News and Updates
August 5, 2003
(Las Vegas) – Wal-Mart underestimated Larry Allen when it fired him last Friday in retaliation for his union activity. Tonight, Mr. Allen has the ear of key Democratic Presidential candidates following the AFL-CIO’s national working families Democratic presidential forum in Chicago.
Allen is joining thousands of union members on Tuesday, August 5th from 8:00-9:30 p.m. E.T. at Chicago’s Navy Pier where the candidates are responding to questions posed by workers. C-Span will broadcast the forum.
Allen is a produce clerk at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at Eastern & Serene in Henderson, Nevada. He began work there in May, 2002, and got involved in the effort to organize for a voice on the job in September.
Allen took two vacation days to attend United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Convention in San Francisco and participate in a presidential health care forum on August 1, 2003 with five Democratic presidential candidates who were critical of Wal-Mart’s inadequate health insurance. Allen spoke with reporters before the forum to give a background perspective the health care crisis.
When Allen returned to work on Friday, he was summarily fired on the pretext that he violated the company’s no-solicitation policy. He was fired “”pending investigation.”” Wal-Mart’s own policy requires a complete investigation before an employee is terminated. Wal-Mart’s labor relations’ policy dictates that no personnel action can be taken in a store with union activity without approval and involvement of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based labor relations “”people”” division.
He has always been a reliable, hard-working employee who received a good evaluation in April. His only brushes with discipline came when he confronted a co-worker who he believed was sexually harassing his wife — Allen told him to “”knock it off.”” Allen was written up. A couple months ago, a manager took him aside and told him that he really shouldn’t be passing out union cards in the break room. But federal law and Wal-Mart’s store policy protects workers from retaliation from union activity in “”non-work areas”” including break rooms.
Before his wife got a job in a union supermarket and became eligible for health insurance through her employer, Allen went without. He worked full-time at Wal-Mart but couldn’t afford to buy the company’s health plan. In January, 2003, Allen started feeling odd and sought treatment at an emergency clinic. He was in the beginning stages of having a stroke and was treated in the Intensive Care unit for five days. Health care workers saved his life, even though he couldn’t pay for their services. Luckily, he had a full recovery and suffers no effect from the stroke. He takes prescription medicine now to help prevent another incidence – medicine that would cost him more than $300 per month. Thanks to his wife’s employer-provided health insurance, he pays a small fraction of that bill $8.00. He will spend the rest of his life trying to pay back the more than $30,000 he owes to the hospital.
Wal-Mart workers in Las Vegas and across the country are standing up for a voice on the job with the UFCW. The Las Vegas workers have set up their own website — www.walmartworkerslv.com
August 4, 2003
On Sunday, January 5, 2003, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Local 392 is stepping up its pressure on Domino Sugar. Striking workers from the Domino plant in Baltimore, Maryland are forming “”Truth Squads,”” named for their commitment to speak the truth to consumers, workers, and the community about Domino’s attempts to undermine workers’ family health care and retirement security.
Workers will hold a press briefing at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 5th at UFCW Sugar Workers Local 392 at 1425 Woodall Street in Baltimore, MD.
Two Truth Squads of five workers will travel to New York and Florida over the next few weeks to reach out to workers at other American Sugar, parent company to Domino, facilities about the company’s campaign to destroy worker benefits in Baltimore.
August 4, 2003
On Wednesday, January 8, 2003, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 392 member is stepping up its pressure on Domino Sugar by reaching out to sugar workers in Savannah, Georgia. Striking workers from the Domino plant in Baltimore, Maryland have formed “”Truth Squads,”” named for their commitment to speak the truth to consumers, workers, and the community about Domino’s attempts to undermine workers’ family health care and retirement security.
Two Truth Squads of five workers are traveling to New York, Florida and Georgia over the next few weeks to reach out to workers at other American Sugar, parent company to Domino, facilities about the company’s campaign to destroy worker benefits in Baltimore. The Truth Squads are also reaching out to workers at other sugar plants and related industries.
To learn more about the Domino Sugar strike in Baltimore, log on to www.ufcw.org.
August 4, 2003
The future looks much sweeter for the 330 Domino Sugar workers in Baltimore, Md. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 392 members ratified a new three-year contract on Saturday, January 11, 2003, that ends the 35-day strike.
Workers fought back against company demands to alter their retirement plan, take away two paid holidays and increase health insurance costs. The new contract:
Protects the workers’ pension plan by maintaining current benefits and protecting the investments;
Preserves the two paid holidays, Veteran’s Day and New Year’s Eve, that the company pushed to eliminate;
Provides 2% wage increases for all workers; and
Improves the health care plan.
Over the past 35 days, none of the 330 workers crossed the picket line.
“”The Domino Sugar workers stood on the front line against corporate greed and they won,”” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Regional Director. “”Their solidarity gives hope to all working families across the country who deserve fair and decent wages and benefits for the hard work they do every day.””
Workers traveled around the country in “”Truth Squads”” to rally support for their strike from sugar workers in New York, Florida and Georgia. The Baltimore community supported workers by honoring their boycott message and by making donations to the hardship fund for workers’ families.
UFCW Local 392 President Alex Hamilton said, “”I want to thank everyone who supported us in this struggle for a fair contract. Without the generous donations of the good people of Baltimore and our UFCW brothers and sisters, our fight would have been more difficult our spirits lower.””
The UFCW is the voice for working America, with 1.4 million members in food industries — from processing to retail. The UFCW represents workers in supermarkets across the country as well as food processing, meat packing, chemical, distillery, garment and health care facilities.
August 4, 2003
The new buyer of the Rainbow Food store—Tim Metcalf—is turning his back on long-term employees of the Wauwatosa store. Many workers have more than 20 years experience serving the supermarket-shopping public. Metcalf is refusing to retain the current employees leaving area workers with a bleak future.
Workers are planning a rally and press conference to call on customers to join their grassroots campaign to pressure Metcalf to respect the rights of current Rainbow employees.
Many of the current Rainbow employees will lose their jobs at the end of this week due to Metcalf’s greed. Workers will share their stories at the rally about Metcalf and his new management team refusing to interview long-term workers and slashing wages and benefits.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1444, Milwaukee County Labor Council, local elected officials, Jobs with Justice, local religious leaders are mobilizing the community to stand up with the long-term Rainbow Foods workers.
August 4, 2003
FACT: Wal-Mart consistently refuses to divulge wage rates when challenged for data by journalists and researchers. Yet it doesn’t hesitate to make outrageous claims about good wages and benefits without proving it with facts.
Wal-Mart workers are paid an average wage of $7.62/hour based on BLS data.
The BLS Employment and Earnings Survey lists average earnings by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code. Wal-Mart is part of SIC Code 5331 for Variety Stores along with other major companies like Costco, K-Mart, Target, and Dollar General.
Wal-Mart dominates 56% of the discount store industry sales. The Chain Store Guide reported that in this industry in 2002, Wal-Mart (including its Sam’s Club stores) had $168.5 billion in U.S. sales out of $303.9 billion in total industry sales. Therefore, BLS average wage for the industry statistically cannot vary much from the average wage and earnings for Wal-Mart workers.
Grocery workers are paid an average of $10.35/hour based on BLS data.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reported in 2002 that United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union-represented workers in the supermarket industry earned 31% more than their non-union counterparts. Women have a 33% advantage with UFCW representation.
IWPR research showed that UFCW-represented supermarket workers are two-and-a-half times as likely to have pension coverage than non-union workers and twice as likely to have health insurance coverage than retail food workers without union representation.
August 4, 2003
Workers at the nation’s largest natural food supermarket chain are building a movement for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Workers at the store in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, filed for Labor Board election to join UFCW Local 400 on January 31, 2003. The election date has not been set.
Workers in Madison, Wisconsin kick-started the national movement by voting for UFCW Local 1444 representation on July 15, 2002. Despite Whole Foods’ stall tactics, the workers continue to bargain with them and are working toward reaching a first contract.
The Madison campaign leaders launched a website, www.wholeworkersunite.org where workers from the 142 Whole Foods stores can connect with each other and learn about taking action for a better workplace.
“”Whole Foods workers across the country saw the Madison workers stand up and realized that they could take action to make their workplace better, too. The movement is growing,”” said xxxxxx
The campaign is building momentum around the country, with Whole Foods workers connecting via the website and email to learn more about organizing for a real voice on the job.
“”Whole Foods promotes itself as a great place to work, yet management fights worker efforts to organize with a vengeance. Workers deserve to have real representation, protection and a say over workplace issues,”” said.
The UFCW represents 1.4 million members at the nation’s major supermarket, food processing and meatpacking companies. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries.
August 4, 2003
Workers at the Tyson Foods plant in Jefferson, Wisc., set up picket lines after overwhelmingly rejecting a company offer that would cut wages and risk the loss of medical treatment for workers’ families.
For a company whose motto is:””It’s What Your Family Deserves,”” no working family—and no community—deserves the attack on living standards the giant meat processor has launched against workers at its Jefferson plant.
“”Tyson’s proposal would devastate my family,”” said UFCW Local 538 member, John Hernandez, a 25-year plant employee. “”The company wants to cut our wages and increase the cost of our health care coverage. Our families can’t live on that.””
The Jefferson plant is profitable. The facility is part of Tyson’s prepared foods division which posted a 4.2% profit for first quarter 2003.
The company’s contract offer seeks wholesale cuts in workers pay and benefits including:
A pay cut of 73 cents an hour, on average, as well as a wage freeze for four years.
An increase in health care coverage rates up to $40 a week, as well as higher deductibles and out of pocket expenses which could total $4600 a year for basic family coverage.
A freeze on pension benefits for current workers and elimination of pension benefits for new hires.
A 50% reduction in sick leave.
A two week cut in vacation benefits.
“”Tyson’s proposal comes out of greed, not need,”” says Kevin Williamson, UFCW International Vice President and Region 6 Director. “”The plant has operated 100 years without a strike, and now Tyson is attempting to repay a loyal and experienced workforce by destroying their living standards.””
Contract negotiations have taken place over the last eight months. In January the Company gave the union a 30-day notice saying it would terminate the current extended contract at midnight on February 25.
UFCW Local 538 has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, charging the company with bargaining in bad faith.
Tyson’s Jefferson plant, employing 470 workers, produces pepperoni for Tombstone, DiGiorno, Domino”s and Jack’s pizzas, as well as hams, ring bologna, and hot dogs.
“”This company forced this strike on us,”” said Mike Rice, UFCW Local 538 Business Agent. “”We’re fighting for our families, our futures, and our community. We’re on the picket line today and we’ll be here for however long it takes to reach a fair settlement our members’ families deserve.””
August 4, 2003
Wal-Mart claims its associates can speak for themselves. Why then did the retail giant seize the internet domain name www.unionizewalmart.com? Simple, to prevent workers from using the web address to build a movement for a voice on the job.
“”Wal-Mart’s actions show what the company is truly afraid of—an organized workforce. Wal-Mart associates deserve the right to have a voice for fair treatment, living wages and decent family health benefits and the union is going to keep fighting to help them get there,”” said Mike Leonard, Executive Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).
Wal-Mart workers haven’t been discouraged. Worker-run websites are building t a nationwide worker-to-worker network among Wal-Mart associates that is growing. A community-wide Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club organizing campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada, sparked the worker website: www.walmartworkerslv.com that is run by the in-store organizing committee and has inspired other sites across the country.
Several others sites of note include:
www.walmartswaronworkers.com – featuring former Wal-Mart managers describing illegal tactics they were taught to use against union organizing.
www.therighttochoose.com — run by a former Sam’s Club associate in Lansing, Michigan.
www.walmartworkerstexas.com – run by current and former Wal-Mart workers.
www.walmartdayofaction.com – central site for the People’s Campaign- Justice @ Wal-Mart
August 4, 2003
(Kingman, Arizona) – Wal-Mart has been forced to reinstate a worker from its Kingman, Arizona Tire and Lube Express department and provide him back pay. An administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered Wal-Mart to rehire Brad Jones who was fired on February 28, 2002 in retaliation for his efforts to organize a union and compensate him with back pay.
A majority of the 18 associates working in the Tire and Lube Express at the Kingman, Arizona Wal-Mart Supercenter signed cards authorizing the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 99R to give them an organized voice on wages, health benefits, scheduling and working conditions. The UFCW filed a petition with the NLRB for a secret ballot union representation election in August, 2000.
The NLRB blocked the election due to Wal-Mart’s systematic intimidation and other illegal activities against its workers. But Wal-Mart’s campaign against the union supporters didn’t end. Brad Jones, one of three leaders in the union effort at the store, was a “”marked man,”” according to the ALJ.
The judge found that Store Manager, Jim Winkler, had targeted the three outspoken union supporters by directing supervisors to hold them to a higher standard and “”wait for them to screw up.”” Two employees left and the third, Jones, was singled out by management. Jones was fired two days after receiving a good yearly performance review which included a 4% salary increase.
During the campaign, the judge found that Wal-Mart illegally monitored workers by placing an inexperienced manager from Bentonville, Arkansas in the department to fill a vacancy. The executive had no experience as was unable to work alongside the TLE employees as the job required. His assignment, it seemed, was to carry out surveillance on the workers, a clear violation of their federal rights.
The judge’s ruling also found that Wal-Mart failed to enforce its non-harassment policy when an anti-union worker was harassing two union supporters. The victims suffered from their colleagues’ harassment about their weight and religious beliefs. Despite several appeals to management to protect the victims, Wal-Mart refused.
Wal-Mart’s illegal tactics in Kingman, Arizona exposed further illegal threats to workers across the country. The company’s “”Associate Benefits Book”” which outlines conditions for eligibility for various benefits expressly stated that associates represented by a union are not eligible for coverage. The Judge ordered that Wal-Mart reprint and amend its benefit book to reflect that union-represented workers’ benefits are determined through the collective bargaining process and that union-represented workers will remain eligible for benefits during bargaining.
Wal-Mart is also required to post notices in every location admitting its violations of the law and promising not to discriminate against union-represented workers. The ALJ decision in Kingman is the first time Wal-Mart has been ordered to make a national remedy to its illegal anti-union tactics.