News and Updates
May 4, 2016
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The workers at the Viscofan plant in Danville, Illinois, deserve safe jobs, they say in a newly launched petition to The Viscofan Group Chairman Jose Domingo de Ampuero y Osma. The workers, who are members of UFCW Local 686, and their families shouldn’t have to worry whether their loved ones will come home in one piece when they return from work each day.
After a successful year, Viscofan has seen positive growth, which is centered on the work done by these members and others in North America. But as company sales and profits increase, the workers say they are being hurt by the plant. The Danville plant had 18 violations of U.S. health and safety law in the last seven years, yet Viscofan has refused union proposals to improve the safety of their workplace.
These Local 686 members are now asking supporters to sign their petition that says the company’s success shouldn’t come at the expense of the health and safety of its workers. The Viscofan plant is an integral part of the Danville community and its workers count on the good, safe, family-supporting jobs it provides. They are asking the company to send its negotiators back to the table with an edict to make the plant safer, the community stronger, and share in the success. Click here to sign the petition.
March 24, 2016
UFCW partners with Cargill, ConAgra Foods, Hormel Foods, JBS USA, Pinnacle Foods, Downs Food Group, Ryder Logistics for multi-ton donation of high-quality, high-protein food
FLINT, MICH. – In an effort to help Flint families dealing with an unprecedented water and economic crisis, the nation’s largest union for food workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), has teamed up with some of America’s largest food manufacturers for a massive multi-ton donation of high-quality food to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint, Michigan.
As part of this effort, some of America’s best-known food manufacturers and longtime UFCW partners, including Cargill, ConAgra Foods, Hormel Foods, JBS USA, Pinnacle Foods, Downs Food Group and Ryder Logistics have joined forces to bring relief to Flint families in need. Together they’ve donated more than 60 tons of beef, pork, poultry, canned meats, ready-to-eat soups and pastas, and peanut butter.
“The crisis imposed on Flint families is a historic failure. To do what is right for these good people we must act, and we must act together,” UFCW 876 President Roger Robinson said. “Today, UFCW and its employer partners have come together for this community, demonstrating our ability to unite in advocacy for the protections all families deserve; to be the voice of the worker that is too often ignored; and to provide the strength and support to navigate all workers to a better life.”
“We firmly believe that everyone has the right to enjoy safe and nutritious food,” said Jarrod Gillig, general manager of Cargill’s beef processing plant in Schuyler that is producing the beef for Cargill’s donation. “We know that protein, like ground beef, provides an array of essential nutrients to children and adults, and we believe it is important for us to provide some relief for a community in need of long-term support.”
“Our donation provides a variety of quality, protein-rich products for the people of Flint,” said Thomas L. Nuss, director of human resource operations at Hormel Foods. “We are proud to partner with the UFCW in this endeavor, and hope our effort will help those in need.”
“At JBS, we’re committed to giving back to the communities in which we live and work, and to helping when our neighbors are in need,” said Chris Gaddis, head of JBS USA human resources. “Families in Flint are experiencing extremely difficult times, and if we can help, we’re honored to offer our support to those families.”
Leading this effort to help feed Flint families in need are UFCW locals across the country, specifically members of UFCW Locals 38, (Milton, Pa.), 293 (Fremont, Neb.), 540 (Grapevine, Tex.), 617 (Fort Madison, Iowa), 1149 (Marshalltown, Iowa), 1161 (Worthington, Minn.) 1996 (Suwanee, Ga.), who have made or contributed food or transportation to this effort.
In addition, UFCW Locals 876 and 951, which represent workers in Flint and across Michigan, have been coordinating the UFCW’s ongoing efforts to serve their Flint members, their families and the broader Eastern Michigan community.
“We are committed to helping not only our members, but the entire community effected by the Flint water crisis,” John Cakmakci, UFCW 951 president, said. “To date, we have raised over $100,000 to provide quality food and water to Flint residents. Next week, we will be hosting the first of many food and water give-aways for the nearly 500 UFCW 951 members and retirees living through this horrible situation.”
Additionally, Local 876 has contributed more than $14,000 as part of their on-going local relief efforts.
“Good, nutritious food is key to the Flint community’s recovery, and we can’t thank this incredible team enough for what they have done for Flint families and children” said Kara Ross, Vice President of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.
More than 125,000 pounds of food from eight companies in eight states and nine UFCW locals
Products included are: Fresh beef, ground beef, pork, poultry, peanut butter, canned chicken, Chef Boyardee, Hormel chili, Dinty Moore Compleats beef stew, Peter Pan peanut butter, Skippy peanut butter singles, and Vienna Sausages
March 22, 2016
On March 9, UFCW Local 1428, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, hosted the first annual Labor United Against Cancer Run/Walk and Wellness Fair in San Dimas, California. Over 175 people attended the event to stand united in the fight against cancer, including members of the community, and labor and elected officials. In addition to Local 1428, members of UNAC, USW, Teamsters 396, Teamsters 630, Laborers 300, HERE 11, IUPAT DC36, Firefighters Local 1014, and SEIU 2015 were there to support a worthy cause.
Over $15,000 was raised from the event and donated to the American Cancer Society, and members of Local 1428 will continue to support the American Cancer Society with the end goal of finding a cure for this horrible and devastating disease.
“When labor unites, labor wins and with this event we are showing that labor is united in the fight to defeat cancer,” said UFCW Local 1428 President Mark Ramos.
March 1, 2016
[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” width=”30%” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”It’s great being a Local 400 member. It helps me on the job having my union standing behind me. And that enables me—and many of my Local 400 brothers and sisters—to do what we can for our community.” cite=”William Iveym, UFCW Local 400″ parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
When William Ivey says, “We try to give back to the community,” he’s not kidding. A UFCW Local 400 member working as a sanitation specialist at Boar’s Head in Jarratt, Va., for the past 12 years, Billy goes far above and beyond the call of duty to support not only his Local 400 brothers and sisters, but his neighbors, too.
Together with his Local 400 colleagues Emerson Tennessee and Andrew Blunt, his brother Leon and other friends, Billy founded the Community Fellowship of Men, an organization that has “adopted” the second grade class at Capron Elementary School in Capron, Va., as their own. The Community Fellowship hosts an annual cookout every October, which raises funds to provide every second grader with a backpack filled with school supplies. The 2015 cookout marked the 10th year of this great event, which includes inflatable bounce houses for the children, and a car show for the adults.
“We provide the sausages and the meats and we man the grills,” Billy said. “It’s a real family gathering. People look forward to it every year. And the children love their backpacks.”
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#084e93″ text=”#ffffff” width=”content” align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”It’s a real family gathering. People look forward to it every year. And the children love their backpacks.” parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
Community Fellowship members support the students in other ways, too, volunteering in the school, passing out healthy snacks, and helping with athletic contests, for example.
And it’s not just children who benefit. The Community Fellowship assists widows in Southampton County, with members mowing the grass when it’s hot outside and helping out around the house as needed.
Billy’s community spirit is also seen in his involvement with his church, Pleasant Plains Baptist, located in his hometown of Drewryville, Va. Billy is a member of the church’s Ministry of Comfort and serves on the Usher Board. “The church is very important to me,” Billy said. “It helps me be a better person.”
Billy’s exemplary leadership and activism reflect the values of his union. “It’s great being a Local 400 member,” he said. “It helps me on the job having my union standing behind me. And that enables me—and many of my Local 400 brothers and sisters—to do what we can for our community.”
February 29, 2016
As the UFCW continues to honor Black History Month and reinforces its commitment to racial and economic justice, we’re asking members why these issues matter to them. Hidi Frazier of Local 1996 has worked for Kroger in Georgia for 15 years. As a Deli Manager, she oversees both the deli and bakery, trains new associates, takes inventory, and makes orders.
[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” width=”30%” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”A lot of issues affects us all in one way or another. We all want fair wages, good health benefits and good pensions. We all have to continue to stand together and keep working families strong.” cite=”Hidi Frazier, UFCW Local 1996″ parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
Hidi says that to her, “Black History Month … is about honoring and remembering those who made a difference and paved the way for people like me. Without their sacrifice and determination to want and fight for change, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Hidi first became active in her union seven years ago when a fellow member asked if she’d like to volunteer with phone banking to ask fellow members to vote and help get labor-friendly candidates elected in her state who will make a difference for working families. She agreed, and has been an active member ever since.
During her time volunteering, Hidi was inspired by Mary Lou Romaine-Waymer, who leads and organizes the phone banks and other political activities for the local: “She does a great job. Mary Lou Wagner is a leader for UFCW. She keeps the members well informed in local and state politics. Mary Lou reminds us that these races are the most important because they affect our everyday lives as citizens of Georgia.”
After seeing first-hand just how much of a difference being part of union family makes in her life, Hidi wants to spread the word. As a manager, she’s in a unique position to help explain to her fellow coworkers what the union is all about. “I would advise everyone, not just African Americans, to become involved. A lot of issues affects us all in one way or another. We all want fair wages, good health benefits and good pensions. We all have to continue to stand together and keep working families strong,” she says
[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” width=”30%” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”When union members, community members, and other working people come together, we are more powerful.” parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
Hidi also stresses the importance of solidarity. “We have the AFL-CIO, where all the unions come together to keep the fight going for working families,” she says. “When union members, community members, and other working people come together, we are more powerful. Labor and civil rights intersect by continuing the fight on issues that affect working families. We will continue to rally and lobby together to make sure that we all have the same opportunities as everyone else. We have to have more training and workshops so that minorities can compete in the workplace. Lastly, we have to make our unions stronger than ever.”
February 24, 2016
As the UFCW continues to honor Black History Month and reinforces its commitment to racial and economic justice, we’re asking members why these issues matter to them. David Montgomery has been with UFCW Local 655 in St. Louis, Missouri for 15 years. David spends his days as the floral warehouse supervisor, coordinating various arrangements to be delivered to Schnucks grocery stores around the city.
[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” width=”30%” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”My father was always a big union guy and he always told me that it was good to help yourself, but it is great to be able to help others.” cite=”David Montgomery, UFCW Local 655″ parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
David says the value of Black History Month lies in its ability to continue to educate the average American, even himself.
“It’s a time of year to celebrate and acknowledge the wonderful achievements and advancements that have been introduced to most of the world by Black people that many don’t even know about. I still learn something new every February,” David said.
David’s family has union roots, which is what first got David interested not only in a union job, but the labor movement as a whole.
“My father was always a big union guy and he always told me that it was good to help yourself, but it is great to be able to help others,” he said. “I started last year getting really involved, especially in the Fight for 15 rallies. I’ve seen how people from all over can come together for a great purpose.”
For other black workers interested in the labor movement, David has a simple piece of advice.
“Just do it. Just know you are continuing the same fight as legendary leaders that have come before us and you’re helping lay a stronger foundation for generations to come,” he said. “It’s a feeling you can’t put into words.”
David believes that civil rights and labor go hand-in-hand, because without strong union support, workers are open to having their rights violated. The 33-year-old father of three says labor can build lasting positive change in race relations by “building an inclusive and diverse workforce.”
“Labor and civil rights intersect all over the place,” he said.
February 23, 2016
As part of our ongoing celebration of Black History Month, we sat down with UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Civil Rights and Community Action Department Robin Williams to talk about the important relationship of the labor movement and the achievements and contributions made by African Americans.
What does Black History Month mean to you and why is it so important?
Black History Month is about celebrating and being proud of being Black in America. It is a time where we celebrate the contributions that African Americans, past and present, have made in our society. Our country’s rich history has been deeply impacted by so many groups and it’s important we celebrate everyone’s contributions in order to create a tradition of acknowledgement, inclusion and community engagement. By remembering and celebrating our history, we can build awareness on the struggles and challenges that African Americans have faced and inspire a new generation of civil rights and social justice leaders.
How and why did you become involved with the labor movement?
I was born in 1964 in Washington, D.C. and the labor movement, like the civil rights movement, has been a huge part of my family’s history. My father was a minister and supporter of Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. During the 1970’s, he worked for Raleigh’s Clothing Store and Woodward & Lothrop Department Store, which were both represented by The Retail Clerks Local 400, which later became UFCW Local 400. I remember my dad talking about the union organizing campaign and how solidarity and joining the union was so important for the advancement of Black people. It was because of his union job that my father was able to purchase a home and raise his family in a middle class neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
The 1970s in Washington, D.C. was a time where African Americans were gaining more opportunities to land full-time jobs in local and federal government, as well as in healthcare and other public and private sector jobs. With the increase of union organizing in these sectors, worker solidarity and union membership had quickly become the greatest pathway to the middle class for African American workers.
By the time I was hired as a part-time food clerk for Georgetown Safeway Food Store in Washington, D.C. in the early 1980s, the labor movement was a part of me. I got involved in my union, UFCW Local 400, after organizing a delegation of part-time employees to meet with store management in a demand for fair scheduling. I went on to become an assistant shop steward and then I joined Local 400 as a full-time organizer and led the healthcare team in organizing hundreds of healthcare workers in Southern Maryland and Virginia. I joined the UFCW International staff as Associate Director of Civil Rights and Community Action in 2005.
What suggestions do you have for other African Americans who want to become more involved in the labor movement?
I am grounded in my faith, my family, and in my union. My faith teaches me that the most important thing in life is love. My family keeps me connected to who I am and my culture and my union allows me to be in solidarity with mankind and to serve others.
I am proud to be union–UFCW Union! I am proud to be an advocate for workers’ rights. Unions need more active African American union members, organizers, leaders and advocates to get involved in the labor movement. The labor movement remains one of the greatest avenues for economic freedom for African Americans. If you have passion to fight for justice, if you want to work to create a more equitable society–the labor movement could be the place for you.
There are many ways to get involved. If you are a union member, you can start by attending membership meetings and learning more about the activities of your union. You can also volunteer for union organizing campaigns, workplace actions, social media campaigns, participate in Get Out the Vote campaigns, run for union shop steward or run to serve on your contract bargaining team.
If you are not a member of a union, you can get involved in the labor movement by joining a living wage, fair scheduling, sick leave, or other social and economic justice campaigns–apply for intern opportunities, seek out job opportunities. African Americans that desire to get involved in the labor movement can also seek out volunteer, internships and job opportunities with organizations that are in partnership with labor and civil rights organizations, voter engagement, community organizing, LGBTQ organizations, immigration and workers’ right organizations.
In the 60s, activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Bayard Rustin, and Malcolm X led the Civil Rights movement, which also advocated for expanded workers’ rights. In your opinion, what groups or leaders stand out as being at forefront in the fight for equality and justice now?
Leaders like Reverend William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP and founder of the “Forward Together Movement,” the Advancement Project, DEMOS, and many African American labor activists, like myself, are now at the forefront in the fight for equality and justice. Through the Labor Commission on Race and Economic Justice, UFCW International President Marc Perrone and Fred Redmon, Vice President of the United Steelworkers, are at the forefront in leading the conversation and work to dismantle racism within the labor movement.
Also, in today’s era of social media, movements like Color of Change, Not One More Deportation, Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100, and the Dream Defenders have sparked a new generation of advocates for racial and social equality. Many of these young leaders are also leading in the labor movement. Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter is Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Carmen Berkley, cofounder of Black Youth Project 100, is Human, Civil and Women’s Rights Director for the AFL-CIO, and Greg Cendana is a young, openly gay Asian American activist and Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.
Through their civil rights, community and union activity, these millennials are leading the charge to expose and dismantle a racist system that disenfranchises communities of color.
The labor movement has a rich tradition of fighting inequities that extend beyond the workplace. In what way do labor and civil rights intersect and how can unions help narrow the income and equality divide that disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities?
In a speech entitled “if the Negro Wins, Labor Wins,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
Negroes in the United States read this history of labor and find it mirrors their own experience. We are confronted by powerful forces telling us to rely on the good will and understanding of those who profit by exploiting us…. They are shocked that action organizations, sit-ins, civil disobedience, and protests are becoming our everyday tools, just as strikes, demonstrations and union organization became yours to insure that bargaining power genuinely existed on both sides of the table… Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, and health and welfare measures… That is why Negroes support labor’s demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.
These words stand true even today: the success of the civil rights movement as well as the labor movement is the ability to work together in order to move a vigorous agenda that addresses institutional and generational racism, worker exploitation, and social and economic inequality.
Just as Black Lives Matter and today’s Black Liberation movement share agendas that include workers’ rights and union protections, the labor movement must adopt and move a robust civil rights agenda that includes the voices of Black, Latino, Women, Asian, and LGBTQ workers. It must be an agenda that moves campaigns to declare that all workers can earn a better wage, regardless of the level of their education. All workers have a right to paid sick leave and paid family leave. An agenda that works to protect all workers against discrimination based on the color of their skin, their nationality, their self-identity or sexual orientation, or past incarceration or criminal record. Labor should move an agenda that promotes equal pay for all workers regardless of gender, their place of employment or past criminal record. Labor should move an agenda that works with the civil rights movement to protect the right to vote for all people.
The work of the Labor Commission on Race and Economic Justice is only the beginning of a process to address discrimination. Labor can no longer be silent about the attacks on Black communities. Labor must become true allies of the civil rights movement. For the enemies of the labor movement are the same enemies of the civil rights movement, and neither movement can win without the other…
With cases like Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association and expansion of Right to Work, labor cannot withstand the attacks on the movement without joining a greater movement for social and economic justice. The two movements must show up for each other, “For in the End, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”…words of Dr. Martin King, Jr.
February 22, 2016
As our UFCW family continues to celebrate Black History Month, we’re asking members why it’s important to them. Daniel Garescher, who is Haitian/Caribbean-American, is a Local 1208 steward at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
To Daniel, Black History Month is important because it sheds light on the history of black Americans, something that “schools and textbooks do not always cover.”
“When the history and culture of black people in America is excluded, African-Americans can feel oppressed–we want to have pride about who we are,” Daniel says. “Without education about all that people of color are and can be–and what contributions they have made–we are reinforcing racism. Black History Month is a small effort to resolve this and counter negative images of black people that were perpetuated in the media and society for so much of our country’s history, and still persist today.”
Daniel got involved in the union because he saw first-hand how being part of a union family improved people’s quality of life, and fought for the rights of all workers, including people of color.
“My mother was working at Smithfield when I was in high school, and I was working as an interpreter for both Smithfield and the union. I started working at the plant myself after high school. I had already seen the value of having a voice at the plant through the union,” he says.
As a steward, Daniel fights every day for his coworkers and urges them to get more involved. His advice to his other union brothers and sisters is to “Sign up! Become a steward. Learn as much as you can and go to any trainings that you can go to. It will help you both at work and outside of work in your future. The union has helped me, a Haitian man, become more of a leader, more of a man.”
Daniel notes that the labor movement has a unique responsibility and is in the position to fight inequalities that extend beyond the workplace: “Workplace education and power is the best way to reduce the income divide. The labor movement can always do more to highlight and promote leaders of color to reduce discrimination–that’s why it’s so important that we not just continue to celebrate Black History Month, but continue to fight for civil rights in our daily work and lives.”
February 17, 2016
Widower Hailed as Hero
by Bruce Kozarsky, Union Leader Editor
It started out as a typical day for Adam Carter Peak, head meat cutter and Local 400 shop steward at Kroger #406 in Appomattox, Va. But then, all of a sudden, his store manager ran in and told him to get some ice—a truck driver making a delivery had collapsed from heat exhaustion.
[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” width=”30%” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”The look on Mr. Goin’s face was the same look on my wife’s eyes when she passed. I just said, ‘I am not going to let this happen to anyone else.’” cite=”Adam Carter Peak, Local 400 Shop Steward” parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
Adam ran out with the ice, but he saw that the driver, whose last name was Goin, wasn’t breathing. “I took my meat coat off, laid him down on his back, put it under his neck and started doing CPR,” Adam recalled. “After about four minutes, which seemed like forever, the paramedics came, but they let me keep doing CPR. A minute or two later, they told me to step away, put paddles on him and gave him a shock, and then they told me to go back to doing CPR. I did it another 20 minutes or so. I kept thinking, ‘Why aren’t the experts doing this?’ but I wasn’t going to stop.”
“Then, the next thing you know, he took a big breath,” Adam said. “He was breathing when they put him in the ambulance and took him to the hospital.” About six hours later, Goin’s surgeon called Adam and told him his CPR had saved Goin’s life. If it wasn’t for Adam, the man would not have survived his heart attack.
Adam was physically exhausted—but also emotionally drained. Just six months earlier, his wife, Laura—the mother of their four-year old daughter Madison and two-year-old son Carter—died suddenly and unexpectedly from an aneurysm. “I just got emotional,” Adam said. “This was the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced since then. The look on Mr. Goin’s face was the same look on my wife’s eyes when she passed. I just said, ‘I am not going to let this happen to anyone else.’” And he didn’t.
The next day, Goin’s son and daughter-in-law came to the store, shook Adam’s hand and said, “My dad’s alive because of you. Thanks to you, his two grandchildren will get to know their grandfather.” Goin’s wife also called to deliver the same message of thanks. Adam didn’t know what to say in response. “I was just doing what I’d want done if the same thing happened to me,” he said.
Ironically, Adam has never been formally trained in CPR. “A buddy of mine in law enforcement told me how to do CPR a few years ago and I’ve seen what they do on TV,” he said. “I guess I must have been doing it right, since the paramedics told me to keep it up.”
[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” width=”30%” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”He saw that a man was dying and jumped in to save his life. That would be a good deed under any circumstances, but the fact that he has been through so much makes it all the more impressive. He has my deepest admiration and respect.” cite=”Mark P. Federici, UFCW Local 400 President ” parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
“Adam will never say this because he’s a very humble guy, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s a hero,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “He saw that a man was dying and jumped in to save his life. That would be a good deed under any circumstances, but the fact that he has been through so much makes it all the more impressive. He has my deepest admiration and respect.”
“I’d also note that what Adam did is what shop stewards throughout our union do, only on a much larger scale,” Federici said. “They’re problem solvers. In this case, the problem Adam solved had life or death consequences. And thank God he didn’t hesitate.”
Adam, who has worked at Kroger for 5 and a half years, became a shop steward within just a few weeks of joining the company. “I told my rep I wanted to be steward,” he said. “My dad was a proud union member, and I wanted to help people, too.”
Today, Adam continues to adjust to life without his wife, as a single dad raising two young children. Fortunately, Kroger has been accommodating when he needs flexibility in his work schedule and his wife’s parents help out too. His courage, his perseverance and his attitude of “doing unto others” have earned him the good will of all Local 400 members.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Union Leader, the quarterly magazine of UFCW Local 400.