News and Updates
February 17, 2005
Food and Commercial Workers Union and Child Labor Coalition Present Proposal to Immediately Stop the Use of Children in Hazardous Jobs at Nation’s Largest Employer
Wal-Mart could stop illegal child labor in its stores through distinctive employee badges for underage workers that could readily identify them as being prohibited from hazardous assignments, according the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Child Labor Coalition. Combined with unannounced Labor Department inspections, the use of children for hazardous jobs would come to a rapid halt.
The two organizations are sponsoring, at www.ufcw.org, an e-mail campaign directed at Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott and U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao asking them to abandon a sweetheart deal on child labor announced earlier this week, and to take meaningful action to end the abuse of young workers.
Key to the union/coalition proposal is the re-badging of underage workers. Both managers and young workers would always be aware that certain assignments are illegal. Compliance would require unannounced inspections to make sure that badges are properly issued, and that no manager is pressuring minors into illegal assignments.
Scott and Chao are being presented with a demand to amend a settlement agreement that required the Labor Department to give Wal-Mart an unprecedented 15 days notice before any inspection. Advanced notice clearly undermines compliance, and allows managers simply to re-assign underage workers before an inspection.
Hundreds of children are maimed and crippled in accidents, some losing arms and legs, every year involving balers and compactors commonly used in Wal-Mart and other retail stores to handle the disposal of boxes and similar materials. The law has long prohibited minors from operating this kind of machinery. A Labor Department investigation brought allegations that Wal-Mart was using illegal child labor to operate the hazardous equipment in several states. To settle the case, Wal-Mart paid $135,000 and the Labor Department agreed to advance notice of inspections.
The UFCW and Child Labor Coalition’s actions today are supported by leading worker advocates in the U.S. Congress, including Representative George Miller (D-Calif.) and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). Their statements follow:
Statement of Representative George Miller (D-Calif.), Senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce
I congratulate UFCW and the Child Labor Coalition for proposing a workable, inexpensive and effective way to end the illegal use of child labor, and I would hope that both Wal-Mart and the Department of Labor will respond positively.
Statement of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Wal-Mart’s Sweetheart Deal with Department of Labor on Child Labor Violations
The Department of Labor has shamefully abdicated its responsibility by acquiescing in Wal-Mart’s continuing violation of child labor laws and other worker protections. Even worse, the Department conspired with Wal-Mart to conceal this sweetheart deal from the public. The Department is there to enforce the law, not be muzzled by America’s largest employer.
February 14, 2005
STATEMENT OF THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION
The nation’s largest employer, and one the nation’s largest corporate political donors, was cited for using children in dangerous jobs in its U.S. stores; and, then got a sweetheart deal that gives the company fifteen days advance notice before the government will initiate any investigation of future violations of federal workplace laws.
According to allegations contained in a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, Wal-Mart was engaged in the unconscionable practice of using children to operate hazardous machinery in stores in New Hampshire, Arkansas and Connecticut. The machinery referenced in the case— balers, shredders and compactors— are standard equipment in retail stores, and are commonly associated with injuries involving the crushing or severing of arms and hands. Safety regulations on the books for decades have prohibited employers from using children to operate the machines. A company the size of Wal-Mart with a long history of operating retail stores should have been well aware of the law as well as the dangers to children in operating the restricted machinery.
While the corporate giant with billions of dollars in revenue agreed to pay a $135,000 fine, its representatives got a sweetheart deal that could insulate the company from getting caught in future violations. Wal-Mart gets fifteen days written notice of any government investigation or audit. Wal-Mart can work a child on a compacting machine or baler without fear of any unannounced enforcement action, and simply reassign the child worker during the time of the prearranged inspection. Further, the agreement allows the company ten days to correct the violation. A literal reading of the agreement would allow Wal-Mart to continue to put children at risk for over a week even if the government uncovered the violation.
Wal-Mart was the biggest political giver in the 2004 election, with the overwhelming majority of its money going to the party controlling the White House, Congress— and, the Department of Labor.
The UFCW is preparing a letter to the Secretary of Labor, and will seek Congressional review of the agreement.
February 11, 2005
Washington DC — The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) urges immediate action to correct dangerous line speeds in meatpacking and poultry plants where injury rates are three times that of other manufacturing sectors.
A report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), ordered by Senator Edward Kennedy, shows what workers in the industries have been subjected to for years:
- Dangerous line speeds
- An absence of injury and illness monitoring by OSHA
- Intimidation that leads to under-reporting of injuries
- Department of Agriculture inspectors without adequate training for recognizing hazardous conditions
“Blood, Sweat, and Fear,” a Human Rights Watch report, finds that the industries’ largely immigrant workforce “contend with conditions, vulnerabilities and abuses, which violate human rights,” including:
- Life-ending injuries
- Lack of compensation for injuries
- Discrimination against immigrant workers
- Illegal company actions to suppress workers’ rights to form unions
The reports call for immediate action by both employers and federal and state governments to rectify these conditions. “The GAO and Human Rights Watch reports have put the spotlight on these industries,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “These findings underscore the need for immediate concrete action to correct these long-standing problems to ensure the safety of workers who put dinner on the table for American families.”
February 11, 2005
(New Castle, Penn.) – Wal-Mart forced workers to wait four and a half years for an election in their Tire & Lube Express Department of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s high turnover rate pushed out the union supporters who began organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 880 in June, 2000, because they felt Wal-Mart ignored their complaints about safety hazards.
Then, two days ago, Wal-Mart announced plans to shutter its store in Jonquiere, Quebec, rather than face the decision of the Quebec Labor Ministry that would have initiated a process to establish a fair and impartial wage and benefit settlement between Wal-Mart and its workers. Today under the appearance of opportunity, the workers failed to gain a voice on the job — because Wal-Mart had already silenced their voice.
“Wal-Mart struck the final blow against these New Castle workers by showing them and the whole world to what lengths it will go to deny their employees a voice on the job. It’s not surprising that the Tire & Lube Express workers would turn away from union representation after Wal-Mart’s actions in Canada,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President.
“Wal-Mart is the richest corporation in the world, yet cowers in fear of a unified workforce. It is reprehensible that this giant corporation would drag out a union election process for nearly five years, drive union supporters out and strike fear into the hearts of workers who simply asked for the opportunity to participate in a democratic process at work,” continued Hansen.
The UFCW has launched a campaign to mobilize workers and community members to send a strong message to hold Wal-Mart accountable for its anti-worker actions. To get involved with the UFCW campaign and to sign on to the electronic petition, visit www.ufcw.org
February 11, 2005
No one validates Wal-Mart criticism better than Wal-Mart itself. The retail giant announced plans to shutter its store in Jonquiere, Quebec rather than work with its employees and their certified representative, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
Joe Hansen, UFCW International President, announced a major grassroots mobilization targeting Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott that will reach out to workers and concerned community members to take action in support of Wal-Mart associates. The UFCW launched an electronic petition campaign to Wal-Mart calling on the retail giant to, abandon plans to close its Jonqueiere, Quebec, store, and to live up to the responsibilities that come with being the worlds largest corporation. Those responsibilities begin with respecting workers, consumers and communities.
Hansen said, “”Wal-Mart is choosing to destroy the livelihoods of nearly 200 working families rather than accept a compromise agreement with workers. It is clear from its actions in Jonquiere and in Jacksonville, Texas, that Wal-Mart will go to any length to avoid recognizing its workers organized voice on the job.””
Wal-Mart announced, yesterday, it was shutting down the store where workers had unionized six months earlier. Workers at the Jonquiere, Quebec store had been in negotiations with Wal-Mart the last several months, attempting to reach a fair agreement on wages and benefits. The company pulled the plug on the store when the workers appealed to the Quebec Labor Ministry to initiate a process that would establish a fair and impartial wage and benefit settlement.
Wal-Mart is no good for any community when it turns its back and runs away from its employees. The only way Wal-Mart will change its behavior toward workers and our communities is by people coming together and sending a unified message to the giant corporation. To get involved with the UFCW campaign and to sign on to the electronic petition, visit www.ufcw.org
February 11, 2005
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) announced the appointment of Mr. Michael J. Wilson as Legislative & Political Affairs Director for the 1.4 million members of the UFCW.
Wilson has served as Chief Lobbyist for the UFCW since 1999 where he developed and implemented a legislative program to advance and protect the interests of UFCW members, their jobs, families and their communities.
Wilson came to the union after a long career of shaping legislative efforts to serve working people. Wilson served as the Chief of Staff for the Assistant Secretary of Labor of the Employment Standards Administration (ESA) of the U.S. Department of Labor. He also served as a Senior Legislative Officer in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Prior to joining the Clinton Administration, Mr. Wilson spent five years as the Legislative Representative for the Legislative and Political Department of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU). Mr. Wilson also served as legislative and press assistant for the Honorable Charles Hayes of Illinois, a former UFCW International Vice President, during his tenure as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Joe Hansen, UFCW International President, said, “Michael brings a wealth of experience and a solid commitment to working families to his new position. We look forward to his leadership on behalf of UFCW members, and all working people, in the legislative and political arenas.”
January 6, 2005
Sisters of Mercy medical facilities throughout the United States will be the target of handbilling by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) in response to the unfair anti-nurse position the Sisters of Mercy have taken in St. Louis, Region 5 Director Al Vincent, Jr. announced today.
Handbilling has begun at nine Sisters of Mercy facilities in eight cities in four states, and will progressively be expanded to more than 200 medical facilities owned and operated by the Sisters of Mercy.
Registered nurses at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, members of UFCW Local 655, have been on strike since December 15, 2004. At issue are the hospital’s demands to silence nurses’ collective voices about vital patient care issues such as adequate staffing and safe patient assignments.
Recently, St. John’s Mercy Hospital in Washington, Mo., took retribution against a nurse who worked there and at the Medical Center in St. Louis simply because she refused to cross the nurses’ picket line. Charges have been filed against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board for the illegal retaliation against the Washington nurse. The Washington hospital is 50 miles from St. Louis.
“St. John’s and all the Sisters of Mercy health care facilities have a reputation of providing high quality care for patients. Now, we’ve been forced onto the picket line for standing up for those exact principles,” said Colleen Schmitz, RN, a long-time St. John’s nurse and negotiating committee member.
Beginning on January 3, 2005, Sisters of Mercy facilities targeted for handbilling are:
• In Missouri: Springfield, and Joplin;
• In Oklahoma: Ardmore and two medical facilities in Oklahoma City;
• In Arkansas: Fort Smith and Hot Springs;
• In Kansas: Fort Scott and Independence.
On January 3, 2005, UFCW Local 655 notified the Federal Mediation Service (FMCS) that it intends to begin picketing in Washington on January 13. The union’s handbilling will launch organizing efforts at each of the facilities and detail the anti-nurse agenda the Sisters of Mercy are showing in St. Louis.
“The hospital wants to silence the nurses’ fundamental right to a voice at work — gained under and guaranteed by federal law. This effort to silence its dedicated and professional nurse staff would undermine professional standards. And diminishing professional standards can only lead to compromised patient care,” said UFCW Region 5 Director Al Vincent.
St. John’s registered nurses are members of the Professional Division of UFCW Local 655. Throughout the United States, the UFCW’s Professional Division represents more than 100,000 health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, medical centers, doctor’s offices and health care systems. UFCW Local 655 is the largest union in the State of Missouri.
December 15, 2004
Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) expressed its support for the nomination of Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns to take the helm at the Secretary of Agriculture.
In a letter addressed to the bipartisan leadership of the United States Senate, UFCW International President Joe Hansen stated that Governor Johanns “has all of the necessary attributes and experience to lead our nation’s Agriculture Department””.
“His innovative and compassionate leadership so impressed our locals in his state that he was endorsed by our union for reelection in his last campaign. He earned this achievement with his efforts at outreach, inclusion, and understanding of workers—especially those in the agricultural industry,” Hansen added.
The UFCW, which represents workers in multiple areas of food production including meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and vegetables, has many interests at the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding food safety, meat and poultry inspection, international trade, contract agriculture and many others.
The UFCW stated its confidence that Governor Johanns will make decisions fairly balancing all perspectives. “That has been his history as Governor, and we look forward to working with him as Secretary of Agriculture,” declared Hansen.
“Governor Johanns has been a true leader for Nebraskans working in the meat packing and food processing industries. He showed his commitment to fairness and equality for all workers by issuing the state’s first Worker Bill of Rights. We were proud to work with him on that program and look forward to his leadership at the Department of Agriculture,” said Donna McDonald, President of the Omaha, Nebraska-based UFCW Local 271.
December 15, 2004
On the Unveiling of a Public Display Marking the Body Count of U.S. Losses in Iraq in the Heart of Washington, D.C.
STATEMENT OF THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION— THE UFCW
OCTOBER 13, 2004
ON THE UNVEILING OF A PUBLIC DISPLAY MARKING THE BODY COUNT OF U.S. LOSSES IN IRAQ IN THE HEART OF WASHINGTON, D.C.
Today, the 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) unveils a massive display in the heart of the nation’s capital marking the daily body count of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq. These are the sons and daughters of working America who are making the sacrifice at the call of their government. The UFCW— a voice for working America— 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 have placed a display here at the corner of K St. NW and 18th St. NW in Washington D.C. Every day we will update the count of American losses in Iraq so that corporate lobbyists and the 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 will always remember the impact of the policies that they advocate and the decisions that they make.
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.
(Approximately 40 UFCW members have been killed in Iraq. Untold hundreds of immediate family members and relatives of UFCW members have been killed or wounded in Iraq.)
The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers at neighborhood grocery stores, department stores, food processing plants, nursing homes and hospitals, and chemical and other manufacturing facilities.
December 15, 2004
El día de hoy, la Unión Internacional, de 1.4 millones de miembros, Trabajadores Comerciales y de Alimentos Unidos (UFCW por sus siglas en inglés) develó en memorial gigantesco en el corazón de nuestra capital que lleva la cuenta de estadounidenses muertos y heridos en Irak. Ellos son los hijos e hijas de los trabajadores de América que se sacrifican ante el llamado de su gobierno. UFCW – la voz de los trabajadores – nunca olvidará el sacrificio de nuestros hombres y mujeres en las fuerzas armadas, su valor y compromiso, ni su dolor y el de sus familias.
Para las familias de aquellos que han caído, sentimos su pérdida. Para aquellos que han sido lisiados y mutilados en el servicio a su país, hacemos honor a su heroísmo y les apoyamos en su lucha.
Hemos puesto un recordatorio aquí en la esquina de K St. NW y 18th St. NW en Washington, D.C. Cada día actualizaremos la cuenta de pérdidas humanas estadounidenses en Irak para que los cabilderos corporativos y los eruditos de la política exterior que dominan las cañadas de K St. NW, así como los líderes a la vuelta de la esquina en la Casa Blanca y allá en el Congreso recuerden siempre el impacto de las políticas que defienden y de las decisiones que toman.
Para Washington, la guerra en Irak podrá ser un asunto de política y políticas. Para los trabajadores de América, la guerra es un asunto de vida o muerte, de sacrificio humano y de sufrimiento.
La UFCW nunca olvidará. Queremos asegurarnos que aquellos que ostentan el poder tampoco olviden.
(Aproximadamente 40 miembros de UFCW han muerto en Irak. Cientos de familiares inmediatos de miembros de UFCW han sido heridos o muerto en Irak.)