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Healthy Families Act Reintroduced

Today Senator Patty Murray and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation that would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days.

Twenty jurisdictions nationwide—three states and 17 cities—have adopted paid sick laws. That’s a four-fold increase since the Healthy Families Act was last introduced in March 2013.

However, despite this substantial progress, nearly 43 million workers still don’t have access to paid sick days and more than one-third of U.S. states have never passed a single law recognizing the dual demands of work and family.

The UFCW strongly supports passage of the Healthy Families Act.

Support Paid Sick Leave (1.2)

Survey Finds Popularity of “Right to Work” Decreasing

Rasmussen Reports released a national survey showing that only 35% of likely U.S. voters believe “right to work” laws are good for a state’s economy. That’s a ten point decrease from a similar study conducted in December 2012.

UFCW members have been lobbying elected officials for years on the disastrous effects of these unfair and unnecessary laws. There is still more work to be done as “right to work” battles are underway in Wisconsin, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Kentucky, Montana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia

“Right to work” laws are being pushed by corporate special interests who want to lower wages so that corporations can have even more profits and power.

In the coming weeks, UFCW members will be in state capitals across the nation to ensure that legislators take notice of this survey and oppose “right to work.”

RTW Stanley Greer Quote 2

UFCW Members in New Mexico Ready to Stop “Right to Work”

UFCW-L-1564-RTW-TrainingLast week, UFCW Local 1564 led a right to work training session for more than 100 New Mexico union members. At the training, members learned how much harm right to work would bring to workers in New Mexico.

For the first time since 1952, New Mexico’s State House is controlled by Republicans. One of the State House’s priorities going into the 2015 legislative session is to dismantle the rights of workers and pass an unfair right to work law.

“I currently work at Albertson’s and have been a UFCW member for over 40 years,” said UFCW Local 1564 member Eddie Burns. “I’m very concerned about the possibility of right to work in New Mexico. This will hurt our ability to stick together and bargain for the fair wages and benefits that we deserve. It just seems like a completely unfair law to both working and middle class families.”

To some UFCW Local 1564 members, right to work was not new to them. Paul Bolton, a meat cutter at Smith’s in Albuquerque, recalled how much worse his job was when he worked in Texas, a right to work state.

“When I worked in Texas I had the same job as I do now in New Mexico only I had less pay, fewer benefits and absolutely no job security,” he said. “The health care was even worse – when I had my child I was forced to pay an enormous amount out of pocket. It was hard to afford. If that happened while I was working here in New Mexico it would not have been so stressful.”

Workers left the training ready to stop right to work by lobbying their legislators at the Capitol in Santa Fe.

“I’m looking forward to lobbying in Santa Fe,” said Maria Ana Griego, a UFCW Local 1564 member who works at Smith’s. “Legislators from New Mexico should help people from New Mexico and they need to hear that from workers like us. Right to work just gives more to outside corporations. It’s workers who need more – not corporations.”

In Many States, the New Year Equals New Minimum Wage Increases

Raise-the-Wage2015 brought a pay raise for millions of Americans as minimum wage increases go into effect across the country. Minimum wage workers in 21 states and the District of Columbia will see their pay rise. For the first time ever, a majority of U.S. states will have a minimum wage above the federal minimum.

From supporting a ballot initiative in Arkansas to lobbying for the passage of legislation in Maryland, these wage hikes are happening in large part because of the hard work and dedication of UFCW members.

UFCW members have championed a raise for workers because the current minimum wage has left too many families struggling to make ends meet. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 has seen its spending power fall by nearly one-third since its peak in 1968 – it fails to keep workers and their families out of poverty.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $10.10 and they failed to act. In 2015, UFCW members will be pushing the 114th Congress to follow the lead of 29 states and the nation’s capital and raise the minimum wage so that no worker is forced to live in poverty.

Louisville Courier-Journal: ‘Right to work’ harms working families

McMurrayIn the hit series “The West Wing,” a character mistakenly refers to Kentucky as a right-to-work state. In defense of the show’s writers, you can understand their confusion. Kentucky remains the only state in the South not to pass one of these laws, which shows our political independence and common sense. But Republicans in Frankfort, Sen. Mitch McConnell, and a group of out-of-state, big-moneyed special interests are doing everything in their power to change that.

I strongly oppose right-to-work legislation because I love Kentucky and want a bright future for our children and grandchildren. Right to work is a sham. It is, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “a false slogan” which will “rob us of our civil rights and job rights.”

Slogans are catchy. They are designed to get a quick emotional reaction rather than a detailed understanding. That is why I believe some polls show support for these laws. No one opposes the right of Kentuckians to go to work and earn a living. But slogans are also misleading. They do not tell the full story. A majority of Kentuckians also support collective bargaining and higher wages, both of which are under attack as a result of right to work. As people learn more about who is behind right to work and the harm it causes working families, opposition is going to grow substantially.

So who is behind right to work?

Right to work is being pushed and bankrolled by an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, a former member of ALEC who has seen similar battles in his state, called it “nothing more than a corporate-funded and dominated group that operates much like a dating service, only between legislators and special interests.”

Here is how it works. Corporations pay ALEC to wine and dine legislators. In turn, the legislators agree to introduce bills written by ALEC. It’s nothing more than a form of legalized bribery. Who do you honestly think ALEC is looking out for — the people of Kentucky or their corporate contributors? Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has made a career carrying the water of special interests, is also behind right to work. He even went so far as to offer a national right-to-work amendment to civil rights legislation last year.

What does right to work mean for working families? To answer that, there is a brand new study from the University of Illinois and the numbers are disturbing. Right to work reduces wages and salaries by an average of 3.2 percent. It lowers both the share of workers who have health insurance and a pension. It reduces union membership by 9.6 percent. And workers are forced to rely 24 percent more on taxpayer-funded government assistance. In other words, right to work would make Kentucky poorer, sicker, less likely to have retirement security, and more reliant on Uncle Sam. We deserve better.

I am a proud member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227. Every few years, my co-workers and I sit down with the company to negotiate the terms of our employment. There are disagreements, but we have always managed to work out a deal without any help from the government. All we want is a fair wage, decent benefits, and respect on the job. Our employer is making profits and I happen to think a happy, healthy, unionized workforce is a big reason why. Right to work assumes that business and labor are unable to bargain a fair contract without the assistance of a bureaucrat. I think in Kentucky, we do just fine on our own.

When it comes to right to work in Kentucky, “The West Wing” got it wrong. Let’s get it right by electing candidates who oppose this misguided legislation.

Shannon McMurray is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227.

UFCW Local 227 Members Get Out The Vote in Kentucky

Local 227Members of UFCW Local 227 are knocking on doors, making phone calls, and visiting worksites in an effort to get out the vote in Kentucky.

The Bluegrass State is home to one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who introduced national right to work, is facing a fierce challenge from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes. Local 227 members Chuck Duckworth, Chawan Morgan, and Abigail Shake—all employees of Kroger—have been working hard to get Grimes across the finish line.

“McConnell has sucked the life out of Kentucky,” said Morgan. “We need a fresh face, some new ideas, and a different direction.”

“Alison Grimes understands our struggles,” Shake agreed. “She’s not Washington—she’s Kentucky.”

McConnell’s support for right to work and the close battle for control of Kentucky House of Representatives has brought the issue of workers’ rights front and center.

“We’re the only southern state that’s not right to work,” Duckworth said. “I think this election is very important to keep it that way.”

“I have job security, health insurance, annual raises, equal pay and so many other benefits,” Shake added. “Right to work would take that away.”

The Local 227 members all talked about the importance of reaching out to their coworkers. “For me to go to a door and see a single mom raising three kids on her own, working a job and doing everything she can to get by, for me to help educate her about how to make life a little easier, that’s what is important,” Shake said.

Or as Morgan put it: “It’s about solidarity—being united and strong.”

UFCW Michigan Members Continue Canvassing Campaign

SteveDawnGent876UFCW members continued an aggressive canvassing operation this past week in Michigan. They are going door to door working to convince every resident they talk to that their vote matters in the November 4th midterm election.

“We need our government to start working for the people. That won’t happen until more people vote and involve themselves,” said Dawn McClanahan, a member of UFCW Local 876. “We’re canvassing and holding conversations with voters to increase turnout and increase the voice of workers at the ballot box.”

For UFCW Local 876 member Steve LeVey, the memory of 2010 has inspired him to get out the vote this year.

“I remember too well what happened in 2010. The everyday people who won the 2008 election stayed home and we got stuck with a Governor and a state legislature that passed right-to-work. We can’t afford another election like 2010.”

Victory for McClanahan, LeVey, and other UFCW members in Michigan would be electing Congressman Mark Schauer as Governor.

“We’re supporting Mark Schauer because he’s the only candidate who’s committed to helping workers,” said LeVey. “His vision for Michigan is all about making life better for the common man and woman.”

Staff from locals across the country and the International Union will be pouring into Michigan and other battleground states this week to help UFCW members get out the vote for candidates who champion workers and their rights.

Take Back Michigan

DSC_0005Anita Green, Emily Emmons, and Lori Baker will be spending the closing weeks of the 2014 election canvassing in Kalamazoo, Michigan. All three work at Meijer and are members of UFCW Local 951.

“We’re here to get the word out and spread knowledge,” said Lori Baker. “Most of our reaction on doors has been positive. It’s amazing how many people have thanked us for stopping by. Too many just think about the Presidential and that it isn’t time yet, but it is time. We are canvassing to get more people educated and aware so that more people will vote.”

There is a lot at stake in Michigan this election. Current Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed “right to work” into law in 2012. The chance to elect Mark Schauer as Governor of Michigan, a candidate who cares about making Michigan’s economy work for everyone, has been motivating.

“Right to work has been a major issue with people we’ve talked with. They’re upset about it because it sounded good, but it’s just another tool for management to have even more of an upper hand over workers,” said Emily Emmons. “People we’ve talked to are realizing that right to work has just lead to less job security.”

“We can overturn right to work if enough people come out and vote,” added Lori Baker.

Decisions are made by those who show up. Thanks to Anita, Emily, Lori, and dozens of other UFCW members across Michigan, more people are going to have a say in the 2014 midterm election.

“People want to know that their voice and their vote counts,” said Anita Green. “Talking with them about the election reinforces that. Everyone we talk with sees that we believe in this. We want them to vote because it’s their right and their voice really matters.”

National Voter Registration Day

Did you know that in 2008, six million Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register?

We can’t let that happen again – the 2014 election is just too important to working families. This election will determine whether the Senate and countless state and local governments fight to raise the minimum wage and expand workers’ rights or to bust unions, slash budgets, and cut taxes on the rich. We need to make sure that every UFCW household has its voice heard this year.

Can we count on you? Then register today. 

Today is National Voter Registration Day, and our allies at Rock the Vote have created a website with all the information you need to make sure you’re registered.

Forms, key dates, and other voting information are all included.

Make your voice heard. Get registered today.