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    Packing and Processing

January 14, 2011

UFCW Joins BlueGreen Alliance

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 13, 2011) Citing the need to grow a supply chain that protects public health, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and ensures good jobs, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) today announced that the union — whose 1.3 million members work in the retail food, meatpacking and poultry, food processing and manufacturing, and retail industries — would join the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations working to expand the number and quality of jobs in the green economy.

“”From farm to dinner table, we must have a food supply chain that benefits consumers, improves public health, improves the environment, and creates good jobs at living wages,”” said UFCW International President Joseph T. Hansen. “”The BlueGreen Alliance is leading the way to a green economy, and UFCW is proud to be on board.””

“”We are pleased to welcome the UFCW to the ranks of union members and environmentalists working to build a green economy and create good jobs,”” said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster. “”We cannot build this green economy — one that creates good jobs and protects public health — without creating a stronger, greener food and retail supply chain, and we are excited to get to work with the UFCW to make it happen.””

The 1.3-million member UFCW has long supported strong food safety and nutrition policy and is committed to ensuring that our nation’s food and retail supply chain is safe and sustainable — from the factory to the warehouse to the store — and to holding suppliers accountable for their efforts to green up their supply chain.

“”Supporting the development of a greener supply chain is an important factor in protecting the health and safety of American consumers and the quality of life for workers,”” said Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen. “”We also have to work together to ensure the jobs created and supported are good, family supporting union jobs. We are pleased that the UFCW has joined this unique partnership in our effort to build a truly green economy.””

“”Creating a sustainable food supply will protect the environment while providing healthy safe food for all Americans,”” said Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “”With the UFCW joining the BlueGreen Alliance, our on-going effort to green America’s supply chain and create good, clean, and safe jobs is a million members stronger today.””

The BlueGreen Alliance was launched by the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club in 2006, and has since expanded to include the Communications Workers of America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Service

Employees International Union, National Wildlife Federation, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utility Workers Union of America, American Federation of Teachers, Amalgamated Transit Union, Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, United Auto Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers — all dedicated to creating good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy.

“”The effort to create good, green jobs reaches every corner of our economy — from investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency to building more efficient vehicles to ensuring a safe, sustainable food supply,”” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard, a co-founder of the BlueGreen Alliance. “”The health and safety of workers, our public health and the health of our communities depend on our ability to build a prosperous green economy in the United States.””

“”We can only protect the planet for the next generation if we make our economy cleaner and more sustainable, and a key part of that accomplishment will be greening our food and retail supply chain,”” said Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club and a co-founder of the BlueGreen Alliance. “”From the field to the grocery store, from the factory to retail, ensuring that the products we buy are sustainable will protect the environment and create good jobs, plain and simple.””

October 5, 2010

JBS WORKERS IN SOUDERTON OVERWHELMINGLY CHOOSE UNION REPRESENTATION

(Souderton, PA.) – Nearly 1,200 workers at the JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, voted today to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776.

“I am delighted that we stood together and made the right choice to form a union,” said Bernard Coneghen, who has worked at the Souderton facility for 27 years. “We had the opportunity to speak with representatives of the UFCW about the benefits of having a voice at work and were able to make an informed choice about forming a union.”

The workers’ victory today was the successful conclusion of a months-long campaign designed to give a voice to the nearly 1,200 JBS workers in Souderton, but also as part of a UFCW-led nationwide effort aimed at raising wages and benefits for all workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries.

“The outcome of this election shows that when workers get a free and fair process, they choose union representation,” said Wendell Young, IV, UFCW International Vice President and President of Local 1776.” The UFCW applauds JBS for taking the high road to allow the workers to have a free and fair process. Having a union makes it better for everyone, workers, the company, and the larger community.”

The Brazilian firm JBS, S.A. acquired the former Moyer Packing Company’s Souderton facility with the purchase of the Smithfield Beef Group in 2008.  JBS, out of respect for its workers, allowed a free and fair process for workers to decide about union representation.

“We achieved our victory because we stood together and that’s what made us strong,” said Melina Martinez, who has worked at the plant for the last six years. “Now that we have a union, we want to get right to work on a contract that protects our rights and improves our working conditions.”

By choosing UFCW Local 1776 today as their bargaining representative, workers at the JBS plant in Souderton will be joining together with 27,000 JBS workers and 250,000 meatpacking and poultry workers across the country who already enjoy the benefits of union representation with the UFCW.

UFCW Local 1776 represents thousands of packinghouse and food processing workers in Pennsylvania at plants such as Empire Kosher Poultry in Mifflintown, Cargill in Hazelton, BC Natural Chicken in Fredericksburg and Citterio USA in Freeland.

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For more information or to arrange interviews with workers, e-mail press@ufcw.org.

UFCW Local 1776 represents 24,000 members who work in southeast, northeast and central Pennsylvania, northeast Maryland and southern New York in supermarkets, drug stores, food processing plants, government services, manufacturing facilities, nursing homes, professional offices and Pennsylvania’s Wine and Spirits Shops.

September 23, 2010

Workers From “814 Americas” Plant Join Local 464A

Workers at the 814 Americas, Inc. meat processing plant in Elizabeth, N.J, overwhelmingly voted on September 9th, 2010 to join Local 464A. The unit of 27 joins more than a quarter million meatpacking and food processing workers across North America who already have a voice at work with the UFCW.

Patrick Cudahy, a subsidiary of U.S. meat processor Smithfield Foods, acquired 814 Americas, Inc. from Spanish food company Campofrio Alimentacion, in 2005. The UFCW continues to build strength and solidarity across the industry as an increasing number of Smithfield Foods workers across the country join with their brothers and sisters for better jobs and a voice at work.

September 16, 2010

WHITE HOUSE APPOINTS UFCW PRESIDENT JOE HANSEN TO ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR TRADE POLICY

WASHINGTON, DC-Joe Hansen, President of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has been appointed to the United States Trade Representatives Advisory Committee for Trade Policy.

The UFCW represents workers in the meatpacking, food processing, poultry, food distribution and retail food sectors of our economy. As the economies of developing countries grow, demand for food products made in the US-particularly meat-is increasing. Hansen is committed to ensuring that American farmers, workers, and responsible businesses and manufacturers are not locked out of these emerging growth markets. Hansens experience in the global union movement, and his role negotiating contracts with multi-national meatpacking, food processing, and grocery companies gives him a unique perspective and the capability to ensure the voice of working people is heard in trade agreements that affect their livelihoods.

I am so honored to accept this appointment. Food and meat industry representatives have long served on this Advisory Committee; I want to express my appreciation to President Obama and Ambassador Ron Kirk for nominating me as representative of workers in these industries. I look forward to working with Ambassador Kirk on trade policies that create more jobs in the U.S. by increasing our food and meat exports; and on improving working, living, and environmental standards for workers and their families both here and abroad-standards that will also benefit consumers, businesses, farmers and manufacturers, Hansen said.

September 14, 2010

MOTT’S

Washington, DC—United Food and Commercial Workers Local Union (UFCW) 220* ratified a new contract, yesterday, ending a three-and-a-half-month strike at the Dr Pepper Snapple Group owned Mott’s Plant in Williamson, New York. The new agreement restores wage levels, maintains affordable health care, and continues the pension plan.

The strike became a national symbol for working people struggling to maintain middle class jobs and strong communities, after Dr Pepper Snapple Group imposed a $1.50 per hour wage decrease and other cuts on the workers. UFCW members, along with community and other allies, engaged in nearly 600 actions, including handbilling shoppers at grocery stores across the country in support of Local 220* members. Driven by blogs and social networks, tens of thousands of people joined the cause of the Mott’s strikers, advocating for good jobs with paychecks that pay the bills.  

Local 220* members will be back on the job September 20, eager once again to make applesauce and other great products for American families.

June 9, 2010

One Year After Tragedy in Garner, Safety Regulations Can

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following is a statement from Jackie Nowell, Director of Occupational Safety and Health at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:

A year ago today – June 9, 2009 – it was a warm afternoon in Garner, North Carolina when a powerful explosion leveled the ConAgra Foods plant. A tragic error in judgment while installing a new water heater led an outside contractor to repeatedly release natural gas from a pipe into an enclosed room near the center of the building and an unknown spark set it ablaze.

The resulting explosion and toxic ammonia release killed four people and injured 70 others. It was a preventable tragedy that destroyed lives, livelihoods and a community of friends and neighbors. The United Food and Commercial Workers represented the more than 300 ConAgra workers affected by the blast and saw first-hand the devastation caused by this explosion.

Conflagrations like this one killed and injured workers from Missouri to Michigan, and yet no regulations existed to prevent contractors from purging gas lines into closed spaces. Working with authorities and experts from across the country we set about to change this. Our fight became marked by even greater urgency after five workers were killed in yet another gas purging explosion in Connecticut that February.

Along with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, who investigated this explosion, we urged the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – who provides safety codes for building contractors across the country – to adopt regulations that would prevent contractors from purging explosive gasses into enclosed spaces. But after heavy lobbying from the natural gas and propane industries, the NFPA wilted like old lettuce and failed to stand for the safety of America’s workers.

So here we are, one year later. The plant in Garner rather is scheduled to close, bringing a second round of devastation to the community. We know we can’t bring back these workers, these friends, these family members back to their community and their loved ones. The broken system at the NFPA has failed to learn from these tragedies and has bowed to industry pressure to let these deadly indoor gas purges continue unregulated.

This is frankly unacceptable. As Debra Petteway, a Food and Commercial Workers member who worked in the ConAgra plant and lost her son to the explosion said, “Louis Watson was my son, he was my only son, and now he’s gone. They didn’t have to die, and if someone doesn’t fix this, it’s going to happen again.”

Ms. Petteway is right. The NFPA, who is supposed to protect workers like her son, has shirked their duty.

So one year later, the “experts” charged with protecting America’s workers have failed to learn from this tragedy or from the legions before or after. How much longer will we wait with no regulatory or legislative action for the safety of American workers? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and our legislators must not wait for these quasi-governmental regulatory bodies to demonstrate their craven kowtowing to industry demands any longer. We need comprehensive legislative or OSHA regulation so that the lessons of those who gave their lives in these explosions are not forgotten and all those that come later are protected from a similar fate.

May 24, 2010

MOTT

WILLIAMSON, NY, May 23, 2010  — Over 300 full time manufacturing workers at the Mott’s plant in Williamson, New York went out on strike this morning at 6:00 a.m because of painful wage cuts while the company enjoyed a record year of $555 million in profits.  The work stoppage was caused as a direct result of the Mott’s executives (a subsidiary of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group) unfair labor practices as they tried to peel away good jobs and wages, including not bargaining in good faith.  The company had publicly declared an impasse and plans to implement their last contract terms, which offered nothing but a reduction in hourly wages and drastic healthcare and pension concessions for the skilled, dedicated workforce at the Williamson manufacturing.

“The workers that were forced to strike today are the same workers who helped make Mott’s be the highly profitable company they are today, and they should not be treated like a bunch of rotten apples by overpaid executives,” said Stuart Appelbaum, national president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW.  “We understand that no one wins when there is a strike, but is very troubling and disturbing that such a profitable company as Mott’s would carve away a core relationship with their workforce all for corporate greed.  Whittling down wage and benefit standards, while exponentially increasing CEO compensation is rotten business, and frankly unAmerican!”

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU/UFCW) Local 220, which represents the workers, has been tirelessly negotiating to secure a fair and decent contract for months with Mott’s management.  Despite the company’s profitability, Mott’s/Dr. Pepper Snapple have demanded givebacks, including a $1.50 per hour wage cut for all employees, a pension elimination for future employees and a pension freeze for current employees, a 20 percent decrease in employer contributions to the 401K and increased employee contributions toward health care premiums and co-pays.

Mott’s workers overwhelmingly rejected this offer and voted in favor of authorizing their negotiating committee at RWDSU/UFCW Local 220 to call an unfair labor practice strike. The union has continued to demand that the company bargain in good faith in order to quickly reach a fair contract.

By contrast, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group President  & CEO Larry D. Young (located in Plano, Texas headquarters) has enjoyed a 113% salary increase over the last 3 years (or 28 percent each year).  Mr. Young’s total compensation for 2009 was $6,519,378

Additional, last year, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group made $555 million in profit.

Michael Leberth, president of RWDSU/UFCW Local 220 said “the company has not budged from our reasonable and dignified offer and there will be no late night negotiations.  We are tired of being juiced by such a profitable company.”

May is the highest busiest season for Mott’s apple juice and applesauce manufacturing as the demand for these parent and children favorites is highest during the summer season.

The Williamson plant is the only plant that produces Mott’s applesauce, including high margin single serve packs, with 70% of the workforce in skilled labor categories.  A labor dispute could damage the value of Mott’s family-friendly brand by associating it with corporate greed and union busting.  Additionally, the product may suffer quality issues, as the skilled workforce is not easily replaceable.  The Mott’s brand is responsible for more than $550 million worth of Dr. Pepper Snapple’s retail sales each year.

“Why would DPS, with millions in profit, risk interrupting production at a high volume plant?” asked Ira Bristol, who has worked at the plant for almost five years.  “Destroying goodwill and creating this antagonistic atmosphere will badly hurt the production system and bottom line, not to mention negatively affecting employee morale and tarnishing the Mott’s good brand around the country.”

May 21, 2010

FOOD WORKERS UNION ASKS DOJ/USDA PANEL TO INVESTIGATE WALMART

Union says examining Walmart’s pricing pressure and buying power is critical to understanding the negative effects of concentration on food workers, farmers, poultry growers, consumers, communities and local economies

Normal, Ala. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 men and women in the meatpacking and food processing industry, released the following statement today regarding the Department of Justice/USDA workshop on agriculture and antitrust enforcement issues in the poultry sector:

“We believe that these historic hearings represent an enormous opportunity to rebuild and revitalize rural America by ensuring justice and fairness for working men and women across the food industry.

“At the first DOJ/USDA hearing held in March, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack cut to the heart of this issue when he said the central focus of these workshops was to determine if the marketplace was ‘providing a fair deal for all.’

“To answer that, it is critical that the voices of individuals across the food supply chain—from workers, to growers, to farmers—be heard and for the entire industry to be closely examined. That means analyzing the industry from the farm to the shelves of our grocery stores. It means examining how big retailers, such as Walmart, are driving concentration through their enormous buying power and the pressure they impose on suppliers.

“Make no mistake about it, Walmart’s actions affect every level of our nation’s food supply chain—and they have no intention of loosening their tight chokehold on our food production and distribution systems.

“To secure its rural stranglehold, Walmart uses its enormous footprint, coupled with its pricing power, to literally dictate how whole industries must operate. They reach deep inside a company, effectively influencing every aspect of a supplier’s business operations. This inevitably leads to lower wages for workers, less money for farmers, growers and ranchers and fewer choices for consumers.

“As one industry publication recently wrote, ‘The costs of running processing businesses, from transportation to utility costs and insurance premiums, continue to increase along with pressures from retail customers to not raise prices. Leading the charge for resisting price increases is Walmart, which has informed its suppliers it will not allow price increases in the coming months.’

“Walmart’s pricing strategy leads to incredible pressure on producers, customers, competitors, farmers and workers. It squeezes workers’ wages and means less money in the pockets of hardworking poultry growers. It often drives industry concentration and leads to the elimination of healthy competition in the marketplace—on products ranging from poultry to pet food.

“If we truly want to address anti-competitive practices in agriculture, we must treat more than just the symptoms, we must treat the disease—and Walmart is the disease.

“If Walmart’s actions are not addressed, if the downward pressure they put on workers, businesses, growers and farmers is not vigorously challenged, we will continue to see a destructive race to the bottom that will destroy strong communities and wipe out good rural jobs that are the backbone of our nation.

“If we really want to rebuild our nation’s food system, if we really want to ensure that our agriculture sector is providing a fair deal for all, it is critical that the Obama Administration addresses Walmart’s unprecedented ability to hold farmers and packers captive to their pricing schemes and supply chain management practices.

“The ugly truth is that Walmart has created a system that pits workers and farmers against each other, fighting for the scraps that are left over after company executives try to wring every cent out of our nation’s food supply chain to bolster their profits. This system is devastating to rural innovation, it devalues farming economies and it destroys what were once solid, middle-class packing and processing jobs.

“We applaud the efforts of Attorney General Holder, Secretary Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Varney and look forward to rigorous enforcement against business practices that hamper competition, hurt workers, harm communities and hinder our nation’s ability to provide good, quality food to America’s kitchen tables.”

May 11, 2010

Summer Water Can Be Dangerous in Stores and Warehouses

With rising temperatures and increased consumer demand, grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and the warehouses that supply them are moving and selling ever-increasing volumes of bottled water. When palletized, these products can pose significant risks to workers in our industry as a recent deadly tragedy illustrates.

In mid-March, a Kroger employee working in the back room of a store in Franklin, Ind. was crushed by falling pallets of water. Five days after the accident, the employee died. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the accident and fined Kroger $17,000 for unsafe working conditions. This tragic incident and others like it are preventable – especially if UFCW members and locals take action for safety today.

When you are at work or a worksite, here are some things to look for:

  • Don’t transport double stacked pallets beyond the distance necessary to remove them from a truck. Double-stacked pallets are inherently unstable, and when they have liquids (like bottled water) as cargo, they often exceed the safe weight limits for forklifts.
  • Avoid double stacking pallets when storing them.
  • Carefully monitor the stability of pallets at all times.
  • Don’t attempt to straighten pallets that have begun to shift. Unload the pallet instead.
  • Maintain a clear safety area around pallets when they are being moved.
  • All forklift operators or other powered-equipment operators must be trained and certified. This is an OSHA requirement – check for proper recordkeeping.

Palletized bottled water is especially dangerous because of the high volume moved, the heavy weight involved, and increasingly thin plastic causing cases to be unstable. In addition, the limited amount of floor space in the back of grocery stores often leads to water or other heavy unstable products, being stacked higher than safety permits.

Kroger and UFCW Indiana locals have learned from the tragic accident in Franklin and are actively working to prevent future injuries or deaths. We urge you to do the same before something similar happens in your stores.

February 1, 2010

UFCW Members Celebrate New Contract with Nestle

CRETE, NE – Yesterday, hundreds of workers at the Nestlé Purina PetCare facility in Crete, Nebraska ratified a new contract with their employer. Highlights of the four-year agreement between the 320 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 271 and the Nestlé Purina PetCare Company include:

* raises of more than $2/hour over the life of the contract
* maintenance of affordable health benefits
* an increase of 15% in employer contributions to the pension fund.

“”We were proud to vote for a contract that will help working people in Crete support their families,”” said Eric Reeder, who has worked at the Nestlé-Purina facility in Crete for six years. “”We work hard every day at the plant, and we worked hard at the bargaining table to negotiate a strong and fair agreement. This contract is good for workers here, but its also a demonstration of what other workers at other plants can accomplish by standing together.””

Ratification of the contract stands to benefit Nestlé-Purina, workers at the plant, and the community of Crete.

“”This contract represents a win-win scenario for Nestlé-Purina and working Nebraskans,”” said Brian Schwisow, president of UFCW Local 271, which represents workers at the Crete plant. “”By investing in its workforce, the company has committed itself to a long-term, productive relationship with the people of Nebraska. By standing together to negotiate a strong contract, workers have secured the economic futures of their families and their communities.””