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    Packing and Processing

September 27, 2011

Nebraska Prime Group Workers Say Union Yes with UFCW Local 293

Two hundred and sixty conventional and kosher beef slaughter workers at Nebraska Prime Group in Hastings, Neb., have exercised their right to join UFCW Local 293. Nebraska Prime Group recognized the workers’ choice for a real voice on the job after an overwhelming majority of workers at the beef processing plant signed cards to show their desire for UFCW representation.
“Our victory is important for me and my family,” said David Pettit, a plant employee and father of three children. “We can work for better benefi ts at my plant and that means I can take better care of my three kids and cover them on my insurance. I’m so glad that Nebraska Prime let us choose a card check process. It speaks a lot for their character and it makes me have more respect for where I work.”
Key issues for bargaining will include Sunday work due to the kosher work schedule, benefits and wages.

September 19, 2011

Workers Settle Lawsuit With Tyson Foods

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 17,000 Tyson poultry workers in 41 plants in 12 states settled a $32 million dollar lawsuit in a 12-year struggle to get paid for work already performed. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), as the leading union for meatpacking and food processing workers, initiated the suit against Tyson and played a critical role in obtaining justice for Tyson poultry workers and thousands of UFCW members affected by the suit. On Thursday, the United States District Court in Georgia approved the settlement.

“Every American deserves to get paid for the work they do,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “We’re changing the way meatpackers do business and making them pay thousands of workers correctly.”

The lawsuit charged Tyson with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Meatpacking and food processing workers wear specialized protective gear while they work to protect both themselves and the food we eat. Before these UFCW-initiated lawsuits began, meatpacking companies didn’t pay workers for time spent taking the gear on and off, adding up to thousands of dollars of lost pay over years of work.

“We’ve already made a change in the way meatpackers pay their workers,” said Hansen. “While this settlement is long overdue, our efforts have ensured that thousands of workers have been paid correctly for years now.”

The lawsuit will result in payments, averaging around $1,000 per worker, to current and former Tyson workers across the country. These payments will inject much-needed money into America’s rural economy and reward a hard-working and dedicated group of poultry workers. The affected Tyson poultry workers work at plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

This lawsuit and the new pay practices in the meatpacking industry are just one way union workers raise standards for every worker in their industry, regardless of their union status.

September 15, 2011

New Four-Year Contract for UFCW Members at Hormel Preserves Past Gains, Sets New Standards for Workers in Meatpacking and Food Processing Industries

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union who work at Hormel Foods Corporation in five states, including Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia, voted this past Tuesday to accept a new four-year contract with the company.

The new collective bargaining agreement provides for, among many other significant gains, a substantial base wage increase of $1.50 over the term of the agreement, significant improvements in health care including 100 percent coverage for transplants and an increased allowance for hearing aids, improved retirement security including a 401(k) match increase from $300 to $500 and a pension increase to $27.

“The strong contract that we secured with Hormel is a pretty big deal,” said Dick Schuster, who has worked at the company’s Fremont, Neb. facility for the past 38 years. “At a time when pensions are under attack nationwide, we were able to bargain for significant improvements to our retirement security. Our contract is a testament to why sticking together and speaking with one voice benefits all workers.”

“Our communities need good jobs with pay and benefits that can support a family,” said Vincent Perry, a four-year veteran at the Hormel plant in Algona, Iowa. “Good union contracts like ours help build more stable and secure communities.”

Nationwide, the UFCW represents 8,000 Hormel workers. The current agreement covers about 4,000 workers at the company’s facilities in Austin, Minn.; Algona, Iowa; Fremont, Neb.; Beloit, Wis.; and Atlanta, Ga.

September 15, 2011

UFCW MEMBERS AT HORMEL RATIFY NEW CONTRACT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union who work at Hormel Foods Corporation in five states, including Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia, voted this past Tuesday to accept a new four-year contract with the company.

The new collective bargaining agreement provides for, among many other significant gains, a substantial base wage increase of $1.50 over the term of the agreement, significant improvements in health care including 100 percent coverage for transplants and an increased allowance for hearing aids, improved retirement security including a 401(k) match increase from $300 to $500 and a pension increase to $27.

“The strong contract that we secured with Hormel is a pretty big deal,” said Dick Schuster, who has worked at the company’s Fremont, Neb. facility for the past 38 years. “At a time when pensions are under attack nationwide, we were able to bargain for significant improvements to our retirement security. Our contract is a testament to why sticking together and speaking with one voice benefits all workers.”

“Our communities need good jobs with pay and benefits that can support a family,” said Vincent Perry, a four-year veteran at the Hormel plant in Algona, Iowa. “Good union contracts like ours help build more stable and secure communities.”

Nationwide, the UFCW represents 8,000 Hormel workers. The current agreement covers about 4,000 workers at the company’s facilities in Austin, Minn.; Algona, Iowa; Fremont, Neb.; Beloit, Wis.; and Atlanta, Ga.

 

September 8, 2011

UFCW Reaches Agreement to Ensure Cargill Workers Get Paid What They’ve Earned

Cargill has settled a multi-plant lawsuit and grievances covering all production workers at represented facilities across the country.

The settlement resolves years of efforts by the UFCW and Locals 2, 230, 293, 431 and 540 to ensure that UFCW members who work at Cargill are fully and fairly compensated for their work.

In the food processing and packing industry, workers are required to wear protective equipment and gear to ensure their safety and the safety of the food we eat. Many large employers, like Cargill, tried to avoid paying workers for the time it takes for them to put on and take off that gear. That time, called “donning and doffing,” has been the focus of UFCW efforts to ensure that meatpacking and poultry workers are paid for all their work.

UFCW locals have worked together to make sure that all workers in the industry get paid for donning and doffing, and now Cargill workers will see their long-overdue wages. All the locals involved will be working to ensure these Cargill workers receive the compensation they are owed. Additionally, a similar suit, covering tens of thousands of poultry workers who work for Tyson Foods, is also nearing a settlement. Keep checking this space to find out more soon!

July 27, 2011

Cargill Workers in Dodge City Say New Union Contract is Already Making a Difference in Their Lives

Cargill workers and UFCW Local 2 Members Carmen Lopez, Julian Estrada, Irene Salinas, and Clemente Torres

Cargill workers and members of UFCW Local 2 in Dodge City, Kansas have begun working under their newly ratified contract. Workers were able to negotiate some creative new policies that are already making a real difference in their family lives – and in their paychecks.

Wage increases total $1.60 per hour over the next four years, including an immediate 55 cents per hour raise. Workers also negotiated job upgrades for more than 300 workers. For those workers, the contract means an additional and immediate raise of anywhere from 55 cents to $1.20 per hour. The new contract has four ways workers can earn overtime. In addition to earning time and a half after 40 hours per week, overtime is also paid after 8 hours a day, and after six consecutive work days. If there’s a holiday during the week, Saturdays are counted as overtime. A new leave of absence policy guarantees workers’ jobs if they need to leave for an extended period of time because of a family emergency like a child’s or parent’s illness. Workers can take up to a year and a half off and return to the job (or similar job) and rate of pay they were earning beforehand.

The contract maintains affordable family health benefits, and for about a third of the workers, depending on the type of plan, premiums went down between $8 and $12 per week.  But, now in the case of a serious illness where someone might miss several days of work at a time, that worker is eligible for sick benefits of up to $300 per week without any extra cost—a real safety net for single parents, or for families struggling to get by in this economy.

“It is only because we are united in our union that we were able to negotiate these pay and benefit improvements,” says Clemente Torres a member of UFCW Local 2.

“Our new contract gives peace of mind,” says Carmen Lopez, another UFCW Local 2 member and Cargill worker. “Dodge City is a small place, and with the economy the way it is, people are lucky to have a union job here. Once you get it, you really want to keep it. Because of the union contract, I know if I get very sick, my family can still get by, and the job will be there. Sometimes in your life, you have an emergency where you have to focus on something else – maybe your parents’ health or you have some kind of other emergency. With this contract, God forbid, if an emergency happens, you don’t have to pick between your job and your family. I can focus on my family and take the time I need, knowing I can count on my job being there when I’m ready.”

July 19, 2011

Statement by UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill on Proposed NLRB Rule to Modernize Union Election Process

Washington, D.C. –  The following remarks were delivered by UFCW Executive Vice President and Organizing Director Pat O’Neill, who testified at the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) public meeting on July 19, 2011 regarding the NLRB’s proposed rule changes to the union election process:

“American workers are struggling to make ends meet during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Workers in the grocery, retail, meatpacking and food processing industries are no exception.  Union contracts offer the best opportunity for stable, middle class jobs. While the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the fundamental right to join a union and achieve the benefits of collective bargaining, the NLRB’s current rules are seriously outdated, needlessly complex, and foster frivolous litigation.  The current process creates barriers to workers exercising their fundamental right to form a union. It’s time to return the process to its original intent – which is to give workers a clear path to making the choice when they want collective bargaining.

“We view the proposed election rule changes as a modest but important first step toward modernizing and streamlining an outmoded process that encourages unnecessary, time-consuming and wasteful litigation.

“The proposal to defer resolution of most voter eligibility issues until after the election, including all bargaining unit disputes affecting less than 20 percent of the unit, would make the current process more efficient and worker-friendly. Just ask the employees of Home Market Foods in Norwood, Mass., who sought representation by UFCW Local 1445. Workers petitioned for an election in a unit of all production, maintenance, shipping, receiving and housekeeping employees, including 11 quality assurance (Q.A.) technicians but excluding nine Q.A. technologists, who the technicians consider to be their supervisors. However, the company argued that none of the Q.A. workers should be in the unit – or if they were included, that the technologists were not supervisors and should vote in the election.  By disputing the Q.A. workers’ status, the company delayed the election until 79 days after the petition was filed.  And during this delay, management used the time to further threaten workers with job loss and plant closure if they won in the election. The workers lost the election 104-114. If the Q.A. employees’ eligibility to vote had been deferred until after the election, the election would have taken place before the employer’s scare tactics had their intended effect. In that case, the workers would have won the election by a big enough margin that their votes would not have affected the outcome.

“This is exactly why the proposed changes are needed.  Workers go to work to earn a living, not to get engaged in a protracted lawyer-driven tug of war with their employer. When workers want to organize a union, they want to do it immediately.

“The proposed rule changes will not interfere with employers’ free speech rights. Workers know their employers’ views on unionization.  And if workers are unclear about their employers’ position, it doesn’t take long for them to find out.  Nor will this rule change lead to “ambush” elections, as claimed by employer-funded lawyers.  Almost all union election campaigns are well underway and well known to employers long before an election petition is filed. In virtually all instances, employers have ample time to communicate with their workers.

“This fact is supported by a recent study by Professors Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell and Dorian Warren of Columbia, both of whom will address this panel later today.  Their research shows that “Thirty-one percent of serious [unfair labor practice] violations occurred 30 days before the petition was filed and 47 percent of all serious allegations occurred before the petition was filed.” The data support their conclusion that employer “opposition starts long before the filing of the petition.”  UFCW organizers have long known and experienced this first-hand many times.

“The UFCW is optimistic that the proposed rule changes will begin to restore the NLRB election process back to what it was intended to do – give workers a clear process to organizing a union.  We are, however, concerned about the possible elimination of the blocking charge policy.  Strong employer opposition to union organizing campaigns is the rule rather than the exception. Workers and their unions, when faced with serious employer unfair labor practices during the critical period, may need temporary postponement of the election to try to counter the employer’s illegal conduct. The blocking charge policy is needed to help attempt to prevent that from happening.

“The UFCW will make a more detailed response to the Board’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the written comments it plans to file. Again, thank you for this opportunity to speak in support of the proposed rule.”

June 21, 2011

UFCW Statement on the Proposed NLRB Rule that would Standardize the Representation Election Process

Today’s proposed rule from the National Labor Relations Board comes down to basic fairness on the job. When workers choose to vote to form a union on the job, the vote shouldnt be plagued by delays, bureaucracy or obstacles. Working people are already struggling. And, theyre waiting and wondering when the economy will recover to a point that therell be enough stable, middle class jobs in their communities.  They shouldnt have to struggle to get a union voice on the job. They shouldnt have to wait and wonder when theyll get justice on the job.

Just ask the workers at the 2 Sisters Food Group plant in Riverside, California. When a majority decided they wanted a union voice in their workplace, their employer used the lengthy timeline of the NLRB election process to mount a vicious harassment and intimidation campaign. Instead of investing in their workforce, they hired anti-worker consultants. They distributed anti-union flyers. They forced attendance at daily anti-union meetings. They insisted on including leads who appeared to be supervisors in the unit, which workers agreed to, in order to avoid a lengthy pre-election litigation delay.

As Election Day neared, bosses escalated their campaign by hiring uniformed security guards to monitor the comings and goings of every worker. They illegally fired five workers for their union support-one just a week before the election. When the voting came, off-shift workers were forced to wait at a parking lot gate and then personally escorted one by one to the ballot box by the company CEO, then escorted off company grounds.

The harassment, intimidation and illegal firings were too much.  Workers feared for their livelihoods, and they narrowly lost their bid for a union.

Todays proposed rule is an acknowledgment that the pressure and bullying 2 Sisters workers encountered shouldnt happen in an American workplace or at an American ballot box. American workers have the right to vote on whether to form a union; and the election process should be straightforward and streamlined; it shouldnt involve long delays nor require workers to navigate a legal maze.

 

April 26, 2011

Food & Commercial Workers Leader to Co-Chair Council of Institutional Investors

Washington, DC – United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill has been named by his peers as co-head of the Board of North America’s largest institutional investor trade group, the Council of Institutional Investors (CII). O’Neill was unanimously elected as Co-Chair with Joseph Dear, Chief Investment Officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, at the CII semi-annual conference last week.

O’Neill is a leader for greater accountability and transparency from the investment managers of pension plans that are entrusted with the retirements of millions of Americans. He has also is a prominent union trustee himself, safeguarding the retirements of people across North America who have worked in the retail, grocery and food processing industries.

“CII is a place where union pension funds, public fund trustees and corporate plans all find common ground,” said O’Neill. “We all work together to demand accountability from irresponsible corporations and protect the retirements earned by decades of hard work by millions of people.”

CII is a nonprofit association of public, union and corporate employee benefit funds along with foundations and endowments that have combined assets worth more than $3 trillion. CII is a leading voice for good corporate governance and strong shareowner rights.

January 28, 2011

UFCW Awards $20,000 in Medical School Scholarships

Washington, DC – The trustees of the Patrick E. Gorman Scholarship fund have selected Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, T.N. as recipients of $10,000 scholarship awards, the United Food and Commercial Workers announced today. Mr. Gorman was the late President of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butchers Workmen of North America, one of the predecessor unions to what is now the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers across North America.

“The Amalgamated Meat Cutters had a long and proud history of fighting for the rights and needs of the working men and women of North America, including the need to provide adequate health care to all Americans. The UFCW now stands as part of that long tradition,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.

In the spirit of Mr. Gorman’s dedication to further advancing the education of medical students, Howard University College of Medicine and Meharry Medical College will award the scholarship money to worthy students who are in financial need.

To learn more about the UFCW’s work in communities throughout North America, visit http://www.ufcw.org/take_action/.