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    News and Updates

December 8, 2004

Nurses at St. John

Over 1,500 registered nurses at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center are set to strike on December 15 after giving their hospital the required 10-day notice, according to information released to the public at UFCW Local 655’s press conference on Sunday.  Union President Jim Dougherty said that after six months of negotiations, the hospital has worked hard to frustrate nurses to the point of forcing them to take this drastic action.

 
An RN speaks out against St.  John’s Mercy Medical Center at the press conference.

“The nurses at St. John’s are willing to go back to the bargaining table immediately to resolve this before December 15,” Dougherty said, “but the hospital has to be willing to enter into realistic negotiations.”  He also remarked that the hospital’s last proposal was “worse than the one rejected by the nurses by a 95 percent margin” on November 10.

The main issues involved in negotiations are centered on the nurses having a voice in the quality of care available to their patients.  For example, the hospital wants to eliminate the Professional Nurse Practice Committee, which meets monthly to discuss patient care issues, safety concerns, staffing, equipment and RN educational needs.  As an alternative proposal to the elimination, the hospital wants to control the entire committee by appointing all its members.  Currently, the union selects eight RNs to the committee while the hospital selects eight of its own members.

“(The hospital) wants to prevent independent voices from being on the committee.  Our patients deserve to have union nurses on this committee, nurses willing to stand up for their patients,” said Kathy Schleef, an RN who has worked at St. John’s for 23 years.

Dougherty said the hospital is intentionally provoking this confrontation because they don’t belive the RNs will strike.  “This is a serious miscalculation on their part.  While no one wants this strike, the RNs feel strongly that they must take a stand that allows them to be an active voice for their patients.”

Another concern of the RNs is that keeping qualified nurses at St. John’s is a crucial patient care issue.  Colleen Schmitz, a 30-year veteran at St. John’s, said the hospital’s economic and other proposals could force “a majority exodus of qualified nurses.”

Other proposals the hospital made:

• The hospital would give a three percent raise to some nurses, while others would get nothing for three years.  An alternative proposal is a two percent raise with the possibility of a four percent “merit” raise controlled entirely by the hospital.

• The hospital would have the freedom to eliminate or modify health and welfare benefits–and other benefits–as they saw fit.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was involved in negotiations, but broke off December 1 after the hospital offered a package worse than the one rejected in November.  The contract has been extended since it expired on October 22, though negotiations have been going on since early July.

“We’re trying to resolve this without a strike, and have been since July 8 when talks first started,” Dougherty added.  “The hospital could avoid this strike, if they want to.  We’ll see how much they want to on December 15.”

 

December 6, 2004

St. John’s Nurses Standing Up To Employer Attack on Patient Care Standards

Negotiations Between Registered Nurses and Hospital Break Off

Registered Nurses Prepare to Mobilize Supporters in St. Louis and
Throughout the Region

More than 1,700 registered nurses at St. John’s in St. Louis, Mo. are preparing for the fight of their lives – at a time when they would rather be helping patients fight for theirs.  Negotiations between nurses and St. John’s administrators broke off today as hospital administration continues their attack on professional nursing standards.   RNs are preparing to mobilize support from local unions in St. Louis and throughout the region whose members spend millions of health care dollars at St. John’s and other Sisters of Mercy Health System facilities.

The St. John’s RNs organized for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 in 1999 so that caregivers would have a say over important patient care issues.  Key to nurses’ contract was the establishment of the Professional Nurse Practice Committee.   Through this committee, caregivers are able to sit down with management to discuss and solve any worksite issues that negatively affects the quality of care nurses are able to provide. Nurses are also fighting to maintain professional compensation standards as key to maintaining high-quality care and a low-turnover workforce.

Now, St. John’s management is making severe demands at the bargaining table that would severely curtail the RN’s ability to continue the high quality care their patients deserve.  The hospital’s most recent proposal includes demands to:

· Eliminate the Professional Nurse Practice Committee where equal numbers of RNs and management can discuss patient care issues.

· Provide minimal wage increases, coupled with reductions in benefits and seniority protections.

Taken together, these demands would significantly threaten professional care standards and lead to turnover which would compromise patient care.

The St. John’s nurses are proud to provide some of the highest quality care in the St. Louis region. Their work sustains this thriving Level 1 Trauma center that is the hub of the local medical community.

The nurses are working hard to avoid a work action like the one they were forced to take in 2001 when picket lines went up at the hospital for 72 hours.  UFCW Local 655 is preparing, if needed, to reach out to labor unions in St. Louis, across the state of Missouri and in communities throughout the region to ask for their help.  St. John’s is part of the Sisters of Mercy Health System which operates health care facilities in Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Union members in towns served by a Sisters of Mercy facility would be asked to contact their local hospital to put pressure on the health network to do the right thing in St. Louis.

“My job is taking care of patients and I take great pride in the work that I do.  But if my employer continues to undermine my work and silences my voice over the quality of care we can provide, I’ll have no choice but to take action,” said a long-time nurse at St. Johns.  “It broke my heart to carry a picket sign outside this hospital in 2001 because I never thought my employer would force me to take such drastic action.  But I’m ready to do it again if I have to.  Our patients are that important to me.”
Negotiations between the hospital and UFCW Local 655 bargaining team have broken off and no further dates are scheduled.

“We are willing to meet with St. John’s whenever the hospital is ready to move away from its draconian demands,” said Jim Dougherty, President of UFCW Local 655.  “We are working with our nurses to determine when to give St. John’s the ten-day notice our contract requires that would end our extension and signal the beginning of a work action.”

UFCW Local 655 will be holding a mass meeting in John’s Mercy Medical Center.  RN’s should contact their union representatives or their local union for more information.

 

November 18, 2004

Food and Commercial Workers’ President Takes Action to Protect Colorado Supermarket Workers

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is taking action today to prevent three supermarket giants from forcing employees to give up their health benefit plan.  The loss of affordable health benefits could leave UFCW members and their families on the brink of economic crisis.  UFCW International President Joe Hansen announced today that he has permanently blocked the company proposals presented on November 1, 2004, from Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons.  Hansen also issued an immediate call for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services to bring the parties back to negotiations and work toward the best possible contract for Colorado supermarket workers.

“We are in a new era of national bargaining with the three supermarket giants — Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons.  Our actions today are focused on one clear goal: protecting health benefits and securing the best possible contract for supermarket workers.  We are moving to put the collective bargaining process back on track to resolve this situation without sacrificing affordable health care,” said Hansen.

In a letter to UFCW Local 7 and the three supermarket companies, Hansen wrote: “I have now completed my review… and find that the proposals to end the jointly administered health and welfare plan…and the failure to cover additional stores…under the contract…could be injurious to our members.”

The companies’ proposal to move employees to a company-controlled health insurance plan would threaten affordable health care for tens of thousands of workers.

  • Under the employer proposed company insurance, new hires would see drastic cuts in coverage and current hourly supermarket workers would face escalating premiums that would make quality family health coverage unaffordable.
  • Historically, jointly-administered union and management health benefit trust funds have provided higher quality coverage for lower costs than if the employers purchased insurance on the open market.
  • The employer demands would force workers to abandon any sense of security or voice over their health benefits and puts all control over cost and coverage into the hands of the supermarket companies.
  • Employee pension coverage also risks serious cuts under the employers’ proposal.

“UFCW members have proven that we have the strength and determination to hold the line against employer attacks on health benefits and we will do so again if we must.  But, it is my obligation to make sure we have exhausted every possible option at the bargaining table and elsewhere before asking UFCW members to sacrifice on the picket line in order to protect affordable health care,” continued Hansen.

Further, the supermarkets’ demands to deny union representation to workers at new or expanded stores could leave hundreds of new supermarket employees in our communities without job security, workplace protections or a voice on the job.

Through the federal mediation and conciliation process, the UFCW International Union has been able to reach settlements across the country including ending the four and a half month long strike in Southern California.

The 1.4 million-member UFCW is America’s neighborhood union representing workers in neighborhood grocery stores across the country. UFCW puts dinner on the table for America’s families with members working in meatpacking and food processing. UFCW gives a voice to care with representation for nurses, medical technicians and nursing home workers.

November 9, 2004

Colorado Supermarket Contract Voting Halted

 
 UFCW International President
Joe Hansen

Joseph Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), exercised his authority under Article 23(A) of the International Constitution to halt voting on the offer presented on November 1, 2004, from Safeway, King Soopers and Alberstons to more than 13,000 UFCW members represented by Wheat Ridge, Co., Local 7.

Article 23 (A) of the International Constitution gives the International President the right to review any proposed contracts prior to any membership action on the proposal.  The purpose of Friday’s action is to give the International President the opportunity to assess the potential impact of proposed contract provisions on other UFCW members across the country and to see if they meet the established objectives relating to wages, benefits and working conditions. Following the International President’s review, he could either opt to restart or suspend (cancel) Colorado member voting on the existing proposal.  In the event that voting is restarted, ballots cast prior to Friday’s action would be counted.

“The supermarket chains bargaining with Local 7 in Colorado are large national corporations. Consequently, their proposals have national ramifications for our members,” said International President Joe Hansen. “I owe an obligation to all UFCW members working in the grocery industry to fully review the current proposal to determine whether or not it would be injurious to them.”

The UFCW International Union remains hopeful that ultimately an equitable solution can be reached between the parties.

November 4, 2004

Working America Turns Out For Change

Working America turned out in unprecedented numbers to support an agenda of change. Working families are demanding a different direction for the next four years, regardless of the final vote count. From better jobs to affordable family health care, a program for the economic rebuilding of working America— a working America that has suffered massive job loss, declining wages and the rapid erosion of affordable health insurance—now has the informed, mobilized and determined grassroots base to force its way onto the political agenda for the next four years.

“”We turned out on election day, and we will not be turned around. We activated an army of working families for this election, and we are now mobilized to fight for a program to rebuild working America,”” said Joe Hansen, president of the 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Hansen congratulated the hundreds of UFCW local unions for their tireless and relentless work to register and turnout hundreds of thousands of union members, many of whom were first time voters. The UFCW is one of the largest unions overall, and one of the largest unions of working women, in most of the battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. The UFCW, the largest union of workers under age 25, also collaborated with Rock the Vote and other youth-oriented programs to help generate a record turnout of young voters.

The efforts of the UFCW and the labor movement produced results. According to early reports, union members made up a record-shattering percentage of the electorate and provided a solid foundation of voters for change. The turnout numbers indicate a growing demand among working families for government action to restore the economic standing of the working middle class.

Despite a growing economy and increased productivity, workers have seen the steady outsourcing of good jobs, the steady decline of real wages, and a steady increase in health care costs and the number of uninsured working families. The Bush Administration launched an unrelenting assault on workers from its first days in office with the repeal of the ergonomic standard in early 2001 to proposing to take away overtime pay for millions of workers in 2004. More and more workers slid into poverty over the past four years threatening the future of a working middle class America.

Hansen declared, “”Implementing a program to rebuild working America is fight for the heart and soul of our country—will we continue to be a nation were hard work brings dignity, respect and a decent standard of living; or, will we be a nation where the wealth concentrates at the top while the many who do the work fall farther and farther behind?””

The first agenda item in a program to rebuild working America, according to the UFCW leader, is health care reform. “”There is no greater threat to family economic and personal security than the loss of health insurance. Without decent health insurance, most working families are only illness away from an economic crisis that could shatter the family and dim its hopes for the future. Affordable, accessible, comprehensive health care for all working families is the foundation of restoring the working middle class.””

A rebuild working America program would, according to Hansen, also focus government investment to generate job growth, raise the minimum wage and restore workplace rights.

“”We don’t want big government, we want effective government that acts to raise living standards and provide economic opportunity for working Americans,”” Hansen said.

 

October 28, 2004

Communities Back UFCW Members

 

UFCW members aren’t alone in the fight for affordable health care, as an overwhelming percent of supermarket shoppers surveyed side with their local grocery store workers on employee concerns. The community support is echoed in two recent surveys of grocery shoppers, one conducted in Colorado and one in Washington State.

Both surveys reinforce what UFCW workers already know:  communities stand behind workers when it comes to workplace issues, especially health care.  The large majority of shoppers agree that grocery store employees “deserve to have affordable health care.”  Most shoppers (85%) believe that major supermarkets like Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway are very profitable and have a responsibility to provide workers with affordable health care benefits.

Over 80% in the Washington community said they would support workers on strike if management threatened to eliminate health care benefits.  The majority also said they would sympathize with grocery store workers on strike over the employers even if they knew very little about specific bargaining issues. Most shoppers would go out of their way to shop at another store if their local grocery store had employees on strike.

Economic studies show that when large corporations take away or reduce their employees’ health benefits, taxpayers take on the increased costs for workers because more workers are forced to utilize publicly-subsidized health services.  More than two-thirds of shoppers surveyed agree that the responsibility for health care cots would indeed float to taxpayers.  Even more shoppers agree that workers end up paying for extravagant corporate executive compensation and bonuses.

Last summer, UFCW members in the Puget Sound, Wash. area visited their local communities and informed residents about what was happening at the bargaining table during their contract negotiations.  UFCW members collected “don’t shop” pledges from the public if the employers insisted on eliminating affordable health care benefits.  They participated in marches and rallies that kept bargaining issues at the center of the public’s attention, and moved elected officials to write letters in support of grocery store workers and voice those opinions to the media. Mobilizing in neighborhoods and solidifying support among community members put key pressure on the grocery stores, ultimately helping 18,000 UFCW members in Puget Sound settle a fair contract.

The survey in Colorado was conducted by TKG Research in August and identified perceptions of worker issues, while the survey in Washington, taken by the Evergreen Research Group in January, recognized early attitudes toward grocery workers, management and possible strikes.

 

September 2, 2004

Food And Commercial Workers Leader Takes Helm Of Largest Working Women Network In The Country

Phillips Vows to Enhance Organizing Opportunities for Working Women

Long-time labor activist Susan L. Phillips was elected as the fourth National President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) on August 28, 2004.  She succeeds Gloria Johnson, who served as CLUW president since 1993 and was the group’s treasurer since CLUW’s founding in 1974.

Phillips currently directs the Working Women’s Department of the 1.4 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and serves as UFCW International Vice President.  She leads the union’s programs for mobilizing UFCW women and retirees, with major emphasis on organizing and political action.

“Susan Phillips is a dedicated leader for UFCW women and all working families. I am proud that she will share her skills, commitment and vision with union women throughout the labor movement,” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President.  “Under Susan’s leadership, I know that CLUW will make even greater gains for working women across the country,” Hansen continued.

Women are nearly half of the labor movement, and experts predict that in the next 10 years, women will be the largest single force entering the job market.

“Studies show that when women are a majority in a workplace, they are more likely than men to vote to join a union.  That’s why CLUW is needed more than ever,” Phillips observed.

“I will see that CLUW renews its efforts to advance the labor movement’s fundamental goal:  organizing the unorganized.  We will work to provide resources to the labor movement to target women workers for union organizing campaigns, and will vigorously support these campaigns directly and by mobilizing like-minded progressive groups for support,” said Phillips.

Under Phillips’s leadership, CLUW plans to make special efforts to reach out to young women, who are critically important to growing the labor movement.

“Working women have a number of key concerns for themselves and their families, including affordable health care, quality child and elder care, job security, and retirement income,” she said. “CLUW will continue to communicate with its members, other union activists, and working women – both union and nonunion – on these subjects, as well as advocating at all levels of government for progressive policies to improve the lives of  working families.””

“CLUW will build on its solid three-decade foundation of advocacy on behalf of working women to bring new energy to our founding principles:  organizing unorganized workers, increasing women’s participation in their unions, promoting affirmative action in the workplace, and mobilizing for legislative action,” Phillips noted.

“CLUW is a key component of the labor movement’s future.  We will continue to work closely with the other AFL-CIO constituency groups through the Labor Coalition for Community Action to formulate strategies, build alliances, and develop programs to strengthen and build our unions in the months and years ahead.”

Before coming to the UFCW in 1984, Phillips worked as a Legislative Representative for the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department, Public Information Director for the National Consumers League and Legislative Writer for the U.S. House of Representative’s Democratic Study Group.

In addition to CLUW, Phillips currently represents the UFCW on the boards a variety of groups, and has traveled extensively throughout the world speaking on behalf of the U.S. labor movement and teaching communications and leadership development programs to unionists abroad.

The UFCW is the nation’s largest private sector union and represents workers in industries dominated by women workers, such as retail and health care.  More than half of all UFCW members are women and nearly one third are age 25 and under.

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August 31, 2004

New UFCW Contract Raises Living Standards for Dakota City Workers

(Dakota City, NE) – Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 222 turned out today to vote their approval for the agreement covering 3,000 workers at the Tyson Dakota City plant.

The new UFCW contract brings an immediate 60 cent increase in the base wage for production and slaughter employees, with a $1.55 increase over the term of the contract, making the pay among the best in the beef industry.   Maintenance workers will also receive substantial pay increases.

Highlights of the new agreement include:

  • Guaranteed wage increases totaling $1.55;
  • Establishes standard of a minimum 36 hours a week;
  • An additional week of vacation;
  • Improved health benefits, including adding vision, long-term disability, retiree coverage and a supplemental Medicare plan;
  • Increased retirement savings through additional employer 401(k) contributions and added stock options for employees.
  • Maintained overtime pay rates;
  • Increased funding for multi‑cultural fund that provides resources for programs such as safety training in Spanish and English-as-a-Second Language classes; and
  • Provides a clear attendance record for all employees (no disciplinary action based on past absences.)

“The solidarity and determination of UFCW members gave us the strength at the bargaining table to win a groundbreaking contract that will improve the living standards for thousands of Dakota City families.  The entire community will benefit as workers have more money to spend in our local economy,” said Marv Harrington, President of UFCW Local 222.  “Solidarity works and solidarity wins for everyone.”

 

 

August 4, 2004

Canada Wal-Mart Workers Stand Up for a Voice on the Job

QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC    – A Wal-Mart located in Jonquière, Quebec, Canada is on its way to becoming the only unionized Wal-Mart in North America after a ruling on Monday by the Quebec Labour Relations Board (QLRC) to grant employees union certification with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Canada.

The union accreditation was issued by the QLRC after a majority of employees at the store signed UFCW Canada membership cards.  QLRC adjudicator Jocelyne Houle stated that, “the applicant is representative, as required by law.”  A hearing has been scheduled for August 20th to finalize the specific definition of which employees will have the right to union representation.

“The Quebec certification shows that when workers’ rights are protected, Wal-Mart workers will exercise those rights for a voice at work.   Our challenge is to make sure that governments protect workers rights across Canada, the U.S. and around the world,” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President and President of the Union Network International, a global trade federation representing 16 million workers in 100 countries.

Today’s Labour Board victory is the latest in a series of organizing drives at Wal-Mart stores throughout Canada.  Currently UFCW Canada has other applications pending for Wal-Mart stores in Weyburn and North Battleford, Saskatchewan; in Terrace, British Columbia, in Thompson, Manitoba; and in Brossard, Quebec where a majority of workers have sought UFCW representation.

The Quebec store will be the first wall-to-wall Wal-Mart store where workers successfully chose union representation.  Meat department workers in the Jacksonville, Texas, Wal-Mart Supercenter voted for UFCW representation in 2000. Wal-Mart refused to bargain with the workers, despite orders from the National Labor Relations Board.  It also eliminated the meat department in Jacksonville and across the country in an attempt to scare workers from standing up for a voice on the job.

Wal-Mart stated publicly that it supports workplace democracy and that it would not close the store because workers chose a union.   The UFCW Canada looks forward to sitting down to negotiating a first contract without delay.

UFCW Canada website

July 28, 2004

Statement of Joe Hansen, UFCW International President, in Support of John Kerry

(Boston, Mass.) – John Kerry offers a real alternative of hope for America’s working families with a program for job growth, health care reform and homeland security. His ideas, his energy and his record of personal commitment and sacrifice for the values of working America has excited and activated workers in every region, every occupation and every industry.

John Kerry’s vision stands in stark contrast with record of the Bush Administration– more than 4 million workers have lost health insurance, real wages have gone down, millions of jobs have been lost, hundreds of thousands of workers have been needlessly injured because the ergonomic standard was repealed and millions face a pay cut because overtime law has been gutted. To say there is no difference between Bush and Kerry is to ignore the impact of Bush policies on the real lives of working families.

Ask a poultry worker crippled with repetitive motion injuries whether there is difference? Bush killed the ergonomic standard that could have prevented those injuries, while John Kerry fought on the Senate floor to keep the standard in force.

Ask a grocery store worker who was forced to strike for more than 4 months to keep health care benefits whether there is difference? Bush has done nothing except protect the interests of the drug companies and the insurance giants while everyday thousands of workers lose benefits. John Kerry has always been a fighter for health care reform and has a plan that helps protect health care benefits at work.

Ask a health care worker working long hours to support a family whether or not there is difference? George Bush re-wrote the overtime regulations to deny many health care workers overtime no matter how many hours they worked, lowering their living standards and denying them family time. John Kerry fought to protect overtime pay.

On every issue, John Kerry offers a pro-worker, pro-family, pro-America alternative to the Bush Administration. Another Bush Administration would inflict more and more suffering on working families. The election of John Kerry is the starting point for a new American dream that embraces the workforce and meets the challenges of the 21st century. For workers, voting matters, and electing John Kerry will make the difference between going forward in prosperity and security, or falling backward in economic and national insecurity. John Kerry is our best hope for the future of working America.