News and Updates
Packing and Processing
March 10, 2005
Joseph T. Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) was named to a 14-member Citizens’ Health Care Working Group. Hansen is the only representative from organized labor working with the esteemed group of health care providers, economists, health care advocates and other leaders.
The fourteen panelists, named by the Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker, were assembled from more than 500 applicants and are charged with the duty of holding a national dialogue on issues relating to health care services, delivery and cost.
“I am deeply honored to serve in this vital endeavor to address the growing health care crisis and I look forward to working with my fellow panelists,” said Hansen. “The nation’s health care tab is already the highest in the world, and I am committed to exploring solutions that will reduce costs while improving care for the greatest number of people.”
The working group was created by Congress and will hold hearings and community meetings across the country on health coverage and cost issues, and, ultimately, issue a “Health Report to the American People.”
As the leader of the 1.4 million-member UFCW, Hansen represents America’s neighborhood union. UFCW members put food on the table for America’s families, working in neighborhood supermarkets, as well as in meatpacking, food processing and other industries.
With more than 40 years of experience negotiating contracts covering wages, health care benefits, pensions and other workplace benefits, Hansen is acutely aware of the nation’s health care crisis. He understands how rising health care costs are forcing a downward pressure on workers’ living standards. He also knows first-hand how skyrocketing costs are encouraging some employers to scale back and eliminate employee health care plans in order to gain competitive advantages in their industries.
“The health care crisis is a national problem that requires a national solution,” said Hansen. “I have great confidence that our group can lay the foundation for bringing America together to confront this challenge.”
February 24, 2005
Wal-Mart used children for hazardous jobs in its U.S. stores according to a U.S. Labor Department investigation as reported in the New York Times on February 12, 2005. Wal-Mart is being sued for sexual harassment in Florida by the federal government as reported in the Bradenton Herald on February 18, 2005. Wal-Mart was cited in Alabama for having the most employees on taxpayer-funded Medicaid health program as reported in the Associated Press on February 22, 2005. Wal-Mart is the target of a Georgia legislative initiative on companies with large number of employees receiving taxpayer-funded health care after it was revealed the retail giant ranked number one for employees on the government health program as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on February 23, 2005.
In a ten-day period, Wal-Mart compiled a virtually unmatched public record of abusive, illegal and irresponsible conduct involving women, children and taxpayers. These most recent reports come on top of Wal-Mart already facing the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in history, court convictions for forcing employees to work without pay, and government complaints for the illegal firing and intimidation of workers for exercising workplace rights. In Canada, Wal-Mart is closing a store and taking away the livelihoods of almost 200 workers rather than comply with the law providing a fair and impartial process to reach a contract with workers.
So what does Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott do? He delivers a speech attacking the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).
In his speech delivered in Los Angeles yesterday, Scott glibly ignored the company’s very public record of shameful conduct; blamed the UFCW and other critics (the “guppies” according an earlier Scott pronouncement) for his problems; and, created an alternative reality where low wages, unaffordable benefits, the massive export of U.S. jobs to overseas sweatshops, the suppression of worker rights and taxpayer subsidies for the giant retailer have somehow made the world a better place.
The Scott speech continues a public relations offensive launched several weeks ago to prop up the company’s sagging image, pump up stagnate stock prices, and sidestep holiday season reports that competitors from Sears to Best Buy offered lower prices. The speech contains the same willful distortions and Orwellian double-talk as the company’s ad campaign. Repeating a lie does not make it true.
Scott brags, as did the ads, about the number of full-time employees– except full time in Wal-Mart speak is about 30 hours a week, not 40 hours as in the rest of reality. Scott proudly proclaims that Wal-Mart’s average wages are about twice the minimum wage. He ignores that Wal-Mart uses its enormous political clout– the largest political giver in 2004– to keep the minimum wage in real terms at its lowest level in decades. Even at the supposed Wal-Mart average wage, a family with a Wal-Mart income is still left scraping the poverty line. Scott cites Wal-Mart health insurance as a positive, but fails to mention that 700,000 Wal-Mart associates do not have the company’s health insurance, and that those who do, pay more on average than employees of other major companies.
In instance after instance, Scott contorts the facts to serve his own purposes. He cites the lack of opposition to his company in communities across California, and declares opposition to Wal-Mart is limited to urbanized areas– except the overwhelming majority of Californians live in those urbanized areas. He talks about company tax payments, but doesn’t mention the tax costs the retailer imposes on states and communities with its low wages and lack of affordable health benefits.
Despite Scott’s protestations, Wal-Mart is not just a simple retailer. Wal-Mart is the largest single economic force in history. It is the largest private employer in the country, and the largest corporation in the world. Walton family members comprise five of the ten richest people in the world. About one percent of the wealth of just one of the Walton richest five would provide affordable health insurance for all Wal-Mart workers in the U.S. Wal-Mart is about high profits, not low prices.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has 1.4 million members working in neighborhood supermarkets, retail stores, meat packing and food processing plants. UFCW retail members work for major retailers such as Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons.
February 11, 2005
Washington DC — The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) urges immediate action to correct dangerous line speeds in meatpacking and poultry plants where injury rates are three times that of other manufacturing sectors.
A report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), ordered by Senator Edward Kennedy, shows what workers in the industries have been subjected to for years:
- Dangerous line speeds
- An absence of injury and illness monitoring by OSHA
- Intimidation that leads to under-reporting of injuries
- Department of Agriculture inspectors without adequate training for recognizing hazardous conditions
“Blood, Sweat, and Fear,” a Human Rights Watch report, finds that the industries’ largely immigrant workforce “contend with conditions, vulnerabilities and abuses, which violate human rights,” including:
- Life-ending injuries
- Lack of compensation for injuries
- Discrimination against immigrant workers
- Illegal company actions to suppress workers’ rights to form unions
The reports call for immediate action by both employers and federal and state governments to rectify these conditions. “The GAO and Human Rights Watch reports have put the spotlight on these industries,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “These findings underscore the need for immediate concrete action to correct these long-standing problems to ensure the safety of workers who put dinner on the table for American families.”
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.
August 31, 2004
(Dakota City, NE) – Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 222 turned out today to vote their approval for the agreement covering 3,000 workers at the Tyson Dakota City plant.
The new UFCW contract brings an immediate 60 cent increase in the base wage for production and slaughter employees, with a $1.55 increase over the term of the contract, making the pay among the best in the beef industry. Maintenance workers will also receive substantial pay increases.
Highlights of the new agreement include:
Guaranteed wage increases totaling $1.55;
Establishes standard of a minimum 36 hours a week;
An additional week of vacation;
Improved health benefits, including adding vision, long-term disability, retiree coverage and a supplemental Medicare plan;
Increased retirement savings through additional employer 401(k) contributions and added stock options for employees.
Maintained overtime pay rates;
Increased funding for multi‑cultural fund that provides resources for programs such as safety training in Spanish and English-as-a-Second Language classes; and
Provides a clear attendance record for all employees (no disciplinary action based on past absences.)
“The solidarity and determination of UFCW members gave us the strength at the bargaining table to win a groundbreaking contract that will improve the living standards for thousands of Dakota City families. The entire community will benefit as workers have more money to spend in our local economy,” said Marv Harrington, President of UFCW Local 222. “Solidarity works and solidarity wins for everyone.”
November 18, 2003
Washington, DC – Veterans will protest tomorrow, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce building, 1615 H Street NW, Washington D.C. They will demonstrate their disgust over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to present Tyson Foods the “”Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.”” The award is meant to recognize unique support to National Guard and Reserve employees. The veterans, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 538, will speak out on Tyson Foods’ disgraceful conduct in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where 470 workers have been on strike since February 28, 2003.
The veterans say it is working families that pay the price to defend the country and John Tyson takes the credit, just as workers produce the Tyson products and John Tyson takes all the profit.
Tyson has targeted American living and working standards with demands to lower wage scales, gut health care and cut retirement benefits. The fight in Jefferson is part of company-wide assault designed to reduce living standards for workers across the country to the level of its lowest paid employees. Tyson Foods is the giant of the meat industry and is using its power to remake the industry according to its low wage, low benefit standards.
UFCW Local 538 President Mike Rice said in a statement read by the striking veterans at the demonstration in Washington, “”We are partriots. We believe in American values. We support our brothers and sisters in the National Guard and Reserve. Returning veterans have earned our thanks and our respect. In Jefferson, Tyson Foods shows its contempt for veterans and workers with demands for wages and benefits that cannot support a family. Is this what our National Guard and Reservists are fighting for?””
Members of UFCW Local 538 went on strike because their families can’t afford what Tyson demands: a cut of $2 an hour for all new employees; a freeze in wages for current workers; the elimination of pensions for all new employees; a freeze in pension benefits for current workers; a shift in health care costs to employees making coverage unaffordable for many families and unaffordable for almost all families of new employees. There have been no negotiations between Local 538 and Tyson Foods since February.
For more information: www.tysonfamiliesstandup.org
November 3, 2003
UFCW Local 655 Press Release
Go to the St. Louis Strike Page for past updates.
Ed Finkelstein, spokesperson
By a secret ballot vote of 4,174 to 945, members of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655 today accepted a 47-month contract proposal made by the three major local food chains, Schnucks, Dierbergs and Shop ‘n Save, Local 655 President Robert Kelley announced following the ballot counting this morning at America’s Center in downtown St. Louis. The vote immediately ends a 24- day strike, and subsequent lock-out, the union’s first-ever strike in the food industry.
“We are forever grateful to the public and the rest of the labor movement for their outstanding, if not heroic, support of our members during this very trying time for everyone,” Kelley said. “We realize that this was a hardship, not only for our members, but for the public as well. That our customers stood with us will never be forgotten by anyone in this union.”
The union’s negotiating committee did not make a recommendation as to whether or not to accept or reject the proposal, leaving it entirely up to the union’s membership.
“While our members were not totally satisfied with every aspect of this re-negotiated agreement, in the end our members felt it was acceptable because we achieved many of our major goals in what turned out to be an active give-and-take during negotiations, which is what compromise is all about,” Kelley said.
Kelley praised federal mediator Roger Hendrix for his efforts at bringing both sides back to the bargaining table. While the union had been willing to talk from the first day of the strike, the companies steadfastly held to a “no talk” strategy until the mediator intervened late last week. A great deal of community pressure had been building to get both sides back to the bargaining table.
The new contract covers more than 10,000 Local 655 members working at 97 stores throughout the St. Louis area: 57 Schnucks Markets, 19 Dierbergs Markets and 21 Shop ‘n Save stores.
Local 655 is the largest union in the State of Missouri. It represents over 15,000 members working in the 46 counties throughout the eastern half of Missouri. Local 655’s members are employed in food stores (its largest single division), health care, shoe manufacturing, packinghouses, and a number of miscellaneous plants. The union negotiates more than 100 contracts.
Stores in Southern Illinois are represented by UFCW Local 881 based in Chicago who will negotiate their own contracts later this year when their contracts expire.
October 15, 2003
OR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 11, 2003
Gephardt Health Care Stance Wins Support From
Nation’s Largest Private Sector Union
Davenport, Iowa—Today, the nation’s largest private sector union, and the largest union in Iowa, put the support of its 1.4 million members behind Dick Gephardt for President. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union endorsed the Gephardt campaign based on his plan to protect the employer-based health care system in the U.S.
The UFCW is at the forefront of the fight to protect health care at work for millions of working families. This weekend, UFCW is leading more than 70,000 supermarket employees on strike in Southern California to fight back against employer demands to destroy health benefits for workers and their families. In the meatpacking industry, UFCW members have been on strike since February 28, 2003, at Tyson Foods in Jefferson, Wisconsin, to stop Tyson from slashing health care for the 470 workers. In St. Louis, Missouri, 10,000 retail food workers are on the picket line fighting back against a similar employer demand that would threaten workers’ medical benefits.
“Most Americans get health care at work, and we want to keep it that way because the UFCW believes if you do the work, you’ve earned affordable health care,” said UFCW International Secretary-Treasurer Joe Hansen.
“If you have medical benefits at work, the Gephardt plan will make sure you keep them and that they stay affordable,” continued Hansen. “If you work, but don’t get benefits, the Gephardt plan will make sure you do.”
The endorsement was based on UFCW members’ views on working family issues in the context of the 2004 presidential election.
Research, conducted by the Wilson Center for Public Research, shows that UFCW members feel the government should take action to deal with:
· Rapidly rising health care costs (94%)
· 44 million Americans without health insurance (91%)
· Employer demands for cuts in medical benefits (87%)
In addition, 97% of those polled felt that a candidate’s position on protecting health care at work was important—75% said it was crucial—to making a decision about their choice for President in 2004.
These perceptions reflect the views of the cashier moms, a key demographic in next year’s election. UFCW membership mirrors the general workforce population in every category—gender, race, age, and marital status, making UFCW member views a snapshot of those held by millions of working people around the country.
The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers in the supermarket, meatpacking, poultry, food processing, health care, chemical, textile and garment, distillery, and other industries.
October 1, 2003
More than 3,000 workers at Hormel plants in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota approved a new four-year contract in a vote last night. Workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union turned out to vote their approval for the agreement.
The new Hormel contract increases the base wage to $14/hour with raises over the term of the agreement. Workers also secured improvements for their pension, vacation and premium pay for night shifts while maintaining quality health care coverage for workers and their families.
The federal mediation office facilitated the negotiations and aided both parties to reach this agreement.
The new contract covers members of UFCW Local Unions 6, 9, 22, 1996 and 73A. The workers produce such well known products as SPAM luncheon meat and Dinty Moore beef stew.
August 4, 2003
On Sunday, January 5, 2003, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Local 392 is stepping up its pressure on Domino Sugar. Striking workers from the Domino plant in Baltimore, Maryland are forming “”Truth Squads,”” named for their commitment to speak the truth to consumers, workers, and the community about Domino’s attempts to undermine workers’ family health care and retirement security.
Workers will hold a press briefing at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 5th at UFCW Sugar Workers Local 392 at 1425 Woodall Street in Baltimore, MD.
Two Truth Squads of five workers will travel to New York and Florida over the next few weeks to reach out to workers at other American Sugar, parent company to Domino, facilities about the company’s campaign to destroy worker benefits in Baltimore.