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    News and Updates

October 1, 2003

Hormel Workers Ratify New Contract

More than 3,000 workers at Hormel plants in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota approved a new four-year contract in a vote last night.   Workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union turned out to vote their approval for the agreement.

The new Hormel contract increases the base wage to $14/hour with raises over the term of the agreement.   Workers also secured improvements for their pension, vacation and premium pay for night shifts while maintaining quality health care coverage for workers and their families.

The federal mediation office facilitated the negotiations and aided both parties to reach this agreement.

The new contract covers members of UFCW Local Unions 6, 9, 22, 1996 and 73A.  The workers produce such well known products as SPAM luncheon meat and Dinty Moore beef stew.

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September 25, 2003

Immigrant Workers Stand Up for a Voice on the Job

 On the eve of the historic national Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride arriving in Omaha, a group of 250 mostly immigrant workers at the Casa de Oro plant stood up for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 271.  In an election Tuesday, September 23, 2003, workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of UFCW representation.
 “”Workers communicate in at least four languages—English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Bosnian—but spoke with one unified voice yesterday when they stood up for more secure benefits, improved safety at the plant, and the respect and dignity that come with union representation,”” said Donna McDonald, President of UFCW Local 271.
 Casa de Oro, owned by ConAgra, waged a strong anti-union campaign in an attempt to intimidate workers from standing up for the UFCW.  Workers overcame the fear tactics by connecting with UFCW Local 271 members from nearby meat packing plants meeting who met with workers in their homes to share their experiences.
 The UFCW Local 271 has worked closely with Omaha Together, One Community (OTOC) to build community support for worker organizing efforts—a partnership that has led to organization and a union contract to immigrant workers three Omaha area plants.
 UFCW contracts for immigrant workers have produced tangible improvements in workers’ lives including wage increases and affordable, family health insurance.  Union contracts also:
>  protect immigrant workers from unfair firings;
>  protect workers from discrimination based immigration status; and
>  provide workers with representation and impartial arbitration to protect their rights.
 The contracts also establish multi-cultural funds that provide resources for programs such as safety training in Spanish and English as a second language classes.
 The Casa de Oro workers with their union, UFCW Local 271, are looking forward to sitting down with management and working toward a contract as soon as possible.
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September 16, 2003

Wal-Mart Workers’ Right to Talk Union on Job Upheld By Judge

Wal-Mart’s effort to silence workers through a ‘no solicitation’ policy its managers interpret as prohibiting any talk about union organizing is blatantly illegal, a National Labor Relations Board Judge has ruled in a case involving the Wal‑Mart Supercenter in Aiken, South Carolina.

Administrative Law Judge John West also found that Wal‑Mart illegally used wage increases for 89 employees at the first sign of union activity to take away one reason the workers were organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union.

The judge ordered the company to admit the purpose of the wage increases in a posting for employees was to influence them not to join a union.  This was contrary to Wal‑Mart spokesman Bill Wertz’s insistence to a reporter in February that the judge would order the wage increases rescinded, showing that the union was “”acting in a way contrary to the interest of those associates,”” Wal‑Mart’s term for employees.

“”Judge West has given Wal‑Mart workers everywhere the roadmap to a wage increase: start talking about forming a union on the job,”” said UFCW Executive Vice President Michael E. Leonard, Director of the union’s Strategic Programs Department.

The ALJ’s ruling said that Wal-Mart workers discussing the union at work is not “soliciting by any stretch of the imagination.”   Federal law gives workers the right to organize for a voice on the job. Wal-Mart has taken drastic steps to silence its workers and deny them the opportunity to participate in the democratic process to make a choice for a voice at work.

Aiken Wal-Mart workers Barbara Hall and Kathleen MacDonald were frustrated by Wal-Mart’s low wages and set out to try and organize their co-workers.   Hall and MacDonald talked to their co-workers about the union and asked people if they could call them after work.  Wal-Mart managers and Bentonville “People Managers” descended on the store with their usual carrot and stick approach to union busting – silencing some workers by giving them a bump in wages and then disciplining vocal union supporters.

The ALJ said, “To ask and employee for their telephone number to discuss the union, if the employee is interested, after work is not soliciting by any stretch of the imagination.”

Wal-Mart has used its ‘no solicitation’ policy in stores across the country to intimidate workers from talking about the union and attempts to use the policy as an excuse to discipline or fire workers who it suspects are union supporters.  Larry Allen, a Wal-Mart worker from Las Vegas, was fired in August for supposedly violating the ‘no solicitation’ policy.  Allen had traveled to San Francisco to talk with reporters at the UFCW International Convention about Wal-Mart’s lousy health insurance plan for workers.  After returning to work, Allen was singled out and fired by Wal-Mart.  His case is pending before the NLRB.

Over the past four years, Wal-Mart has changed its ‘no solicitation’ policy at least four times – each change based on a legal ruling against them that its policy is illegal.  Charges are pending before the NLRB that the current policy violates workers’ rights.

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Read the ruling (pdf)

August 20, 2003

Organizing Movement Grows Among Wal-Mart Workers

Worker efforts to get a voice on the job at Wal-Mart stores in North America are gaining ground. Canadian Wal-Mart workers in Thompson, Manitoba, narrowly lost their efforts to get a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) – 61 to 54. The election signals a growing movement of workers ready to stand up for a better future at Wal-Mart.

The Thompson, Manitoba, vote was the first opportunity for an entire store of Wal-Mart workers to vote as a group. Several recent union elections at U.S. Wal-Mart stores have been blocked by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) due to Wal- Mart’s illegal actions to intimidate workers and suppress their efforts to get UFCW representation.

Wal-Mart used its union busting campaign in Manitoba like it has in stores across the United States – pulling out all the stops to harass, intimidate and threaten workers from exercising their fundamental democratic freedom to choose union representation. Time and time again, Wal-Mart has thumbed its nose at federal law and used illegal tactics to suppress workers’ voices – threatening to close the store, harassing union supporters, spying on worker activities or firing union supporters.

Last Saturday, Wal-Mart fired night stocker Kelvin Blackman after he appeared at a NLRB hearing about holding a union election at his Clinton, Maryland Wal-Mart store. UFCW Local 400 filed charges and Blackman’s co-workers stood behind him. Wal-Mart felt the pressure from its workers and reinstated Blackman less than 48 hours later. Wal-Mart are seeing that they aren’t alone, that they have the support of their communities and that when they stand together they can win.

Despite Wal-Mart’s scare tactics, the Manitoba workers showed real courage and demonstrated that workers across the U.S. and Canada are gaining the strength to stand up and take action for better wages, benefits and working conditions at the world’s biggest corporation.

“”The Manitoba vote shows that around the globe…in the U.S., Canada, Germany, whereever Wal-Mart operates…workers need and want a union voice to make the company live up to its promises of good wages and great working conditions,”” said Mike Leonard, UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Strategic Programs. “”Thsi is a movement that can’t be stopped. There will be more union elections at Wal-Mart and workers are going to win.””

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August 8, 2003

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report From Texas and Arkansas

Loss prevention workers investigate incidences of theft at Wal-Mart—and now the U.S. District Court is seeking to determine if Wal-Mart’s stole overtime pay from these very same workers.

Judge T. John Ward has ordered Wal-Mart to disclose time records – including time clock archive reports and associate time card swipe data, time clock punch exemption reports, punch error reports, activity logs, week-to-date hours and expense summaries, and associates charged to the 945 account/PR404 – for all workers at Arkansas and Eastern Texas Wal-Mart stores. These records will be used to determine if workers—who were permitted to work overtime – put in extra hours without compensation.

Wal-Mart is required to turn over these time records within thirty days of the order, which is dated July 30, 2003. In addition, the Court has selected fifteen Texas and Arkansas Wal-Mart stores at random which must report the identities of and documentation for in-store loss prevention associates employed form September 13, 1999 to September 13, 2002, to determine if these workers were unfairly denied overtime pay.

The fifteen cities are: Tyler, Texarkana, Mt. Pleasant, Longview, Plano, Beaumont, Marshall, Center, Sherman/Denison, and Lufkin in Texas; and Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Cabot, and Hot Springs in Arkansas.

The loss prevention associates are being represented by attorneys Michael Ace of Tyler, Tex., and Patrick M. Flynn of Houston.

Download the Order (PDF)

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For more information, contact Patrick M. Flynn at 713-861-6163 or Michael Ace at 903-595-1552

August 5, 2003

Las Vegas Wal-Mart Worker to Share Spotlight with Presidential Candidates

(Las Vegas) – Wal-Mart underestimated Larry Allen when it fired him last Friday in retaliation for his union activity. Tonight, Mr. Allen has the ear of key Democratic Presidential candidates following the AFL-CIO’s national working families Democratic presidential forum in Chicago.

Allen is joining thousands of union members on Tuesday, August 5th from 8:00-9:30 p.m. E.T. at Chicago’s Navy Pier where the candidates are responding to questions posed by workers. C-Span will broadcast the forum.

Allen is a produce clerk at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at Eastern & Serene in Henderson, Nevada. He began work there in May, 2002, and got involved in the effort to organize for a voice on the job in September.

Allen took two vacation days to attend United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Convention in San Francisco and participate in a presidential health care forum on August 1, 2003 with five Democratic presidential candidates who were critical of Wal-Mart’s inadequate health insurance. Allen spoke with reporters before the forum to give a background perspective the health care crisis.

When Allen returned to work on Friday, he was summarily fired on the pretext that he violated the company’s no-solicitation policy. He was fired “”pending investigation.”” Wal-Mart’s own policy requires a complete investigation before an employee is terminated. Wal-Mart’s labor relations’ policy dictates that no personnel action can be taken in a store with union activity without approval and involvement of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based labor relations “”people”” division.

He has always been a reliable, hard-working employee who received a good evaluation in April. His only brushes with discipline came when he confronted a co-worker who he believed was sexually harassing his wife — Allen told him to “”knock it off.”” Allen was written up. A couple months ago, a manager took him aside and told him that he really shouldn’t be passing out union cards in the break room. But federal law and Wal-Mart’s store policy protects workers from retaliation from union activity in “”non-work areas”” including break rooms.

Before his wife got a job in a union supermarket and became eligible for health insurance through her employer, Allen went without. He worked full-time at Wal-Mart but couldn’t afford to buy the company’s health plan. In January, 2003, Allen started feeling odd and sought treatment at an emergency clinic. He was in the beginning stages of having a stroke and was treated in the Intensive Care unit for five days. Health care workers saved his life, even though he couldn’t pay for their services. Luckily, he had a full recovery and suffers no effect from the stroke. He takes prescription medicine now to help prevent another incidence – medicine that would cost him more than $300 per month. Thanks to his wife’s employer-provided health insurance, he pays a small fraction of that bill $8.00. He will spend the rest of his life trying to pay back the more than $30,000 he owes to the hospital.

Wal-Mart workers in Las Vegas and across the country are standing up for a voice on the job with the UFCW. The Las Vegas workers have set up their own website — www.walmartworkerslv.com

August 4, 2003

STRIKING DOMINO WORKERS LAUNCH TRUTH SQUAD

On Sunday, January 5, 2003, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Local 392 is stepping up its pressure on Domino Sugar. Striking workers from the Domino plant in Baltimore, Maryland are forming “”Truth Squads,”” named for their commitment to speak the truth to consumers, workers, and the community about Domino’s attempts to undermine workers’ family health care and retirement security.

Workers will hold a press briefing at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 5th at UFCW Sugar Workers Local 392 at 1425 Woodall Street in Baltimore, MD.

Two Truth Squads of five workers will travel to New York and Florida over the next few weeks to reach out to workers at other American Sugar, parent company to Domino, facilities about the company’s campaign to destroy worker benefits in Baltimore.

August 4, 2003

STRIKING DOMINO SUGAR WORKERS FROM BALTIMORE

On Wednesday, January 8, 2003, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 392 member is stepping up its pressure on Domino Sugar by reaching out to sugar workers in Savannah, Georgia. Striking workers from the Domino plant in Baltimore, Maryland have formed “”Truth Squads,”” named for their commitment to speak the truth to consumers, workers, and the community about Domino’s attempts to undermine workers’ family health care and retirement security.

Two Truth Squads of five workers are traveling to New York, Florida and Georgia over the next few weeks to reach out to workers at other American Sugar, parent company to Domino, facilities about the company’s campaign to destroy worker benefits in Baltimore. The Truth Squads are also reaching out to workers at other sugar plants and related industries.

To learn more about the Domino Sugar strike in Baltimore, log on to www.ufcw.org.

August 4, 2003

DOMINO SUGAR WORKERS WIN SWEETER FUTURE

The future looks much sweeter for the 330 Domino Sugar workers in Baltimore, Md. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 392 members ratified a new three-year contract on Saturday, January 11, 2003, that ends the 35-day strike.

Workers fought back against company demands to alter their retirement plan, take away two paid holidays and increase health insurance costs. The new contract:

Protects the workers’ pension plan by maintaining current benefits and protecting the investments;

Preserves the two paid holidays, Veteran’s Day and New Year’s Eve, that the company pushed to eliminate;

Provides 2% wage increases for all workers; and

Improves the health care plan.

Over the past 35 days, none of the 330 workers crossed the picket line.

“”The Domino Sugar workers stood on the front line against corporate greed and they won,”” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Regional Director. “”Their solidarity gives hope to all working families across the country who deserve fair and decent wages and benefits for the hard work they do every day.””

Workers traveled around the country in “”Truth Squads”” to rally support for their strike from sugar workers in New York, Florida and Georgia. The Baltimore community supported workers by honoring their boycott message and by making donations to the hardship fund for workers’ families.

UFCW Local 392 President Alex Hamilton said, “”I want to thank everyone who supported us in this struggle for a fair contract. Without the generous donations of the good people of Baltimore and our UFCW brothers and sisters, our fight would have been more difficult our spirits lower.””

The UFCW is the voice for working America, with 1.4 million members in food industries — from processing to retail. The UFCW represents workers in supermarkets across the country as well as food processing, meat packing, chemical, distillery, garment and health care facilities.

August 4, 2003

RAINBOW FOODS WORKERS TO STAND UP FOR FAIRNESS

The new buyer of the Rainbow Food store—Tim Metcalf—is turning his back on long-term employees of the Wauwatosa store. Many workers have more than 20 years experience serving the supermarket-shopping public. Metcalf is refusing to retain the current employees leaving area workers with a bleak future.

Workers are planning a rally and press conference to call on customers to join their grassroots campaign to pressure Metcalf to respect the rights of current Rainbow employees.

Many of the current Rainbow employees will lose their jobs at the end of this week due to Metcalf’s greed. Workers will share their stories at the rally about Metcalf and his new management team refusing to interview long-term workers and slashing wages and benefits.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1444, Milwaukee County Labor Council, local elected officials, Jobs with Justice, local religious leaders are mobilizing the community to stand up with the long-term Rainbow Foods workers.