Workers Shut Down Normal Operations of Boston-Area Store
via UNI Global Union
BOSTON – Early this morning, workers at a Boston-area IKEA store went on strike, shutting down normal store operations in an effort to improve the lives of hard-working IKEA workers and their families.
The striking workers are the first unionized retail workers at an American IKEA store, and are taking this action in response to IKEA USA’s refusal to recognize their union and enter into contract negotiations.
“Instead of doing what is right, IKEA has chosen to fight its own hard-working employees. That is wrong. All we want is the chance to earn a better life,” said eight-year IKEA coworker Chris DeAngelo. “We are dedicated to our jobs, and wish IKEA would honor its own policy and respect our union rights.”
Today’s action follows the decision of workers in the Goods Flow In department at IKEA Stoughton to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest private sector union with 1.3 million members.
The workers requested that IKEA USA recognize their union after following a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process that allows companies to voluntarily recognize a union when workers demonstrate majority support. Seventy-five per cent of workers in the bargaining unit signed a petition affirming their desire to join the union.
The action today highlights a failure to follow IKEA Group policies, which explicitly state support for the right of workers to bargain collectively and to join a union of their choice in the company’s internal code of conduct.
The Stoughton IKEA store has been the subject of a recent NLRB complaint filed in Boston, alleging that the company violated federal law by unlawfully infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected union activity. The company has since settled the complaint with the NLRB.
Workers Challenge IKEA’s American Labor Relations Record by Calling for Union Recognition
BOSTON – Today, workers at the IKEA furniture store in Stoughton, Mass. filed with the company for union recognition. While IKEA USA has union manufacturing plants in Danville, Va., and IKEA Group prides itself on positive relationships with unionized workers in stores around the world, this is the first time that IKEA retail workers in the United States have formed a union.
The bargaining unit consists of workers in the Goods Flow In department. The workers are joining the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest private sector union with 1.3 million members.
“I love working at IKEA, and I want to make a career here,” said eight year IKEA co-worker Chris DeAngelo. “A union is the best way to work together to live our values and build an even better IKEA. We’ve gone through a lot at our store, but this is a chance to turn over a new leaf and reset the relationship between IKEA’s hard-working men and women and management. If IKEA does what is right and chooses to recognize our union today, it will show that IKEA respects our right to join a union without fear of retaliation or harassment.”
Workers are seeking union recognition in an NLRB process that allows an employer to voluntarily recognize a union when workers demonstrate majority support. An overwhelming majority of Goods Flow In workers have signed a public petition to join the union. A copy of the petition can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Boston-area IKEA store has been the subject of a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint filed in Boston, alleging that the company violated federal law by unlawfully infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected union activity. The company has since settled the complaint with the NLRB.
The effort to improve the lives of IKEA workers has garnered domestic and international support. Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, stated, “here at the meeting of our World Executive Board, the affiliates of UNI, representing 20 million workers, including those working at IKEA stores the world over, have stated their unequivocal support for the brave actions of workers in IKEA Stoughton”. Jennings continued, “we call on IKEA to listen to the workers at Stoughton and recognize their union rights; and we have today committed to stand with these workers until they have a union contract.”
UNI Global Union is an international federation of unions, representing the unions of IKEA retail workers around the world.
UNI Global Union, based in Nyon, Switzerland, represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade. UNI and our affiliates in all regions are driven by the responsibility to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and collective bargaining.
As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting the story of Fermin Rodriguez, who has bravely stood up for his coworkers and their collective union rights.
Fermin is a member of UFCW Local 770, and works at El Super–a California-based, Mexican owned supermarket chain. Fermin had worked for El Super for 9 years, until the company illegally terminated him, simply for standing up for workers’ rights. The company tried to silence him due to his union activity, and the union’s charges lead the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to obtain a court injunction that ordered the grocer to return Fermin to work
Since September, 2013, Fermin and his fellow workers had been working without a contract because El Super refused to bargain with them even after the workers fought off the company’s decertification attempt to take away their Local 770 union representation. In response, the workers launched a boycott to protest the company’s unfair labor practices at their store. Since then, workers like Fermin have continued to speak up about what the company is doing, and have gained support from other workers and community members from far and wide.
In late July, Federal Distict Court Judge George King granted the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) request for a rare “10j” injunction to stop El Super’s unfair labor practices and immediately remedy their unlawful treatment of workers. In the face of El Super’s coercive and threatening conduct designed to silence workers, Chief Judge George H. King issued the significant “10j” injunction, ordering not only the immediate reinstatement of Fermín, but the restoration of workers vacation accrua which El Super had taken away. The Company also conceded in the face of these actions that it would return to the bargaining table.
Fermin is proud of this victory but is clear that this fight isn’t just about him–“it’s about respect for all workers and basic protections on the job. The ability to take sick leave when we or a family member is ill; a fair wage that reflects our contribution to the company’s giant profits; and guaranteed full-time hours for those willing to work.”
To speak out about how he and his coworkers are engaged in a campaign to stand up for worker rights, Fermin came to Washinton, D.C. this week to #StartTheConvo at the White House Summit on worker voice.
His message? “Don’t let yourself be exploited. Fight for your rights. Join a union. Unions are there to protect all workers from exploitation and ensure that employers respect workers’ rights.”
Fermin also used the opportunity to discuss how unions are at the forefront of fighting for immigrant workers’ rights: “It is imperative for workers to realize that they shouldn’t be afraid and know that they have rights. Regardless of whether workers are documented or undocumented, the union is here to help all workers. It is important to know that we, Latino workers, come to this country to work hard, contribute to the economy of this country, and fight to better the lives of our families. It is important for this to be taken into account and finally pass immigration reform.”
In his remarks, Fermin also touched on the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month, and what it means to him: “It is an honor and gives me a sense of pride in my work and my contribution. Latinos come to the USA to improve our living standards and to help our families here and back home. Whether we are from Mexico or other countries in Central America, Hispanic Herititage Month is important to us because we come here to work hard, not only for ourselves but to help this country as well.”
On Oct. 7, the White House is holding a summit with leaders in the various movements to improve the lives of working people across the country, with a focus on how to make sure that economic growth is broad-based and that workers share in the benefits they help create with their labor. Until the summit begins, we’ll be highlighting the stories of workers and their struggles to make sure their voices are heard on the job.
Today, we take a look at Lydia Flores.
Flores is a 37-year-old single mother of three who works as a cashier at union El Super market in Arleta, Calif. She and her co-workers have been fighting for a new contract for more than two years in the face of a campaign by the company to undermine the workers’ desires for fair working conditions and a voice on the job.
Currently, she makes $12.88 per hour after 11 years at the company. The low wages and the lack of sufficient hours keep Flores in a constant struggle to pay her bills:
I pay the mortgage and my car and my utilities—and the rest of the bills have to wait. Sometimes I work 32, 36 hours. The 40 hours are not guaranteed.
When Flores speaks up about anything at work, she says that she is met with hostility and disdain. Other workers at El Super have made similar complaints.
Flores says the workers want more:
We want more respect and enough hours to support our families. If we had a contract, they would respect the 40 hours, and we would not have to be fearful about raising concerns about the company’s failure to follow the rules
Flores knows that coming together with her co-workers can make positive change. She is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770, a shop steward and a member of the union’s bargaining committee.
El Super employs low‐wage and predominantly Latino workers. The workers at the union stores were covered under a contract with El Super that expired on Sept. 27, 2013. For more than a year, the unions and the worker bargaining team sought to bargain to improve their working conditions. In September 2013, El Super imposed what it called its “last, best and final” offer, which did not address the workers’ concerns and provided for less paid sick leave than is currently mandated by California state law. On Dec. 12, 2014, El Super workers voted resoundingly to recertify the union and demanded the company return to the bargaining table, a request which El Super rejected. El Super employees and the UFCW launched a boycott in December 2014 to protest the company’s actions. The union’s boycott lines have turned away more than 100,000 prospective El Super shoppers. In the face of the boycott and after the NLRB issued complaint and sought a 10(j) injunction in federal court regarding the company’s unlawful refusal to bargain, the company agreed to return to the table. El Super recently agreed to bargain for the first time in more than a year.
Flores and her fellow workers aren’t making outrageous demands, especially in light of the fact they are owned by a billion-dollar business:
“What we’re trying to do with our consumer boycott of El Super is trying to get something better for our families. We just want the company to hear us, we want them to come and negotiate and give us what is fair. We’re asking for better wages, regular schedules and hours to support our families and respect, that’s what we want.”
About El Super
El Super is managed by the Paramount, Calif.-based Bodega Latina Corp. There are 50 El Super locations in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. Bodega Latina Corp. is 81.4% owned by Mexico-based Grupo Commercial Chedraui (Chedraui). Chedraui operates 211 markets in Mexico. It is Mexico’s third-largest retailer.
In January 2013, Forbes estimated the personal wealth of Chedraui’s chairman of the board, Alfredo Chedraui Obeso, at more than $1 billion. That year the company made $5.1 billion in revenue. The El Super stores make up more than 20% of Grupo Chedraui’s income.
A year and a half ago, when Richard Kern was 18, he was diagnosed with malignant Melanoma.
While going through treatment, his medical bills soared to exceed $100,000. Thankfully, Richard’s mom is a member of UFCW Local 1059. Because of the collective bargaining agreement UFCW Local 1059 fought for at Kroger where Mrs. Kern works, her health insurance covered a vast majority of Richard’s overwhelming medical costs.
“My bill was in the triple digits instead of the sextuple digits,” said Richard. “Without her union, I would not be going to college. We would have sold at least one of our cars. I’d be working a full-time job or two part-time jobs. And we likely would have had to cash in retirement funds and all the life insurance policies we have. We would have had to give up nearly everything just to pay for a surgery to keep me alive. If it wasn’t for my mother’s union, my family would have been finished.”
Richard can now say he is a cancer survivor. But tragedy very recently struck his family again, when his father had a stroke. Richard’s father was airlifted from his local hospital in Lacaster, Ohio, to the facilities at Ohio State University where doctors fought to keep him from having another stroke.
“Again, the UFCW came to the rescue,” says Richard. “We haven’t yet gotten all the medical bills but the life flight alone was thousands upon thousands. He had two procedures done, saw neurologists, vascular surgeons, cardiologists, and neuro vascular surgeons, along with spending five days in arguably the best hospital in Ohio. The bills will be astronomical. But again, without my mom’s health insurance that the UFCW bargained for at the table, we would have had to pay for it all out of pocket. Which, to be blunt, never would have happened. We would have never been able to pay it all off. Ever.”
“Ever since my battle against cancer”, said Richard, “I’ve been on a mission. And after my dad’s medical troubles, the fire in my heart was set all over again. My goal is to make a speech at the Democratic National Convention. I want to send the message that without unions, the middle class is beyond screwed. I want to send the message that every single person in this country deserves a living wage, not the minimum wage. And I want to send a message that everyone is entitled to quality health insurance. I am living, breathing proof that unions save lives, as is my father.”
Richard says that by fighting for workers’ rights, the union “literally kept me and my dad alive.” Help Richard spread his message, by posting on social media, shopping union-made, or simply telling a worker in your local grocery store or in your favorite retail shop thank you for their service.
Together, unions and the millions of hard-working Americans they represent will continue fighting for workers’ rights and improving the quality of life for the middle class.
Labor Day is the symbolic end of summer for many, but as always, it’s a holiday to honor hardworking men and women who make our country great. Many of our UFCW members will be working on Labor Day, but for those who get to take the day off and enjoy time with family and BBQ, we can continue to support each other by buying and shopping union-made.
Myron Coguox works at Food 4 Less and is a member of UFCW Local 324.
I spent my GOLD internship working alongside Jobs with Justice in Atlanta. The overall goal of the summer was to help motivate people to organize and have a union voice on the job to help them improve their jobs and lives.
When I arrived, I knew very little about the South and it was sometimes difficult for me to reach people within the community. I come from California and found Georgia to be quite different from home. This experience has opened up my eyes to how difficult organizing can be inside a right to work state.
I spent a lot of my time canvassing a community called East Point and it was challenging. Beyond being perceived as the “new” person in town, what made my job particulary difficult was the fact that East Point is an exceptionally conservative community. The people I met weren’t always so receptive to labor unions. To overcome this, I would always share my personal experiences to help establish trust. If they trusted me, they would be more likely to talk with me about how together we can stand up for more jobs and better wages.
Working in Georgia made me realize how much working people suffer. Areas with low incomes and few jobs are in desperate need of change. This summer taught me that the best way to bring that is for people to band together both inside and outside of their workplaces.
I’m looking forward to going home and sharing everything I’ve learned with my local union. Most importantly, I won’t take the strength of our solidarity for granted.
Montvale, N.J. – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union International President Marc Perrone, released the following statement on behalf of UFCW Locals 27, 100R, 152, 342, 371, 400, 464-A, 1245, 1262, 1360, 1500, 1776 and RWDSU Locals 338 and 1034, after meeting with A&P executives to discuss the future of A&P and its proposed sale.
“For years, the hard-working men and women of A&P not only did their jobs, they personally and financially sacrificed to invest in A&P’s success. These sacrifices were made for the sake of their families, their co-workers, and the customers and communities that they deeply care about. Now, at this critical time, after repeated mismanagement and strategic mistakes made by company executives, A&P is asking for even more. Enough is enough!
“Instead of asking for more sacrifices to pay-off a select group of executives and corporate investors, A&P should be focusing on their workers and their families during this challenging time.
“We want to be very clear, our members and their families sacrificed. They invested financially and personally in the success of these stores and they remain committed to working hard to make these stores a success for any responsible buyers. But make no mistake, we will not take part in any effort that asks them to give up what they have earned and deserve.
“Looking ahead, we will work cooperatively and constructively with anyone, but we will fight back with everything we have if A&P or its financial backers attempt to further exploit our members. For A&P to ask our members to give up their rights and benefits is simply unacceptable. Moreover, it is an insult given that it is our hard-working members who have and will make these stores a success. In fact, what will make these stores a true financial success is new and responsible management, not more sacrifices by A&P’s hard-working men and women.
“If A&P, its executive team, or its investors want to play the blame game, they should all look in the mirror.
“Now is the time for A&P to do what is right and we fully expect that they will honor their responsibilities to its employees, our members, and their families.”
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#084e93″ text=”#ffffff” align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”It was great to see everybody working together in the setting to make our plant safer. During our walk-through, it was good to have a new set of eyes to help spot hazards that might have otherwise been overlooked.” cite=”Darin Rehnelt, representative for UFCW Local 1161″ parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
The UFCW has initiated a new health and safety program for workers in UFCW JBS plants. The program is a new joint effort with JBS to establish a uniform safety program for workers and management throughout the chain. This is the first time JBS and the UFCW have come together to create a program that is specific to keeping workers safe.
The first part of the program focuses on training union reps, workers, staff, and JBS management to learn about identifying the underlying causes of workplace injuries, illness, and fatalities. The second part trains participants on how to correct, control, and prevent those workplace hazards. The ultimate goal is to develop a sustainable system where people in the plant know how to prevent hazards, how to identify them, and how to follow the correct procedures to efficiently correct hazards.
The health and safety program came about when UFCW staff initiated a meeting with JBS corporate safety staff out of concern for the safety and well-being of workers. During the meeting, both sides agreed that there was room for improvement in the health and safety protocols at the plants. A year later, UFCW and JBS finalized a plan to work jointly to address safety issues and develop the new health and safety program.
[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” width=”30%” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”The joint training has been a very positive experience for all parties involved.” cite=”Marvin Spidle, corporate safety manager from the Federal Business Unit at JBS.” parallax=”on” direction=”left”]
“The joint training has been a very positive experience for all parties involved. It has provided some different ways of looking at the hazards in the workplace that most people overlook. I am excited to continue with this training in our facilities and providing our employees a safer environment to work in,” said Marvin Spidle, corporate safety manager from the Federal Business Unit at JBS.
The program began in January, and JBS workers at UFCW Locals 540, 1161, 293, and 435 have already gone through the first phase of the training. During the first phase of the program, workers and staff learned how to identify workplace hazards in their plant. Following the classroom training, participants then walked together through their plant to apply their new knowledge and identify any hazards that they learned about in the training. Some common safety hazards that workers are trained to spot include unguarded shafts and belts, slippery floors, narrow aisles, and unlabeled exposed pipes and electrical wires.
“It was great to see everybody working together in the setting to make our plant safer. During our walk-through, it was good to have a new set of eyes to help spot hazards that might have otherwise been overlooked,” said Darin Rehnelt, a representative for UFCW Local 1161.
The trainings last about six hours and are conducted in English and Spanish. Following the JBS plant trainings, the plan is to take the health and safety program to workers in the poultry industry, including those who work in JBS’s Pilgrim’s Pride plants.
If you are interested in having a health and safety training in your local plant contact Kurt Brandt at email@example.com.
Haven’t got a gift for dad yet? No worries! We’ve put together some great UFCW-made ideas for your Father’s Day shopping list!
When you buy union, you’re supporting the men and women who work hard every day to make and sell these quality goods. You’re also supporting good union jobs, that enable working parents to support their families with good pay and benefits. Unions are also on the forefront of legislative pushes for policies that benefit working families, like parental leave. Together, union families are working to make jobs work for all families.