News and Updates
Packing and Processing
September 12, 2005
Washington – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and its members continue to help Katrina victims and their families.
UFCW members affected are calling the UFCW Katrina Relief Fund hot line at (866) 820-6141.
So far, UFCW raised or received pledges nearing $250,000 for hurricane victims from generous workers and organizations. UFCW itself has contributed $100,000, and one of its constituency groups – United Latinos of UFCW – contributed another $50,000. Union representatives and volunteers are helping connect workers with their families. They are helping provide groceries and shelter for victims in several states. They are also helping workers to find other types of assistance, as well as to help people relocate and find new jobs.
UFCW has many affected members. In Louisiana alone, almost half of UFCW’s 5,300 members lived in the most affected areas. UFCW volunteers are helping everybody, but concentrating on finding and helping these 2,500 members.
The UFCW members who experienced the worse impact from the hurricane are those employed by Domino Sugar Co. in Chalmette, LA, where hundreds were trapped inside the factory by flood waters for nearly one week, and at least 40 have lost their homes and possessions. Domino Sugar Company has agreed to continue paying wages and benefits for these workers while the plant is shut down.
Other UFCW members affected by the hurricane include those working at poultry processor Sanderson Farms, at an oil refinery, at barber shops, and at a Sara Lee plant in Mississippi.
“People are being grateful for the help and some are saying that no one was helping them until UFCW’s yellow t-shirts showed up,” said UFCW Region 5 International Vice President Alvin Vincent. “For the most part, victims are also upset at the federal government for not fixing the levees outside New Orleans and for lack of food.”
UFCW International President Joe Hansen oversaw the creation of the relief fund last Saturday, Sept. 3, and urged workers to contribute to it. “Unlike a strike situation, where hardship develops over time, many of our members barely escaped Katrina’s destruction with nothing but the clothes on their backs.”
UFCW Local 455 purchased a truckload full of groceries from Associated Grocers Warehouse and with the help of several UFCW leaders and members, distributed the food to Sanderson Farms’ workers, who had been affected by the storm.
UFCW Region 5’s Al Vincent: “”The Hotline traffic is starting to pick up and the word of mouth member-to-member system, while slow, has helped us find some families in great need.”” He added, “Also, we have started to go to the major staging areas (Houston, Dallas) to see if we can post ‘UFCW Member Relief’ information throughout the arenas.”
“”Most victims are staying in homes in groups ranging from five to 24 people,” said Vincent. “In one case, there is a family of 10 staying at a campground in Minden, Louisiana. In all cases, reunited families are reluctant to be slip apart.”
In addition to the UFCW, other unions of the recently formed Change to Win Coalition have implemented Katrina-victim relief programs of their own and in collaboration with other unions.
July 24, 2005
Seven hundred and fifty workers at two Koch’s Foods poultry processing units in Morristown, Tennessee have filed a petition for a union election to be conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Workers at the Morristown plant approached the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1995, seeking a voice on the job. Workers have been organizing at the plant for the past month. A majority of workers at the two units have signed UFCW union authorization cards.
“UFCW currently represents Koch’s Foods workers at two plants in Mississippi,” said George J. Saleeby, International Vice President and Director of UFCW Region 3. “Koch’s workers in the Morton and Forest plants are able to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions. The workers in Morristown came to us because they also want a voice on the job.””
The U.S. government requires workers and the union of their choice to have at least 30% of their co-workers sign union authorization cards in order to file for a NLRB election. During an election, eligible workers at the location vote for or against the petitioning union. When a union is voted in by 50% plus one person, both the company and union sit down to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract for the workers and to improve workplace conditions.
May 18, 2005
Omaha, Neb-Community leaders and activists from Omaha are urging Nebraska Beef to live up to community standards and guarantee its workers their democratic right to vote for union representation without coercion or intimidation.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 271, Omaha Together One Community (OTOC), members of the clergy, and elected officials are calling on Nebraska Beef, one of the largest beef-kill operations in the country, to drop its systematic and illegal anti-worker tactics and allow workers to participate in an upcoming union election without fears of reprisals. The Community leaders are calling for Nebraska beef to allow fair-minded, community monitors to bear witness in the run up to the voting and to ensure that the company lets the election take place in an environment free from coercion and intimidation.
On April 6, 2005, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered a new election at Nebraska Beef after citing the company for violating workers’ rights in an August 2001 election, after UFCW had filed charges on behalf of the workers. The NLRB upheld a hearing officer’s findings that the company used a broad range of intimidation tactics to deny workers a voice on the job in the 2001 election, including:
Illegal interrogation of employees concerning their union sympathies;
Illegal threats of job and benefit loss if workers selected a union as their collective bargaining representative; and
Illegal threats to change working conditions if they selected the union.
Deliberately providing an inaccurate eligible vote list, which the hearing officer ruled was a “”bad faith effort to impede the union’s access to voters.
The mostly Latino workforce has endured continued mistreatment at the hands of company managers. Jose Guardado a worker at Nebraska Beef for more than seven years and union supporter said, “”I was fired for standing up for a voice at work. They made up some excuses, but I know it was because of my union activism. I would expect this to happen in El Salvador, but I was hoping workers had grater liberties in America.”” Guardado was an observer in the 2001 election and rendered testimony at the NLRB hearings. “”Only if the company allows the community to be witness of how they treat the workers we can hope for things to be different,”” Jose added.
UFCW Local 271 successfully fought on behalf of seven workers who had been fired in retaliation for standing up to management and demanding safer working conditions. In addition, the company has had to pay back wages in settlement charges filed by UFCW Local 271 for illegally firing three employees who protested unsafe working conditions.
April 22, 2005
Omaha, Nebraska — Respondiendo a cargos que la Union de Trabajadores Comerciales y de Alimentos (UFCW) presentó a nombre de trabajadores, la Junta Nacional de Relaciones del Trabajo (NLRB) ordenó una nueva elección en la planta Nebraska Beef en Omaha, Neb., al sancionar a la compañía por violar los derechos de sus trabajadores en las elecciones de Agosto del 2001. La NLRB confirmo las conclusiones y recomendaciones de un oficial de audiencias de desechar las elecciones del 2001, en las cuales la compañía uso una amplia gama de tácticas de intimidación para negar a los trabajadores una voz en el trabajo.
Nebraska Beef, una de las plantas empacadoras de carne de res en el país, fue sancionada por violaciones que incluyen:
Interrogación ilegal de empleados acerca de sus simpatías hacia la Union;
Amenazas ilegales de perdida de empleos o beneficios si los trabajadores seleccionaban una Union como su representante para negociaciones colectivas; y
Amenazas ilegales de cambiar las condiciones de trabajo si seleccionaban una Union.
La compañía emplea aproximadamente 1,100 trabajadores, en su mayoría latinos, que matan y procesan 2,400 reses al día y generan cerca de $2.7 millones en ganancias al día.
La opinión de la NLRB es solo la última de una serie de acciones de agencias federales contra Nebraska Beef por violaciones a la ley en años recientes. El Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos retiro de la planta temporalmente al personal del Servicio de Inspección y Seguridad de Alimentos en el 2003 debido a las violaciones a la seguridad de los alimentos por parte de la compañía. El Servicio de Inmigración y Naturalización de los Estados Unidos allanó la planta en 2000 y detuvo a más de 200 trabajadores indocumentados y encausó a varios administradores de nivel medio.
“”Esta decisión es una victoria para los trabajadores de Nebraska Beef, quienes tuvieron que esperar cuatro años antes de que se hiciera justicia por la conducta escandalosamente ilegal de la compañía,”” declaró Donna MacDonald, presidenta del Local 271 en Omaha. “”Esperamos que la comunidad entera de testimonio de lo que ocurre en la planta desde ahora y hasta que se lleve acabo la elección, y que se haga responsable a Nebraska Beef de respetar los valores de la comunidad.””
La UFCW Local 271 representa aproximadamente 1,000 trabajadores empacadores de carne en Omaha. La Union Internacional UFCW representa aproximadamente 250,000 miembros en la industria de empacadoras de carne y procesamiento de alimentos.
April 22, 2005
Omaha, Nebraska-The National Labor Relations Board ordered a new election at Nebraska Beef in Omaha, Neb., after citing the company for violating workers’ rights in an August 2001 election, after the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) had filed charges on behalf of the workers. The Board ordered the election to take place on May 26. The NLRB upheld a hearing officer’s findings and recommendation to set aside the 2001 election where the company used a broad range of intimidation tactics to deny workers a voice on the job. The workers had tried to organize with the UFCW Local Union 271.
Nebraska Beef, one of the country’s largest meatpacking plants, was cited for violations that included:
Illegal interrogation of employees concerning their union sympathies;
Illegal threats of job losses or loss of benefits if workers selected a union as their collective bargaining representative; and
Illegal threats to change working conditions if they selected the union.
The company employs approximately 1,100 mostly Latino workers who slaughter and process 2,400 cattle a day at the plant.
The NLRB ruling is just the latest in a series of actions, over the last few years, directed at Nebraska Beef by federal agencies for breaking the law. The U.S. Department of Agriculture temporarily removed federal Food Safety and Inspection Service personnel from the plant in 2003 due to the company’s food safety violations. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service raided the plant in 2000, detaining more than 200 undocumented workers and indicted several mid-level company managers.
“”This ruling represents a victory for the workers at Nebraska Beef, who have had to wait four years before justice was done about the outrageously illegal behavior of the company,”” said Donna McDonald president of Local 271 in Omaha. “”We hope the entire community will bear witness to what goes on in the plant from now until the election is held, and hold Nebraska Beef accountable if they don’t live up to community values.””
UFCW Local 271 represents nearly 1,000 meatpacking workers in Omaha. The UFCW International Union represents approximately 250,000 members in the meatpacking and food processing industry.
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.”