Corporate Responsibility

RSS

UFCW President Hansen Statement on Schedules That Work Act

Schedules That WorkWASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement regarding introduction of the Schedules That Work Act.

“If you ask a worker in the retail industry what improvements can be made to their job, the response is likely to include scheduling. Fair, flexible, and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect. In a perfect world, employers would view workers as human beings with competing life demands rather than numbers on a balance sheet. But in reality, scheduling is more erratic than ever.

“The Schedules That Work Act would provide workers modest safeguards and begin to curb the most abusive scheduling practices. This includes a presumption that workers who need a schedule change due to child care, school, a second job, or medical needs will receive that change unless there is a bona fide business reason not to. The legislation also provides retail workers advance notice of their schedules and guarantees minimum pay when they are sent home from work before completing their entire shift.

“This legislation would ensure all workers have the rights fought for and won by UFCW members for decades. Our contracts have long guaranteed predictable and adequate scheduling. The law of the land should do the same. I urge Congress to pass the Schedules That Work Act as soon as possible.”

###

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.

Roll Call: Ban BPA and Other Toxic Chemicals

In 2012, a six-year study was published that examined the occupational history of more than 1,000 women, finding that those who worked in the automotive plastics and in the food packaging industries were five times more likely to develop premenopausal breast cancer than women in the control group. One of the main chemicals used in their workplaces? Bisephenol A, better known as BPA.

Two years earlier, the President’s Cancer Panel, an advisory committee attached to the National Cancer Institute, identified a variety of toxic chemicals, including BPA, that may be causing “grievous harm.”

And yet this chemical is still in products Americans consume every day.

BPA is used to make plastics and resins in thousands of consumer products, including food packaging, despite the fact that it poses serious health risks for consumers, workers and children.

The dangers of BPA have been well demonstrated. Exposure, even at minimal levels, has been linked to numerous health problems, including breast cancer, altered fetal development, infertility and behavioral changes.

The list of items that contain BPA is long, but progress by the Food and Drug Administration to adequately protect consumers has been slow and inadequate. In the wake of strong pressure from lawmakers and the public and changes in industry practices, the FDA has banned BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging. Many private retailers and manufacturers have also banned BPA in food containers for young children. But much more is needed.

In order to fully protect children from exposure to BPA, we must also protect pregnant women and all of the foods they and young children may ingest. BPA is still used in all sorts of other food packaging, exposing not only those who consume those products, but also the factory workers who assemble them, to harmful levels of BPA.

That is why recently we introduced the Ban Poisonous Additives Act, which would remove BPA from food packaging, encourage the development of safe alternatives, and ensure a thorough safety review of all substances currently used in food and beverage containers. The bill also explicitly requires the FDA to examine the effects of BPA on the workers who may be disproportionately exposed to BPA during the manufacturing process.

The BPA Act is supported by numerous public health and cancer advocacy organizations, as well as United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the Communication Workers of America, the United Steelworkers and the United Automobile Workers, who represent the workers who handle BPA on a daily basis.

We join with this broad coalition of consumers, workers and families who are calling for action. Banning BPA from food and beverage containers is common sense, and everyone will be safer for it.

Sen. Edward J. Markey is a Democrat from Massachusetts, Rep. Lois Capps is a Democrat from California and Rep. Grace Meng is a Democrat from New York.

UFCW President Hansen Statement on the Supreme Court’s Decision in Harris v. Quinn

WASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn.

“In today’s Harris v. Quinn ruling, the anti-worker Supreme Court sided with those who want to deprive employees of any ability to collectively bargain with their employers. This decision primarily affects home health care workers, but sets a terrible precedent for other Americans seeking a voice on the job.

“This is the Supreme Court’s latest attack on the foundation of our democracy. From weakening the Voting Rights Act to allowing unfettered corporate money in politics, the conservative justices are all too willing to do the bidding of anti-worker special interests. Workers and unions will respond to this latest attack as we always have—by redoubling our efforts to bring a voice on the job and fair wages and working conditions to all Americans.”

###

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 Member Attends White House Summit on Working Families

Kim MitchellWASHINGTON, D.C.—Kim Mitchell, who works at Macy’s in Washington D.C. and is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 400, today attended the White House Summit on Working Families to bring attention to the union difference in the retail industry.

As a result of the strong union contract between Macy’s and its workers, Mitchell has been able to live comfortably and support her family. Mitchell, who is a single mother, earns $20 an hour and benefits from “predictive scheduling” which helps ensure her hours are both adequate and predictable.

“I am here with a simple message—union jobs are the best jobs,” she said. “My membership in the UFCW has allowed me to achieve my dream of financial security and peace of mind. Our contract is more than a document—it’s my family’s livelihood.”

Also attending the summit were a group of “Walmart Moms” who are speaking out for fair wages and respect on the job. “Millions of workers, especially working women, have stories similar to mine,” said Bene’t Holmes, a Walmart worker and single mother from Chicago. “They are trapped in a cycle of low wage jobs with unpredictable hours that make it so difficult to raise a family. My hope is this event will help elevate the ongoing national conversation about making today’s workplaces better for everyone, including working mothers like me.”

Detailing the widespread problems retail moms face on low-pay and erratic scheduling, national public policy organization Demos released a report earlier this month showing how these conditions keep millions of hard-working women and families near poverty. The report also concluded that if large retailers established a new wage equivalent to $25,000 per year for full time work it would improve the lives of more than 3.2 million female retail workers and lift 900,000 women and their families directly out of poverty or near poverty.

The summit convened businesses, economists, labor leaders, policymakers, advocates, and ordinary citizens to discuss policy solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of working families. Last Tuesday while at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, President Obama credited the labor movement with building the middle class and said the United States “should do everything we can to strengthen unions in this country.”

“I am glad the President is focusing on these important issues,” Mitchell said. “I am here to tell the White House that the best way to lift up working families is to make sure everyone who wants to join a union is able to do so freely and fairly.”

###

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.

 

New York UFCW Members Lobby Their State Legislators

UFCW locals representing workers across New York traveled to the State Capitol in Albany today to lobby on issues important to working families. Members and staff from UFCW Locals 1, 1500, and 2013, along with RWDSU Locals 338 and 1102 were in attendance.

NY Lobby Day 1

A major focus of the lobby day was to push back against efforts to gut the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which took effect in April of 2011. The law requires that employers give workers written notice of wage rates once a year, a provision some Senate Republicans are targeting for repeal. UFCW members made it clear that wage theft is a serious problem and all workers have the right to know if they are being cheated out of money. They called for the Wage Theft Prevention Act to be strengthened, not weakened by repealing the written notice requirement.

Members also discussed the need to raise the minimum wage and pass paid sick leave legislation. For decades, workers’ wages have stagnated while corporate profits and CEO pay have risen to record heights. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be over $10 an hour today, but instead it sits at only $8.00 in New York. Members demanded that the minimum wage be raised so it is a living wage.

Members lobbied for statewide paid sick leave, building on the momentum of legislation passed in New York City.  They stressed that no worker should be forced to risk their job and their livelihood just because they get sick. Workers without paid sick leave are 1.5 times more likely to go to work sick and contagious than those who have paid sick days. Members said providing paid sick leave would make every workplace more healthy and productive.

Finally, members told their legislators it was long past time to pass the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, which would include farmworkers under state labor law. This would guarantee that New York’s farmworkers have the right to organize and bargain collectively for the wages and benefits that they deserve. UFCW members understand that all workers must be afforded their fundamental rights.

The lobby day was a great success and members who took part spoke about the importance of meeting directly with their legislators.

“Lobbying is an important way to remind these elected officials who they work for,” said UFCW Local 1500 member John Kubinski, who works at ShopRite in Staten Island. “If we don’t tell them what we want then they cannot properly represent us.”

Local 1500 member Jeff Guardado, who works at Stop & Shop in West Islip, talked about power in numbers. “We’re all fighting for the same cause,” he said. “We stand up for the little people. The little people are many. The powerful are few.”

Local 1500 member Georgette Wilson, who works at Stop & Shop in Hempstead, agreed. “We are here to speak out for those who don’t have the opportunity to have their voice heard.”

Local 1500 member Keith Jefferson, who works at Pathmark in Coney Island, summed up the day. “Too often these elected officials look at papers and they don’t see faces. They need to see faces. I like when my union does this. We fill up the whole bus and all of us come here.”

Members said they will be boarding the bus again next year for the 2015 New York Lobby Day.

UFCW President Hansen Statement on President Obama’s Upcoming Visit to Walmart

Hansen OUR WalmartWASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement regarding President Obama’s upcoming visit to a California Walmart to discuss energy efficiency.

“On Friday, President Obama will stand side by side with a company known for low wages, few benefits, unreliable hours, discrimination against women, violating workers’ rights, and yes, environmental degradation. Despite promising to be a leader on climate, Walmart’s greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise.  According to its own Global Responsibility Report, the company’s emissions grew 2 percent, nearly half a million metric tons, in the last year alone. In addition, Walmart still lags badly behind other large companies when it comes to renewable power, with its projects and purchases deriving only 3 percent of electricity from these sources.

“More than anything, the President’s visit sends a terrible message to workers across America. He is lending credibility to a bad actor when he should be joining the calls for Walmart to change. A federal agency—the National Labor Relations Board—is prosecuting Walmart for retaliating against workers who stand up and speak out. Taxpayers are subsidizing Walmart which pays many of its own workers so little that they must rely on food stamps and Medicaid. And at a time when there is a renewed conversation about addressing income inequality, Walmart’s business model is making the problem worse.

“After the pep rally in California, I invite the President to meet with Walmart workers who can tell him firsthand about their struggles.”

###

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 Minimum Wage Vote

Raise-the-Wage-AvatarWASHINGTON, D.C.Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement after the Senate failed to advance legislation raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation.

“Today a minority of Senators blocked millions of workers from getting a long overdue raise. It is the latest example of a Congress that is simply unable to meet the basic needs of the American people. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and tying it to inflation is a modest, common sense proposal that would lift millions of American families out of poverty. CEO pay has risen 725 percent over the last 30 years yet the real value of the minimum wage continues to decline. This is simply wrong. States and localities are refusing to sit by, with many raising their own minimum wage to levels higher than the federal rate. But all Americans deserve a living wage, no matter where they happen to live. For those who continue to deny workers a raise, the UFCW will remember in November.”

###

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 Releases 2013 Congressional Scorecard

The UFCW has released a scorecard for the first session of the 113th Congress. Members of both the House and Senate were graded on a series of bills that impacted workers and their families.

The House of Representatives scorecard included measures to gut workers’ rights, end the government shutdown, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

The Senate scorecard included votes on comprehensive immigration reform, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the confirmation of both Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and three pro-worker nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.

The UFCW is committed to holding elected officials accountable for their actions.

To see how members of Congress voted, click here.

Washington Post: Did USDA mislead the public, Congress about injury risks for poultry workers?

By Kimberly Kindy

It’s being called an ‘interagency throw down.’

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture officials are publicly feuding over the results of a study that found the same double-digit injury rates among poultry plant workers both before and after processing lines had accelerated.

USDA officials are pointing to the study as evidence that a new poultry inspection program it hopes to finalize — which would allow line speeds to rise by as much as 25 percent — would not cause further injuries to workers.

In a March 26 blog post, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service director Al Almanza said the study shows line speed increases are “not a significant factor in worker safety.” USDA officials have offered a similar interpretation to members of Congress and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights over the past several weeks.

However, NIOSH Director John Howard chastised USDA officials, last week, saying he was “quite surprised” by the agency’s assertions. “It’s impossible to draw a conclusion about the impact of line speed changes on worker health” from the NIOSH study,” Howard said in a letter to Almanza, adding that to do so “is misleading.”

Howard said NIOSH “found an alarming 42% prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome” among workers during its first assessment at a plant in South Carolina. When NIOSH returned a second time, some 10 months later, they were not surprised to find the injury rates were about the same. Too little time had passed, Howard said, and the plant had made important adjustments, actually reducing the number of birds each worker had to process from 180 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute.

“Given what NIOSH observed upon its second visit relative to changes made to the production lines, NIOSH would not have expected to find an increase or a decrease in musculoskeletal symptom prevalence,” Howard wrote in his April 7 letter.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, (D-Conn.) — who opposes the new inspection system — has also waded into the interagency fight over the study. “As I said at the time, this report does not prove what USDA claimed it proved,” DeLauro said in a statement. “Director Howard’s letter calls attention to the fact we need more, and better, data before moving forward with changes to our poultry processing system that could harm the public health.”

Howard’s letter was also posted last week on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. On Friday, and over the weekend, worker rights groups, animal welfare organizations and unions that oppose the proposed poultry inspection program e-mailed the letter to its members and to the media.

“Inter-agency Throw Down!” wrote Public Citizen spokesman Ben Somberg in an e-mail that linked to the letter.

“The USDA deliberately misread worker health safety research in order to fast-track a rule that provides for stepped-up poultry industry self-regulation,” wrote Vaishali Honawar, an editor with the Humane Society of the United States.

“USDA is using this study to justify the poultry modernization rule but NIOSH clearly disagrees,” wrote Tim Schlittner, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in e-mail.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is not backing down from its take on the study.

In response to Post inquires about the squabble, the USDA provided the following prepared statement: “The fact is that the NIOSH study showed, and NIOSH’s follow-up letter confirms, that increased line speed at this plant did not result in an increase in injuries.”

USDA officials said they came to their conclusions based in part on language from the NIOSH study, which said, “The prevalence of hand and wrist symptoms (pain, burning, numbness, or tingling) was similar for both evaluations.”

Agency officials also said they expect that the changes that were made at the plant in the study, which reduced the number of birds workers had to process, would also take place at plants that adopted the new inspection program. “The report also illustrates that a plant can adjust its processing so that increased line speeds do not necessarily lead to more birds being processed per worker, another fact FSIS has continued to point out,” the USDA statement said.

The new inspection program was first proposed two years ago, but it has not been finalized due in part to opposition from members of Congress, unions, worker and animal rights groups.

The proposal has been controversial because about 40 percent of government inspectors would be replaced with plant employees, leading some groups to say it would largely privatize poultry inspections. Also, animal rights and worker rights groups are concerned that conditions for both the birds and the workers would become worse if line speeds accelerated.

© The Washington Post Company

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.

###

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.