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November 7, 2013

Walmart Workers, Community Supporters Announce Increase in Activity, Support for Better Jobs, End to Illegal Retaliation

Workers Launch Petition to President Obama, Online Portal to Sign-Up for Community Support

L.A. Workers Begin Second Day of Strike, Community Members Vow to Commit Largest Civil Disobedience in Company History

LOS ANGELES – As Black Friday approaches, Walmart workers are standing up to the country’s largest employer – even in the face of widespread illegal retaliation against them.  Workers and community supporters announced today increased activity and calls for change, launching a petition to President Obama and unveiling an online portal that lets associates sign-up for community support. Workers are part of the national organization OUR Walmart, which is calling on the company to use its $17 billion in profits to pay a minimum of $25,000 a year for full time work and to end its illegal retaliation against its workers.

More than 100 unfair labor practice allegations have been filed against Walmart with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for illegal firings and disciplinary actions against workers who have participated in legally protected strikes and to deter them from speaking out.

Walmart workers demonstrateDuring a press call as a two-day strike and civil disobedience is underway in Los Angeles, workers, community supporters and economic policy experts outlined the growing nationwide movement to demand Walmart end illegal retaliation and improve jobs. On the call, Anthony Goytia, one of many L.A.-based Walmart workers taking part in the two-day strike, discussed why he is risking his job to end the retaliation that Walmart workers face when speaking out.

“I know that I may be fired for speaking out today, but Walmart executives and the country need to hear about what’s really going on at our largest employer,” said Goytia. “I’m on strike today because Walmart’s retaliation against workers is illegal and it’s wrong.  We won’t be silenced.  Change at Walmart is too important to our families, our co-workers and our country.”

Barbara Gertz, a five-year Walmart employee from Colorado, pointed to a new website, www.associatevoices.com, which allows associates to step forward with their stories about the reality of working at Walmart and ask customers and community members to support them by holding Black Friday events at their stores. In less than 24 hours after beginning to promote the site, requests from associates across the country have poured in. Already, workers in more than 90 cities have requested a Black Friday rally at their store.

“Associatevoices.org provides a space for associates to raise their concerns and see that they are not alone. OUR Walmart and our supporters are standing up for 1.3 million associates in this country who aren’t getting the hours they need and are nervous about Walmart’s aggressive retaliation,” said Gertz. “The fact that the website has taken off as it has, in such a short period, is a clear sign: whether online or on the picket line, our concerns are widespread and our voices and support are only growing louder and stronger.”

Workers, supported by various organizations, also announced the launch of a petition calling on President Obama to meet with courageous workers risking their jobs by protesting against Walmart. Inspired by the activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream of good jobs and freedom, workers like Charmaine Givens-Thomas noted that Walmart’s low-wage business model, erratic scheduling and illegal retaliation hold America back from realizing Dr. King’s dream.

“As a 60-year-old African American woman who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., I want to promise my grandchildren that they will have a brighter future than I had. I can’t do that,” said Givens-Thomas in the petition. “More and more of us are struggling to nourish our children and pay our bills. It’s time the president met with Walmart workers like me who are standing up to Walmart and hear about the reality of scraping by on Main Street.”

The call took place as more than 80 community leaders and clergy members prepared to join workers at a rally at the Chinatown Walmart, in what is slated to be the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against the mega-retailer. Dozens, including Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson, pastor at Fairview Community Church, are prepared to be arrested in response to Walmart’s illegal retaliation and low wages.

“I stand in solidarity with the brave Walmart workers who have walked out and gone on strike as well as those who have been intimidated, fearful they’ll lose their jobs if they speak up,” said Rev. Dr. Halverson. “They are not alone for they stand with thousands of clergy and interfaith communities across the country as we pray for their strength and find inspiration in their actions. I am thankful for these workers and I pray that Walmart will respect its employees and show them the dignity they deserve with fair pay and a commitment to refrain from intimidation.”

Recently, Walmart US CEO Bill Simon disclosed in a presentation that 475,000 Walmart workers are paid more than $25,000 a year; meaning that as many as 825,000 Walmart workers are paid less.

Throughout much of the recovery to date, the vast majority of jobs being created pay low wages, according to research by the National Employment Law Project. To make matters worse, lower-wage and middle-wage jobs have seen significantly larger declines in their real wages during the recovery than higher-wage occupations, a separate report by NELP shows. Another study shows that improving retail wages to a minimum of $25,000 would lift tens of thousands of families out of poverty, add to economic growth, increase Walmart’s retail sales and create more than 100,000 new jobs.

“The research on raising retail wages is clear – employers benefit from taking the high road, workers and families spend the additional money in their pockets and our economy as a whole strengthens,” said Jack Temple, policy analyst at NELP. “Walmart has a choice. It can take steps to improve the lives of its workers, customers and economy, or continue to force U.S. taxpayers to bankroll its low-wage business model.”

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For more information on Black Friday protests, photos and live-streams of events, visit www.BlackFridayProtests.org and follow the conversation and see photos at @ChangeWalmart, #WalmartStrikers and changewalmart.tumblr.com.

 LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees. 

 

November 4, 2013

Cannabis Workers Rising: A Voice for Medical Marijuana and Hemp Workers

DSC_0175UFCW has a brand new website dedicated to the growing number of workers and UFCW members who are employed at medical marijuana dispensaries and other cannabis industry-related workplaces around the country.

Together these members are raising standards and professional stature for all marijuana and hemp workers. They are helping to build a legitimate industry that provides safe jobs for its workers.

Check out cannabisworkers.org to hear from workers in the industry, and how the union difference ensures their jobs are good, secure jobs.

Be sure to check the site for organizing resources and the latest industry updates, including how these union members are improving the lives of patients.

For more information, check out the Cannabis Workers Rising facebook page.

October 30, 2013

Costco an Example of the “Union Difference”

This week, during a speech about poverty, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez praised Costco, a union store, for its business practices, which continually pay its employees living wages, and continue to yield profits.  According the Huffington Post, Perez joined the long list of Costco admirers when he stated that Costco proves the notion of the service industry having to adhere to a minimum-wage business model to be wrong, and “phooey”.

Secretary Perez is right–in an industry that employs millions of working poor, whom struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis, Costco is a shining light. The wholesale retailer is known for low employee turnover, thanks to its wages that allow people to actually make a living, and its health benefits. Costco values its workers–without them, the company couldn’t be the success that it is. These ideals are embodied in Costco cofounder Jim Sinegal and former CEO. In his speech, Secretary Perez remembered:

“I went to a [Costco] grand opening in Northern Virginia. The woman who was the manager at that store, she started out pushing carts, to use her term. And the remarkable loyalty that they have to Jim is a function of the fact that he categorically rejects the notion that, ‘I either take care of my shareholders or my workers’. That is a false choice.”

But part of the reason Costco’s workers are making good wages and receive benefits is due to the fact that over 15,000 of its workers are unionized. Organized by the Teamsters, Costco is union-friendly and meets workers on an even playing field when it comes to bargaining, and as union members, they have a say in the terms and conditions of their employment. For more than 20 years, they have stood together to ensure their rights as workers are protected.

The union-difference is huge. UFCW members work at grocery stores, retailers, and packing and processing plants all across the country. As union members, they are able to stand together and bargain for decent wages that allow them to feed their families and pay their bills, unlike Walmart, which pays such low wages that many of its associates must choose between shelter or food. Union jobs are good, middle class jobs, that provide healthcare, sick-leave, and retirement benefits. When workers stand together, like at Costco, or at UFCW shops like Kroger and Macy’s, they have a powerful voice that can stand up to that of the company.

October 23, 2013

Congressional Leaders Join Calls for Walmart to Stop Draining Public Resources and Improve Working Conditions, Support Economy

Reps. George Miller, Schakowsky, Napolitano and Grayson Challenge Walmart to End Reliance on Taxpayers to Support Workforce, Estimated to be $900K per Walmart Store

 

UFCWnewsWASHINGTON, DC – Today, addressing previously unreported comments from Walmart CEO Bill Simon, which demonstrated that as many as 825,000 Walmart workers make less than $25,000 a year, members of Congress and Walmart workers called on the mega-retailer to improve working conditions and end the company’s reliance on taxpayer dollars to support its workforce.

“I support OUR Walmart workers who are simply asking Walmart, a corporation with nearly $17 billion in profits, to pay livable wages,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). “These workers deserve safe workplaces and the right to speak out for their workplace rights without risking retaliation or being fired. It’s time that Walmart listen to their workers who are here to demand what all Americans want: fair pay, fair rules and fair treatment.”

Walmart workers and supporters have been calling for Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, to improve working conditions, stop retaliation against those who speak out, and increase hours to ensure workers earn a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work.  In doing so, it would allow workers the ability to cover the basics and help contribute to the economy.

The members of Congress were joined by three of the 825,000 Walmart workers earning less than $25,000 a year.

“I work hard, and I want to be able to support my family and earn enough so I don’t have to rely on public assistance to survive,” said Anthony Goytia, a Walmart worker from California. Goytia, who works full-time, has worked at Walmart for one year and makes less than $16,000 a year.  As a result, he relies on SNAP and Medical to keep the family afloat.

In a rare release of information about the company’s wages and benefits, Walmart US CEO Bill Simon discussed details about workers’ annual income in a recent presentation at Goldman Sachs annual retail conference.  In the presentation, Simon notes that 475,000 associates earn more than $25,000 a year.  With 1.3 million associates in the country, this means that somewhere around 825,000 associates earn less than that amount.

Currently, Walmart is making $17 billion in profits annually and the company’s controlling family, the Waltons, have a net worth of more than $144.7 billion.  Meanwhile, workers are making low wages and not getting enough hours, forcing many to rely on public programs to support their families even though they work for the country’s largest private employer.

Earlier this year, a Congressional report calculated that Walmart workers are forced to rely on $900,000 in taxpayer funded supports, including food stamps and healthcare, at just one of the company’s 4,000 stores.  This number is expected to increase as more workers apply for healthcare through Medicaid because they are ineligible for Walmart healthcare plans.

“Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, yet they pay such low wages that many of its workers are unable to provide for their families. This is wrong. When workers win, their families win, and we all win. If big corporations like Wal-Mart paid their workers higher wages, families could live better. And federal taxpayers would not have to foot the bill to help them keep their heads above water,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).

At the forum, Catherine Ruetschlin, a policy analyst from Demos, outlined the economic impact of Walmart increasing annual salaries to $25,000 a year from her report,  Retail’s Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy. The report shows a wage floor equivalent of $25,000 per year for a full-time, year-round employee for retailers with more than 1000 employees would lift 1.5 million retail workers and their families out of poverty or near poverty, add to economic growth, increase retail sales and create more than 100,000 new jobs.

“Putting money in the pockets of Walmart workers is good for the store, good for the economy and good for families,” said Ruetschlin.  “We know that when low-wage workers have money to spend, they do.  In the case of Walmart workers, that means more spending at the stores they work, more profits for Walmart.  It also means more jobs could be created and fewer workers would be forced to rely on public assistance.”

 

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For photos and more information about the 825,000 Walmart workers trying to get by on less than $25,000 a year, visit changewalmart.org.

 

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

 

 

October 15, 2013

Dispensary Workers Sign First Contract

Local 770 dispensary workers at two medical cannabis dispensaries are celebrating the ratification of their first union contractL 770 Dispensary Victory 10 07 13. Workers at Greenhouse Herbal Center and LA Wonderland-Hot Zone in Los Angeles have negotiated contracts that will raise standards at their dispensaries while ensuring that the dispensaries adhere to labor laws and industry standards.

Workers view this contract as a victory not only for themselves, but also for their patients and for the future of their industry.

Beyond their workplace organizing efforts, these workers joined with Local 770 to help pass a city-wide voter initiative, Proposition D, that regulates medical cannabis dispensaries. Signing their first collective bargaining agreement is the next step in bringing dignity and order to a still volatile industry and ensuring the enforcement of basic labor laws and industry standards.

Workers also secured regular raises, paid time off and a grievance procedure. The contract language improves regulatory standards and defines respect in the workplace.

“My favorite part of the contract is having regular raises,” said Ksenia, a worker at LA Wonderland-Hot Zone. “It makes me feel more serious and secure about this job.”

The UFCW represents thousands of medical cannabis workers in six states and the District of Columbia. UFCW members in the cannabis industry work predominantly in dispensaries, coffee shops, bakeries, patient identification centers, hydroponics stores, and growing and training facilities.

September 12, 2013

Statement from Respect DC on Mayor Vincent Gray’s Veto of Large Retailer Accountability Act

UFCWnewsWashington, DC — Today, members of Respect DC, a coalition of grassroots-based organizations, pastors, workers, and community members concerned about the quality of life in the nation’s capital, released the following statement in response to Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto of the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA).

Gray’s veto comes just two days after the Fair Political Practices Commission in California announced that it would be investigating whether Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson had a conflict of interest in a vote on a big box bill due to charitable donations he solicited from Walmart and the Walton Foundation.

Kimberly Mitchell, a Macy’s employee and lifelong Ward 7 resident:

“I am incredibly upset, disappointed, and angry that Mayor Gray has decided to stand with Walmart and other large corporations instead of with the residents of this city. Mayor Gray has made is clear who he stands with and it’s not with me, my neighbors or the residents of DC. We are now counting on the City Council to do the right thing, stand up with DC residents, and override this veto.”

“Mayor Gray had the opportunity to stand up for the residents of this city, but instead he allowed large, out of town companies, like Walmart, to threaten him and ultimately dictate the policies of our city. By vetoing this bill he has further eroded the ability of DC residents and workers to earn enough money to take care of themselves and their families while remaining in the city.”

Reverend Graylan Hagler, of Plymouth United Congregational Church of Christ and Faith Strategies:

“Unfortunately, the Mayor’s decision is hardly surprising because this is exactly what Walmart’s lobbyists said would happen.  The Mayor’s office and Walmart have been working together to defeat this bill from the start.”

“If we cannot demand higher wages and good jobs from the nation’s and world’s largest corporations DC will not be able to remain a diverse and vibrant city. We strongly urge the city council to override this misguided veto.”

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September 6, 2013

100 Arrested in Eleven Cities Protesting Walmart’s Illegal Retaliation, Low Wages

Group Announces Massive 2013 Black Friday Strikes

WASHINGTON – September 6 – One hundred Walmart workers and community members were arrested in 11 cities Thursday calling on the employer to reinstate illegally fired and disciplined workers, publicly commit to improve jobs and end the company’s aggressive violations of workers’ rights. Thousands of supporters, including the President of the National Organization for Women, Terry O’Neill, joined the group in 15 cities in the largest mobilization since Black Friday in 2012. In response to Walmart’s inaction, the group announced widespread, massive strikes and protests for Black Friday in 2013. The group made headlines last year on Black Friday with the largest strike in the company’s history.

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Workers and community members protested in the following cities on Thursday:

·         Baton Rouge, LA

·         Boston, MA

·         Chicago, IL

·         Cincinnati, OH

·         Dallas, TX

·         Denver, CO

·         Los Angeles, CA

·         Miami, FL

·         Minneapolis, MN

·         New York, NY

·         Orlando, FL

·         Sacramento, CA

·         San Francisco, CA

·         Seattle, WA

·         Washington, DC

The arrests and protests come in the heat of national calls for better wages in low-paying jobs. “Enough is enough,” said Venanzi Luna, a worker who was arrested in Los Angeles, where hundreds of protestors marched in downtown Los Angeles. “Walmart continues to put us in an impossible position, and people are finally standing up for what’s right. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make sure we’re heard. We’ll be out in even greater force on Black Friday.”

Similar protests across the country drew hundreds of workers and community supporters, including in the Washington, DC area where protesters shut down one of the busiest streets in Prince George’s County.

“We’ve had enough of Walmart’s inaction,” said Tonya Cauley, a Walmart worker who was arrested Thursday in Hyattsville, Md. “As the country’s largest employer, Walmart can and should do better. We aren’t calling for much—a minimum full-time yearly wage of $25,000 and assure us that we can stand up for what’s right without being attacked. I’m energized by the support I saw today and will be out stronger than ever on Black Friday.”

Economists, labor market expertsand others have been increasingly voicing concern about the growing income inequality and its impact on the economy. Walmart, the largest company on the Fortune 500 list, made $16 billion in profit last year and the majority of owners of the company, the Waltons, have the combined wealth of nearly half of American families. Meanwhile, many Walmart workers continue to earn on average poverty wages of $8.81 an hour, despite misleading claims from Walmart that wages are higher. A Congressional report released earlier this year calculates the Walmart workforce reliance on public assistanceincluding food stamps, healthcare and other needs is estimated to utilize $900,000 per year of taxpayer funds at just one of the company’s 4,000 stores.

“As the nation’s largest employer, Walmart and the Walton family should be raising standards, not lowering them. To whom much is given, much is expected,” said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “Walmart should share its prosperity with workers and publicly commit to paying workers $25,000 a year for full time work, as the courageous Our Walmart workers are demanding.  If Walmart workers earned living wages the entire economy would benefit.”

A report from the national public policy center Demos shows that better jobs at Walmart and other large retailers would even help the store’s bottom line, as well as have an impact on individual families and the larger economy. A wage floor equivalent of $25,000 per year for a full-time, year-round employee for retailers with more than 1000 employees would lift 1.5 million retail workers and their families out of poverty or near poverty, add to economic growth, increase retail sales and create more than 100,000 new jobs.

Rather than providing good jobs that American workers need and deserve, Walmart is trying to silence workers who are standing up with their co-workers to live better and spending its time and money trying to deny workers a decent day’s pay.  But ongoing labor mismanagement concerns, including Walmart’s inaction on ending illegal retaliation, improving jobs at stores and putting meaningful protections in place at its suppliers, have contributed to record-levels of votes against Walmart Board of Directors and even shareholder divestment this year.

Since June, Walmart has illegally disciplined nearly 80 workers, including firing 20 worker-leaders. More than 100 Unfair Labor Practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Walmart. Workers in California recently announced that after an investigation, the NLRB regional office found that Walmart committed 11 violations of national labor law.

Venanzi Luna and Tonya Cauley are members of the growing national organization OUR Walmart. OUR Walmart, or Organization United for Respect at Walmart, formed just two years ago, when 100 Walmart associates came together to voice their concerns about the companyretaliating against those who speak out for better working conditions. With thousands of members across the country, the group organized the first strikes in company history last year and helped bring more than 30,000 supporters to protest at stores on Black Friday in 2012.

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Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Walmart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Walmart publicly commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

 

August 23, 2013

Don Cash, UFCW’s Minority Coalition President, on the March on Washington

Don CashDon Cash, president of the UFCW’s Minority Coalition a supporter of the Retail Justice Alliance, reflects on his experience at the 1963 March on Washington:

(The following is from religionnews.com)

Don Cash had graduated from high school in June 1963 and decided on the spur of the moment to join the March on Washington when he finished his work shift at a nearby warehouse. The Baptist layman is the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union’s Minority Coalition and a board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP. He lives in Columbia, Md.
What is your most lasting memory of your participating in the march?

I was just overwhelmed. I saw old women — at the time they appeared to me to be old; they had to be in their 40s and 50s — sitting on the curb wiping their faces, with straw hats. It was very, very hot.

It was just people everywhere. I had never seen that many folks where it was mixed, where it was black and white people, a very diverse crowd. Nobody was laughing dancing or joking. You could tell that it was very, very serious.

I had never experienced all of these people marching and walking in unison and orderly, quietly, people hugging. I saw no incident. None.

Dr. King spoke of his dream for America. Where do you think we are as a society in fulfilling that dream?

I think we got a long ways to go but I do think that there’s been a lot of changes. I don’t think you’ll ever see what Martin Luther King dreamed in reality, in total. I think we’ll always have to strive for perfection.

The dream that he had is a perfect world and I think that in order to be perfect, you have to continue to work at it.

 

For additional information about various events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, please visit http://www.thekingcenter.org/

August 23, 2013

The March on Washington: 50 years Later, the Fight for Social and Economic Equality Continues

LewisDr-KingThis weekend, members and supporters of the Retail Justice Alliance will be joining our brothers and sisters from across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech, was organized largely by civil rights and labor leader A. Philip Randolph and other black labor leaders to promote freedom, economic equality and jobs, and paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In spite of the advances we have made over the last 50 years—including the election of our first African American president—the fight for social and economic justice continues.  In the retail sector alone, too many workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with little to no benefits and our economy’s increasing reliance on low-wage, part-time work has widened the gap between the rich and poor. The assault on workers’ rights continues to persist, and in many cases, retail workers who want to stick together to bargain for better wages and benefits are threatened, intimidated and sometimes fired by their employers.

The need to mobilize for freedom, jobs and equality has never been stronger, and the Retail Justice Alliance is honored to carry on the work of the 1963 activists by fighting for social and economic justice in the retail industry and in our communities.

August 18, 2013

UFCW Union Made Facebook Contest Winners Announced

One of the winning photos from the UFCW Made Facebook Contest - photo by George Wilson.

One of the winning photos from the UFCW Made Facebook Contest – photo by George Wilson.

Earlier this year, UFCW launched a photo contest to highlight UFCW made products and members at work. We asked members and staff to post pictures on our Facebook app of themselves or their co-workers or members–on the job or with the products we make.

Congratulations to the winners of our contest! We will be contacting our winners about their prizes shortly. We’ll also post the winning pictures soon.

These members and staff got the most votes for their terrific photos, and have won the following in order of most votes received:

First Place: Paula, Local 770 Santa Barbara, winning a $500 grocery gift card

Second Place: Dawne, Local 880, winning a $250 grocery gift card

Third Place: Cole Edwards, Local 1189, winning a $250 grocery gift card

Fourth Place:  Mary Brown, Local 1428, winning a UFCW Bonded Fleece Jacket

Fifth Place:  Diane Johnson, Local 770, winning a UFCW T-shirt

Sixth Place: George Wilson, Local 23, winning a UFCW travel mug

Congratulations to our winners, and thank you to all who posted, voted, shared, and sent in pictures–we’ll be posting many of your pictures on Facebook and on our website in the weeks and months to come!