News and Updates
September 12, 2005
STATEMENT BY UFCW INTERNATIONAL UNION PRESIDENT JOE HANSEN ON ALBERTSONS, INC., PLANS TO SALE COMPANY
Washington—Recent announcements by Albertsons, the Boise, Idaho, based supermarket chain, that the company would, then wouldn’t, and now apparently will sell the entire company seems to have been made without appropriate concern for the kind of uncertainty this causes store employees, communities the grocer serves or shareholders.
UFCW local unions representing nearly 110,000 Albertsons workers nationwide will be mailing each UFCW Albertsons member a letter this week fully informing them of current developments with the assurance that the UFCW will continue to aggressively represent our members and enforce all union contract provisions while the company seeks a buyer.
UFCW-represented Albertsons employees have helped make the company a major nationwide force in the supermarket industry. In fact, the chain’s most successful and profitable markets are comprised of stores with UFCW-represented workers.
The UFCW intends to protect all Albertson’s employees and the community members who make up Albertsons’ customer base by ensuring that their interests, along with that of Albertsons’ shareholders, are well served.
Consequently, we will actively engage Albertsons and its suitors to ensure that all of the company’s stakeholders emerge from the current situation with a more promising future than Albertsons’ current management thinks it can deliver.
September 12, 2005
Statement by UFCW International Union President Joe Hansen on Alberstons, Inc., Plans to Explore Sale of Company
Washington—The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) represents nearly 110,000 Albertsons employees nationwide.
The UFCW will continue to aggressively represent our members and enforce all union contract provisions while the company explores a possible sale of the supermarket chain.
UFCW-represented Albertsons employees have helped make the company a major nationwide force in the supermarket industry.
Should Albertsons decide to sell the company, UFCW expects any buyer to fully abide by the terms of our union contracts and respect the long-term dedication and experience of Albertsons employees. The UFCW would also look forward to working with a buyer, should a sale become a reality, to ensure the successful operation of the company and the long-term security of our members.
September 12, 2005
Washington – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and its members continue to help Katrina victims and their families.
UFCW members affected are calling the UFCW Katrina Relief Fund hot line at (866) 820-6141.
So far, UFCW raised or received pledges nearing $250,000 for hurricane victims from generous workers and organizations. UFCW itself has contributed $100,000, and one of its constituency groups – United Latinos of UFCW – contributed another $50,000. Union representatives and volunteers are helping connect workers with their families. They are helping provide groceries and shelter for victims in several states. They are also helping workers to find other types of assistance, as well as to help people relocate and find new jobs.
UFCW has many affected members. In Louisiana alone, almost half of UFCW’s 5,300 members lived in the most affected areas. UFCW volunteers are helping everybody, but concentrating on finding and helping these 2,500 members.
The UFCW members who experienced the worse impact from the hurricane are those employed by Domino Sugar Co. in Chalmette, LA, where hundreds were trapped inside the factory by flood waters for nearly one week, and at least 40 have lost their homes and possessions. Domino Sugar Company has agreed to continue paying wages and benefits for these workers while the plant is shut down.
Other UFCW members affected by the hurricane include those working at poultry processor Sanderson Farms, at an oil refinery, at barber shops, and at a Sara Lee plant in Mississippi.
“People are being grateful for the help and some are saying that no one was helping them until UFCW’s yellow t-shirts showed up,” said UFCW Region 5 International Vice President Alvin Vincent. “For the most part, victims are also upset at the federal government for not fixing the levees outside New Orleans and for lack of food.”
UFCW International President Joe Hansen oversaw the creation of the relief fund last Saturday, Sept. 3, and urged workers to contribute to it. “Unlike a strike situation, where hardship develops over time, many of our members barely escaped Katrina’s destruction with nothing but the clothes on their backs.”
UFCW Local 455 purchased a truckload full of groceries from Associated Grocers Warehouse and with the help of several UFCW leaders and members, distributed the food to Sanderson Farms’ workers, who had been affected by the storm.
UFCW Region 5’s Al Vincent: “”The Hotline traffic is starting to pick up and the word of mouth member-to-member system, while slow, has helped us find some families in great need.”” He added, “Also, we have started to go to the major staging areas (Houston, Dallas) to see if we can post ‘UFCW Member Relief’ information throughout the arenas.”
“”Most victims are staying in homes in groups ranging from five to 24 people,” said Vincent. “In one case, there is a family of 10 staying at a campground in Minden, Louisiana. In all cases, reunited families are reluctant to be slip apart.”
In addition to the UFCW, other unions of the recently formed Change to Win Coalition have implemented Katrina-victim relief programs of their own and in collaboration with other unions.
September 7, 2005
Washington, D.C, – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s national campaign to change Wal-Mart, proudly joined with NYC Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Councilwoman Christine Quinn, Jobs With Justice, the Brennan Center, and other community, civic, and business leaders from all over New York City to celebrate the passage of the Health Care Security Act (HCSA). As many as 42 New York City Councilmembers co-sponsored the legislation which enjoys wide support among many employers within the business community. The bill is expected to officially pass the New York City Council with broad support today – August 17, 2005.
“”This is not only a great day for New York City, it is a great day for all Americans who believe profitable companies, like Wal-Mart, have a responsibility to do what is right and provide health care for their workers,”” said Paul Blank, Campaign Director for WakeUpWalMart.com.
The Health Care Security Act is a historic piece of legislation as it represents the first attempt in the nation to establish a “”health care minimum wage.”” The bill will also hold employers, like Wal-Mart, accountable for failing to provide health care coverage for their employees. The legislation will be one of the first laws in the United States to require employers to pay for their employees’ health care.
HCSA already enjoys wide-spread support among New York City businesses, including Fairway, D’Agostinos, Key Food, Pathmark, and Stop & Shop. As many as 12,000 employees and their families in the grocery industry in New York City could gain health care as a result of the bill. The bill would also help protect the health care coverage for over 44,000 workers and their families.
“”It is incredible to see New York City’s elected officials unite with business, labor, and community leaders to pass a law that provides health care for thousands of more Americans. This should serve as a wake-up call to companies, like Wal-Mart, that New Yorkers expect corporations, not taxpayers, to provide health care for their workers,”” added Paul Blank.
The passage of the HCSA in New York City represents growing national momentum to make employers, like Wal-Mart, care about health care and provide affordable and comprehensive health care coverage for their workers. Already, as part of WakeUpWalMart.com’s “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” campaign, thousands of Americans are leading statewide efforts to introduce “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation. WakeUpWalMart.com, and its 68,000 supporters, are committed to introducing “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation in all 50 states by early next year.
WakeUpWalMart.com is leading the national effort to change Wal-Mart’s health care practices. Among the many accomplishments of the group include:
The launch of the “”Make Wal-Mart Care About Health Care”” national campaign. As part of this initiative, a series of press conferences were held in 8 states with community and civic leaders Supporters of the launch of this health care campaign also took part in over 325 Meet-Ups in over 270 cities involving over 10,000 supporters of Democracy for America (DFA) and WakeUpWalMart.com. Press conferences with civic, community, and labor leaders were held in Concord, NH; Seattle, WA; Phoenix, AZ; Madison, WI; Little Rock, AR; Austin, TX; Hartford, CT; and Atlanta, GA.
Hosted a press conference with Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John Corzine, and Representative Anthony Weiner to introduce the Health Care Accountability Act – the first national legislation that would expose the true cost that American taxpayers bear because Wal-Mart forces tens of thousands of its workers onto public health care, like Medicaid.
Held house meetings in 134 cities and 38 states where nearly 2,000 citizens agreed to become citizen co-sponsors of “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation. The WakeUpWalMart.com campaign will be leading the effort to introduce “”Fair Share Health Care”” legislation in all 50 states in the coming months.
August 29, 2005
Washington, DC – Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart and ASDA, its British subsidiary, achieved a new level of global irony this weekend calling for a government investigation into the market dominance of one of its foreign competitors, TESCO. As reported by The Sunday Times, Scott demanded that the British Government investigate its chief grocery rival TESCO because of what Scott sees as the company’s growing market dominance in Britain. Scott stated that “”as you get to over 30 percent and higher, I am sure there is a point where government is compelled to intervene….at some point the Government has to look at it.””
“”Scott criticizing TESCO for its market dominance is like Enron criticizing Arthur Anderson for its accounting practices. Wal-Mart is using its immoral business practices as a competitive advantage over responsible corporations. The question for Wal-Mart should be when will Wal-Mart demand an investigation of itself?”” said, Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com
Lee Scott’s statement is especially ironic in light of the facts about Wal-Mart’s market share here in the United States.
Here are the facts:
Wal-Mart accounts for 60% of the sales for the $379 billion market called Discount Department and General Merchandise stores.
Wal-Mart’s general merchandise dominance means it has sales nearly 5 times more than their next closest competitor and double the sales of their next 3 closest competitors (Costco, Target and Kmart) combined.
Wal-Mart controls approximately 24% of grocery sales in the United States (more than double its next closest competitor), very similar to TESCO’s position in the United Kingdom.
Wal-Mart sells more groceries than their top 3 competitors combined.
Wal-Mart sells 30% of household staples bought in the United States, including items such as toothpaste, shampoo, and paper towels, according to Business Week.
A report prepared by Retail Forward in 2003 forecasted that Wal-Mart’s domestic supermarket-type sales could go from an estimated $82 billion to $162 billion by 2007. In the process, Wal-Mart will consume almost a third of the expected growth in US spending on grocery and drug products during 2003-2007. Growth of this magnitude would give Wal-Mart control of 35% of food store industry sales and 25% of the drug store industry – and put many entrenched players in jeopardy.
Grocery Industry statistics Ranked by Percentage:24% Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club
Discount department & General Merchandise stores ($379 billion) Ranked by sales:
Wal-Mart & Sam’s Club $229 bill
Costco $47 bill
Target $47 bill
Kmart $20 bill
May 19, 2005
LANDOVER, Md. – Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s announced decision to defy the public’s will and veto the Fair Share Health Care Fund Act tomorrow is a despicable example of the governor playing politics rather than addressing the critical issue of Maryland’s rapidly growing number of uninsured, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 said.
“We had hoped that when considering the Fair Share bill, Gov. Ehrlich would be big enough to get beyond his cozy relationships with Wal-Mart and other Big Business backers, and side with the majority of people in the state,” Local 400 President Jim Lowthers said. “But it appears that the governor is turning his back on working families.”
A poll released in January showed that nearly 8 in 10 Maryland voters agree that businesses with 10,000 employees or more should be required to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care insurance, which is what the Fair Share legislation would require. Maryland lawmakers answered the public’s call, passing the Fair Share bill with overwhelming support.
Lowthers pointed out that Maryland’s Fair Share law has been widely praised nationally, and that legislators in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Wisconsin have introduced similar legislation. “We believe the people’s representatives in Maryland will override the veto when they convene next year,” he said, “but it’s a shame that Gov. Ehrlich has chosen to throw up this roadblock on behalf of Wal-Mart.
Gov. Ehrlich’s decision to announce the veto in Somerset County at the site where Wal-Mart plans to build a new distribution center, and in the presence of a top Wal-Mart executive, is a political ploy that may backfire, Lowthers warned.
“Ehrlich will say that this is about jobs, but it’s really about taking advantage of taxpayers,” he said. “Even with Fair Share, Wal-Mart was forging ahead with its plans to build the distribution center because it can’t afford not to, considering the sweet deal the Ehrlich administration has handed this billion-dollar company.”
Maryland not only is contributing $500,000 to improve infrastructure to facilitate access to Wal-Mart’s planned distribution center, but the state also is paying almost half of the cost to purchase the 178-acre site, according to published reports. In addition, the company is being handed $5.7 million in tax credits.
“Maryland taxpayers are going to paying for these jobs for years to come, particularly since most of the employees, like other Wal-Mart workers, won’t be able to afford the company’s health care plan and will apply for public assistance,” Lowthers said. Wal-Mart employees eligible for the company’s plan must hand over about a fifth of their paychecks to cover Wal-Mart’s premiums, often more than $200 a month per worker – a steep price considering most earn between $8 and $10 an hour.
Wal-Mart appears to be the only large employer that falls below the minimum 8 percent, although Wal-Mart claims the difference is minimal. Research by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, however, indicates that Wal-Mart spends as little as 2 percent to 3 percent of its payroll on health care, draining $30 million a year from our local economies in tax-supported benefits.
Meanwhile, some of Maryland’s other largest employers, like Giant Foods and Northrop Grumman, are already paying their fair share. These companies, each of which employ more than 10,000 workers in the state, pay well above the 8 percent of their payrolls to provide decent health coverage. In the case of Giant Foods, a competitor of Wal-Mart’s, “doing the right thing puts Giant at a disadvantage and gives Wal-Mart an unfair advantage in the grocery business,” Lowthers said.
Pointing to a recent $1,000-a-head fundraising dinner for Ehrlich hosted by Wal-Mart, Lowthers challenged the governor to explain how he would solve a health care crisis that is aggravated by the employment policies of his political benefactor.
“Maryland legislators answered the call to fix our health care system, taking a good first step by passing the Fair Share bill,” Lowthers said. “Ehrlich, however, has chosen to ignore the health care needs of Maryland’s working families while agreeing to subsidize the poster child for bad corporate citizenship.
“Marylanders have every right to ask themselves whose side Ehrlich is on,” he said.
UFCW Local 400 represents approximately 40,000 workers in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
March 28, 2005
Washington DC—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is extremely pleased by the announcement that Los Angeles based Yucaipa Companies will invest $150 million in Carteret, N.J., Pathmark Stores which has 142 stores in the New York and Philadelphia metro areas.
“This is great news for 30,000 Pathmark employees represented by the UFCW,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “Yucaipa has a track record of operating successful industry-leading businesses that benefit employees, shareholders and communities. The UFCW members had positive working experiences with Yucaipa when the company ran supermarkets across the country, including Ralph’s, Food4Less, Fred Meyer, Smith Food and Drug, and Dominick’s. If you asked UFCW members, today, who worked in Yucaipa-operated stores, I’m confident they would say the company was very fair as well as a good place to work.”
Pathmark, once a growing, successful, and highly respected in the supermarket industry, experienced a harmful leveraged buyout in the 1980s. Since then, the company has been saddled with extensive debt, which resulted in burdens on UFCW members employed at Pathmark Stores and on communities where the stores operate.
“The agreement with Yucaipa will allow Pathmark to undergo capital structure improvements that will provide an enhanced shopping experience for the shoppers in the company’s market areas and a more secure future for UFCW members working in the stores,” said Hansen. “Once the investment is complete, I’m sure our affected local unions will want to meet with Yucaipa officials to offer their thoughts, including those of UFCW members working in the stores, about remaking Pathmark Stores into a profitable and productive operator with a positive working environment.”
March 10, 2005
Joseph T. Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) was named to a 14-member Citizens’ Health Care Working Group. Hansen is the only representative from organized labor working with the esteemed group of health care providers, economists, health care advocates and other leaders.
The fourteen panelists, named by the Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker, were assembled from more than 500 applicants and are charged with the duty of holding a national dialogue on issues relating to health care services, delivery and cost.
“I am deeply honored to serve in this vital endeavor to address the growing health care crisis and I look forward to working with my fellow panelists,” said Hansen. “The nation’s health care tab is already the highest in the world, and I am committed to exploring solutions that will reduce costs while improving care for the greatest number of people.”
The working group was created by Congress and will hold hearings and community meetings across the country on health coverage and cost issues, and, ultimately, issue a “Health Report to the American People.”
As the leader of the 1.4 million-member UFCW, Hansen represents America’s neighborhood union. UFCW members put food on the table for America’s families, working in neighborhood supermarkets, as well as in meatpacking, food processing and other industries.
With more than 40 years of experience negotiating contracts covering wages, health care benefits, pensions and other workplace benefits, Hansen is acutely aware of the nation’s health care crisis. He understands how rising health care costs are forcing a downward pressure on workers’ living standards. He also knows first-hand how skyrocketing costs are encouraging some employers to scale back and eliminate employee health care plans in order to gain competitive advantages in their industries.
“The health care crisis is a national problem that requires a national solution,” said Hansen. “I have great confidence that our group can lay the foundation for bringing America together to confront this challenge.”
February 24, 2005
Wal-Mart used children for hazardous jobs in its U.S. stores according to a U.S. Labor Department investigation as reported in the New York Times on February 12, 2005. Wal-Mart is being sued for sexual harassment in Florida by the federal government as reported in the Bradenton Herald on February 18, 2005. Wal-Mart was cited in Alabama for having the most employees on taxpayer-funded Medicaid health program as reported in the Associated Press on February 22, 2005. Wal-Mart is the target of a Georgia legislative initiative on companies with large number of employees receiving taxpayer-funded health care after it was revealed the retail giant ranked number one for employees on the government health program as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on February 23, 2005.
In a ten-day period, Wal-Mart compiled a virtually unmatched public record of abusive, illegal and irresponsible conduct involving women, children and taxpayers. These most recent reports come on top of Wal-Mart already facing the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in history, court convictions for forcing employees to work without pay, and government complaints for the illegal firing and intimidation of workers for exercising workplace rights. In Canada, Wal-Mart is closing a store and taking away the livelihoods of almost 200 workers rather than comply with the law providing a fair and impartial process to reach a contract with workers.
So what does Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott do? He delivers a speech attacking the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).
In his speech delivered in Los Angeles yesterday, Scott glibly ignored the company’s very public record of shameful conduct; blamed the UFCW and other critics (the “guppies” according an earlier Scott pronouncement) for his problems; and, created an alternative reality where low wages, unaffordable benefits, the massive export of U.S. jobs to overseas sweatshops, the suppression of worker rights and taxpayer subsidies for the giant retailer have somehow made the world a better place.
The Scott speech continues a public relations offensive launched several weeks ago to prop up the company’s sagging image, pump up stagnate stock prices, and sidestep holiday season reports that competitors from Sears to Best Buy offered lower prices. The speech contains the same willful distortions and Orwellian double-talk as the company’s ad campaign. Repeating a lie does not make it true.
Scott brags, as did the ads, about the number of full-time employees– except full time in Wal-Mart speak is about 30 hours a week, not 40 hours as in the rest of reality. Scott proudly proclaims that Wal-Mart’s average wages are about twice the minimum wage. He ignores that Wal-Mart uses its enormous political clout– the largest political giver in 2004– to keep the minimum wage in real terms at its lowest level in decades. Even at the supposed Wal-Mart average wage, a family with a Wal-Mart income is still left scraping the poverty line. Scott cites Wal-Mart health insurance as a positive, but fails to mention that 700,000 Wal-Mart associates do not have the company’s health insurance, and that those who do, pay more on average than employees of other major companies.
In instance after instance, Scott contorts the facts to serve his own purposes. He cites the lack of opposition to his company in communities across California, and declares opposition to Wal-Mart is limited to urbanized areas– except the overwhelming majority of Californians live in those urbanized areas. He talks about company tax payments, but doesn’t mention the tax costs the retailer imposes on states and communities with its low wages and lack of affordable health benefits.
Despite Scott’s protestations, Wal-Mart is not just a simple retailer. Wal-Mart is the largest single economic force in history. It is the largest private employer in the country, and the largest corporation in the world. Walton family members comprise five of the ten richest people in the world. About one percent of the wealth of just one of the Walton richest five would provide affordable health insurance for all Wal-Mart workers in the U.S. Wal-Mart is about high profits, not low prices.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has 1.4 million members working in neighborhood supermarkets, retail stores, meat packing and food processing plants. UFCW retail members work for major retailers such as Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons.
February 18, 2005
Washington DC—Denver-area UFCW members working at Kroger operated King Soopers supermarkets will be voting over the next few weeks on a settlement designed by a federal mediator.
The UFCW International Union intervened to discontinue voting last November on a company contract offer that would have jeopardized health care coverage not only for Denver-area UFCW members but also members across the country. After a subsequent negotiating session ended in no movement toward a settlement, the company requested that the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service design a projected agreement based on bargaining documentation submitted by both the union and the company. When UFCW members serving on the bargaining committee representing King Soopers’ workers agreed to the process, the mediation service took up the task of putting a settlement together.
“The projected agreement ensures affordable health care for UFCW members and is in line with other agreements recently ratified in Seattle, Northern California, and Las Vegas,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “It’s definitely a major improvement over the company’s offer last year.”
The settlement option preserves affordable family health care. Under the projected agreement, UFCW members will have a $5 to $15 weekly premium co-pay, depending on the type of coverage. The company’s original offer would have destroyed the grocery workers’ health and welfare fund and eliminated any meaningful family coverage.
The agreement option also secures the workers’ pension fund, requiring increases in the company’s pension contributions, and provides real wage increases, as well as bonuses. There is no two-tier wage or health care benefit provision in the contract, although new workers will have to wait longer to achieve the full wage and benefit package.
“The last two years at the negotiating table have been extremely contentious, especially on the health care issue,” Hansen pointed out. “Denver negotiations haven’t been any different. I think the mediator’s crafted settlement allows UFCW members working at King Soopers to provide financial and health care security for their families.”