRINA-AFFECTED MEMBERS

Washington – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) members, constituency groups and local unions have opened their hearts over the past few weeks and generously contributed to the wellbeing of Hurricane Katrina victims.

The UFCW Katrina Relief Fund has topped a half-million dollars, and representatives from UFCW regions 3 and 5 have been using the funds to help more than 1,000 UFCW members affected by the storm.

The UFCW has also been assisting members returning to their homes in New Orleans and other devastated areas in getting transition housing and jobs, as well as in cleaning up and rebuilding damaged homes.

Additionally, several UFCW local unions have distributed food and have adopted members, and their families, who have been left homeless by Katrina.

UFCW Regions 3 and 5 continue their outreach efforts aiming at accounting for every UFCW member affected by the storm.

Katrina-affected members can call 866-820-6141.

While short-term efforts continue, UFCW members affected by the hurricane will be rebuilding their lives for some time, and the UFCW will continue sustaining members through this difficult time.

Contributions can be mailed to:

UFCW Katrina Relief Fund: Region 5 Council
1400 West Northwest Highway
Suite 100
Grapevine, TX  76051

For further Katrina-related information, please refer to www.ufcw.org.

September 23, 2005

The Question Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott Didn’t Answer

In an interview with Business Week, posted on their website today, Wal-Mart’s CEO did not answer a very important question.

The reporter asked Mr. Scott why Wal-Mart was reaching out to environmental groups and not WakeUpWalMart.com.  Mr. Scott responded, “”I don’t see any benefit to it. What I found in reaching out to these other groups [environmentalists & anti-sweatshop activists] is that while there are exceptions, in most cases they would like for Wal-Mart to be successful. That is fine with them. What they would like to see us do is change in a way that really makes a contribution to society.””

When the reporter followed up with, “”That isn’t the agenda of the unions?””

Lee Scott responsed with, according to Business Week, “”Silence. No answer.””

“”Why won’t Lee Scott answer the question?”” said Paul Blank, campaign director, WakeUpWalMart.com.  “”WakeUpWalMart.com is offering Wal-Mart a genuine opportunity to form a new partnership for change to improve the lives of their workers, their families and the community.  In an open letter to Wal-Mart’s CEO last week, we wrote, ‘In the end we are not your enemy.  Our goal is to be your partner in making Wal-Mart a better business’.””

Paul Blank continued, “”Instead of answering the demands of the American people, Wal-Mart remains silent.  On behalf of our more than 80,000 supporters, and all Americans, we will make Lee Scott answer the American people’s call for living wages, affordable health care, and respect.  We hope Wal-Mart will wake-up and accept our offer to meet and discuss how we can help Wal-Mart grow and prosper in new ways.””

Below is the open letter WakeUpWalMart.com sent to Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott last week:

AN OPEN LETTER TO WAL-MART CEO LEE SCOTT

Mr. Lee Scott, CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611

Dear Mr. Scott,

In the wake of the terrible tragedies caused by Hurricane Katrina, Wal-Mart helped ease the suffering of many Americans.  This crisis brought out the best in Wal-Mart and we applaud your hurricane relief efforts. We hope Wal-Mart’s response to Hurricane Katrina represents a turning point.

Wal-Mart has a great opportunity to work with us to help improve the lives of so many Americans who face an economic and health care crisis everyday, everywhere in America. The American people want to know, will Wal-Mart do what is right for America or will Wal-Mart lead a race to the bottom.

We believe now is the time for Wal-Mart to address the serious issues facing its 1.3 million workers, their families, our communities and our country by agreeing to the following “”six demands for change.””

  1. Living Wage.  Pay all Wal-Mart workers a fair living wage so they can support their families.
  2. Affordable Health Care.  Provide all workers comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage so they can care for their families and no longer be forced to rely on taxpayer-funded public health care.
  3. End Discrimination.  Ensure equal opportunity and equal pay for women and people of color in your workforce at all levels through a stringent and independent monitoring process.
  4. Zero Tolerance on Child Labor. Adopt a zero tolerance policy and institute an independent monitoring program to stop the exploitation of child labor in the United States and abroad.
  5. Buy American.  Establish a “”Buy America”” program that annually increases the percentage of “”Made in America”” goods purchased by Wal-Mart so as to help protect American jobs.
  6. Respect Communities. Work with local communities to effectively address Wal-Mart’s negative impact on issues like traffic, sprawl, the environment, and local businesses.

As you stated recently, “”When you do the right thing, good things accrue to you.””  We agree.  Just imagine the good Wal-Mart can do if it works with us to become a better company by doing the right thing – everyday. We hope you will view our “”six demands for change”” as a sincere effort to form a new partnership for change.

In the end, we are not your enemy. Our goal is to be your partner in making Wal-Mart a better business.  We welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how we can help Wal-Mart grow and prosper in new ways. But, make no mistake about it, if Wal-Mart refuses to change for the better, we will continue to build this broad-based social movement into one of the most powerful forces for change the nation has ever seen.

Wal-Mart has an incredible opportunity – right now – to work with us to better the lives of all your workers, to set a new standard for corporate America, to be a better business, and to build a better nation. We hope you will and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

WakeUpWalMart.com – America’s Campaign to Change Wal-Mart.

P.S. This November we, along with a broad coalition of community organizations, will be launching Wal-Mart Week, November 13th – 19th, to highlight Wal-Mart’s negative impact on America.  You can go to www.walmartweek.com and learn more about the actions we will be taking and the movie being released.  Our hope is that by then, instead of highlighting Wal-Mart’s failures, we can stand together and celebrate a new day at Wal-Mart – a day when real change improved the lives of millions of Americans.

September 19, 2005

Statement by Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com Campaign Director, on First-Ever “”Congressional Hearing on Wal-Mart””

Today, in Cleveland, Ohio, Congressman Sherrod Brown will hold the first-ever Congressional field hearing on the negative impact of Wal-Mart’s business practices. WakeUpWalMart.com is proud to be a part of this important national hearing and will work to hold additional hearings to highlight the cost Americans pay for Wal-Mart’s so-called ‘low prices.’

Cong. Brown’s “”Wal-Mart Hearing”” represents a dramatic next step in the growing movement to change Wal-Mart and build a better America. This hearing will help educate consumers about why Wal-Mart needs to change and build greater public awareness and political support to change Wal-Mart into a more responsible corporate actor.

As America will no doubt learn from this hearing, Wal-Mart needlessly chooses to “”do the wrong thing”” even though they have the means and wherewithal to “”do what is right.””  The question Wal-Mart must now answer is, when will they stand up and finally address the negative effects their business practices have on their employees, their families, the community, and the nation?

We hope Wal-Mart will finally listen to the growing chorus of community voices and work with us to make Wal-Mart into a company that reflects the best of America’s values everyday.

September 15, 2005

UFCW KATRINA RELIEF FUND APPROACHES $350,000

Washington – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Katrina Relief Fund continues to grow with generous contributions from workers and organizations, and now approaches $350,000, thanks to a $50,000 contribution made in the past few days by UFCW Canada. UFCW Canada has also pledged to raise another $200,000 for the relief fund. Moreover, United Latinos of UFCW has also contributed $50,000.

Meanwhile, the UFCW began finding and helping more Katrina survivors in Alabama while continuing to help and to find affected members in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Until now, most requests for assistance were coming from UFCW workers employed in Louisiana who were affected by the hurricane, but UFCW leaders and workers have been canvassing Mississippi and Alabama looking for members in need. The call volume at UFCW’s Katrina assistance hot line has been increasing steadily as members talk to each other, and as UFCW continues placing announcements in shelters.

UFCW Region 5 International Vice President Alvin Vincent said that, “Many hurricane survivors are in need of food, and UFCW local unions have begun sending truckload full of groceries to specific areas that are facing the greatest need.”

In addition to providing groceries, UFCW, union leaders and members have been helping connect workers with their families. They have been helping workers find government, non-profit and community assistance. They are helping workers and their families find shelter – partly through UFCW’s Adopt-a-Family program – and sometimes helping them relocate and find new jobs. UFCW has placed special effort in finding members sheltered at the Houston Astrodome. UFCW International President Joe Hansen and Canada’s National Director Michael J. Fraser encouraged local unions to adopt UFCW families displaced by the storm.

UFCW has thousands of members in southern states that have been affected by the storm. UFCW recently identified and began assisting nursing home workers in Alabama. UFCW members experiencing the worse impact from the storm include those employed by Domino Sugar Co. in Chalmette, LA. Other affected UFCW members include those working at poultry processor Sanderson Farms, at an oil refinery, at barber shops, and at a Sara Lee plant in Mississippi. For additional Katrina-related information, please refer to UFCW’s website at www.ufcw.org.

UFCW Region 5 employee Arlene Carrow Crocker has been taking most of the hot line calls. She has never experienced anything more emotional or heartbreaking. “”For some of our Domino Sugar members, I believe that the realization of any major loss is just now setting in,” she said. “With an open heart, I try to find the right words, but I realize that only time will heal their wounds.”” In addition to the UFCW, other unions of the recently formed Change to Win Coalition have implemented Katrina-victim relief programs of their own and in collaboration with other unions.

Please feel free to publicize the UFCW Katrina Relief Fund hot line – (866) 820-6141. For any photographs illustrating UFCW efforts in the field, you may contact Federico Cura.

September 14, 2005

Poultry Workers Win a Voice on the Job at Koch Foods

Morristown, Tenn. – The 700 workers at the Koch Foods poultry processing plant now have a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1995. Workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of union representation during the vote on Friday, September 9, 2005 with 465 yes votes, 18 no, 12 voided ballots and 10 challenged by the Labor Board.

This is victory for the Koch Foods workers, but also the entire Morristown community. Workers reached out and gathered support from area churches, congregations and other community groups. The company agreed to remain neutral throughout the union campaign – which allowed for workers to vote in an environment free from intimidation or harassment.

“Workers, the community and the company are now working together to make a better workplace and a better life for the 700 families at Koch Foods. When workers came together to demand better wages and working conditions, management responded positively. This process has been a positive situation for everyone,” said Bill McDonough, UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing.

The union drive at Koch Foods was the subject of a New York Times article on September 6, 2005 highlighting a resurgence of union activity among poultry plants in the South. Poultry workers at the Gold Kist plant in Russellville, Alabama continue to organize.

UFCW is the nation’s leading poultry worker organization with more than 60,000 of its 1.4 million members working in the poultry industry.