News and Updates
August 4, 2003
Wal-Mart’s Attack on the Union Cited in Canadian Labour Board Complaint
UFCW Wins Meeting with Workers on Company Time
When United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1518 organizer David Noble referred to a Wal-Mart “”hit list”” of pro-union employees during an organizing campaign in a Quesnel, British Columbia, store, management responded with personal attacks on Noble and a denial that the list even existed. Wal-Mart portrayed Noble and the union as liars and told employees to call the police if union reps visited them at home.
As a result, the British Columbia Labour Board has slapped Wal-Mart for yet another violation of workers’ right to organize. The Board ruled that, not only was Noble justified in referring to such a hit list, but that Wal-Mart grossly interfered with the organizing campaign. The company, widely known in the U.S. for its anti-union practices, was attempting to hide its union-busting strategy with an attack on the credibility and truthfulness of the union itself.
The Labour Board found Wal-Mart’s attack on the union and the organizer unfounded and slammed Wal-Mart for their underhanded practices.
“”If Wal-Mart is concerned about this as an organizing tactic, then it should refrain from arbitrarily targeting employees for dismissal as an easy way to solve its people problems,”” the Board decision reads.
The decision is further evidence of Wal-Mart’s mission to silence its workers’ voices and keep its stores union-free. The company is searching high and low for ways to take the focus off of the way it treats its workers by trying to discredit union organizers dedicated to help Wal-Mart workers have a voice in the workplace.
“”There is no shortage of new mistakes that it [Wal-Mart] finds ways to make,”” the decision continues.
The Canadian Labour Board acted quickly to address Wal-Mart’s misdeeds with meaningful remedies that will help workers’ stand up for their rights on the job. Wal- Mart will have to read the decision during a meeting of all employees at the Quesnel store. In addition, the Board ordered Wal-Mart to allow UFCW Local 1518 to address workers for 30 minutes directly following the reading of the decision–allowing Wal-Mart workers the opportunity to hear about the benefits of unionization without interruption from their managers.
“”Wal-Mart’s war on workers is a war they conduct wherever the company operates,”” says UFCW Executive Vice President Mike Leonard. “”These are serious laws designed to protect workers, and Wal-Mart is quickly finding out that violating these laws brings serious repercussions.””
The decision by the British Columbia Labour Board comes on the heels of guilty verdicts found by the National Labor Board (NLRB) in the U.S. Wal-Mart was found in violation of U.S. labor law when the company fired, spied on, and intimated employees in several different stores. The NLRB has ordered Wal-Mart to read and post its decisions in its U.S. stores as a result of the violations.
“”Wal-Mart keeps insisting that it respects its associate’s rights,”” says Local 1518 President Brooke Sundin. “”But this behavior is typical of Wal-Mart all around North America. When workers exercise their legal right to talk to a union, Wal-Mart violates those rights.””
August 4, 2003
Wal-Mart’s benefits book misled approximately a million workers with illegal language about exclusions to the plan – leading the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) to support a lawsuit against the company on behalf of Wal-Mart associates. The lawsuit charges that the summary plan description, or Wal-Mart Associate Benefit Book, violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The Benefit Book is required by law to accurately and clearly inform associates about their benefits?but Wal-Mart is misleading workers with language inconsistent with benefit plan documents.
“”Wal-Mart will go to any length – even trying to make their employees fear losing their benefits – to stop workers from having a voice in their stores,”” says UFCW Executive Vice President Mike Leonard. “”It is a slap in the face of workers for Wal-Mart to lie about benefits to protect their own interests.””
Once union organizing began in stores around the country, Wal-Mart placed illegal language in its benefit book, stating that “” union represented associates”” are excluded from participation. Recently, a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge ruled that the language violated the National Labor Relations Act. In the decision, the judge called the language, “”a not very subtle threat to its [Wal-Mart’s] employees that something unpleasant will happen to them if they organize, namely the loss of company benefits.””
David Rosenfeld has filed the lawsuit in San Francisco, charging that Wal-Mart is using its employee benefit book to further its anti-union campaign?rather than to accurately inform workers as ERISA requires. The lawsuit seeks, among other things, fixing the benefit book and notifying workers of their rights.
“”Wal-Mart has been trying to hold its benefits hostage in exchange for employees giving up their rights to organize,”” explains Leonard. “”We will do whatever it takes under the law to ensure that workers get the information they are entitled to about their benefits, and their right to organize.””
August 4, 2003
Company Ordered to Turn Over Information to Union
When meat cutters at a Jacksonville, Tex., Wal-Mart voted for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 540 representation, the company refused to recognize the union—and suddenly changed the job functions of the meat cutters with a change to case-ready meat. Wal-Mart believed it had successfully circumvented the UFCW’s first victory at one of its stores—until a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge ordered the company to recognize and bargain with Local 540 over the effects of the change to prepackaged meat. This order comes more than three years after the original union election.
“”Changing the way all of its store sells meat shows the extent to which Wal-Mart will go to keep the union out of its stores,”” says UFCW Executive Vice President Mike Leonard. “”Anytime management concocts a scheme to ratchet down people’s livelihoods, it says a lot about the real nature of the company.””
Wal-Mart quickly changed how the Jacksonville store’s meat department operated after the workers voted for Local 540, making the meat cutters into “”sales associates.”” The sudden switch to case-ready meat became evidence of the scope of Wal-Mart’s anti-union strategy. Wal-Mart even boasted to its managers in a Powerpoint presentation, “”It’s the ultimate union avoidance strategy!”” The meat cutters’ specialized skills were devalued once their work assignments were changed.
“”The absence of future wage increases, coupled with the effects of inflation, constitute a very demonstrable and adverse effect,”” the judge concluded. “”The elimination of work requiring their special skills greatly affected both job satisfaction and future earning potential.”” The judge has ordered Wal-Mart to recognize UFCW Local 540 as the bargaining representative for the meat cutters, and restore the department to its prior structure. The judge also ordered Wal-Mart to bargain with Local 540 concerning the effects of the decision to eliminate meat cutting from the Jacksonville store. Wal-Mart must provide the information regarding decision to switch to prepackaged meats that it withheld from the workers’ union at the time of the change.
On Tuesday, Local 540 President Johnny Rodriguez formally requested the start of bargaining with Wal-Mart. Such negotiations would mark the first time that Wal-Mart and the union would sit at the bargaining table.
“”This is a historic decision – the first bargaining order issued against Wal-Mart in the United States,”” explains Leonard. “”It is a victory for all Wal-Mart workers who are fighting for a voice at work.””
The meat cutters in Jacksonville became the first group of workers to vote for union representation at Wal-Mart in February, 2000. Just one month later—during a separate NLRB hearing on a union election at a meat department in Palestine, Tex.—Wal-Mart announced it had decided to replace freshly cut meat with case-ready meat-eliminating the need for meat cutters in every one of its stores. Wal-Mart has repeatedly stated that it will not bargain with any union, and has taken steps to prevent workers from organizing in stores across North America.
August 4, 2003
Today, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed and remanded the nationwide injunction Wal-Mart had obtained against the UFCW in 2001.
This is a victory for common sense and the rule of law. Wal-Mart clearly over-reached in getting a county judge in Arkansas to issue a nationwide injunction, and by seeking to have a company policy enforced as if it were a law passed by a representative, legislative body.
As the record made clear, the UFCW representatives Wal-Mart sought to enjoin actually left the stores when a manager asked them to leave, so there was no “”irreparable harm”” which is required for such an injunction. Wal-Mart goes to extremes to deny its employees information about their legal rights, and the Arkansas Supreme Court has now delivered that message to Bentonville.
August 4, 2003
Company Settles Second Case in Georgia; Faces New Complaint in Ft. Myers
(Orlando, Florida) – After just one week on the job, Wal-Mart cashier Cherie Beck was terminated when she complained on behalf of herself and her co-workers to her supervisor about constantly changing schedules that made managing her life nearly impossible. Beck was then fired for what the company called “”hostile behavior.”” Beck was singled out once she voiced her concerns about workplace conditions. The National Labor Relations Act protects the right of workers like Beck to engage in that type of behavior, called “”concerted activity.””
In an unusual move, Wal-Mart settled the case, brought by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union on behalf of Beck. Beck has received back pay plus interest, totaling nearly $7,000. The decision to settle came as a surprise, as Wal-Mart historically has resisted settlements.
“”Wal-Mart knows what it did was wrong, and that is what they are paying for,”” says UFCW Executive Vice President Mike Leonard. “”Beck’s back pay is important because every lawyer who has battled against Wal-Mart knows that it hates to settle.””
In addition to paying Beck for lost wages, Wal-Mart is required to post a notice of the settlement in the East Colonial Drive store where Beck worked. The notice clearly states that Wal-Mart will not threaten associates, deny the right to organize, or engage in surveillance of workers, among other things. The notice is a major step in the efforts to inform Wal-Mart workers of their legal rights at work, and marks the second time that Wal-Mart has been directed to post such a notice in this store.
This posting lets workers know that Wal-Mart will not threaten associates who engage in “”concerted activity””, will permit associates to have a representative accompany them in any investigatory meetings where the associate believes discipline might result, won’t require associates to report their contacts with unions, and won’t discipline or fire workers who engage in concerted activity.
“”For years, Wal-Mart has tried to keep workers from knowing what their rights really are. Now, workers are finally getting the opportunity to find out what they can do at work,”” says Leonard.
Wal-Mart has also recently settled in another case in Villa Rica, Ga., in which the UFCW charged that Wal-Mart: threatened employees for union activity, spied on them, denied workers the right to solicit for the union on their own time, denied a co-worker witness at a disciplinary meeting, and disciplined a worker for asking for a witness. The company has agreed to display a notice in the Villa Rica Wal-Mart similar to that posted in the Orlando store. Specifically, this notice outlines federal laws protecting workers’ right to organize, as well as a statement that Wal-Mart will not discipline workers for exercising their rights.
A recent complaint issued by the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of Dana Maillioux, a Wal-Mart worker in Ft. Myers, Fla., also cites unlawful termination for “”concerted activity.”” While Wal-Mart has claimed to refrain from such tactics in stores where charges have been filed, the company continues to fire workers who discuss workplace conditions with their co-workers.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is North America’s largest organization of retail workers. With 1.4 million members in local stores and supermarkets across the United States, the UFCW is America’s Neighborhood Union. The UFCW remains committed to helping Wal-Mart workers have a voice on the job.
August 4, 2003
Nation’s Largest Private Sector Union to Host Democratic Presidential Candidates Forum on Health Care Reform
United Food And Commercial Workers International Union Convenes in San Francisco July 28 through August 1, 2003
More than 5,000 delegates, alternates and guests to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s (UFCW) Fifth Regular Convention will gather in San Francisco, California, July 28—August 1, 2003, to set a working family agenda for 2003 and beyond.
A highlight of the 1.4 million member union’s convention will a presidential candidates’ forum on health care reform at 2:30 P.M. on July 31, 2003 at the Moscone Center. Confirmed attendees include, Governor Howard Dean, Representative Richard Gephardt, Representative Dennis Kucinich, and Ambassador Carol Moseley-Braun. Senator John Edwards, Senator Bob Graham, Senator John Kerry, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and Rev. Al Sharpton have been invited. Bill Press will moderate the discussion.
UFCW delegates, representing the United States and Canada, will address some of the most urgent economic and social issues including:
· The health care crisis in the U.S. and health care privatization in Canada;
· Wal-Mart’s war on North American workers;
· Organizing initiatives to give workers a free choice for a voice at work;
· Labor-management conflict on health benefits and pension programs; and
· The 2004 U.S. general election.
Delegates representing UFCW—America’s Neighborhood Union—members in grocery stores, food processing plants, nursing homes, hospitals, manufacturing plants and public service will meet from July 28-August 1, 2003 at the George R. Moscone Center in San Francisco, California. The UFCW is North America’s largest private sector union and has consistently grown with aggressive organizing in the growth sectors of the North American economy and workforce.
Featured speakers at the Convention include: San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (July 28), AFL-CIO President John Sweeney (July 29), Representative Loretta Sanchez (July 30) and, Erin Brockovich (July 31).
The general sessions of the UFCW are open to credentialed members of the press.
August 4, 2003
Food and Commercial Workers Union Convention
Thursday, July 31, 2003 – 2:30 P.M.
Moscone Center – San Francisco
Pre-Forum Press Briefing 12:30 p.m.-The Human Stories Behind The Numbers
In The Health Care Crisis-Workers On Strike For Affordable Health Care,
Workers with No Insurance, Workers Bargaining To Keep Coverage
Over 3,000 working families a day lose health insurance coverage. Over 41 million Americans are uninsured. Health care costs are rising faster than inflation. At the nation’s largest private employer – Wal- Mart – more than 60 percent— or, about 600,000 workers – do not have company-sponsored health insurance. More corporations are dropping health benefits for employees and their families. More American workers are opting out of insurance as companies shift more of the cost to employees.
The 1.4 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) – America’s neighborhood union – represents grocery store clerks, food processors and health care workers – all growing sources of employment. The majority of UFCW members now have employer-paid health insurance – but, the health care cost crisis, along with competition from employers who do not provide insurance, threatens to destroy the employment-based health care system. Some of the largest strikes in the past 10 years—28,000 workers in New Jersey and 35,000 workers in Northern California – have been UFCW strikes over health care coverage. Demographically, the UFCW is a microcosm of voting, middle- income America with about 52 percent women, about 11 percent African-American and about 10 percent Latino.
The forum will take place on an open stage with a roving Bill Press, of MSNBC’s “”Buchanan and Press,”” posing questions from workers in the audience to the candidates seated in director’s chairs on stage. The backdrop will be a convention hall filled with 5,000 workers meeting to set an agenda for their union.
August 4, 2003
Democratic Party presidential candidates will appear in a forum on health care issues at the Convention of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Moscone Center (South) – San Francisco
The forum will take place on an open stage with a roving chairman, Bill Press, of MSNBC’s “”Buchanan and Press,”” posing questions from workers in the audience to the candidates seated in director’s chairs on stage. The backdrop will be a convention hall filled with 5,000 rank and file delegates.
Confirmed participants are Dean, Gephardt, Kucinich, Mosley-Braun. Kerry & Edwards (via satellite).
12:00 p.m. Pre-Forum Press briefing (Room 202 in Moscone Center) on health care issues featuring “”Behind The Numbers in The Health Care Crisis”” Among those participating will be a Wal-Mart worker without insurance, workers currently on strike for affordable health care, and health care workers.
2:30-4 p.m. Forum in main meeting hall. Candidates will field questions submitted by delegates in advance.
4-5 p.m. Post-forum press availability at the discretion of the candidates in Room 202.
Please arrive no later than 2:00 p.m. to pick up credentials in Press Room on Mezzanine. TV cameras will NOT be permitted in the convention hall. A mult box will be available to pull video and audio feed from UFCW cameras.
The 1.4 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) represents grocery store clerks, food processors and health care workers. The majority of UFCW members now have employer-paid health insurance – but the health care cost crisis, along with competition from employers who do not provide insurance threatens to destroy the employment-based health care system.