News and Updates
April 18, 2017
This month, Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) launched a campaign to highlight the “hidden tax” every taxpayer has been paying for years to Walmart. According to Americans for Tax Fairness, the retail giant receives an estimated $6.2 billion in subsidies every year, primarily from the federal government.
An op-ed titled “The Walmart Tax Every American Taxpayer Pays” by UFCW Local 1529 President Lonnie Sheppard was published in USA Today on April 8, and highlights many of the key facts that Walmart refuses to acknowledge, like the high cost and hidden tax that every American taxpayer pays every single day.
Among the key facts:
- Walmart, a company that generates almost $500 billion in revenue every year with annual profits averaging $15.5 billion over the last five years, is also one of the nation’s largest welfare recipients.
- According to a 2014 report by Americans for Tax Fairness, Walmart receives an estimated $6.2 billion in subsidies every year, primarily from the federal government.
- Even though Walmart claims that it spent $500 million on hourly associate bonuses and recently boosted employee wages, it still has thousands of employees who rely on public assistance programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing.
- A single Walmart Super Center is estimated to cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.74 million per year in public assistance money.
- Logically, if Walmart increased employee wages, and/or provided better benefits, much of this $6.2 billion dollar burden would be lifted off the taxpayers.
MCAW also ran digital ads targeting shoppers and workers inside stores across the U.S., and MCAW organizers have been exposing the Walmart tax to shoppers and workers across the country. Thank you to all UFCW local and regional staff that worked on this project.
April 17, 2017
On April 11, members of UFCW Local 655 who work at Holten Meat in Sauget, Ill., ratified an industry-leading new contract by an overwhelming margin. The new three-year contract resolves many of the work-life issues that forced Holten Meat employees to make the difficult decision to go on strike on March 18.
“Today is victory for our hard-working members who love their jobs, but love their families more. This union contract will not only make Holten Meat a better place to work in Sauget, it will make Holten Meat a better company,” said UFCW Local 655 President David Cook. “Make no mistake, we want Holten Meat to succeed, and that is why this contract is so important—it recognizes that no company succeeds in the absence of its hard-working employees and members. Best of all, UFCW members at Holten Meat now have a better contract that lets them not only support their families, but advance their careers at work.”
The new contract lets experienced members have more control over their lives and move to the shifts they need to spend more quality time with their families. The contract also allows members to advance their careers, and establishes a new labor and management committee at Holten Meat that will regularly meet to solve problems in the workplace cooperatively.
“We stood together and spoke out because we believe that our lives matter. None of us should have to choose between spending time with our family and doing our job—we should be able to do both,” said Trinetta Kitchen, a seven-year veteran of the production line at Holten Meat. “This contract will not only help ensure we can earn a better life, it recognizes our hard work and will make Holten Meat a better and more successful company.”
April 17, 2017
RWDSU/UFCW Local 108 members who work as drivers for the Gateway shuttle bus in Newark, N.J., ratified their first union contract earlier this month. The shuttle bus drivers joined RWDSU/UFCW Local 108 last year to improve their pay and treatment, and the new contract provides raises, added vacation time, and more overtime opportunities.
“The Gateway Company has grown and become very profitable over the years, and workers deserved the improvements they are getting with their first contract,” said RWDSU/UFCW Local 108 President Charles N. Hall, Jr.
April 17, 2017
Al Garnett, a UFCW Local 328 shop steward who works as a produce manager at Stop & Shop in Harwich, Mass., was awarded the 2017 Retail Produce Manager Award from the United Fresh Produce Association on March 6. This prestigious award is granted each year to 25 of the industry’s top retail produce managers from across the country and Canada.
This program, which is co-sponsored by Dole Food Co., recognizes top retail produce managers for their commitment to fresh produce, innovative merchandising, increased sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, community service, and customer satisfaction.
Garnett began his career over 25 years ago and has been a UFCW Local 328 shop steward for most of that time. In Harwich, Garnett is a recognizable face and enjoys building lasting relationships with both customers and coworkers. As a shop steward, he has taken a proud role in educating his coworkers about the importance of the union and making sure that the contract is enforced.
The award winners will be honored at the United Fresh 2017 Expo in Chicago in June. You can learn more about Garnett and what this award means to him here.
April 10, 2017
On April 5, 102 workers at Nestlé’s logistics and shipping center in McDonough, Ga., voted to join the RWDSU/UFCW for a voice and fair treatment in the workplace. The workers, who handle shipping and logistics for Nestlé, as well as food product packaging, and truck and train loading at the facility, were concerned about job security and fair wages.
“These workers have been through a lot in the past few months both personally and at work and it is time that their voices are heard and that they are treated both respectfully and fairly by Nestlé,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU/UFCW. “Nestlé’s workers deserve a strong union voice at the bargaining table, and we are proud to be representing the 102 workers in McDonough as we work to secure a fair contract.”
The team at the Southeast Council of the RWDSU/UFCW worked tirelessly through natural disasters in the area, and in a politically challenging climate, to win the opportunity to represent the workers at Nestlé.
“The people of Georgia are fighters, and the workers at Nestlé here in McDonough are a force to be reckoned with – and I could not be prouder to represent them,” said Edgar Fields, president of the Southeast Council, RWDSU/UFCW. “Neither union busting efforts, or floods and gale-force winds, could deter these workers from defending their right to organize and now it’s our turn to fight for them. We are ready.”
April 10, 2017
On March 16 and 17, UFCW Local 653 hosted a Stewards Conference in Brooklyn Center, Minn., for 90 members who work in a variety of industries. At the conference, participants attended workshops about labor history; understanding union contracts and rights; organizing to build worker power; challenges and threats to worker prosperity; and how to build a broader workers’ movement with partners.
The number of stewards at UFCW Local 653 has grown from 40 to 90 in five months, and includes workers from retail, health care, meat processing, food production and other industries. Conference participants found the workshops and the ability to meet their fellow stewards positive and uplifting.
“A strong union will help improve worker relationships. It will teach us to always look out for the little guy and stand up for our rights,” said Willis Olive, a UFCW Local 653 steward who has worked at Cub Foods for 18 years.
“I love being with the residents and am a steward because I want to have a voice for what is right!” said Casey Pangburn, a UFCW Local 653 steward and nursing assistant who has been with Benedictine Health Center for one year.
“I enjoy the high pace work as well as the great people that I have worked with throughout my career,” said Paul Swanson, a UFCW Local 653 steward who has worked in the retail industry for 26 years. “I am a steward because I want to actively work to improve my work experience and that of my coworkers.”
April 10, 2017
Isolina “Izzy” Pistolessi, a member of UFCW Local 400 who works as a nurse at Kaiser Permanente’s Falls Church Care Center in Falls Church, Va., has been chosen to be the recipient of Kaiser Permanente’s National Extraordinary Nurse Award.
Pistolessi has worked at the Falls Church Care Center for 18 years, and is the second nurse from Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic Region to receive this recognition. She will be flown to California in May to accept her award.
At the Falls Church Care Center, Pistolessi is a mentor to other nurses, conducts outreach to the community, promotes public health, educates and cares for patients, and serves as a UFCW Local 400 shop steward. Off the job, she is a volunteer and leader with the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, a member of the Fairfax Country Medical Reserve Corps, and a union activist who recently participated in UFCW Local 400’s Lobby Day.
“I’m very fortunate to work for Kaiser Permanente and do the work that I love to do—caring for patients and nurturing other nurses so they become better,” Pistolessi said. “And I’m proud to serve my coworkers as a shop steward. To receive this honor is a complete surprise—but it’s also wonderful.”
April 3, 2017
More than 70 members from UFCW Locals 75 and 1059 went to Columbus, Ohio, on March 29 to speak with state legislators about the harmful effects of “work for less” laws.
A “work for less” bill was introduced in Ohio in February of this year, but so far it hasn’t gained any traction and legislative leaders in both parties have openly questioned the need for it. UFCW members like Bill Finnegan, who works at Campbell’s Soup in Napoleon, Ohio, are a big reason why “work for less” legislation hasn’t had enough support to pass.
“This is my second lobby day and I chose to come here today to speak with my representatives and senators about the issues that impact the lives of my family and friends,” said Finnegan. “The top concern on that list right now is ‘work for less’ legislation because it would weaken the power and voice of workers all across Ohio.”
In meetings throughout the day with state legislators, UFCW members explained how “work for less” legislation directly threatens every hard-working family, whether they’re part of a union or not. Multiple representatives and senators remarked afterwards that hearing personal stories from people about why they’re so concerned about “work for less” legislation was much more effective than simply showing them the usual facts and graphs.
After the last meeting wrapped up, Finnegan talked about why he enjoyed participating in lobby days and other similar events.
“Getting to do stuff like this and meeting other members of our union are why I really enjoy being a part of UFCW,” he said. “Oftentimes after we hold events like this people will come up to me at work and ask how they can be a steward or become even more involved. Days like today make us realize that we have numbers and with that comes power.”
April 3, 2017
On March 28, UFCW Local 1625 held a lobby day in Tallahassee, Fla., with members who work in hospitals and nursing homes as nurses and nursing assistants. The day gave UFCW Local 1625 members the opportunity to speak with state legislators about SB 676 and HB 7, harmful bills in both chambers that would eliminate Florida’s Certificate of Need (CON) program. The CON program requires health care facilities to have state approval before offering new or expanded services. This process ensures all communities have equal access to hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other facilities.
Gloria Rainey, a UFCW Local 1625 member who works at a nursing home in Jacksonville, Fla., spoke passionately about why she chose to attend the lobby day.
“More than anything, I wanted to be here to give the residents we care for a voice,” said Rainey. “These bad bills won’t just hurt our jobs, they would also give patients less of a chance to find high quality health care.”
One of the biggest concerns about eliminating the CON review process is that it would allow the opening of new facilities who would only accept private insurance. The result would be a two-tiered health system in Florida – one for wealthy patients and one for everyone else – that would raise costs and lower the quality of care.
As the day came to a close, Rainey reflected on how much she enjoyed participating in the lobby day.
“The UFCW allows me and my coworkers to have a stronger voice,” she said. “I love being a part of a team of people who have each other’s backs and supports one another. Being a member has helped me find my voice. Today I got to speak with my state senator and give my input on issues that will affect my livelihood and community. I was nervous at first, but once I started speaking about the issues how I saw them, I realized that my senator was listening and really taking in my opinion. We were taken seriously today and it felt good.”
March 27, 2017
Last week, more than 35 UFCW Local 400 members went to the U.S. Capitol to discuss the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, immigration raids, and national “work for less” legislation with members of Congress from Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Isoline Pistolessi, a UFCW Local 400 shop steward at Kaiser Permanente’s Falls Church Care Center, brought her firsthand experience with the Affordable Care Act directly to lawmakers.
“I’ve seen patients who just got health insurance for the first time; that’s what enabled them to come in and get care,” Pistolessi said. “We can’t take that away from them. We need to make health care more affordable, not less.”
Pistolessi also offered a personal account about why immigration raids are so damaging.
“My family came to this country from the Dominican Republic when I was six years old,” she said. “My father was going to be assassinated and came here as a political exile. Before we left, our neighbors were raided and it was very scary—I could hear the screaming. No one should ever have to go through that—especially here in the U.S.”
“I became a U.S. citizen eight years ago,” she noted. “I had to work really hard to get my citizenship. We need to make it possible for others to follow the same path.”
Andy Keeney, who works at Kroger in West Virginia, spoke with several senators and representatives about why a national “work for less” law would be such a bad idea. “In my meetings, I just explained how strong unions help every community in America,” Keeney said. “We bring people a voice in their workplace, better wages, better working conditions, better health care – a national “work for less” law would only make it more difficult for people to earn those good things.”
As the day came to a close, UFCW Local 400 members were happy with how their meetings went and were excited that they were able to bring a big crowd in UFCW blue and gold to the halls of power.
“My favorite part about today was showing senators and representatives that we’re a strong, unified group,” said Anita Carpenter, who works at Kroger in West Virginia. “When we come here all together, it gives us a larger voice to speak about the issues we care about – like better wages and better working conditions. Participating in opportunities like this are really important.”