News and Updates
January 8, 2018
With Santa’s help, Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) launched a series of strike actions at Walmart stores across the country in December to protest the retail giant’s refusal to provide its 1.5 million workers with holiday pay. The “Santa Claus on Strike” actions were held in 13 cities, including Phoenix, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Cincinnati and Memphis. At each action, Santa and his holiday helpers made all those who love Christmas aware of Walmart’s “no holiday pay” policy.
Walmart eliminated holiday pay in 2016, replacing it with a policy where workers accrue paid time off based on hours worked. Under this policy, a new part-time Walmart worker has to work 33 hours to get just one paid hour off, which could take weeks to accrue given Walmart’s inconsistent scheduling. Holiday pay, for those who work on the holiday, typically includes a premium above and beyond what they are paid hourly. And, in the case of many union retail workers, they are given holiday pay even if they don’t work that day.
“Santa Claus is on strike for one simple reason: It’s time Walmart do the right thing and provide holiday pay for its 1.5 million hard-working men and women – the same holiday pay it used to provide in 2015 before it decided to “Grinch” its workers,” said MCAW Director Randy Parraz. “To be very clear, this initiative is about more than Santa Claus and Christmas, it’s about the values that the holidays represent and which Walmart has chosen to ignore.”
The “Santa Claus on Strike” actions were the second phase of MCAW’s six-week holiday initiative to highlight Walmart’s “war on the holidays.” MCAW’s holiday campaign has included grassroots events at Walmart stores, targeted paid media, including two national TV ads, aggressive social media, and outreach to civic and community leaders, all with the important goal of having Walmart end its policy of refusing to provide holiday pay to its workers.
“Walmart earns millions of dollars from not paying its workers holiday pay – this is wrong and it must stop. The extra pay millions of other American workers earn during the holidays make a difference, and Walmart workers deserve no less,” said Parraz.
January 2, 2018
On Dec. 21, the UFCW called on the National Chicken Council (NCC), the voice of the poultry industry, to set higher industry standards and stop the use of incarcerated and exploited labor by their member companies. In a letter to the NCC, UFCW International President Marc Perrone called on the NCC to take the lead in establishing a clear industry standard and give consumers confidence that their chicken is produced without these inhumane practices.
“This is not responsible or moral behavior,” said Perrone in the letter, “and as a leading voice of the poultry industry, it would make a difference if the National Chicken Council condemned these practices publicly and insisted on all of your member companies to do the same by agreeing to a code of conduct that puts an end to this reprehensible behavior.”
While more than 70,000 hard-working members of the UFCW family work in the poultry industry and earn better wages and benefits, the conditions in nonunion plants are far worse. A recent Oxfam report highlighted the struggles faced by nonunion poultry workers, including wearing diapers at work because they are routinely denied bathroom breaks. In addition, the industry has repeated problems with the use of incarcerated labor, underage workers and workers with disabilities being paid less than a minimum wage.
“The fact that some of your member companies have continued to operate in such an irresponsible manner is bringing shame upon the entire poultry industry and devaluing the skilled work of hundreds of thousands of hard-working men and women,” said Perrone. “This disgraceful practice also damages the reputation of responsible companies and our members who have good jobs working in poultry plants.”
You can read the entire letter here.
December 11, 2017
On Dec. 7, UFCW International President Marc Perrone issued a statement in response to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding safety and health in the poultry industry. This report confirms that the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t consider worker safety when allowing new and dangerous chemicals to be used in poultry plants, and that OSHA can’t or won’t adequately protect poultry workers from injury. The GAO also found a pattern of poultry companies repeatedly denying access to federal safety and health inspectors, leaving workers in at least 15 plants across the South working in potentially dangerous environments.
This report supports findings by Oxfam that poultry workers struggle to get adequate bathroom breaks, even to the point of endangering their health. Other GAO reports in 2005 and 2016 also found significant problems with safety and health in the poultry industry.
Perrone’s statement reads as follows:
“The hard-working people who work in poultry plants have some of the most dangerous and physically demanding jobs in America. This report sadly confirms that many of these skilled professionals who keep our food safe are struggling to keep themselves safe at work. They have earned and deserve better.
“The dangers endured by poultry workers that are highlighted in this report also underscore why a recent request by the National Chicken Council to increase line speeds defies common sense and is being clearly driven by greed. We urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take this report seriously and reject that request so that poultry workers and the food we all consume can be kept safe.”
December 4, 2017
UFCW International President Marc Perrone called on lawmakers to protect U.S. jobs, as well as the safety of our food supply, by opposing Agricultural Guestworker Act (AGA) of 2017 (H.R. 4092) in an op-ed for The Washington Examiner on Dec. 4.
The following are excerpts from the op-ed:
The AGA is a direct threat to America’s hard-working families, the incomes they depend on, and the food we all eat. This is not hyperbole. If the AGA becomes law, it will allow 450,000 foreign visa holders to work in agricultural and meat processing jobs that are currently held by hard-working American men and women. The impacts of this bill, particularly upon the hundreds of thousands of people employed by the meat and poultry industry, would be devastating.
This bad bill does more than just hurt American jobs and workers – it also puts our food supply at risk. While we may not see food processing workers do their jobs, the truth is that they are highly trained professionals who perform dangerous and highly skilled work. These professionals serve as a much needed layer of protection for consumers when it comes to food safety because they know to quickly spot meat that is low quality or diseased.
Like any high skilled and vital profession, current salaries reflect the quality and importance of this workforce, with wages as high as $23 per hour. By allowing untrained workers or guestworkers to hold these important jobs for as little as $10.88 per hour, the AGA will effectively drive down wages and destroy hundreds of thousands of good jobs in the process.
At a time when we need to strengthen American jobs and make our food safer, the AGA would also allow guestworkers to stay for up to three years. That isn’t a guestworker – that’s a long-term employee and further shows how this bill is designed to both exploit foreign workers and replace American workers at the same time.
Click here to read the full op-ed.
December 4, 2017
Making Change at Walmart (MCAW) released a 30-second TV commercial on Nov. 22 as part of its multi-pronged holiday campaign denouncing Walmart’s “war on the holidays.” The ad ran during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on local NBC affiliate markets in Sacramento, Phoenix, Madison, and Cincinnati.
The ad is part of MCAW’s six-week holiday initiative to highlight the retail giant’s “war on the holidays,” which included grassroots actions and social media efforts in Indianapolis, California, Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Delaware, and New York during the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Coordinated actions will continue this week at Walmart locations in at least 10 cities across the U.S. to highlight Walmart’s failure to do what every responsible employer does – pay its workers holiday pay.
Up until last year, Walmart workers who worked on a holiday received their regular hourly wage plus additional pay, equal to the average daily wage in the 12 weeks leading up to the holiday. In 2016, Walmart changed its policy and eliminated holiday pay for all workers.
The script of TV ad titled “This Thanksgiving, Be Thankful That You Don’t Work For Walmart” reads as follows:
These are all real Walmart workers
Afraid to speak out publicly or show their faces.
They’re faced with a choice of working with no holiday pay on Thanksgiving
Instead of spending time with their daughter,
Or to see her grandfather,
Or to be with her four-year-old.
Hard-working Walmart workers
With no holiday pay,
And no chance for a better life.
So, this Thanksgiving, give thanks for one thing,
That you don’t work at Walmart.
You can view the ad here.
November 15, 2017
Rocky Mountain High cannabis workers in Durango, Montrose, and Carbondale, Colorado, voted to join UFCW Local 7 by an overwhelming margin on Nov. 6. These locations include two of the company’s grow facilities. The 25 workers wanted a voice in the workplace and the same benefits as their 32 colleagues at four Rocky Mountain High cannabis dispensaries in Denver, who joined UFCW Local 7 in September.
The Rocky Mountain High workers joined UFCW Local 7 because they were concerned about pay increases, health benefits, and a safer workplace. The workers also wanted to reduce high turnover and have a path to a career. Many of the workers also expressed an interest in the UFCW’s Free College Benefit.
October 30, 2017
Workers at Bob’s Discount Furniture and Century 21 in New York joined UFCW Local 888 on Oct. 17.
The 33 workers at Bob’s Discount Furniture store in Brooklyn wanted to be part of UFCW Local 888 for a voice in the workplace. The workers, who sell furniture, join their over 200 brothers and sisters at six other Bob’s Discount Furniture stores in New York and New Jersey who are also members of UFCW Local 888.
“The election at Bob’s Brooklyn proved, once again, that when workers unite, they can achieve their goals despite strong employer opposition,” said UFCW Local 888 President Max Bruny. “This was our second attempt at organizing this location and kudos to our organizing team for not giving up. The key to our success has been our ability to leverage the power of our organized members at the other six locations in New York. Our Bob’s Discount Furniture members are getting involved because they understand that increased union membership directly translates into increased bargaining power.”
The 148 workers at the Century 21 store in Yonkers were also concerned about having a voice in the workplace, and wanted the same security and benefits as their over 2,000 organized brothers and sisters in New York City and New Jersey.
October 23, 2017
Recently, 800 workers at Seaboard Triumph Foods in Sioux City, Iowa, voted to join UFCW Local 222. Seaboard Triumph Foods is a new, state of the art pork slaughter and processing plant, which opened this September. In the near future, the company will add a second shift, which will increase the size of the unit to over 2,000 workers.
Because the UFCW represents other Seaboard plants in Oklahoma and Missouri and has established good labor-management relations, we were able to work out an election agreement with the company, which included card check recognition. Staff from Region 6 and our FPPM Division were able to sign up a majority of the workforce in two and a half days.
“Packing house workers deserve decent wages, benefits, and safe working conditions provided by union representation and a union contract,” said UFCW Local 222 President Dan Risner. “We welcome Seaboard Triumph Foods workers into our UFCW Local 222 family!”
“I would like to recognize UFCW Local 2 President Martin Rosas for his assistance in helping us organize this plant,” said Tish Ramirez, director of Region 6. “Because of his working relationship with the company, we were able to reach an agreement that led to a voice at work for working men and women at Seaboard Triumph. The efforts of Local 222, Region 6 and the FPPM Division collectively continue to grow and build a stronger UFCW.”
October 16, 2017
On Oct. 11, UFCW International President Marc Perrone sent a letter to the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture explaining why a recent petition by the National Chicken Council to eliminate line speeds at poultry plants poses a dangerous risk to American families.
“This petition, submitted to you in early September, would allow select poultry plants to run their lines with no speed limits, endangering both workers and consumers. Even more troubling is that this petition essentially requests that USDA create this new “no speed limit” rule behind closed doors with no opportunity for notice and comment by the public as the regulatory process requires,” Perrone wrote.
President Perrone’s entire letter can be read below.
Dear Madam Acting Deputy Undersecretary Rottenberg:
With the health and safety of over 250,000 thousand hard-working poultry workers in mind, 70,000 of whom are members of our union family, we write to urge you to reject a petition submitted by the National Chicken Council (NCC) to run food processing lines with no speed limits.
This petition, submitted to you in early September, would allow select poultry plants to run their lines with no speed limits, endangering both workers and consumers. Even more troubling is that this petition essentially requests that USDA create this new “no speed limit” rule behind closed doors with no opportunity for notice and comment by the public as the regulatory process requires.
As you must know, poultry workers hold some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in America. The implications of this rule change are striking, for example:
- Industry statistics show poultry workers are at twice the risk of being injured on the job compared to other workers and suffer illnesses at a rate that is seven times as high.
- A 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office showed that forcing lines to move faster will expose poultry workers to higher rates of injuries and illnesses.
- Increased line speeds will also make it harder for both federal inspectors and quality control workers to properly check birds for contamination that could make consumers sick.
Given the facts noted above, the petition from the NCC clearly poses a dangerous risk to American families.
When the USDA chose not to raise line speed limits for poultry plants in 2014, there was large public interest in the open and transparent process (which we participated in) that ensured all perspectives on this proposed modification were heard – including those of the NCC. A wide array of people and interests, from workers on poultry lines to experts across the country, agreed then as they do now that faster line speeds will make this industry dramatically less safe, both for workers and consumers.
For the sake of keeping hard-working families safe – whether they’re preparing, buying, or eating chicken – the USDA must reject this petition.
Anthony “Marc” Perrone
September 25, 2017
On Sept. 14, about 100 members of RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102 who work in the women’s shoe department at Saks Fifth Avenue’s iconic flagship store in New York City ratified a new contract that will reverberate nationwide. The hard-fought contract repelled the company’s outrageous demands to eliminate employee commissions when a customer paid with an “earned gift card” or “Saks First” loyalty points – a change which would have slashed employee pay by up to 10 percent. This hard-fought victory is not only a win for members of RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102, but is also a triumph for hard-working Saks employees in stores across the country, as the company has indicated that because of RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102’s arguments against these arbitrary programs, it will halt a previously planned nationwide implementation.
Under the new agreement, the company will retain the present commission structure by preserving the union employees’ 10 percent commission on sales of women’s shoes. Further, the union negotiated the right to have employees’ sales goals adjusted to account for their use of vacation and other paid time off. Finally, RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102 negotiated a contract ratification bonus for Saks’ unionized workforce.
“I am taken aback by the company’s response to our concerns about changes to the commission system and their interest in not just retaining the system in New York but for my friends and colleagues at other stores,” said Gil McGarvey, a Saks sales representative and Local 1102 shop steward and executive board member. “In all my years at Saks, never have I felt more heard by the company – and the union is the reason we were heard.”
“I am exceptionally proud of, and humbled by, the hard work and selfless dedication of our nine member negotiations team,” said Alvin Ramnarain, president of RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102. “This contract is a huge win for both our members, and also for workers across the country who would have received drastic pay cuts. Saks, after speaking with its corporate partners, agreed to back off its demands, and actually informed us that because of the arguments presented at the bargaining table, they would quash this program nationwide. We are grateful that Saks understood that when they invest in their people and let them sell, their business will thrive. This is clearly a case where the union difference will have a positive effect on Saks’ profits, and that’s a win for our members and the company. What is clear today is that when workers stand together, we can win.”