News and Updates
Packing and Processing
October 29, 2008
The parties have reached a settlement of the lawsuit pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division. The essential elements of the settlement are as follows:
1. Smithfield and the UFCW have agreed on what both parties believe to be a fair election process by which the employees at Smithfield’s Tar Heel plant can choose whether or not to be represented by the UFCW.
2. Smithfield and the UFCW have agreed to establish a Feed the Hungry Program to be jointly funded and administered by the UFCW and Smithfield.
3. The UFCW agrees to end its public campaign against Smithfield.
4. The parties have agreed there shall be no further public statement about this settlement until the election referenced in paragraph one above has been concluded.
September 26, 2008
(Denison, Iowa) – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 440 and Farmland are pleased to announce a new four-year contract covering the 1,400 workers at the Denison, Iowa, pork processing facility. The contract was ratified by UFCW Local 440 members during meetings yesterday in Denison.
The new contract includes wage increases that keep Denison workers among the highest paid in the pork industry and provides Farmland with new operating efficiencies. UFCW and Farmland also found solutions that provide quality, affordable health care coverage for workers and their families.
The bargaining process also produced innovative safety and health language that will keep the Denison Farmland plant one of the safest meatpacking plants in the nation.
Farmland is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.
September 24, 2008
(Denison, Iowa) – Farmland Foods and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 440 returned to the bargaining table this week and reached a tentative agreement that addresses the bargaining unit’s concerns about the previous offer and increases Farmland’s production capacity. Both parties look forward to a union ratification vote on September 25, 2008.
Farmland is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.
The UFCW is the voice for meatpacking and food processing workers, with more than 250,000 of the union’s 1.3 million members working in these industries.
For more information, contact Mark Kuemmerlein, Farmland Foods, 816-243-2854 or Jill Cashen, UFCW, 202-728-4797.
July 28, 2008
Washington, D.C. – OSHA’s proposed fines of $8.7 million for violations at the Imperial Sugar plant near Savannah, Georgia, where an explosion killed 13 workers in February, and at another plant in Gramercy, Louisiana, magnify the gaps in current OSHA enforcement standards with regard to combustible dust, including a reliance on “general duty” citations and a patchwork of other standards which are limited in scope and do not address such critical considerations as design, maintenance, hazard review and explosion protection. This action also underscores OSHA’s reluctance to follow the recommendations of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) that may have prevented the tragedy in Georgia and other combustible dust explosions.
The fines also expose OSHA’s inability to monitor the actions of big businesses such as Imperial Sugar. The explosion in Georgia took place on February 7; however, OSHA inspectors found that the company had not taken immediate steps to mitigate another potential disaster when they inspected the plant in Louisiana a month later.
Earlier this year, the UFCW and the Teamsters called on OSHA to issue an emergency standard on combustible dust, and filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Labor demanding that OSHA follow the 2006 recommendations of the CSB, an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents.
In 2006, the CSB recommended that OSHA issue a rule that would have reduced the possibility of combustible dust explosions. That year, the CSB conducted a major study of combustible dust hazards, and noted that a quarter of the explosions that occureed between 1980 and 2005 that were identified, occurred at food industry facilities, including sugar refineries. In only one or two investigations were these incidents caused by mechanical mysteries that were either unforeseen or unpredicted.
Standards and codes have existed for years for OSHA to build upon and eliminate this type of explosion. In 1987, OSHA issued the Grain Handling Facilities Standard as the result of grain dust explosions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This standard has effectively reduced the number and severity of combustible grain dust explosions in the grain handling industry, but stopped short of regulating combustible dust in industries outside of the grain industry.
The UFCW applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing legislation to force OSHA to set a combustible dust standard, and urges President Bush to reconsider his veto threat. OSHA must act now and follow the recommendations of the CSB before more workers are killed or horribly injured.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, immigration reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org.
July 19, 2008
April 23, 2008
Milton, PA—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local #38 announces the successful ratification of a new three-year contract with Impress USA, Inc. at their plant located in Bloomsburg, PA. Approximately 145 workers at this location make metal food cans for Del Monte, Simmons, and Suter food companies, among others. The new contract delivers wage increases and vacation improvements, maintains affordable health care, and makes significant improvements in overtime pay. A majority voted to ratify the contract on Sunday, April 20.
Highlights of the new agreement:
–Wages for current employees will increase by 3 ½ % per year over the term of the agreement.
–Employees will now be able to use up to 2 weeks of vacation in single day increments. Employees can earn two days of vacation for perfect attendance. Workers will be allowed to carry up to three days over to the following year, or have the days paid out.
–Employees keep affordable health care coverage with only modest increases in their premiums and no plan changes.
–The contract provides the following overtime improvements and protections:
— Workers will be paid double time on the 6th and 7th day for any work over 60 hours.
— Workers will be paid double time on the 7th day for work over 48 hours.
— When workers volunteer to work or are forced to work overtime three times in one pay period, the company cannot force them to work any more overtime in that pay period.
— When workers volunteer to work six consecutive days of overtime, then the company cannot force them to work more overtime for six days.
UFCW Local 38 represents over 1500 workers in the Milton and Bloomsburg areas. Local President Russ Baker credits the strong work ethic of the membership at the Bloomsburg Plant as the main reason the contract passed. “”Both sides recognized that it takes a cooperative effort in today’s business climate to achieve fair and balanced labor agreements,”” Baker said. I know that both the UFCW and Impress USA, Inc. hope for continued success in Bloomsburg for many years to come.””
April 15, 2008
Albert Lea, MN-Three hundred workers in Cargill Meat Solutions’ Albert Lea plant (formerly Schweigert Foods) have ratified a new contract which delivers wage increases, establishes a defined benefit pension plan, and makes tremendous improvements in health care-at a significant savings for workers. The workers are members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 6 and work at the meat processing plant making lunch meats, bratwursts, chicken tenders and chicken wings among other products. A majority voted to ratify the contract on Sunday, April 13, 2008.
The new contract:
–Delivers wage increases including $1.40/hr increase over the next four years-including $0.50 on January 5, 2009. The increase will bring the base rate to $13.20 by the end of the contract.
-Vastly improves health care, dental care, and prescription drug coverage. The 2008 Cargill plan will reduce individual and family deductibles; reduce the amount paid for coinsurance; reduce co-pays for preventive care; reduce co-pays for and office visits for primary care physicians and specialists; reduce the amount paid for emergency room care; lower the maximum for out of pocket expenses; eliminate the deductible and reduces co-pays for prescription drugs; and enhances the affordable family dental plan.
–Improves retirement security by establishing a new defined benefit pension plan. The plan ensures a guaranteed income of $22.50 per month, per year of service for retirees. In 2011, that amount will increase to $25.00 per month per year. Employees will still be able to make contributions to their existing 401(k) plan.
“”We are very pleased with this contract,”” says Pat Neilon, President of UFCW Local 6. “”We were able to negotiate an enormously better health plan, with significant cost savings for our members. And, the new defined benefit pension plan will be better for our members because it guarantees income in retirement and it doesn’t take any money out of workers’ pockets.”” Previously, Cargill workers could choose to contribute to a 401(k) plan with 2% company match, but only a quarter of employees took advantage of the plan.
“”With the union, we were able to negotiate a pension plan-which is especially good for the younger folks who have a chance to put a lot of years in-and you don’t have to fund it yourself out of your paycheck,”” said Richard Peterson, a 30-year employee of the Albert Lea plant. “”Not too many companies offer a pension anymore. But the pension is guaranteed and I think that’s a big deal.””
April 1, 2008
Safety Expert and Poultry Worker to Address Failures of Large Corporations to Protect Health and Safety of Workers In the Workplace
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Change to Win Health and Safety coordinator Eric Frumin and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) member Doris Morrow will testify as witnesses at a Senate hearing tomorrow to address the dangerous pattern of large corporations ignoring or avoiding their obligations to insure a safe workplace. The testimony will focus on serious violations at BP, McWane Corp., Cintas Corp., House of Raeford, AgriProcessors, Waste Management Inc., and Avalon Bay.
“Employers bear the primary responsibility for protecting workers, but too often, companies would rather squeeze out extra profit than save employees’ lives,” said Frumin. “The price paid by fallen workers, their families and their communities is unacceptable, and without stronger laws and enforcement, the tragic human cost of hazardous jobs continues to climb.”
As evidence shows, large corporations make calculated decisions to cut corners and disregard the risk of injury or illness to their workers in order to maximize profits. As a result, every day, sixteen workers die on the job, 134 die from work-related illnesses, and thousands more sustain workplace injuries.
Tyson poultry worker and UFCW Local 227 member Doris Morrow, who has worked at the Tyson poultry plant in Kentucky for nearly 12 years, will testify about the health and safety problems she has witnessed first hand at her workplace. Tyson is one of the largest poultry processing companies in the United States.
“There are serious safety and health problems that must be addressed to protect workers across the country,” said Morrow. “I have seen first hand the injuries of my coworkers from respiratory problems like bronchitis and pneumonia due to the cold temperatures in the plants, to back and muscular problems, sore hands, carpal tunnel and other Musculoskeletal Disorders that workers face. Yet, many of the workers in plants are afraid to complain about the work conditions because they are fearful they will lose their jobs. It is time to demand that the government and companies protect workers and prevent these injuries.”
The hearing will also address the failures of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate and remedy corporate-wide health and safety violations as a result of ineffective enforcement tools and inadequate resources. At present staffing levels, it would take OSHA 133 years to inspect every workplace under its jurisdiction. It has also been hampered by political appointees who are indifferent or hostile to the agency’s mission, and hamstrung by limits on its legal authority and available enforcement tools.
“Under the current regulatory structure, corporations make the profits while workers pay the price with their lives. Congress needs to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act to increase penalties for egregious violations and enhance OSHA’s capacity to conduct corporate-wide investigations and impose corporate-wide sanctions,” said Frumin. “America’s working families know all too well what will happen if we don’t strengthen OSHA – more workers will die because of exposure to well-documented hazards and slipshod site management, more workers will suffer crippling injuries from high production pressures and poor ergonomics and more companies will go unpunished even when knowingly putting workers in harm’s way. The time to act is now.”
The Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee hearing “Serious OSHA Violations: Strategies for Breaking Dangerous Problems” will be held Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 430.
About Change to Win
Change to Win is a six million member partnership of seven unions founded in 2005 to represent workers in the industries and occupations of the 21st century economy. Change to Win committed to restoring the American Dream for a new generation of workers – wages that can support a family, affordable health care, a secure retirement, and the opportunity for the future. The seven affiliated unions are: Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Laborers’ International Union of North America, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and United Farm Workers of America.
March 25, 2008
Washington, D.C. – Leading worker organizations today called on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency standard on combustible dust. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Labor demanding that OSHA follow the 2006 recommendations of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB). Additional labor organizations representing workers at risk are also supporting the petition which was filed in reaction to a workplace explosion at a sugar refinery in Georgia on February 7.
The explosion at the Imperial Sugar plant near Savannah, Georgia, resulted in the deaths of nine workers. Scores of workers were also injured in the blast, and one worker is still missing. Reports indicate that combustible dust may be implicated in this explosion, as has been the case in previous food plant explosions.
With the goal of protecting workers from combustible dust explosions and resulting fires, the UFCW and International Brotherhood of Teamsters petition calls upon OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard which requires immediate controls instituted by employers where combustible dust hazards exist. The petition also calls upon OSHA to put a new Permanent Standard in place for control of combustible dust hazards in general industry; inspect sugar processing plants; and implement a Special Emphasis Program on combustible dust hazards in a wide range of industries where combustible dust hazards exist.
The UFCW represents hundreds of workers in sugar plants around the country, including the Domino Sugar plant in Baltimore, Maryland. UFCW members at the Domino plant narrowly escaped harm last November after a combustible dust explosion rocked the facility. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents nearly 500 members who are employed at eight sugar processing facilities throughout the United States.
The Bush Administration’s OSHA ignored the 2006 recommendation from the CSB to issue a rule that would have reduced the possibility of the explosion in Georgia and other combustible dust explosions. That year, the CSB conducted a major study of combustible dust hazards following three worksite dust explosions that killed 14 workers in 2003. The CSB report noted that a quarter of the explosions between 1980 and 2005 occurred at food industry facilities, including sugar plants.
OSHA’s inaction on this workplace risk follows a pattern of the agency ignoring scientific evidence and its own rule-making guidelines. By law, OSHA was supposed to respond to the CSB’s recommendations within six months.
In 1987, OSHA issued the Grain Handling Facilities Standard as the result of grain dust explosions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This standard has effectively reduced the number and severity of combustible grain dust explosions in the grain handling industry. However, the Grain Handling Facilities Standard stopped short of regulating combustible dust in industries outside of the grain industry.
The UFCW and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters join Representatives George Miller and Lynne Woolsey in the call for immediate OSHA inspections of all sugar-producing facilities.
January 31, 2008
Washington, D.C. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) will join consumer advocates at public meetings on February 5-6 to oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (USDA FSIS) proposal to water down workplace safety and food inspection regulations at the nation’s poultry slaughter establishments. The proposal, entitled “”Public Health-Based Slaughter Inspection System”” (PHBSIS), will remove maximum line speed regulations and further subject poultry workers to dangerous workplace conditions. The proposed system also increases the risk of food-borne illnesses by weakening the on-line poultry inspection process.
The dangerous work conditions faced by workers in the poultry industry have been documented by academics, the media and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and line speeds have been linked to musculoskeletal disorders and debilitating injuries—including lacerations and amputations. Poultry workers often face physically demanding, repetitive work, during which they stand for long periods of time in production lines that move very quickly while wielding knives or other cutting instruments. They often work in extreme temperatures and make up to 40,000 repetitive cutting motions per shift. Worker safety will play no role under the PHBSIS proposal, and the new system will allow poultry slaughter establishments to run their lines with no maximum line speed—guaranteeing a rise in workplace injuries.
Line speeds have also been linked to food contamination, and the new proposal may put consumers at risk of food-borne illnesses by removing on-line FSIS inspectors who are trained to inspect bird carcasses for contaminated material—including fecal matter. Under the new system, poultry slaughter establishments will be allowed to monitor the poultry carcass inspection process themselves.
“”Over 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in an effort to shed light on the unhealthy and dangerous working conditions in meat packing plants, and it is amazing that the poultry industry would be allowed to turn back the clock and dismantle our last line of defense against workp lace injuries and food-borne illnesses,”” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “”We urge members of Congress to join the UFCW in opposing this misguided proposal in order to protect the health and safety of our workers and families.””
For more than 100 years, the UFCW has been fighting to improve the working conditions of food workers and the safety of our food, and currently represents more than 250,000 workers in the packing and processing industries. In addition to protecting the rights of food workers, the UFCW is also a founding member of the Safe Food Coalition which consists of consumer groups, groups representing victims of food-borne illnesses, and watchdog groups that are dedicated to reducing the incidence of food-borne illnesses in the United States.
The USDA FSIS meetings will take place on February 5-6 at 8:45 a.m. at the Key Bridge Marriott at 1401 Lee Highway in Arlington, Va.