News and Updates
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.)
December 8, 2004
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
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
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.