News and Updates
July 29, 2005
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), its local unions and its officers are committed to rebuilding worker power. We have undertaken the process to restructure and revitalize our union to meet the needs of our current and future members. For our union to succeed on behalf of our members, we must be part of a revitalized and dynamic labor movement that connects with a new generation of workers struggling in the 21st century’s global economy.
We are building on a tradition and record of success. The U.S. labor movement has brought unprecedented prosperity, broad-based political democracy, human rights and legal protections to workers and their families. The labor movement changed the world, and transformed the living standards of working families. Both the AFL and the CIO played critical roles in the success of the labor movement in bringing economic security to workers. The merged AFL-CIO was a product of that success.
Now, the world has changed, and workers’ rights and living standards are under attack. Tradition and past success are not sufficient to meet the new challenges. We, as a movement, now must change to meet the challenges confronting workers. We have an historic opportunity and obligation to organize and lead a new movement for the 21st century.
The UFCW, along with the other unions of the Change to Win Coalition, has a vision and strategy for the future. The Change Coalition prepared and presented to the AFL-CIO a comprehensive reform proposal for change. At the core of our proposal for change is the redirection of resources to rebuild worker power through strategic organizing to increase the number of unionized workers within an industry or occupation. Engaged and organized union workers in an industry constitute the foundation of worker power.
The dynamics of the new economy demand industry-wide organizing and coordinated bargaining to improve living standards, ensure affordable health care and renew respect for work and workers. Solidarity means workers in an industry standing together in their union, and supporting all other workers in their industry.
We believe in worker solidarity, and in organizing to build worker power through solidarity. On this core issue— redirecting resources to organize industry-wide for worker power— there is a fundamental difference between the Change Coalition and the AFL-CIO. We believe international and local unions are best positioned to succeed in organizing.
The UFCW and the Change Coalition unions are rapidly moving forward to develop a national organizing, bargaining and political program based on our vision and strategy for the future.
We believe workers will organize, if there is an opportunity and a strategy for them to win. Workers cannot wait for a change in the political or corporate climate to organize. In fact, the current hostile political and corporate climate is the result of a failure to organize. Organizing workers changes everything.
We believe in coordinated, strategic bargaining that mobilizes the strength of all union members in an industry around common contract goals. Workers bargaining in isolation from one another dilutes their power and divides their strength.
We believe that we must have a strong and vibrant political program connected to the needs, concerns and goals of workers, irrespective of political parties and labels. We must ensure that we are the voice of workers to politicians and elected officials– and, not the voice of politicians or any political party to workers. Politicians will find that as we grow our labor movement, we will also grow our political power.
The UFCW, in order to pursue the most effective course of action for its members and all workers in its core industries, is terminating its affiliation with the AFL-CIO effective immediately.
While our affiliation ends, our commitment to work with the AFL-CIO and unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO on issues and programs where we share common goals remains unchanged. I believe our movement is united in our basic principles and values, even if we pursue different strategies. The UFCW and its local unions will continue to fund and work with state and local federations in politics and lobbying, and for mutual support of worker struggles.
I ask you and other AFL-CIO unions to reject efforts to build barriers within our movement, and to work in cooperation with Change Coalition unions in the myriad areas where we share common goals. We can build our movement, and again change the world to bring prosperity and well-being to workers here and around the world.
July 26, 2005
Chicago, Ill.—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), along with three Change to Win coalition partners—the Service Workers, UNITE/HERE, and Teamsters—will not participate in the AFL-CIO Convention that begins tomorrow.
We are taking this historic step with our coalition partners to build a 21st century worker movement for a new generation of workers. Unions built the American middle class. We are taking this action to revitalize the labor movement to build worker power.
Unrestrained corporate power has set in motion a global race to the bottom—a race dedicated to widening the gap of inequality—eroding basic wages—eroding labor and social standards—and limiting basic democratic participation.
Our unions are changing now to win worker power in the workplace, the community, and the political process.
The Change to Win Coalition is taking the lead to engage and organize workers—and build a worker movement to raise living standards, win health care and pension security, and make government responsive to working people.
Working people can’t win a better life unless more workers belong to unions.
The world is a different place than it was a generation ago. Change to Win partners are changing to meet this new dynamic.
Our vision is clear. Our resolve is firm. The time is now to bring new hope to working families.
July 24, 2005
Statement by Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com’s campaign director on the startling new revelations from Wal-Mart’s gender discrimination lawsuit, Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores.
According to internal documents and depositions, Wal-Mart was warned that it
may have a discrimination problem and chose to do nothing about it. Wal-Mart formed a diversity committee in 1996, but, instead of implementing the committee’s recommendations, Wal-Mart disbanded the panel. Two years later, Wal-Mart’s gender discrimination problem actually got worse.
In fact, an internal Wal-Mart document entitled, “”Minority/Gender Pay Analysis”” dated July 21, 2000 specifically states, “”Generally, average salaries for female and minority males are below the overall average pay for most jobs. *Average pay increases for minority males and females are generally below overall average income ratio across most jobs.””
This led Jeffrey Reeves, a former vice president for personnel at the company’s Sam’s Club unit in a January 2003 deposition, when asked about whether or not management wanted to seriously address diversity, to state, “”I would say a lot was lip service.””
“”Today, we are stunned by Wal-Mart’s blatant disregard for women and minorities. Wal-Mart’s greed caused more than 1.6 million of its female employees to suffer. Wal-Mart needs to stop paying, in its own employee’s words, “”lip service”” to its discrimination problems and tell the American people the truth.””
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Wal-Mart has ignored or disbanded the findings of an internal investigation. In 2000, for example, an internal Wal-Mart audit found “”extensive violations of child labor laws and state regulations requiring time for breaks and meals.”” In just one week, the audit found 1,371 violations. Wal-Mart chose to stop the audit and as a result children suffered. Just 3 weeks ago, Wal-Mart was fined once again for repeated child labor violations in Connecticut.
“”Wal-Mart wants to ignore serious problems at the expense of women, children and our country. The American public is going to hold Wal-Mart accountable for the high cost we all pay for Wal-Mart’s $10 billion in profit.””
July 24, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC. — El segmento de la fuerza laboral en los Estados Unidos con más probabilidades de sufrir lastimaduras o muerte en el trabajo es victima de una operación de engaño por parte de la agencia de Cumplimiento de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE por sus siglas en ingles). Oficiales de ICE se hicieron pasar por instructores de seguridad para reunir trabajadores de construcción documentados e indocumentados en Carolina del Norte usando un volante que anunciaba una reunión obligatoria de la Administración de Seguridad y Salud Ocupacional (OSHA) a principios de este mes, luego arrestaron a 48 trabajadores indocumentados que acudieron a la reunión.
“OSHA es responsable por la seguridad y salud de los trabajadores,” dijo Joe Hansen, Presidente Internacional de la UFCW. “El que ICE haya llevado acabo una reunión falsa de OSHA para juntar y arrestar gente socava la misión de OSHA y es un retroceso en los esfuerzos federales y estatales de reducir lastimaduras y muerte de trabajadores. Después de un engaño como este, el reporte que llega a los lugares de trabajo es que no se puede confiar en OSHA. Ese tipo de percepción reduce la habilidad de OSHA para hacer trabajo critico de proteger a la fuerza laboral de los Estados Unidos.”
Hay más de 10 millones de trabajadores nacidos en el exterior en la fuerza laboral de los Estados Unidos, lo cual es aproximadamente 15% de la fuerza laboral. Los trabajadores inmigrantes tienen las tasas mas latas de lastimaduras y fatalidades en el trabajo. Los trabajadores Hispanos sufren 69% de todas las lastimaduras y muertes en el trabajo. En la industria empacadora de carne, mas de la mitad de los trabajadores son nacidos en el extranjero, y en algunas plantas, hasta el 80% de los trabajadores son inmigrantes.
“Esta acción inescrupulosa ha diezmado la confianza entre OSHA y los trabajadores que más dependen de la agencia,” dijo Hansen. “Más y más a menudo, son inmigrantes quienes trabajan las industrias mas peligrosas tales como la construcción o empacadoras de carne. ¿Como puede ahora acceder OSHA a estos trabajadores en riesgo con información sobre seguridad? Para estos trabajadores, OSHA ya no significa seguridad, sino traición. La administración Bush debe denunciar este tipo de trampas que socavan la seguridad en el trabajo.”
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.