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November 9, 2004

Colorado Supermarket Contract Voting Halted

 
 UFCW International President
Joe Hansen

Joseph Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), exercised his authority under Article 23(A) of the International Constitution to halt voting on the offer presented on November 1, 2004, from Safeway, King Soopers and Alberstons to more than 13,000 UFCW members represented by Wheat Ridge, Co., Local 7.

Article 23 (A) of the International Constitution gives the International President the right to review any proposed contracts prior to any membership action on the proposal.  The purpose of Friday’s action is to give the International President the opportunity to assess the potential impact of proposed contract provisions on other UFCW members across the country and to see if they meet the established objectives relating to wages, benefits and working conditions. Following the International President’s review, he could either opt to restart or suspend (cancel) Colorado member voting on the existing proposal.  In the event that voting is restarted, ballots cast prior to Friday’s action would be counted.

“The supermarket chains bargaining with Local 7 in Colorado are large national corporations. Consequently, their proposals have national ramifications for our members,” said International President Joe Hansen. “I owe an obligation to all UFCW members working in the grocery industry to fully review the current proposal to determine whether or not it would be injurious to them.”

The UFCW International Union remains hopeful that ultimately an equitable solution can be reached between the parties.

October 28, 2004

Communities Back UFCW Members

 

UFCW members aren’t alone in the fight for affordable health care, as an overwhelming percent of supermarket shoppers surveyed side with their local grocery store workers on employee concerns. The community support is echoed in two recent surveys of grocery shoppers, one conducted in Colorado and one in Washington State.

Both surveys reinforce what UFCW workers already know:  communities stand behind workers when it comes to workplace issues, especially health care.  The large majority of shoppers agree that grocery store employees “deserve to have affordable health care.”  Most shoppers (85%) believe that major supermarkets like Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway are very profitable and have a responsibility to provide workers with affordable health care benefits.

Over 80% in the Washington community said they would support workers on strike if management threatened to eliminate health care benefits.  The majority also said they would sympathize with grocery store workers on strike over the employers even if they knew very little about specific bargaining issues. Most shoppers would go out of their way to shop at another store if their local grocery store had employees on strike.

Economic studies show that when large corporations take away or reduce their employees’ health benefits, taxpayers take on the increased costs for workers because more workers are forced to utilize publicly-subsidized health services.  More than two-thirds of shoppers surveyed agree that the responsibility for health care cots would indeed float to taxpayers.  Even more shoppers agree that workers end up paying for extravagant corporate executive compensation and bonuses.

Last summer, UFCW members in the Puget Sound, Wash. area visited their local communities and informed residents about what was happening at the bargaining table during their contract negotiations.  UFCW members collected “don’t shop” pledges from the public if the employers insisted on eliminating affordable health care benefits.  They participated in marches and rallies that kept bargaining issues at the center of the public’s attention, and moved elected officials to write letters in support of grocery store workers and voice those opinions to the media. Mobilizing in neighborhoods and solidifying support among community members put key pressure on the grocery stores, ultimately helping 18,000 UFCW members in Puget Sound settle a fair contract.

The survey in Colorado was conducted by TKG Research in August and identified perceptions of worker issues, while the survey in Washington, taken by the Evergreen Research Group in January, recognized early attitudes toward grocery workers, management and possible strikes.

 

August 31, 2004

New UFCW Contract Raises Living Standards for Dakota City Workers

(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.”

 

 

August 4, 2004

Canada Wal-Mart Workers Stand Up for a Voice on the Job

QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC    – A Wal-Mart located in Jonquière, Quebec, Canada is on its way to becoming the only unionized Wal-Mart in North America after a ruling on Monday by the Quebec Labour Relations Board (QLRC) to grant employees union certification with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Canada.

The union accreditation was issued by the QLRC after a majority of employees at the store signed UFCW Canada membership cards.  QLRC adjudicator Jocelyne Houle stated that, “the applicant is representative, as required by law.”  A hearing has been scheduled for August 20th to finalize the specific definition of which employees will have the right to union representation.

“The Quebec certification shows that when workers’ rights are protected, Wal-Mart workers will exercise those rights for a voice at work.   Our challenge is to make sure that governments protect workers rights across Canada, the U.S. and around the world,” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President and President of the Union Network International, a global trade federation representing 16 million workers in 100 countries.

Today’s Labour Board victory is the latest in a series of organizing drives at Wal-Mart stores throughout Canada.  Currently UFCW Canada has other applications pending for Wal-Mart stores in Weyburn and North Battleford, Saskatchewan; in Terrace, British Columbia, in Thompson, Manitoba; and in Brossard, Quebec where a majority of workers have sought UFCW representation.

The Quebec store will be the first wall-to-wall Wal-Mart store where workers successfully chose union representation.  Meat department workers in the Jacksonville, Texas, Wal-Mart Supercenter voted for UFCW representation in 2000. Wal-Mart refused to bargain with the workers, despite orders from the National Labor Relations Board.  It also eliminated the meat department in Jacksonville and across the country in an attempt to scare workers from standing up for a voice on the job.

Wal-Mart stated publicly that it supports workplace democracy and that it would not close the store because workers chose a union.   The UFCW Canada looks forward to sitting down to negotiating a first contract without delay.

UFCW Canada website

July 8, 2004

Community Mobilization Secures Health Care for ACME Workers

Health care for working families is not just a workplace concern – it’s a community concern. More than 3,000 workers at Acme Supermarkets in South Jersey faced the threat of cuts to health benefits when their contact expired at the end of April. The members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1360 reached out to local religious leaders, elected officials and union members for support that helped secure a new contract that protected health benefits for workers and their families.

Acme is owned by Albertsons, a national chain that forced tens of thousands of its Southern California workers into the streets for nearly five months to fight back against the employers’ draconian demands to eliminate health benefits for workers. Acme workers and supporters in South Jersey supported the California strike/lockout by mobilizing customers and raising public awareness of the struggle facing supermarket workers across the country.

When bargaining began in South Jersey, Acme faced a room full of religious leaders, labor supporters and other UFCW local unions along with representatives from UFCW Local 1360. The message was loud and clear: we stand united to protect health benefits for Acme workers.

“This contract proves that solidarity works. UFCW local unions working together with other unions and, most importantly, community and religious leaders made sure Acme and Albertsons understood that we will hold the line for health care,” said International Vice President and Regional Director Mark Lauritsen.

The new five-year agreement:

• Maintains health care for workers and retirees;

• Improves worker retirement benefits; and

• Increases wages, including higher starting rates for new employees

UFCW members are currently bargaining with Albertsons, Safeway and Kroger in the Pacific Northwest where the contract covering nearly 20,000 workers expires this month. In September, nearly 50,000 workers at the same three supermarket chains in Northern California will head to the bargaining table with similar resolve to hold the line for health care.

June 23, 2004

Wal-Mart’s “”Open Door”” Slams Shut for Women Workers

WAL-MART’S “”OPEN DOOR”” SLAMS SHUT FOR WOMEN WORKERSWal-Mart On Trial In The largest Sex Discrimination Lawsuit In History

“”…women working at Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men…and, that the higher one looks in [Wal-Mart] the lower the percentage of women.”” Judge Martin Jenkins in his decision granting class action status citing the “”largely uncontested descriptive statistics”” presented by the plaintiffs in the case.

The “”door”” in Wal-Mart’s much touted “”open door policy”” of personnel management does not open wide enough to let women into higher paid jobs or management positions, according to allegations contained in a suit brought against the nation’s largest private employer. Despite its denials and legal maneuvers, Wal- Mart will have to stand trial and face the charges of pervasive sex discrimination in the largest civil rights class action case in history.

Six women stood up to challenge pay and promotion practices at Wal-Mart stores across the country. Now a federal judge has certified the case—Dukes v. Wal- Mart Stores, Inc.(N.D. Cal. No C-01-2252)—as a nationwide class action sex discrimination lawsuit covering all women employees who worked a U.S. Wal-Mart store anytime since December 26, 1998. More than 1.6 million women will be represented in the lawsuit.

In issuing his decision, U. S. District Court Judge Martin Jenkins referred to the overwhelming evidence presented in the case showing a pattern of lower pay, fewer promotions and less opportunity for women at Wal-Mart in every region of the country. Expert reports relied upon in the judge’s decision exposed the reality behind Wal-Mart’s smiling face. Women who had worked longer for Wal-Mart, had higher job performance evaluations, and did the same jobs were paid less than the men they worked next to. The sexism prevalent in Wal-Mart’s management practices robbed women and their families of the pay they worked for. Wal-Mart devalued women’s work, and paid them less simply because Wal-Mart thought it could get away with it.

The 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) has been actively organizing, mobilizing and empowering women to take action to create equity in all workplaces. In instances where there was evidence of sex discrimination, the UFCW regularly refers workers to attorneys experienced in civil rights litigation. From small groups of women workers talking with each other, with the UFCW, with public interest groups and civil rights lawyers grew the legal action that Judge Jenkins described as “”historic in nature, dwarfing other employment discrimination cases before it.””

Wal-Mart has aggressively sought to suppress workers in the exercise of their rights, and has been particularly focused on dissuading workers from connecting with each other or acting as a group. Workers are repeatedly told they do not need “”third party representation”” and that Wal-Mart has an open door policy that allows workers as individuals to resolve their problems with management. Wal-Mart’s failure to address issues of sex discrimination as reflected in the Dukes case, and the success of women acting together with a strong voice and effective representation to take their case forward, however, demonstrate that Wal-Mart’s management system is fatally flawed and cannot meet the needs of a 21st century workforce.

“”An organized voice for workers is the solution for the problems—from low pay to inadequate health care, from high turnover to discrimination—at Wal-Mart. The Dukes case is an inspiration for all other Wal-Mart workers that acting together they too can bring change to the workplace,”” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President.

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June 2, 2004

Inglewood Voters Say No to the Walmartization of America

Inglewood, California, Voters Reject Wal-Mart’s Effort for Expansion

Residents of Inglewood, California, stood up for American values – they said “”No,”” to the Walmartization of their community. They said “”No,”” to the Arkansas retail giant’s low wage, low benefit jobs. They said “”No,”” to a store the size of 17 football fields that would have decimated local businesses.

Voters rejected a referendum by Wal-Mart by voting 65% against a proposed Supercenter in Inglewood. Wal-Mart forced voters to the polls by refusing to accept rejection of their expansion plans by Inglewood City Council earlier this year. Wal-Mart abused the citizen referendum process by hiring people to collect signatures and force a ballot initiative – an effort that ignored zoning regulations and skirted traffic and environmental reviews. Wal-Mart was trying to buy the local political process but voters made it clear: you can’t discount democracy.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members held the line in Southern California for nearly 5 months fighting back demands by the supermarket employers that would have eliminated health benefits for workers. Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons used Wal-Mart’s low-road benefit package as an excuse to lower the standards for supermarket workers in California. Customers stood behind the strikers throughout the work-stoppage and now those same people sent Wal-Mart the message that they are willing to fight for good jobs with good benefits.

“”Wal-Mart’s arrogance blinded them to the fact that voters and consumers will not accept a giant retailer cramming low-wage, low benefit jobs in every community. Voters in Inglewood told Wal-Mart to respect their laws, their environmental standards and elected officials,”” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.

“”Wal-Mart is undermining living standards across the country and tried to undermine the democratic process itself,”” Hansen continued.

UFCW members in Inglewood joined with a broad citizen’s coalition of local and statewide elected officials, community organizations, and religious leaders to mobilize voters against Wal-Mart’s back-door bully tactics.

April 26, 2004

Kroger Risks Revenue Hemorrhage With Attack On Worker Health Benefits

Workers In Houston, Cincinnati, Louisville, Las Vegas, Northern California, Denver, Seattle And Detroit Mobilize For Fight To Save Health Care

Kroger stockholders were recently stunned when the company forked over more than a $100 million to the supermarket operator’s leading competitors as a payoff from the more than 4 month long Southern California grocery strike. Waging war on workers’ health benefits doesn’t come cheaply, and the nation’s largest supermarket chain had to pay the bill after it agreed to cover its competitor’s losses when it joined with Safeway and Albertsons to take on 70,000 Southern California members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in a fight over affordable health care.

Kroger did not limit its revenue loss to California. It also sent workers into the streets and its customers off to its competitors when it forced a strike over health benefits in West Virginia last year. Now, Kroger is risking a revenue hemorrhage as its short-sighted, benefit-busting demands could send tens of thousands of the company’s workers into the streets from Houston to Seattle, and from Cincinnati to Denver. The majority of Kroger’s revenue stream could dry up if the company fails to reach agreements that maintain affordable health care.

“”Kroger has consistently underestimated workers’ resolve in the fight for affordable health care. For the company health care benefits are a matter of dollars and cents, for workers health care benefits are a matter of life and death,”” said UFCW International Collective Bargaining Director Pat O’Neill.

In a nationwide effort, the UFCW International is systematically laying the groundwork in preparation for the possibility of multi-city strikes. From picket signs to community outreach, coordinated programs are being planned to mobilize support for affordable health care, as well as to assist the workers forced to strike to keep their health care.

While the details vary from city to city, the thrust of the company’s attack is to effectively eliminate affordable health care in the future. Houston is currently the hot spot for a potential strike. Company demands there would impose costs that would push health care out of reach for many workers, and could leave substantial number of workers without any coverage at all.

“”Kroger needs to make a commitment to maintaining affordable benefits. The workers have made record profits for the company. Some of those profits now should be used to maintain the workers’ benefits. Attempts to eliminate affordable health care will only lead to the elimination of profits, customers and market share. Workers will negotiate in good faith to keep the stores open and the customers served, but workers will fight for health care,”” stated O’Neill.

April 26, 2004

Wal-Mart Workers Want A Voice

A majority of workers at a Wal-Mart store in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada, signed membership cards for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and have applied to Saskatchewan Labor Relations Board for certification with UFCW Local 1400. It is the second UFCW certification request for workers at Saskatchewan Wal-Mart in the last two months.

“The UFCW offers an alternative for Wal-Mart workers that means better wages, working conditions, and a voice on the job,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “More Wal-Mart workers, than ever before, are standing up, and they’re standing up with the UFCW.”

The giant retailer has a long history of reprehensible employment practices. The company is facing charges by women employees for sex discrimination that would be the largest class-action suit in US history. Wal-Mart has been found guilty of cheating workers out of their pay. Pending actions by workers, in numerous states, are raising similar charges, claiming Wal-Mart fails to pay them for all the time they work.

The company has shifted more jobs to countries where sweatshops are prevalent than any other corporation. It has a record of disregarding community wishes, bringing its vast resources into play in an attempt to muscle its stores into neighborhoods where community members have expressly told the company it was not welcome.

In light of growing global resistance to company practices, Wal-Mart launched a recent massive program, not to improve its practices, but to wage a PR campaign to improve its image.

Wherever Wal-Mart operates, workers want and need a voice to force the company to live up to the conditions it says it practices in its PR campaigns.

“The number of workers seeking a voice at Wal-Mart will grow throughout North America,” said Hansen. “The UFCW is an international union with a North American strategy. That strategy is long-term, committed, and getting stronger every day.”

April 13, 2004

Working America Wants Answers

(Washington, DC) At tonight’s prime time press conference, President George Bush claims to be prepared to address the important issues facing Americans.  But working families won’t be in that room.  President Bush won’t be facing the tough questions that most Americans deserve to have answered, such as:

  • You are the first President since Herbert Hoover to preside over a period of job loss.    Among the few parts of our economy where jobs are growing, they are by and large, part-time, low-wage, no benefit service jobs — Wal-Mart jobs.  How do you plan to turn around the US economy and create jobs that can support families?
  • Your administration has been attempting to rewrite overtime regulations which could cause the largest pay cut in American history and cut overtime for 8 million workers.   Both the House and Senate are on record in opposition to this regulation.  Will you be going forward with this regulation before the November election?
  • 44 million Americans are uninsured, with that number growing every day.   More large companies are cutting benefits for workers.  Supermarket workers in Southern California were forced to strike for five months to protect their families’ health benefits – costing the companies billions of dollars in lost sales.  What are you planning to do to make sure health insurance is available and affordable for all Americans?
  • The minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 1996.   Do you favor raising the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7 an hour as proposed in the Senate?
  • Your Administration claimed hundreds of thousands of new jobs were created in March.   Tens of thousands of those jobs were striking supermarket workers returning to work.  How can you take credit for this as job growth when it was simply the end of a strike?

Working Americans deserve answers from their President.   It is time for the Bush Administration to offer up a real plan for economic recovery.