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June 14, 2013

Local 400 Safeway Members Welcome SNAP Challenge Participants

D10781_0518This week, 26 members of Congress have committed to living off of a food stamp budget in order to bring awareness to the House Republican cuts to the  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Already, the SNAP program denies eligibility to 50 million “food insecure households”.  But now, proposed changes to the Farm Bill would strip access to the program from an additional 2 million families.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and the other congress members participating in the SNAP challenge are addressing this alarming issue by attempting to live off of less than $4.50 a day.

On Wednesday, the challenge participants stopped at a Washington D.C. Safeway, where Local 400 members work, to buy a week’s worth of groceries for about $30.  In order to keep to the strict budget of the food stamp program, staples like milk and butter were out of the question.  Representative Lee described the difficulty of the trip in an online blog:

“What I’m thinking about most during this trip is that I’m shopping only for myself.  When I was a young, single mother, I was on public assistance. It was a bridge over troubled water, and without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I spent hours debating what to buy and what to skip, all the while keeping my sons in my mind.”

The proposed changes to the Farm bill will send many single parents who are in this position, into a state of utter uncertainty about how to provide food for their families.  A large portion of those affected by the cuts will be under the age of 18.

This is not the first time officials have tried the SNAP challenge, however. Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker did so earlier this year, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton found that adhering to the food stamp budget left him feeling tired, and eventually “unable to focus”.  Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) admitted that if this was how he had to live, he would likely be a more unpleasant person, due to his state of hunger. He also lost six pounds in just four days.

The conservatives who claim food stamp programs create dependency on government don’t know what its like to go hungry. Some may joke about those who must rely on government programs, but the reality is that many hard-working people cannot make ends meet without them.

UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici made a statement following the group’s visit to Safeway this week, commending the challenge participants:

Year in and year out, the SNAP/Food Stamp program proves itself an unqualified success in reducing hunger, alleviating poverty and stimulating the economy. That’s why we are deeply dismayed that the Senate version of the Farm Bill re-authorization cuts SNAP benefits for approximately 500,000 households, and outraged that the House version of the legislation would completely eliminate benefits for two million low-income families. This would be bad enough under any circumstances, but it’s even worse coming at a time when far too many Americans are unemployed and our economic recovery is still shaky.

“The SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge is a critical way for elected officials and other leaders to experience first-hand how hard it is to feed a family on a SNAP budget, and to understand why benefits should be increased, rather than cut. We applaud all the members of Congress who are joining the challenge this week, and we are especially proud that they chose to purchase their groceries at a union shop. They understand that shopping union gets you the most value for your grocery dollar and the best customer service in the industry.

“Local 400 is privileged to join with these members of Congress in educating the public about the persistence of hunger in America and urging lawmakers to restore full funding to the SNAP/Food Stamp program in the Farm Bill.

“We also remind policy makers that the best way to reduce SNAP expenditures is to shop union, and to restore to workers their right to choose collective bargaining. The rise of low-wage employers like Walmart is a big reason why the SNAP program has grown in recent years, because the workers earn so little, they need Food Stamps to feed their families. By contrast, the more workers with union contracts, the fewer workers will need SNAP or any other type of federal assistance. That’s a win-win solution for everybody, because it lowers poverty, eases hunger, bolsters the economy, and improves government balance sheets.

June 12, 2013

Support Union Dads This Father’s Day and Buy Union!

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and you know that means–a great opportunity to support your union! Check out the list of gift ideas, provided by the AFL-CIO.

Among the UFCW-made products dads may enjoy are:

-Jim Beam

-Knob Creek Whiskey

-Naturalizer, Red Wing, and any shoes sold at the Union Boot Pro!

-Old Spice products

-Pierre Cardin cologne

-Omaha Steaks

Carhartt clothing

You can get even more ideas here, and on our Pinterest page!

 

 

 

June 12, 2013

New York City Thrift Store Workers Vote to Join RWDSU/UFCW

Unique Thrift store workers in New York City voted to join the RWDSU for better wages and working conditions.

Unique Thrift store workers in New York City voted to join the RWDSU for better wages and working conditions.

This week, workers at Unique Thrift in the Bronx, New York, voted to join the RWDSU/UFCW. All 64 workers at the Bronx store will be part of the bargaining unit. The workers who sort through the donated goods and staff the Unique Thrift stores in the Bronx, and other parts of New York and New Jersey are speaking out about their working conditions. Workers are paid low wages, receive no paid sick days or vacations, are verbally abused by managers and are often hurt on the job.

“As a single mom living in New York City, it is extremely difficult to survive off $7.50 an hour,” said Joanna Carrillo, Unique Thrift employee. “I was proud to vote yes to join the RWDSU because we deserve respect, better wages, and basic benefits such as health care and paid time off.”

Unique Thrift is a for profit thrift store which contracts with the Lupus Foundation. The company solicits donations in the name of the Lupus Foundation, sells the clothes for profit and sends the charity a comparatively small contribution.

May 30, 2013

Show Your UFCW Pride by Entering the New UFCW Facebook Contest!

DSC_0226Are you proud of what you do as a UFCW member on the job? Do you and your coworkers create a product that makes you proud to say “UFCW-made”?

Why not show it off! Enter our new contest by uploading a photo of you or you and your coworkers, or a UFCW product (you can see some of the great things UFCW members make here), and you are not only helping us showcase the great work UFCW members do, but are also entering for a chance to win cool UFCW gear and even grocery store gift cards–worth up to $500!

Its easy to upload and enter: you can either go to http://ufcwmade.com/ or you can get the Facebook app and share with friends!

Vote for your favorite photos on the site, and show your support for UFCW members!

May 28, 2013

Workers at Guitar Center Unionize!

Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo

Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo

Last week, 57 workers at Guitar Center’s flagship store in Manhattan voted to form a union with UFCW/RWDSU.

The union victory at the Manhattan store will help ensure that workers will enjoy better working conditions and will put a stop to declining wages.  Several other New York City Guitar Centers are expected to organize as well, with the potential for other store locations across the country to follow suite, according to Rolling Stone.

Workers at Guitar Center began organizing for union representation late in 2012, when they began to see decreased wages, and many struggled to make ends meet.  Big name rockers like Tom Morello and Ted Leo took notice and were among the many supporters of the workers campaign to unionize.

Some workers noted that, by supporting good jobs and working conditions at Guitar Center, the union is also supporting the music, since many of the new union members are in bands themselves.

 

May 13, 2013

President Hansen on Decision of H&M and Others to Improve Workplace Safety in Bangladesh

UFCWnews

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement issued by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President Joseph Hansen regarding the decision of H&M and other retailers to sign a legally binding agreement to improve workplace safety in Bangladesh:

“The UFCW applauds H&M and other retailers for accepting binding building safety standards at Bangladeshi garment factories following the recent fire and building collapse that killed more than 1,000 garment workers in Bangladesh. By signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, H&M and other retailers are taking the high road and putting people before profits at their supplier factories.

“The UFCW also applauds UNI Global Union, IndustriALL Global Union and the Worker Rights Consortium for their work to address the terrible working conditions in Bangladesh.  Thousands of UFCW members work in the retail industry, including at H&M, and the UFCW will continue to honor the workers who died or were injured in Bangladesh by supporting workers here and abroad who are struggling to protect their basic rights, and by calling on other retailers that have a strong presence in Bangladesh—such as Walmart—to do the right thing and sign this agreement.”

May 13, 2013

Walmart Associates, Community Supporters Launch New Website www.ReallyWalmart.org

reallywmWashington, DC-  Today, the Making Change at Walmart campaign and its coalition partners announced the launch of a new website www.ReallyWalmart.org.  The website, which showcases a number of video interviews of Walmart employees, community activists, environmentalists and others sharing their experiences with and concerns about Walmart, comes on the heels of Walmart launching a new multimillion-dollar ad-campaign and website of the same name titled “The Real Walmart”.

“Usually I work 36 hours a week but they cut hours…sometimes I even get only 26 hours and I am supposed to be fulltime,” said Chicago native and OUR Walmart member Rose Campbell, who is featured on the site.  “I’ve even had 19 hours.  I’ve got bills and none of that changes…you have to make do.”

ReallyWalmart.org includes testimony from Walmart employees, community activist and even Actor/Activist Danny Glover.  The site also includes footage from elected officials, including President Obama’s keynote address to the Unite Food and Commercial Workers Union in 2008.  Also featured is exclusive footage from labor activist and former Bangladesh garment worker Kalpona Aktar.

“We might not have millions of dollars to pay for TV ads, but we have the stories to share that Walmart doesn’t want the public to hear,” said OUR Walmart member Charlene Fletcher.  “The truth is that Walmart is a company that puts profits over people and employs tactics and strategies that keep employees like me in jobs that don’t let us provide for our families.  Even while Walmart’s profits are going up, my coworkers and I have to rely on food stamps just to cover groceries.”

Citing nearly $16 billion in annual profits and a CEO earning 1000 times the average employee, Walmart employees and communities across the globe are calling for a change of course at the company.  Making Change at Walmart is calling on the company to raise wages, an end to retaliation against employees who speak out as well as increased access to full time hours so that employees make a minimum of $25,000 per year.

Additionally, the group is also calling on Walmart sign a binding agreement on fire and building safety to help prevent tragedies like last month’s Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh which caused the death of more than 1,000 garment workers.

Over the course of the last year, Walmart has seen its reputation and business practices questioned amidst bribery allegations, tragedies in its supply chain and turmoil amongst its workforce including strikes launched last year for the first time in the company’s 51 year history.  Since 2011 Walmart has seen a decline in its reputational index rating, while its competitors have seen an increase during the same period and support for changing course at Walmart has been growing.  Last fall, more than 30,000 supporters joined striking workers on picket lines around Black Friday and since then a number of actions have taken place at Walmart stores across the country including last month when hundreds of OUR Walmart members and their supporters called on the company to correct scheduling problems within stores.

The new website highlights stories from various Walmart employees including those who have called on the company to change course and leadership.  Additionally, it features stories of Walmart employees who receive public assistance and those work along the supply chain.

 

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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.

 

 

 

May 2, 2013

National Retail Justice Alliance Highlights Struggles of Part-Time Workers in Hearing with Congresswoman Judy Chu

UFCWnewsLos Angeles, Calif. – The National Retail Justice Alliance, in partnership with the UFCW, hosted a hearing today in Los Angeles with Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) to highlight the social and economic plight of part-time workers in retail and other service industries.  The hearing also underscored the need for the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013 (H.R. 675), legislation that Congresswoman Chu has co-sponsored, which would extend protections to part-time workers in the areas of employer-provided health insurance, family and medical leave, and pension plans.

“I was honored to participate in today’s hearing which highlighted the economic struggles of part-time workers, especially those in retail,” said Congresswoman Chu.  “Millions of Americans are only able to find part-time jobs, and too many of these jobs do not provide health insurance, family and medical leave, or pension plans. That’s why the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act, which would extend benefits to part-time workers, is so critical. In today’s economy, we need to make sure that all hard-working Americans can afford to put food on the table and have a safety net to protect them and their families.”

The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights builds upon the progress of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and ensures that part-time workers (defined as working less than 30 hours a week) and their families have access to critical workplace benefits.  The ACA penalizes employers who fail to provide health insurance to full-time workers, but includes no such penalties for employers who deny health coverage to part-time workers.

“There are too many people in search of work who can only find part-time jobs—and many of these jobs do not include critical work-related health and retirement benefits,” said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, a project director at the Los Angeles Black Worker Center at UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education and a member of the National Retail Justice Alliance. “Policies like the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights are needed to address the increasing number of Americans who are working without a safety net for retirement, health care, and family leave.”

In addition to Chu and Cuevas, state and local leaders, economic experts and part-time workers also spoke at the hearing which took place at East Los Angeles College.

 

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The National Retail Justice Alliance is dedicated to raising the living and working standards of retail workers in the United States.  By working in collaboration with a broad base of opinion leaders, organizations and communities, the National Retail Justice Alliance builds support for workers in the retail industry through advocacy, education and research to promote sustainable jobs, living wages, affordable health care and fair public policies.  For more information, visit www.retailjusticealliance.org.

May 2, 2013

Target Violated Federal Labor Law, Workers’ Rights According to Sweeping Labor Board Decision

WASHINGTON – On April 26, 2013, the National Labor Relations Board overturned the results of a union election based on Target’s worker rights violations at their store in Valley Stream, New York during the campaign last year. Additionally, the Board found that the company systematically violated the rights of workers nationwide by maintaining illegal work rules designed to keep workers from speaking out for change at work.

The following is a statement from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union on the decision:

“For years, Target has broken the law to suppress its employees’ fundamental right of association. Those days of illegal worker intimidation and suppression are over.  The right to stick together at work is a basic American value.

“In this case, despite Target’s legal maneuverings to avoid responsibility, the retailer has been held accountable for suppressing the rights of the Long Island workers and for the company’s nationwide policy to silence all their workers.

This is not just an isolated instance and Target is not an isolated employer.  Too often, major employers get away with systematically silencing millions of American workers from speaking out about their jobs. To stand against freedom of speech like Target did is not just wrong, it’s un-American.”

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

March 26, 2013

Stakeholders Address Economic Struggles of Part-Time Workers in Hearing with Rep. Jan Schakowsky

The National Retail Justice Alliance, in partnership with Citizen Action/Illinois, Women Employed, UFCW and Jobs With Justice, hosted a hearing today in Chicago with Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to highlight the economic plight of part-time workers in retail and other service industries.  The hearing also underscored the need for Rep. Schakowsky’s legislation—the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013 (H.R. 675)—which would extend protections to part-time workers in the areas of employer-provided health insurance, family and medical leave, and pension plans.

Sponsored by Schakowsky and Representative George Miller (D-Calif.), the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights builds upon the progress of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and ensures that part-time workers (defined as working less than 30 hours a week) and their families have access to critical workplace benefits.  The ACA penalizes employers who fail to provide health insurance to full-time workers, but includes no such penalties for employers who deny health coverage to part-time workers.

“As our nation’s economy relies more and more on part-time, low-wage work, policies are needed to address the widening gap of those working without a safety net for retirement, healthcare, and family leave,” said Bill Fletcher, chair of the National Retail Justice Alliance and director of field service and education at the American Federation of Government Employees. “The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights would ensure that employers provide for critical benefits for part-timers and protect the health and well-being of millions of part-time workers in retail and other service industries.”

In addition to Schakowsky and Fletcher, state legislators, economic experts and part-time workers also spoke at the hearing which took place at the Spertus Institute.

 

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The National Retail Justice Alliance is dedicated to raising the living and working standards of retail workers in the United States.  By working in collaboration with a broad base of opinion leaders, organizations and communities, the National Retail Justice Alliance builds support for workers in the retail industry through advocacy, education and research to promote sustainable jobs, living wages, affordable health care and fair public policies.  For more information, visit www.retailjusticealliance.org.