News and Updates
December 15, 2004
On the Unveiling of a Public Display Marking the Body Count of U.S. Losses in Iraq in the Heart of Washington, D.C.
STATEMENT OF THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION— THE UFCW
OCTOBER 13, 2004
ON THE UNVEILING OF A PUBLIC DISPLAY MARKING THE BODY COUNT OF U.S. LOSSES IN IRAQ IN THE HEART OF WASHINGTON, D.C.
Today, the 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) unveils a massive display in the heart of the nation’s capital marking the daily body count of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq. These are the sons and daughters of working America who are making the sacrifice at the call of their government. The UFCW— a voice for working America— will never forget the sacrifice of our service men and women, their courage and commitment, and the grief of their families.
For the families of those who have fallen, we mourn your loss. For those who have been crippled and maimed in the service of their country, we honor your heroism and support you in your struggle.
We have placed a display here at the corner of K St. NW and 18th St. NW in Washington D.C. Every day we will update the count of American losses in Iraq so that corporate lobbyists and the foreign policy think tanks that dominate the canyons of K St. NW as well as the leaders around the corner at the White House and up the hill in Congress will always remember the impact of the policies that they advocate and the decisions that they make.
In Washington, the war in Iraq may be a matter of policy and politics. In working America, the war in Iraq is a matter of life and death, human sacrifice and suffering.
The UFCW will never forget. We want to make sure that those in power never forget either.
(Approximately 40 UFCW members have been killed in Iraq. Untold hundreds of immediate family members and relatives of UFCW members have been killed or wounded in Iraq.)
The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers at neighborhood grocery stores, department stores, food processing plants, nursing homes and hospitals, and chemical and other manufacturing facilities.
November 18, 2004
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is taking action today to prevent three supermarket giants from forcing employees to give up their health benefit plan. The loss of affordable health benefits could leave UFCW members and their families on the brink of economic crisis. UFCW International President Joe Hansen announced today that he has permanently blocked the company proposals presented on November 1, 2004, from Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons. Hansen also issued an immediate call for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services to bring the parties back to negotiations and work toward the best possible contract for Colorado supermarket workers.
“We are in a new era of national bargaining with the three supermarket giants — Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons. Our actions today are focused on one clear goal: protecting health benefits and securing the best possible contract for supermarket workers. We are moving to put the collective bargaining process back on track to resolve this situation without sacrificing affordable health care,” said Hansen.
In a letter to UFCW Local 7 and the three supermarket companies, Hansen wrote: “I have now completed my review… and find that the proposals to end the jointly administered health and welfare plan…and the failure to cover additional stores…under the contract…could be injurious to our members.”
The companies’ proposal to move employees to a company-controlled health insurance plan would threaten affordable health care for tens of thousands of workers.
- Under the employer proposed company insurance, new hires would see drastic cuts in coverage and current hourly supermarket workers would face escalating premiums that would make quality family health coverage unaffordable.
- Historically, jointly-administered union and management health benefit trust funds have provided higher quality coverage for lower costs than if the employers purchased insurance on the open market.
- The employer demands would force workers to abandon any sense of security or voice over their health benefits and puts all control over cost and coverage into the hands of the supermarket companies.
- Employee pension coverage also risks serious cuts under the employers’ proposal.
“UFCW members have proven that we have the strength and determination to hold the line against employer attacks on health benefits and we will do so again if we must. But, it is my obligation to make sure we have exhausted every possible option at the bargaining table and elsewhere before asking UFCW members to sacrifice on the picket line in order to protect affordable health care,” continued Hansen.
Further, the supermarkets’ demands to deny union representation to workers at new or expanded stores could leave hundreds of new supermarket employees in our communities without job security, workplace protections or a voice on the job.
Through the federal mediation and conciliation process, the UFCW International Union has been able to reach settlements across the country including ending the four and a half month long strike in Southern California.
The 1.4 million-member UFCW is America’s neighborhood union representing workers in neighborhood grocery stores across the country. UFCW puts dinner on the table for America’s families with members working in meatpacking and food processing. UFCW gives a voice to care with representation for nurses, medical technicians and nursing home workers.
November 9, 2004
| UFCW International President
Joseph Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), exercised his authority under Article 23(A) of the International Constitution to halt voting on the offer presented on November 1, 2004, from Safeway, King Soopers and Alberstons to more than 13,000 UFCW members represented by Wheat Ridge, Co., Local 7.
Article 23 (A) of the International Constitution gives the International President the right to review any proposed contracts prior to any membership action on the proposal. The purpose of Friday’s action is to give the International President the opportunity to assess the potential impact of proposed contract provisions on other UFCW members across the country and to see if they meet the established objectives relating to wages, benefits and working conditions. Following the International President’s review, he could either opt to restart or suspend (cancel) Colorado member voting on the existing proposal. In the event that voting is restarted, ballots cast prior to Friday’s action would be counted.
“The supermarket chains bargaining with Local 7 in Colorado are large national corporations. Consequently, their proposals have national ramifications for our members,” said International President Joe Hansen. “I owe an obligation to all UFCW members working in the grocery industry to fully review the current proposal to determine whether or not it would be injurious to them.”
The UFCW International Union remains hopeful that ultimately an equitable solution can be reached between the parties.
October 28, 2004
UFCW members aren’t alone in the fight for affordable health care, as an overwhelming percent of supermarket shoppers surveyed side with their local grocery store workers on employee concerns. The community support is echoed in two recent surveys of grocery shoppers, one conducted in Colorado and one in Washington State.
Both surveys reinforce what UFCW workers already know: communities stand behind workers when it comes to workplace issues, especially health care. The large majority of shoppers agree that grocery store employees “deserve to have affordable health care.” Most shoppers (85%) believe that major supermarkets like Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway are very profitable and have a responsibility to provide workers with affordable health care benefits.
Over 80% in the Washington community said they would support workers on strike if management threatened to eliminate health care benefits. The majority also said they would sympathize with grocery store workers on strike over the employers even if they knew very little about specific bargaining issues. Most shoppers would go out of their way to shop at another store if their local grocery store had employees on strike.
Economic studies show that when large corporations take away or reduce their employees’ health benefits, taxpayers take on the increased costs for workers because more workers are forced to utilize publicly-subsidized health services. More than two-thirds of shoppers surveyed agree that the responsibility for health care cots would indeed float to taxpayers. Even more shoppers agree that workers end up paying for extravagant corporate executive compensation and bonuses.
Last summer, UFCW members in the Puget Sound, Wash. area visited their local communities and informed residents about what was happening at the bargaining table during their contract negotiations. UFCW members collected “don’t shop” pledges from the public if the employers insisted on eliminating affordable health care benefits. They participated in marches and rallies that kept bargaining issues at the center of the public’s attention, and moved elected officials to write letters in support of grocery store workers and voice those opinions to the media. Mobilizing in neighborhoods and solidifying support among community members put key pressure on the grocery stores, ultimately helping 18,000 UFCW members in Puget Sound settle a fair contract.
The survey in Colorado was conducted by TKG Research in August and identified perceptions of worker issues, while the survey in Washington, taken by the Evergreen Research Group in January, recognized early attitudes toward grocery workers, management and possible strikes.
July 8, 2004
Health care for working families is not just a workplace concern – it’s a community concern. More than 3,000 workers at Acme Supermarkets in South Jersey faced the threat of cuts to health benefits when their contact expired at the end of April. The members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1360 reached out to local religious leaders, elected officials and union members for support that helped secure a new contract that protected health benefits for workers and their families.
Acme is owned by Albertsons, a national chain that forced tens of thousands of its Southern California workers into the streets for nearly five months to fight back against the employers’ draconian demands to eliminate health benefits for workers. Acme workers and supporters in South Jersey supported the California strike/lockout by mobilizing customers and raising public awareness of the struggle facing supermarket workers across the country.
When bargaining began in South Jersey, Acme faced a room full of religious leaders, labor supporters and other UFCW local unions along with representatives from UFCW Local 1360. The message was loud and clear: we stand united to protect health benefits for Acme workers.
“This contract proves that solidarity works. UFCW local unions working together with other unions and, most importantly, community and religious leaders made sure Acme and Albertsons understood that we will hold the line for health care,” said International Vice President and Regional Director Mark Lauritsen.
The new five-year agreement:
• Maintains health care for workers and retirees;
• Improves worker retirement benefits; and
• Increases wages, including higher starting rates for new employees
UFCW members are currently bargaining with Albertsons, Safeway and Kroger in the Pacific Northwest where the contract covering nearly 20,000 workers expires this month. In September, nearly 50,000 workers at the same three supermarket chains in Northern California will head to the bargaining table with similar resolve to hold the line for health care.
June 2, 2004
Inglewood, California, Voters Reject Wal-Mart’s Effort for Expansion
Residents of Inglewood, California, stood up for American values – they said “”No,”” to the Walmartization of their community. They said “”No,”” to the Arkansas retail giant’s low wage, low benefit jobs. They said “”No,”” to a store the size of 17 football fields that would have decimated local businesses.
Voters rejected a referendum by Wal-Mart by voting 65% against a proposed Supercenter in Inglewood. Wal-Mart forced voters to the polls by refusing to accept rejection of their expansion plans by Inglewood City Council earlier this year. Wal-Mart abused the citizen referendum process by hiring people to collect signatures and force a ballot initiative – an effort that ignored zoning regulations and skirted traffic and environmental reviews. Wal-Mart was trying to buy the local political process but voters made it clear: you can’t discount democracy.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members held the line in Southern California for nearly 5 months fighting back demands by the supermarket employers that would have eliminated health benefits for workers. Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons used Wal-Mart’s low-road benefit package as an excuse to lower the standards for supermarket workers in California. Customers stood behind the strikers throughout the work-stoppage and now those same people sent Wal-Mart the message that they are willing to fight for good jobs with good benefits.
“”Wal-Mart’s arrogance blinded them to the fact that voters and consumers will not accept a giant retailer cramming low-wage, low benefit jobs in every community. Voters in Inglewood told Wal-Mart to respect their laws, their environmental standards and elected officials,”” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.
“”Wal-Mart is undermining living standards across the country and tried to undermine the democratic process itself,”” Hansen continued.
UFCW members in Inglewood joined with a broad citizen’s coalition of local and statewide elected officials, community organizations, and religious leaders to mobilize voters against Wal-Mart’s back-door bully tactics.
April 26, 2004
Workers In Houston, Cincinnati, Louisville, Las Vegas, Northern California, Denver, Seattle And Detroit Mobilize For Fight To Save Health Care
Kroger stockholders were recently stunned when the company forked over more than a $100 million to the supermarket operator’s leading competitors as a payoff from the more than 4 month long Southern California grocery strike. Waging war on workers’ health benefits doesn’t come cheaply, and the nation’s largest supermarket chain had to pay the bill after it agreed to cover its competitor’s losses when it joined with Safeway and Albertsons to take on 70,000 Southern California members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in a fight over affordable health care.
Kroger did not limit its revenue loss to California. It also sent workers into the streets and its customers off to its competitors when it forced a strike over health benefits in West Virginia last year. Now, Kroger is risking a revenue hemorrhage as its short-sighted, benefit-busting demands could send tens of thousands of the company’s workers into the streets from Houston to Seattle, and from Cincinnati to Denver. The majority of Kroger’s revenue stream could dry up if the company fails to reach agreements that maintain affordable health care.
“”Kroger has consistently underestimated workers’ resolve in the fight for affordable health care. For the company health care benefits are a matter of dollars and cents, for workers health care benefits are a matter of life and death,”” said UFCW International Collective Bargaining Director Pat O’Neill.
In a nationwide effort, the UFCW International is systematically laying the groundwork in preparation for the possibility of multi-city strikes. From picket signs to community outreach, coordinated programs are being planned to mobilize support for affordable health care, as well as to assist the workers forced to strike to keep their health care.
While the details vary from city to city, the thrust of the company’s attack is to effectively eliminate affordable health care in the future. Houston is currently the hot spot for a potential strike. Company demands there would impose costs that would push health care out of reach for many workers, and could leave substantial number of workers without any coverage at all.
“”Kroger needs to make a commitment to maintaining affordable benefits. The workers have made record profits for the company. Some of those profits now should be used to maintain the workers’ benefits. Attempts to eliminate affordable health care will only lead to the elimination of profits, customers and market share. Workers will negotiate in good faith to keep the stores open and the customers served, but workers will fight for health care,”” stated O’Neill.
April 5, 2004
Kroger and UFCW Local 455 and 408 Agree to Extend Contract
After weeks of marathon bargaining sessions, UFCW Locals 455 and 408 and Kroger supermarkets have signed an extension to the current collective bargaining agreement that covers 11,000 workers in the Houston area. The two parties have been working with a federal mediator who recommended the extension in order to permit bargaining to continue.
Due to the complexity of the issues, particularly health care coverage, the extension will allow both parties to continue to make steady progress toward a solution.
The contract has been extended to April 24, 2004 and will continue day to day thereafter.
Both parties also agreed to a media blackout of issues being discussed at the table.
April 2, 2004
The Facts and Faces Behind the Potential Strike at Kroger
Saturday, April 3, 2004
UFCW Local 455
121 Northpoint Dr., Houston United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
Locals 455 and 408 will provide a background briefing on the issues and individuals that are involved in contract negotiations with Kroger supermarkets in the Houston area. A research analyst will be available with data to show Kroger’s rising market share and healthy financial picture.
The workers and their families will also discuss the issues and the impact that the contract dispute will have on their lives. Health care is a top concern to workers and they are ready to hold the line against draconian company demands for cuts to health benefits.
The company’s latest proposal does not, in fact, offer improvements to workers’ health plan but would take away health coverage for 40% of the workforce. Experts will share more details about the health care plan and the impact on workers. The UFCW and Kroger continue to negotiate.
The contract covering 11,000 Kroger employees expires Saturday at midnight. Workers will be voting on the company’s proposal at two meetings at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
February 26, 2004
Senator John Kerry will be on the picket line with UFCW members today at 1:00 p.m. at the Vons store at 710 Broadway (Lincoln & Broadway) in Santa Monica, California to highlight his commitment to national health care reform.
Access to affordable family health benefits is the issue that forced 70,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) on strike against Safeway/Vons, Ralphs/Kroger and Albertsons for more than 5 months. The Southern California supermarket strike has sounded the alarm to America that our health care system is in crisis and that all workers are at risk of losing benefits.
Striking Vons worker Cathi Shafer said, “”I’m proud to have John Kerry join our picket line today because he is committed to the principle that health care is a right—that if you work hard, you’ve earned the right to health care. This fight is about our future. We are not going to give up on our future. And John Kerry is not going to give up on the future for working families.””
Melissa Larson has been walking the picket line with her husband said, “”John Kerry put his life on the line for his country. He wasn’t afraid to fight for America. He will fight for affordable health care for America’s working families.”” John Kerry will call the striking workers American heroes for their courage and commitment to hold the line for America’s health care.
Senator Kerry was endorsed by the UFCW and the AFL-CIO last week for his commitment to worker issues like health care. UFCW members have made tremendous personal sacrifices during the 19-week battle, relying on food banks to feed their families, applying to hardship funds to keep a roof over their heads and supporting one another to keep picket lines strong. Supporters from across the country have poured millions of dollars in donations to the striking supermarket workers and mobilized thousands of supporters to actions at Safeway and Albertsons stores across the country.