News and Updates
Packing and Processing
May 8, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC –The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union and the Food Manufacturers Immigration Coalition (FMIC) yesterday announced their partnership on comprehensive immigration reform in a letter sent to the Senate “Gang of Eight,” praising them for their efforts on S. 744. The labor-business coalition is also seeking improvements to the Senate bill in the areas of visa allocation and employment verification.
“We write in support of the comprehensive immigration reform process and thank you for your critical and constructive efforts in support of this legislation,” says the letter signed by UFCW International President Joe Hansen and Barry Carpenter of FMIC.
The labor-business coalition said they support the Senate bill’s provisions to establish a roadmap to citizenship, protect family based immigration, promote smart, effective border enforcement, implement a workable, transparent employment verification system, and create an occupational visa for non-seasonal, permanent positions. However, Hansen and Carpenter are also calling for commonsense improvements to S. 744 in the areas of visa allocation and employment verification.
The labor-business coalition asked for more flexibility when it comes to employment verification. “Allowing employers to use Self-Check in a uniform, nondiscriminatory fashion will create greater transparency for new employees, and will enable employers to ensure that their new hires are not circumventing E-Verify,” the letter reads.
Moreover, the letter outlined: “If an employer takes the extra step of deterring identity theft through the uniform use of Self-Check, then the employer should be presumed to have acted in ‘good faith’ with respect to the E-Verify confirmations it receives.”
Finally, the labor-business coalition requested that Senators direct the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to create regulations that would provide specific rules of the road “describing a course of conduct…that satisfies employment verification requirements and concurrently avoids anti-discrimination liability.” “If an employer follows these regulations, then the employer is presumed to have complied with both the verification and anti-discrimination rules,” the letter reads.
The labor-business coalition said they look forward to working with the Senate to improve S.744 and seeing comprehensive immigration reform become the law of the land.
March 7, 2013
CHICAGO, ILL.— Joe Hansen, International President of the UFCW, today delivered the following statement when joining the AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, the Chicago Federation of Labor, students, Latino leaders and workers at a major Chicago rally for urgent federal action for comprehensive immigration reform.
President Hansen’s statement follows:
“Now is the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform – not next year or the year after but right now. We can no longer accept an immigration system that breaks up families, harasses workers, and deports people who are simply trying to achieve the American Dream. We can no longer be a nation that turns away aspiring citizens.
“For centuries, immigrants have come to America’s shores with the dream of making a better life for themselves and their families — from Ellis Island to the Florida Keys to the Rio Grande. But for today’s immigrants, this dream has become a nightmare. Young adults who were brought here as children and have grown up in America—the Dreamers—still do not have a clear path to citizenship. Workers face discrimination, abuse, retaliation, and sometimes worse. Families are unable to reunite.
“Our immigration system is obviously broken. But worse than that, it flies in the face of our values as a nation. So we must reform it. No one is better to lead that reform than the labor movement. It is the workers we represent who are most victimized by our current immigration system.
“For the UFCW, this issue hits close to home. We remember the ICE raids in 2006 where our members were treated like criminals. We remember hearing the stories of workers terrorized just for doing their jobs.
“Other unions have suffered similar experiences, as Wild West immigration enforcement has become the rule instead of the exception. So as a movement, we are as united as ever to make comprehensive immigration reform the law of the land.
“The UFCW is joining our allies in the labor movement and in our communities to mobilize our members in support immigration reform that includes:
- A road map to citizenship for those already here
- An effective mechanism for determining employment eligibility
- Smart and humane border enforcement
- Streamlined family reunification
- A fair process for allocating employment based visas
“But most of all, we want an immigration system that gives immigrants hope, not fear. We want to be a nation that builds dreams, not border fences. We want the families of immigrants to be united, not divided. We want immigrant workers to have rights, not wrongs.
“America has always prided itself on being a country where anyone who is willing to work hard and pursue their dreams can find success. We must live up to that ideal. We must pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
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, 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, http://www.ufcw.org/, or join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/ufcwinternational and www.twitter.com/UFCW
January 8, 2013
Pinnacle Foods Workers in Fort Madison Authorize Strike to Protest Company’s Plan to Eliminate Pensions
FORT MADISON, IOWA – Over 400 Pinnacle Foods Workers in Fort Madison who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) voted on Sunday, January 6 to authorize a strike to protest the company’s plan to eliminate their pension plan. The Pinnacle Foods plant in Fort Madison manufactures canned food products, including Vienna sausages, Armour brand corned beef hash, beef stew and chili.
“In a volatile financial environment, Pinnacle Foods workers in Fort Madison are simply trying to protect middle class jobs and their retirement benefits after working hard to make their company profitable,” said UFCW Local 617 President Darin Boatman. “I hope this strike vote sends a strong message to the company and moves the negotiation process to a successful conclusion.”
Defined benefit pension plans are the most secure retirement system for workers. While many workers are forced to rely on less secure investments, like 401 (k) plans, or have no retirement at all, many UFCW members have retirement security through their pension benefits that provide for a monthly payment for their lifetime after they retire.
Pinnacle Foods, Inc. is backed by the Blackstone Group L.P., a private equity firm, and posted net sales of $2.5 billion in the 2011 fiscal year.
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, 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, http://www.ufcw.org/, or join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/ufcwinternational and https://twitter.com/UFCW
October 22, 2012
This Halloween, make sure you are ready with a bowl full of union-made treats to give to the little goblins and ghosts who come to your door! See the handy list of union-made candy and goodies below, provided by Union Plus. These treats come from companies that have good jobs and that treat their employees well. The products are made by UFCW members, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), and the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). All union made!
|Hershey Products||Necco (New England Confectionery Company)|
|Hershey Syrups||Mary Jane Peanut Butter Chews|
|Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar*||NECCO Wafers/Necco Wafer Smoothies|
|Hershey Milk with Almond Bars||Sky Bar|
|Hershey Special Dark Bars||Clark Bar|
|Hershey Nuggets||Canada Mints|
|Hershey Kissables||Thin Mints|
|Kit Kat Bars||NECCO Assorted Junior Wafers|
|Carmello Bar||Clark Junior Laydown Bag|
|Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar||Mary Jane Laydown Bag|
|Cadbury Roast Almond Bar||Haviland|
|Cadbury Royal Dark Bar||Mallow Cups|
|Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar||Necco Peanut Butter Kisses|
|Hershey Symphony Bar with Toffee||Ghiradelli Chocolates|
|All filled & non filled squares|
|Just Born||non pariels|
|Mike & Ike|
|Hot Tamales||Gimbals Fine Candies|
|Jelly Beans||Cherry Hearts|
|Jelly Belly’s Candy Company
|Jelly Bellies – also made in a non-union plants in Chicago/Taiwan||Nestle|
|Chocolate Dutch Mints||Nestle Treasures|
|Chocolate Temptations||Laffy Taffy|
|dimples||Kathryn Beich specialty candy|
|Goelitz Confections||Baby Ruth*|
|Pet Rat||Pearson’s Nips|
|Pet Tarantula||Famous Old Time Candies (gourmet chocolates)|
|Sweet Temptations||Nestle Crunch Butterfinger Crisp|
|Licorice||Pearson’s Candy Co.|
|Malted Milk Balls||Salted Nut Roll|
|Chocolate Coated Nuts, and Sours||Nut Goodie|
|Sunkist Fruit Gel Slices||Mint Patties|
|Black & Red Vines||Anabelles Candy Company|
|Strawberry Ropes||Boston Baked Beans|
|Sconza Candies||Rocky Road|
|Chocolate Covered Cherries||Look|
|Kraft||Yogurt Nuts & Fruit|
|Lays Potato Chips||Vanilla Wafers|
|Chips Ahoy!||Jax Cheese Curls|
|Oreos||Keystone Snacks Party Mix|
|Nutter Butter||Cheese Curls|
|Vanilla Wafers||Corn Chips|
October 16, 2012
The rugged apparel brand Carharrt has newly released a “Made in America Line”. This exciting news is part of a national movement to bring manufacturing, especially textiles, back to the USA. Currently, less than 2% of the clothing available for purchase in our country is actually made here.
A video released by Carharrt talks about the new line of products made in America, in which all all items are designed in Michigan and produced in their Tennessee and Kentucky plants, but also highlights the fact that, in the 123 years since Carharrt began, they have never stopped manufacturing here. Employees in the video note that one of the company’s mottos is “for the American worker” which it exemplifies by providing good jobs, including over 900 jobs to UFCW members. The overall idea expressed in the short film is that America was not made by men in suits behind a desk, but workers getting down and dirty to build our country.
Watch the video below or by clicking here.
September 10, 2012
$32 million Settlement Ends 12-year Legal Battle to Get Paid for Hours Worked
(Washington, D.C.) – After a 12 year legal struggle, more than 12,000 Tyson poultry workers in 41 plants in 12 states will receive their payments from the largest settlement against a major poultry company at $32 million. Thanks to the tenacity and dedication of thousands of workers from across the country and the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, workers involved in the suit will receive payments averaging $1,200 in lost wages.
The success of the Tyson’s settlement for poultry workers is just one in a series of actions where workers continue to fight and take a stand for workers’ rights in poultry and meatpacking plants around the country. Similar cases have been brought and resolved against Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride plants as well. The UFCW continues to work to make sure that every meatpacking and poultry worker is paid honestly and fairly for the work they do. A suit that was filed in 1999 was the first action of its kind to force poultry companies to obey the nation’s basic wage and hour laws.
“This lawsuit and the new pay practices in the meatpacking and poultry industry are just one way union workers raise standards for every worker in their industry,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “While this settlement is long overdue, our efforts have ensured that thousands of workers have been paid correctly for years now.”
The affected Tyson poultry employees work at plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
These payments will inject much-needed money into America’s rural economy and reward a hard-working and dedicated group of poultry workers.
The lawsuit charged Tyson with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and cheating their poultry plant employees out of wages by failing to pay workers for the time they spend putting on and taking off protective gear they wear to keep the food they process safe and for their own protection. The poultry company also violated the basic wage and hour laws by failing to provide workers with their required break time.
“Every American deserves to get paid for the work they do,” Hansen continued. “We’re changing the way meat and poultry industries do business by ensuring that workers are paid for all of their time on the job.”
Workers, the UFCW, and activists started to take collective action for workers’ rights to fair wages and treatment at the workplace in 1999. Between 1999 and 2001, they took their action on the road and spread the word of their mission through a bus tour and leafleting other Tyson workers. In that brief time, almost 4,000 workers signed up to join. The federal lawsuit developed following a U.S. Department of Labor survey that found over 60 percent of the nation’s poultry companies were in violation of basic wage and hour laws.
The collective case representing the workers from several plants from across the country went through several judges until a judge in November 2006 declared that the case under the different plants could not be presented as a singular case and dismissed it. The workers and their supporters continued their legal action despite the large setback and filed their cases on a plant-by-plant basis. More than 17,000 workers start signing up to join the suit under the new case conditions.
In September 2011, the workers sent a settlement agreement to the court, which the court later approved. After almost 12 years, workers receive notice in January 2012 that they will finally be receiving their settlement payments.
In order to qualify for the settlement, current workers must have signed up to be part of the lawsuit back in 2008 and former employees were required to send back the W-4 form included with the payment notice, so that tax withholdings could be properly calculated.
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, 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, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.
April 20, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), released the following statement regarding the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to extend the comment period on its proposed poultry inspection rule.
“The UFCW applauds Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to extend the comment period on USDA’s proposed poultry inspection rule in order to further study its impact on worker safety. We have said all along that this rule should be halted until it is proven that increased line speeds are safe for workers. The UFCW will use this 30-day extension to work directly with USDA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Obama Administration to determine a course of action to study the probable effects of increased line speeds on worker health and safety. Today is a victory for all poultry workers who can rest assured that their safety on the job is being taken seriously.”
April 11, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today announced its opposition to a Big Poultry-driven inspection process being considered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The proposed rule, which would increase the speed that birds are processed from 70-91 a minute to a maximum of 175 a minute, could put workers at poultry plants in increased danger.
“Increased line speeds means increased bottom lines for Big Poultry,” said Mark Laurtisen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “For workers, it means more danger on the job.”
By increasing line speed so dramatically, workers will be at heightened risk of repetitive motion related injuries. In fact, a recent study by Wake Forest University showed that 59 percent of poultry workers had definite or possible carpal tunnel syndrome at current line speeds. Despite these alarming statistics, no comprehensive effort has been made to determine the impact this proposed system will have on the health and safety of workers.
“Quite frankly, it is no surprise that Big Poultry wants to rush this new system into operation,” Lauritsen said. “That’s why USDA—as the responsible regulator—must slow this process down until it can guarantee that workers are protected.”
The UFCW is calling on USDA to halt this rule until the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts comprehensive studies on the impact it would have on the health and safety of workers in poultry plants. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must then use that information to develop a standard that would adequately protect workers.
Many UFCW members have already submitted their opposition to USDA in advance of the April 26 comment deadline. The UFCW will continue its push for worker safety into the summer and beyond.
January 10, 2012
Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published in 1906, sparking a public outcry around safety issues in the meatpacking industry. That’s how long the industry has been infamous for its hazardous working conditions.
The good news is, according to new reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workplace safety in the meatpacking industry is steadily improving, with injury and illness rates for full-time workers on the decline.
The bad news is, in comparison to other industrial and manufacturing sectors, meatpacking and poultry processing are still among the most dangerous. Food manufacturing workers are twice as likely to experience injuries and illnesses than industrial and manufacturing workers as a whole. The meatpacking industry also ranks high for severe injury and illness cases – meaning those that cause workers to miss days at work or those that necessitate restricted work activities or even job transfers. Nationally, the poultry industry has the fifth-highest rate of worker illness across all industries.
Though progress has been made on worker safety in the meatpacking and poultry industries, we must understand what the numbers really mean, and make sure we are addressing issues that really make a difference in improving safety and health in these industries.
Some in the meat industry, like the trade association (read: lobbying outfit) American Meat Institute, are quick to highlight improvement using data that does not reflect the most dangerous jobs in the industry. That’s a slippery slope – and one that risks obscuring the truth on safety for the sake of profit-margin. The truth is, there is some doubt about the accuracy of the BLS numbers themselves. Studies conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conclude that both BLS and OSHA miss from 20 percent to as much as 50 percent of the nation’s workplace injuries. A number of factors can cause this kind of under-reporting: workers sometimes don’t report injuries because of fears surrounding their immigration status and retaliation by their employers; employers are motivated to under-count injuries in order to win safety awards, and managers are incentivized by low-injury bonuses; and finally, some employers have instituted programs requiring workers who report injuries or accidents to undergo drug testing – adding additional risk to reporting.
For all these reasons, we must not let a modest increase in overall workplace safety lull us into a false sense of security when it comes to the meatpacking and poultry processing industries. We must continue to strive for better and safer workplaces for all meatpacking and poultry processing workers – and for collective bargaining agreements as well as stronger regulations that make it safe for all workers to report hazards and injuries.
November 7, 2011
(Dodge City, Kan.) – A majority of the 2,500 workers at National Beef’s Dodge City, Kansas beef slaughter and processing facility voted to join UFCW District Local 2, in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, on Thursday and Friday, November 3 and 4, 2011.
The workers’ campaign began when several National Beef workers contacted the UFCW seeking a union voice on the job. At that time, National Beef and the UFCW agreed on a fair and balanced process that allowed employees to vote on whether or not they wanted union representation. UFCW represents the workers at a neighboring Cargill beef slaughter and processing plant in Dodge City.
“Helping to organize my co-workers into a union was a life changing journey,” said Rebecca McGary, a worker in the fabrication department at National Beef.
“We know that workers at Cargill, just down the street from National Beef, have had a contract with Local 2 for many years – and that means they have always had a say in their wages, benefits and working conditions,” said Ramon Prieto who works on the kill floor at National Beef and who took a leading role in organizing his co-workers. “That’s why I voted to join the UFCW, so that we all will have a chance to negotiate benefits and salaries, job security, and a better life for our families.”
The National Beef workers are the latest in a series of meatpacking workers to join the UFCW at locations across the country. On October 19, approximately 1,000 workers at a JBS beef kill facility in Plainwell, Michigan joined UFCW Local 951. On October 25, 125 workers at a Farmland Foods facility in Carroll, Iowa joined UFCW Local 440. And in late September, 300 workers at Nebraska Prime in Hastings, Nebraska joined UFCW Local 293.