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January 12, 2004

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report from Las Vegas

Las Vegas — The nation’s largest retailer continues to violate its worker’s rights. Wal-Mart faces new complaints and will have to defend itself before an NLRB judge for its illegal intimidation, harassment, and retaliation against workers organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For three years, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club workers in Las Vegas have been working to organize for a voice on the job and better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Continually breaking the law to silence them, Wal-Mart’s “”Peoples Division”” has systematically suppressed workers’ legal right to exercise a democratic free choice for union representation.

Larry Allen, a former Wal-Mart Supercenter produce clerk at their Eastern & Serene office in Henderson, Nevada, was fired after giving testimony to the NLRB and spending two of his vacation days to speak alongside Democratic presidential candidates in a forum on health care at the UFCW Convention in San Francisco in August 2003. His dismissal followed a well-documented track record of intimidation and coercion at the Eastern & Serene Supercenter.

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered a hearing to begin February 10, 2004. The case charges that Wal-Mart managers:

Ø Prohibited employees from talking about the union and distributing information in break rooms and on store property;

Ø Made employees feel that they were under surveillance for union activities;

Ø Asked employees to spy on co-workers on behalf of the company;

Ø Refused to allow union representatives on the property;

Ø Confiscated union literature from employees and threatened workers with reprisals for accepting literature;

Ø Asked the police to remove union organizers from the property;

Ø And illegally fired Larry Allen for his pro-union support.

Wal-Mart’s attempt to use Mr. Allen as an example to intimidate other employees underscores the company’s discriminatory policies. The NLRB complaint states that Wal-Mart has been “”interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees”” in the exercise of their rights.

Larry Allen was fired fighting for his rights. He is one of a growing number of Wal-Mart workers bravely raising their voices for the rights of all workers.

The 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) is America’s neighborhood union representing workers in neighborhood grocery stores across the country. UFCW puts dinner on the table for America’s families with members working in meatpacking and food processing. UFCW gives a voice to care with representation for nurses, medical technicians and nursing home workers.

December 19, 2003

Food Workers Union Offers Good Faith Gesture to Start Negotiations

Supermarket Employers Challenged to Match Good Faith Move with End of Lockout

In a dramatic gesture to reopen negotiations, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) announced today that its local unions would remove picket lines from distribution/warehouse facilities at Ralphs, Albertsons and Safeway/Vons.   The move coincides with the renewal of negotiations on Friday, December 19, 2003.

The lines at the distribution/warehouse facilities will be removed on Monday, December 22, 2003.

UFCW leaders from the seven local unions involved in the dispute offered their thanks and appreciation to the 8,000 Teamster members for their personal sacrifice in the fight for affordable health care.

UFCW International President Doug Dority also added his appreciation; “We have never seen such solidarity amongst workers in the supermarket industry as has been displayed by members of the Teamsters union.   On behalf of all UFCW members, we extend our thanks and best wishes for the holidays,” said Dority.

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said that “”The Teamsters will continue to honor picket lines at the retail outlets because our members know that the UFCW’s fight is our fight.””

The UFCW immediately challenged the employers to match the good faith move with an end to the lockout of workers at Ralphs and Albertsons.

The Southern California supermarket strike/lockout began on October 11, 2003 in response to employer demands for the elimination of health benefits.    Workers struck Safeway/Vons; Ralphs and Albertsons immediately locked out workers in support of Safeway.

On November 24, 2003, the UFCW extended picket lines to the distribution/warehouse facilities of these employers and asked Teamsters to honor those picket lines.   The Teamster lines effectively shut down the supply system that had been keeping the near-abandoned stores stocked.  The stores were empty of both product and customers.

On Tuesday at a national solidarity summit, UFCW representatives from across North America pledged their support to both fund the strike and increase the level of activity targeting Safeway operations across the U.S. and Canada.

The union’s move in taking down picket lines indicates the UFCW’s commitment to the bargaining process while preparing for a long battle ahead should the employers refuse to reach a fair and equitable agreement.  UFCW local unions are presenting a comprehensive proposal as the renewed negotiations begin.  (Reminder, a news blackout continues at the request of the Federal Mediator.  No comments will be made concerning the specifics of the bargaining process.)

December 19, 2003

UFCW North American Summit Mobilizes Support For Southern California Supermarket Strike

Following Summit Announcement, 5,000+ Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers to be Joined by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, UFCW President Doug Dority, and 400+ UFCW Local Union Presidents from across US and Canada in historic march from Century City to grocery store in Beverly Hills

On Tuesday, December 16, 2003, 400+ UFCW local union presidents from across the country and Canada will meet in Century City to discuss ways of supporting the Southern California local unions whose 70,000 members have been on strike or locked out since October 11th.

The private meeting will begin at 8:30 AM at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. At 10:30 AM, the meeting will be open to the press.

At 12 o’clock noon, the leaders will join 5,000+ striking and locked out grocery workers on the street for a march to a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills. This will be the largest demonstration since the strike and lockout began and will send a strong message to consumers that they should not shop at Vons, Pavilions, or Albertsons this holiday season.

More details to be released on Monday.

When: Tuesday, December 16; 10:30 a.m. for Summit Meeting Announcement; 12 noon for March

What: Summit Announcement with major national leaders from Labor, Religious, Women’s, and Entertainment communities; March from the Century Plaza Hotel to a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills

Who: 5,000+ Southern California striking and locked out grocery workers, Doug Dority, President, UFCW International, John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO, Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, L.A. County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Entertainment industry celebrity activists (names TBA)Religious leaders (names TBA), Elected officials (names TBA)

Where: March will begin at the Century Plaza hotel, 2025 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, and proceed to the Pavilions store at 9467 W Olympic Blvd.

 

December 16, 2003

Are the Supermarket Employers Lying About Their Health Plan?

Health Benefits Experts Challenge Supermarket Employer Claims

Ad Campaign Launches Tuesday, December 16th.

View Ad  (pdf)

Striking supermarket workers continue to expose Safeway’s ‘big lie’ about the health care issues driving the three-month long strike in Southern California.  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) will run full-page advertisements in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Bakersfield Californian and the San Diego Union Tribune.

The ad reprints an editorial written by health benefits experts, E. Richard Brown, Director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Richard Kronick, a Professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at UC-San Diego.  Their analysis, titled “Supermarkets ‘Offer’ to End Affordable Health Care,” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 8, 2003.

“It’s time we put an end to Safeway’s big lie about the health care proposals.  Brown and Kronick explain better than anyone exactly how the supermarkets’ proposals would mean and end to health benefits in this industry,” said Doug Dority, UFCW International President.

View Ad (pdf)

December 9, 2003

Holding the Line for Health Care: Support Builds with Labor Movement Contributions

Today, Southern California supermarket workers’ fight to hold the line for health care in the supermarket industry got a major boost with sizeable contributions from  the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) and the American Income Life Insurance Company (AIL).   The 70,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union have been on strike since October 11, 2003 against Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons.

 
 UFCW International President Doug Dority holding the line at a Safeway store in Washington, DC, joined IUE-CWA President Edward Fire and AIL Vice President Jules Pagano.

IUE-CWA President Edward Fire met with strikers on the picket lines at a Washington, DC, Safeway store and presented his union’s $100,000 contribution to the Hold the Line for Health Care Strike Fund.

“We stand in full support of the UFCW members’ fight to maintain health care benefits.   We fought this same battle with General Electric earlier this year and employers across the country continue the attack on system of health care at work. We need a national public policy solution so that workers and their families no longer have to walk the streets to maintain access to health care,” said Fire.

As the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America, the IUE-CWA represents 80,000 manufacturing workers including 14,000 workers at General Electric.

Roger Smith, President, American Income Life, along with Jules Pagano, Vice President, and Hugh Walsh, Assistant Vice President, presented strikers with a $10,000 contribution from AIL and pledged to contribute $10,000 per month for the duration of the strike.

“”AIL, a wall to wall union company, feels we have a responsibility to support working families and we are proud to support the UFCW in this national fight to hold the line for health care,”” said Jules Pagano, AIL Vice President.

AIL is a nationally recognized insurance carrier that provides services and policies to labor unions and working families.  Headquartered in Waco, Texas, American Income is licensed in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) also pledged a $15,000 contribution to the Hold the Line for Health Care Strike Fund.  TCU President Robert Scardelletti also sent a letter to all TCU local unions encouraging additional contributions.

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December 4, 2003

Entertainment Industry Unions & Celebrities to Join Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers on Picket Line

For immediate release Dec. 2, 2003

UFCW Locals 770 and 1442, AFL-CIO, CLC

As mediated negotiations continue…

Los Angeles, CA (12/2/03)  On Thursday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m., AFTRA, SAG, and other entertainment industry unions will join striking and locked out grocery workers on the picket line at Pavilions in Burbank. Highlights include:

  • SAG President Melissa Gilbert
  • AFTRA President John Connolly
  • Representatives of IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Actors Ed Asner (“Elf”), Esai Morales (“NYPD Blue,” “American Family”), Ingrid Oliu (“Real Women Have Curves”), Mitch Ryan (“Liar Liar”), Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”), Soledad St Hilaire (“Real Women Have Curves”), and Richard Thomas (“The Walton’s,” PAX’s “”Just Cause””) – all actors’ appearances tentative subject to film scheduling.
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal will perform.
  • Participants are being asked to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the children of UFCW workers for the holidays.

What:

  • Press conference and rally of entertainment industry unions in support of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Holiday toy drive for children of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Musical entertainment

Who:

  • SAG, AFTRA, IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Celebrity actors
  • Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal
  • Striking and locked out grocery workers

Where:

Pavilions, 1110 West Alameda St., Burbank (near Main Street)

When:

Thursday, December 4, 2003, 11:00 a.m.

(picketing begins at 10:30 a.m.; press conference/rally starts at 11:30 a.m.)

December 4, 2003

California Congressman Challenges Safeway

Congressman Tom Lantos (CA-12) has challenged Safeway’s claims that the company is only seeking modest changes in employee health benefits in the Southern California supermarket strike.

In a letter to Safeway CEO, Steve Burd, the California congressman went straight to the heart of the matter:

“”I have reviewed Safeway’s benefit funding proposal for new hires…on your company’s web site. Your proposal will not provide any substantial benefits for new employees…it is obvious your intent is to eliminate health benefits in the future.””

Safeway and two supermarket operators have waged a misinformation campaign designed to convince workers and the public that the grocery giants were only asking that current employees make a modest co-payment of $5 to $15 a week for comprehensive health benefits. The Lantos letter stripped away the facade from the companies campaign:

“”You conveniently ignore the impact of segregating new hires from current employees (a key component of the companies’ proposals is to eliminate any meaningful benefits for new employees)…As employees are replaced, the funding base will shrink until benefits ( for current employees) have to be cut or co-pays increased well beyond $5 to $15 a week.””

Both new and current employees would ultimately wind up with excessive co-pays, scaled back benefits and finally the effective elimination of benefits. Lantos directly challenged the veracity of company statements on the impact of Safeway’s proposal, “”Mr. Burd, it appears your company is lying to workers, consumers and the public.””

“”The bottom line,”” according to the Congressman,””is that 70,000 jobs that now come with affordable family health coverage will not come with that coverage in the future.””

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) released today the letter dated November 21, 2003. Click here to read the full text of the letter.

December 4, 2003

UFCW Unions in Southern California Sue Albertsons and Ralphs for Violation of

Seven UFCW unions in Southern California on strike against Vons supermarkets today filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Albertsons and Ralphs for
violation of the California Mass Layoff Notification Law (California Labor Code: Section 1400).

The law, passed in 2002, requires that each and every employee individually be given 60 days’ notice prior to any mass layoff. In the current labor/management dispute between seven Southern California UFCW locals, there is a strike against Vons. Ralphs and Albertsons have locked out their employees.

The suit says that no notice of the intent to lockout was given by Ralphs and Albertsons and seeks the back pay and health care and pension payments for 60 days that is stipulated in the law. The unions estimate that the amount owed their union members locked out by the two employers exceeds several hundred million dollars.

The employers have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.
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December 4, 2003

Press Briefing: Lies, Damn Lies And Company Lies

THE FACTS ON THE IMPACT OF THE COMPANIES’ HEALTH CARE PROPOSALS

  • Press Packet (UFCW Statement, Acturarial Analysis of Benefits, and more) (pdf)

Corporate flacks have tried to reduce the struggle to save affordable health care to a matter of premium co-pays. The reality is the employers are attempting to effectively eliminate health care protection for 70,000 Southern California supermarket jobs.

Health care expert Sidney Abrams will strip the facade from the supermarket giants’ misinformation campaign on the impact of their health care proposals, and expose the real and devastating consequences for Southern California workers and communities at a press briefing at 10:30 A.M., October 22 at UFCW Local 770, 603 Shatto Place, Los Angeles.

International Executive Vice President and Director of Collective Bargaining, Sarah Palmer Amos will also present a national overview on the growing number of health care strikes.

Mr. Abrams is an actuary with more than 30 years of experience providing services to major health care plans, including the trust fund covering Southern California supermarket workers. He serves as an insurance industry representative on the CalPERS Board of Administration, and is Chair of the Health Benefits Committee and Vice Chair of the Benefits and Program Administration Committee. Mr. Abrams is a member of the American Academy of Actuaries and an Associate of the Society of Actuaries.

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December 4, 2003

UFCW Supermarket Workers Withdraw Pickets from Ralphs Stores

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA UFCW Press Contacts Ellen Anreder, 818-591-7480 Barbara Maynard, 323-850-1356

Picket lines will be withdrawn by 12:00 noon from Ralphs stores in Southern California.

Representatives of 70,000 striking and locked-out supermarket workers announced this decision this morning in simultaneous press conferences in Los Angeles, San Diego, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara and Palm Desert.

Supermarket workers will continue to be locked out of their stores by Ralphs management in a regional labor dispute that is about to enter its fourth week. Instead of picketing their own stores, Ralphs employees will supplement picket lines at — among other strategic locations — Vons and Pavilions stores, where employees are on strike, and Albertsons stores, where employees are locked out.

“”Please help us in our struggle to save affordable health care by not shopping at Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons during this dispute,”” said a Ralphs worker. “”We’ve taken down our picket lines at Ralphs for our customers’ convenience.””

Overwhelming popular support for the employees has resulted in empty supermarket aisles and millions of dollars in losses for Ralphs (Kroger Co., NYSE: KR), Vons and Pavilions (Safeway Inc., NYSE: SWY) and Albertsons (NYSE: ABS).

“”The public has endured enough,”” a UFCW spokesperson said today. “”Between the MTA transit strike in Los Angeles and the supermarket strike and lockouts — not to mention the horrific tragedy of the Southern California wildfires — the people need some good news for a change. We are extremely grateful for the public’s support,”” the spokesperson continued.