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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.

 

 

November 24, 2003

Picket Lines Spread to Supermarket Warehouses and Distribution Centers

The Southern California supermarket strike gaining new momentum and support with the extension of picket lines from coast to coast over the weekend will now expand the fight to hold the line for health care to the warehouse and distribution facilities of all three supermarket chains.
Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) on strike at Safeway-owned Vons stores and locked out at Ralph’s and Albertson’s stores will ask Teamster members to hold the line for health care and honor their picket lines. A Teamster decision not to cross the lines would effectively shut down the distribution system that supplies the retail outlets, and  would bring increased pressure on the supermarket employers who are already facing strong consumer support for the workers.
UFCW members believe they and the Teamsters have a common cause and a common enemy. A win for corporate greed in the store workers’ street fight for health care would put benefits at risk across the entire supermarket industry. While the supermarket employers in their most recent Teamster contract agreed to maintain existing health benefits, the companies’ refusal to agree to a similar provision to maintain benefits for store employees would spell trouble for the Teamsters in their next round of negotiations. The effective elimination of store employee health benefits, as the employers are demanding, would put Teamster benefits next on the chopping block, and could weaken their position at the bargaining table.
A UFCW-Teamster united front would build on the growing solidarity among all worker and other progressive organizations in support of the supermarket strike. On November 22, thousands of workers and supporters from women’s, religious, student and community organizations turned out in Hold the Line for America’s Health Care rallies in Oakland and Orange County, California as well as Washington D.C. National AFL-CIO President John Sweeney announced that over a quarter of a million dollars has already been raised through the Hold the Line Fund, and that the 13 million member federation would continue to raise funds to provide emergency relief for striking and locked out workers.
November 24, 2003

Southern California Supermarket Workers Extend Pickets to Sacramento

As they enter their sixth week on strike, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union are extending picket lines to Sacramento-area Safeway stores. Picket lines are now up at Safeways in San Francisco, Oakland, Castro Valley, Hayward, and Fresno. Strikers are holding the line across the state of California to send a clear message to Safeway—we will not let giant corporations eliminate health care.

Picket lines will go up at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, November 21, at the Safeway at 1268 West Capitol Ave. in West Sacramento. The striking workers are asking customers to support them in the fight to save affordable health care by choosing to shop elsewhere. Southern California workers will be available for interviews and photographs.

The extension of picket lines to Northern California Safeway stores is the first phase of the nationalization of the grocery strike. The fight to protect health benefits from complete elimination goes beyond Southern California—workers are standing together across the state, and across the country, to hold the line for affordable health care. Picket lines in Northern California have been met with great support from customers.

More than 70,000 UFCW members in Southern California have been on strike since October 11th. Workers in Northern California supermarkets will be bargaining with Safeway, Albertson’s and other employers next year and are preparing to face similar demands for cuts to health care.

WHO:  Southern California striking workers

WHAT:  Extension of picket lines to Sacramento-area Safeway stores

WHEN:  Friday, November 21, 2003 at 12:00 p.m.

WHERE:  Safeway, 1268 West Capitol Ave., West Sacramento

November 21, 2003

California Supermarket Strike hits local Safeway stores

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR NOVEMBER 22, 2003

CALIFORNIA SUPERMARKET STRIKE HITS LOCAL SAFEWAY STORES

National Picket Lines to Hit Washington Area Safeway Stores this Weekend

70,000 Supermarket Workers on Strike for Affordable Health Benefits

Directions

Safeway shoppers in the Washington area will likely see picket lines at their local stores this weekend. After six weeks on the streets, Southern California supermarket workers are taking their fight across the country. From the San Francisco Bay to the Chesapeake, Safeway shoppers will be confronted by striking UFCW members asking them: Do Not Shop Safeway.

Local labor, religious and community leaders, joined by hundreds of striking and supporting union members, will launch the local campaign at noon on Saturday, November 22, at the Safeway store at 6500 Piney Branch Road NW in Washington, DC. More than 200 striking UFCW members from California will be joined by workers from West Virginia, acting in support, will blanket Safeway stores in Washington, D.C. and Maryland and ask customers to take their grocery business to a more responsible employer.

More than 70,000 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) members in Southern California have been on strike against Vons, owned by Safeway, Albertsons and Ralphs, owned by Kroger, for six weeks. 4,000 Kroger workers in West Virginia have been holding the line for affordable health care at work against the Safeway-led charge to destroy health benefits for workers and their families.

Southern California strikers have extended picket lines to Safeway stores in the San Francisco Bay area and throughout Northern California. The DC-area extension is the latest push to educate consumers about Safeway’s anti-worker agenda.

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WHO: Striking supermarket workers, national and local labor leaders, religious and community leaders.

WHAT: Hold the Line for Health Care – Pickets Hit Local Safeway Stores

WHEN: 12:00 noon, Saturday, November 22, 2003

WHERE: Safeway, 6500 Piney Branch Road, NW, Washington, DC

Directions

November 18, 2003

Military Vets Challenge Award to Tyson Foods

Washington, DC – Veterans will protest tomorrow, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce building, 1615 H Street NW, Washington D.C. They will demonstrate their disgust over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to present Tyson Foods the “”Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.”” The award is meant to recognize unique support to National Guard and Reserve employees. The veterans, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 538, will speak out on Tyson Foods’ disgraceful conduct in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where 470 workers have been on strike since February 28, 2003.

The veterans say it is working families that pay the price to defend the country and John Tyson takes the credit, just as workers produce the Tyson products and John Tyson takes all the profit.

Tyson has targeted American living and working standards with demands to lower wage scales, gut health care and cut retirement benefits. The fight in Jefferson is part of company-wide assault designed to reduce living standards for workers across the country to the level of its lowest paid employees. Tyson Foods is the giant of the meat industry and is using its power to remake the industry according to its low wage, low benefit standards.

UFCW Local 538 President Mike Rice said in a statement read by the striking veterans at the demonstration in Washington, “”We are partriots. We believe in American values. We support our brothers and sisters in the National Guard and Reserve. Returning veterans have earned our thanks and our respect. In Jefferson, Tyson Foods shows its contempt for veterans and workers with demands for wages and benefits that cannot support a family. Is this what our National Guard and Reservists are fighting for?””

Members of UFCW Local 538 went on strike because their families can’t afford what Tyson demands: a cut of $2 an hour for all new employees; a freeze in wages for current workers; the elimination of pensions for all new employees; a freeze in pension benefits for current workers; a shift in health care costs to employees making coverage unaffordable for many families and unaffordable for almost all families of new employees. There have been no negotiations between Local 538 and Tyson Foods since February.

For more information: www.tysonfamiliesstandup.org