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New Government Study Confirms Dangers of Working in Poultry Industry

WASHINGTON, DC—A new study released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) confirms what workers in the poultry industry have been saying for decades—it is among the most dangerous places to work in America.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • 42 percent of workers had evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • 41 percent of workers performed daily tasks above the threshold recommended by industry experts
  • 57 percent of workers reported at least one musculoskeletal symptom

The report was commissioned to allay safety concerns about the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed poultry modernization rule, which would increase the speed that birds are processed from 70-91 a minute to a maximum of 175 a minute. Yet the drastic level of injury documented by NIOSH occurred before lines were ever speeded up.

“One injury is one too many,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “Four out of ten workers with carpal tunnel. Nearly six out of ten showing symptoms. This is an epidemic.”

Hansen said the industry, which has fought efforts to give workers a union voice on the job, should stop dragging its feet and adopt the recommendations outlined in the NIOSH report. They include but are not limited to: designing job tasks at the levels recommended by industry experts, providing more than one break during a work shift, and enhancing reporting, screening, and assessment of musculoskeletal disorders.

Hansen called the idea of proceeding with the poultry modernization rule “reckless” given the current rash of injuries across the industry. “The USDA must pull this rule and take a hard look at how to improve safety in our nation’s poultry plants,” he said. “This NIOSH report is both a wakeup call and a warning sign.”

By increasing line speed so dramatically, workers will be at heightened risk of repetitive motion related injuries. Despite this fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to develop a standard that would adequately protect workers.

Hansen said the rule should be scrapped until poultry workers can be guaranteed a safe work environment.

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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.

 

UFCW President Hansen Statement on Senate Vote Blocking Paycheck Fairness Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement after Senate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would stiffen penalties for corporations that discriminate against women.

“The average woman still makes only 77 cents for every dollar a man does. Over the course of their working lives, this means women earn between $400,000 and $2 million less than if they received equal pay for equal work. This is not just a women’s issue–it’s a family issue. Women are now the primary or only breadwinner in 40 percent of households. When women bring home less money it makes it harder for families to afford groceries, rent, and other necessities. The UFCW has long had equal pay provisions in its contracts. But our members know that all workers deserve fair pay. Senate Republicans should stop blocking this common sense legislation.”

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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.

UFCW President Hansen Statement on House Passage of Deceptively Named Save American Workers Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement after the House passed the Save American Workers Act—legislation that would change the definition of full-time under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from 30 hours to 40.

“The Save American Workers Act is a good sounding name for terrible policy. Employers cutting workers’ hours in response to the ACA is a serious problem that deserves genuine solutions. But this bill would actually make things worse—allowing large companies to get off scot free for failing to provide health coverage to those who work between 30 and 39 hours a week—including many UFCW members in the retail industry. The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education found this legislation would put three times as many workers in danger of having their hours cut. This is not about saving workers—it’s politics as usual. If the House wants to save American workers, it should raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment insurance, reform immigration, and remove obstacles to union organizing. The UFCW will work vigorously to ensure this bill does not see the light of day in the Senate.”

UFCW Local 555 Member Shares Her Story, Makes a Difference for Grocery Workers

DeMerritt TestimonyEarlier this month, during UFCW Local 555’s Oregon Lobby Day, shop steward Sarah DeMerritt testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of legislation that would ease penalties for those who unknowingly or inadvertently sell alcohol to a minor for the first time.

It is an issue she knows all too well. In June of 2013, while working as a checker at Safeway in Lake Oswego, Oregon, she sold a six-pack of beer to someone she believed was of legal drinking age. But instead the customer was part of an Oregon Liquor Control Commission sting. A police officer interviewed and cited DeMerritt in her check stand as customers looked on.

“It was very humiliating,” she said. Despite having twelve and half years on the job and no previous offenses, DeMerritt was fired and charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. “Why would I risk my health benefits, my job, my seniority, my life?” she told the committee. “I thought the customer looked old enough to purchase alcohol and was a familiar neighbor that I had carded and sold to in the past.”

DeMerritt, who now works at Haggen, stressed that she takes her responsibility to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors very seriously and had passed all previous stings. Senate Bill 1546 would make penalties for first-time offenders more proportional.

Yesterday the Oregon House passed this legislation, joining the Senate in giving it overwhelming support. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said he will sign it into law.

“I do not want other employees to have this experience,” DeMerritt said. “I do not want them to have to fight so hard.” By having the courage to share her story, DeMerritt is helping make the system fairer for all grocery workers in Oregon.

UFCW Local 555 Members Hold Oregon Lobby Day

Oregon Lobby DayMembers of UFCW Local 555 spent February 12 at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem lobbying their legislators on issues important to working families. The legislative priorities discussed included paid sick leave, combatting wage theft, easing penalties for grocery clerks who unknowingly or inadvertently sell alcohol to a minor for the first time, and requiring disclosure of chemicals in children’s products.

UFCW members had a visible presence throughout the Capitol and found their lobbying experience extremely rewarding. “I am here today so that they can see me and I can speak from my heart about the issues instead of it being just a black and white piece of paper with a checkbox,” said Natalie Someda, who works at QFC in Portland. “Having the gold in the building today makes me feel proud that we are strong and that we are willing to work and sacrifice for union members and non-union workers.”

Ricardo Morales, a meat cutter at Safeway in The Dalles, agreed. “We’re all effected by the anti-worker laws that are trying to make it into Oregon. We won’t be bullied. We won’t go down without a fight.”

Several members talked about the impact lobbying can have. “If we have our representatives standing behind us, we will have a better life for us and our families,” said Barb Bilinowich, who works at Safeway in Springfield.

Heidi Stock, a pharmacy tech at Fred Meyer in Oak Grove, added, “Being here allows us to take things to the next level.”

The UFCW delegation was not lost on Senate President Peter Courtney. “The physical presence stands out and the gold really pops,” he observed. Members said they looked forward to an even bigger and better lobby day next year.

UFCW President Hansen Statement on Gap’s Decision to Raise Wages

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following in response to the Gap’s announcement that it would raise wages for its workers.

“Today’s announcement by the Gap that the retail chain is raising hourly wages for its 65,000 hourly retail workers serves as a challenge to Walmart.  The Gap realizes that paying its hourly workers enough to support themselves is an investment in their business and in our economy.

“It is time for Walmart to stand up and lead by investing back into its 1.4 million U.S. workers with hourly pay increases. Academics at the University of California-Berkeley estimated that Walmart could well-afford a wage increase to at least $12.00 an hour for workers with minimal impact on consumer prices. DEMOS researchers outlined a clear plan for Walmart to cut back on its stock buy back program and raise wages in a way that benefits workers and shareholders alike.

“The time is now for Walmart to show leadership and responsibility to its workers and our communities-follow the Gap’s example and raise wages for every hourly Walmart worker.”

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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.

 

UFCW President Hansen Statement on Revival of NLRB Election Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following in response to the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) reviving a proposal to streamline union elections.

“When the Senate cleared a path for the current NLRB to be confirmed, I called it the best day for workers and their families in years, if not longer. Today we are beginning to see why. I salute the Board for reviving a common sense and desperately needed proposal to streamline the process for workers to form a union. Too many employers use frivolous litigation and other technicalities to create delays so they can intimidate, harass, and in some cases fire pro-union employees before an actual vote occurs. This proposal would limit the influence of bad actors and ensure workers can have their voices heard in a fair and timely fashion. I hope this is the first of many steps the NLRB will take to carry out their mission of promoting collective bargaining.”

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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.

SOTU Recap

Barack ObamaPresident Obama delivered the State of the Union on Tuesday night, addressing a number of concerns submitted to us throughout the week by UFCW members. Here are highlights from his address:

“Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here.  Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10.  This will help families.  It will give businesses customers with more money to spend.  It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program.  So join the rest of the country.  Say yes.  Give America a raise.”

Along with issuing an executive order that creates a $10.10 minimum wage for federal contractors, President Obama called on Congress to pass the Harkin-Miller bill which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, index it to inflation, and ensure no one who works full-time in America lives in poverty.

“Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote.  Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened.  But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote.  Let’s support these efforts.  It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.”

Every single American has the right to vote, but being forced to wait hours to exercise this right is unfair and wrong. President Obama’s bipartisan voting commission has and will continue to take steps towards making sure every eligible voter can access the polls.

“I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy.  But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.”

Millions of Americans are still without a job and struggling to make ends meet. President Obama called for the restoration of unemployment insurance because it is simply wrong to cut off assistance to people who lost their job through no fault of their own.

“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.

President Obama, along with most Americans and the UFCW believe that aspiring Americans should be allowed to step out of the shadows and onto a fair path to citizenship.

The State of the Union made it clear that President Obama wants to assist Americans who have not yet seen or felt a full recovery from the Great Recession. It is time for Congress to do their part to help working families find the success they deserve in 2014.

UFCW President Hansen Statement on the Retirement of George Miller

DSC_0248WASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement after Congressman George Miller (D-CA) announced his intention to retire at the end of the 113th Congress.

“Today is a sad day for the labor movement and the entire nation. George Miller will go down as one of the single greatest champions of working men and women in the history of Congress. For four decades, Congressman Miller has led the fight on organizing rights, fair pay, workplace safety, and corporate accountability. He has been an unwavering friend to me and the entire UFCW, giving our members a voice in the halls of power. When it was apparent the Affordable Care Act would cause problems for workers in union health plans, it was Congressman Miller who stepped up and tried to find a solution, an effort he continues to this day. It is simply undeniable that workers are better off because of his service. Many will seek to carry on Congressman Miller’s good work, but no one can ever replace him.”

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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.

 

UFCW Applauds Introduction of Federal Paid Leave Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement in response to introduction of the FAMILY Act, a bill to create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program.

“A worker who gets sick, gives birth, or has to care for a loved one should not be forced to lose their income for an extended period of time. These are real life events that nearly every family will experience, so it makes perfect sense to provide workers with a safety net. The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee paid sick leave for workers. Fewer than 40 percent have employer-provided paid leave they can use for their own medical needs, and just 12 percent have it to care for a family member. We must do better. This common sense legislation is modeled after two successful programs in California and New Jersey and will help ensure no one goes broke just because they get sick or need time off. We urge Congress to pass the FAMILY Act as soon as possible.”

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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.