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    Legislation and Politics

June 3, 2019

UFCW Members Call on California Legislators to Pass Pro-Worker Agenda

On May 21, members of UFCW Locals 5, 8, 135, 324, 648, 770 and 1167 traveled from across California to Sacramento for their annual lobby day to rally support for policies that strengthen workers and help them and their families succeed. The lobby day was coordinated by the UFCW Western States Council and members visited legislators that represent California’s diverse geography, economy and people. In these meetings, our members shared their firsthand experiences as grocery workers, pharmacists, and workers in California’s burgeoning cannabis industry. They urged lawmakers to support legislation that would:

• Ensure workers who are on strike or locked out by their employers are eligible to collect unemployment insurance benefits, so employees can stand up for justice without fear or losing their homes or having their car repossessed (AB 1066).

• Establish basic safety standards for grocery delivery services, so consumers don’t lose protection from food-borne illnesses when their food leaves the grocery store (AB 1360).

• Protect Californians from unlicensed cannabis businesses, increase transparency in the industry, and lift up legitimate cannabis businesses that abide by safety and labor laws (AB 1417 and SB 581).

• Develop a certification program for produce clerks, service deli clerks and nutrition clerks, providing a pathway to success for workers in a changing grocery industry (AB 1459).

“Having the opportunity to speak directly to my elected legislators helped me understand the difference workers make through our union,” said Marc Zavala, who is a member of UFCW Local 324. “I was encouraged to see that our elected representatives are eager to hear from the working people who are the backbone of California’s economy and are willing to partner with us to enact policies that make real change in workers’ lives.”

UFCW members in California have been hard at work making their voices heard. Earlier in May, members of UFCW Local 1428 joined the growing number of workers speaking out in favor of these bills that put workers and consumers first.

May 20, 2019

Congress Acts to Protect Workers and Families From Discrimination

On May 17, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act of 2019 (H.R. 5), which strengthens protections for workers and families across the country and helps to end discrimination that has impacted so many communities.

UFCW OUTreach chair Michele Kessler praised the action by Congress to pass the bipartisan bill, which was endorsed by the UFCW OUTreach board on March 19.

“Today’s passage of the Equality Act by the House is a powerful step toward a future where millions of LGBTQ Americans and their families no longer have to worry about facing discrimination at work or in their communities,” Kessler said. “Too many Americans live in states with outdated laws that leave our LGBTQ neighbors, friends, and family vulnerable to discrimination.”

Despite major advances in equality, the majority of states still do not have explicit LGBTQ nondiscrimination protection laws. The Equality Act of 2019 would ensure full federal nondiscrimination equality by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to other protected classes, such as race or religion, in existing federal laws.

“Everyone deserves equal access to the employment, housing, and education they need to provide for their families and build a better life,” Kessler added. “We are proud to stand with Americans across the country in support of the Equality Act and urge the Senate to do the right thing and pass this bill immediately.”

May 20, 2019

UFCW Urges Passage of PRO Act to Strengthen Worker Rights

UFCW International President Marc Perrone urged Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act ahead of the House Education and Labor Committee hearing on May 8.  This legislation expands protections for workers to exercise their right to join a union and bargain for better wages and working conditions. These protections include:

• Increasing transparency by requiring employers to post a notice in the workplace of workers’ rights and responsibilities under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
• Authorizing civil monetary penalties to deter violations of the NLRA.
• Improving remedies for workers who are retaliated against for exercising their right to join a union or engage in protected activities—including swift temporary reinstatement, liquidated damages, and the ability to bring cases directly to federal court.
• Expanding coverage of who is deemed an employee under the NLRA to prevent the misclassification of workers as independent contractors.
• Facilitating dispute resolutions by requiring mediation and arbitration procedures to help unions and employers conclude a first agreement.
• Strengthening the right of workers to strike for basic workplace improvements.
• Ensuring that the National Labor Relations Board’s orders are enforced in a timely manner.
• Protecting the right of workers, whether in a union or not, to engage in collective actions, such as employment-related class action litigation.

Perrone’s statement reads as follows:

“As corporations and billionaires continue to thrive, stagnant wages and anti-worker policies around the country are leaving millions of American workers behind.

“We need to rebuild the middle class and reverse decades of income inequality and that starts with unions. For generations, unions have helped hard-working Americans stand together for higher wages, affordable health care, and a secure retirement. The time is now for Congress to pass the PRO Act to protect the rights of workers to join a union and negotiate for the better life they have earned and deserve.”

May 13, 2019

Strengthening Workplace Safety for Our Members in Health Care

Our union has a proud history of keeping members safe and healthy at work. As we build on this legacy, the International’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Office is working with locals that represent members in the health care sector to further strengthen workplace safety.

Health care workers make incredible sacrifices every day to provide care for those in need and are more likely than other workers to face violence in the workplace. As more workers in the health care sector join our union family, protecting these hard-working women and men at work is a key priority.

Robyn Robbins, the director of the OSH Office, recently met with UFCW Local 1625 members who work at Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Lakeland, Fla., to help strengthen their workplace safety policies and procedures.

After meeting with workers and listening to their concerns, Robbins made recommendations to build on existing protections and find additional ways to keep our members safe. She recommended creating a joint labor-management workplace safety committee that includes workers and representatives from the local. She also suggested that the center review all its training policies and procedures to strengthen workplace safety and evaluate them for effectiveness.

UFCW Local 1625 President Ed Chambers put these recommendations into action and achieved positive results, including better training and education, improved reporting procedures, and improved communication by the hospital to the public about the importance of creating a safe work environment for caregivers, hospital staff, and the patients and families they serve.

“The reaction from our health care membership has been incredible since we took the lead in workplace safety,” said Chambers. “I’d like to thank the OSH Office for their help and direction. We knew the issues, and Robyn helped us design a remedy and our membership took the ball and ran with it. Now, we have posters throughout the hospital emphasizing the importance of a safe workplace with the UFCW logo on it.”

In addition to helping locals improve or create workplace violence prevention policies and programs, the OSH Office is also supporting the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), which was introduced by Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) to protect workers from violence on the job. This legislation would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a clear standard for workplace safety and violence prevention, requiring employers in the health care and social service sectors to develop and implement a plan to protect their employees and keep them safe. For more information, contact Robyn Robbins at rrobbins@ufcw.org or Fernando Tapia at ftapia@ufcw.org.

May 13, 2019

Local 1428 Calls on California Lawmakers to Support Pro-Worker Policies

UFCW Local 1428 members recently lobbied California lawmakers in the state capitol in support of legislation that protects good jobs and helps workers. Our members urged legislators to support a wide range of bills, including:

• AB 1066 – Protects unemployment insurance for striking and locked-out workers;
• AB 1459 – Creates certification programs for grocery workers for jobs of the future;
• AB 1360 – Ensures that food delivery drivers are properly trained in food handling requirements that meet grocery store regulations to protect consumers; and
• SB 581 – Strengthens transparency in the cannabis licensing process.

California lawmakers who met with Local 1428 members and staff include State Senators Connie M. Leyva, Maria Elena Durazo and Bobby Archuleta, as well as Assembly Members James C. Ramos, Cottie Petri-Norris, Eloise Reyes, Blanca Rubio, Wendy Carrillo, Ian Calderon, Chris Holden, Miguel Santiago and Freddie Rodriguez.

“Our members help to get lawmakers elected, so when they travel to the state capitol to lobby for work-friendly legislation, those lawmakers take notice and listen since they usually just see corporate lobbyists,” said UFCW Local 1428 President Mark Ramos. “Our members are powerful advocates and messengers for good legislation.”

May 6, 2019

Dallas UFCW Members Host Local Candidates for Kroger Tour

UFCW Local 1000 members recently hosted eight endorsed Dallas candidates for city council and mayor at local Kroger stores for tours and one-on-one discussions with workers ahead of the city’s May 4 election.

Each candidate spent an hour walking through a store and talking with UFCW Local 1000 members one-on-one about the issues affecting their lives. Candidates learned about the issues our members care about, as well as how critical our union is in representing those members at the workplace and why it’s so important to have a union grocery store in their communities. The events were a way to make sure that local elected officials heard directly from the workers they hope to represent.

Anthony Elmo, political and communications director for UFCW Local 1000, asked that any candidate seeking the union’s endorsement take the time to visit an area worksite so they could hear directly from their membership.

“Elected officials should campaign for votes where hard-working families bring home the bacon,” Elmo said. “They need to meet us on the shop floor and understand our issues.”

Chad West, who won the open seat in Dallas City Council District 1, left the visit with a deeper understanding of our union and the workers we represent.

“It was great getting to talk with people in my district who live and work in this community. The majority of the people in my district are working people and it’s good to know that they have a union like UFCW Local 1000 looking out for their best interests and engaging them in the political process,” West said. “I look forward to working with Local 1000 and representing your membership as a member of the Dallas City Council for years to come.”

One of the most important issues was the paid sick leave ordinance that the Dallas City Council passed by a 10 to 4 vote on April 24, which requires employers to credit their employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. Members at every stop let the candidates know how they felt about this important issue in advance of the election, and UFCW Local 1000 member Candice Oglesby, who works full-time as a florist at Kroger in Oak Cliff, was interviewed by ABC News 8 about the ordinance.

Local 1000 members played an integral role in pushing for the Dallas ordinance over the last year, working with coalition partners from local unions and community groups. The ordinance is likely to face legal challenges, as well as an attempt by the state legislature to nullify the law, but the hard-fought victory was a huge win for working people in Dallas.

“Paid sick time in Dallas is an amazing victory for grocery workers. Our members will directly benefit from this policy as the new floor for future contract negotiations,” said Elmo.

April 8, 2019

UFCW Urges Congress to Close the Gender Pay Gap

The UFCW has a proud history of negotiating strong contracts that protect workers from discrimination and help them obtain equal pay for equal work. Over the past few weeks, the International’s Legislative and Political Action Department has taken action on the federal level by urging members of Congress to narrow the gender pay gap by supporting and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7) so that all workers have an opportunity to advance in the workplace. On April 2, their hard work paid off when the House of Representatives passed this legislation, which was sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). This legislation will provide women with the necessary tools to challenge pay gaps and gender-based discrimination.

For women who don’t belong to a union, gender pay discrimination is a persistent problem in the workplace. Women are typically paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, and the pay gaps are even larger for women of color. The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes that have allowed employers to pay women less than men for the same work. It prohibits employers from relying on salary history in determining future pay and requires them to prove that pay disparities are based on factors other than gender. It also protects employees against retaliation for discussing salaries with colleagues and removes obstacles to participation in class action lawsuits regarding pay discrimination.

The passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House of Representatives is an important step toward ending gender-based discrimination. While belonging to a union is still the surest way to guarantee equal pay on the job, with unionized women making approximately 27 percent more than their nonunion counterparts, the Paycheck Fairness Act would provide new and important tools to close the wage gap. The UFCW applauds the men and women of the House prioritizing the passage of this important bill and urges the Senate to pass this legislation immediately and ensure that women don’t go another day without making equal pay for equal work.

To learn more about what the Legislative and Political Action Department is doing to level the playing field for women and all workers, contact your region’s legislative point person in the department. If you are unsure about who your assigned representative is, reach out to Shannon Harris at sharris@ufcw.org.

April 1, 2019

Bipartisan Bill in Congress Protects Workers and Families From Discrimination

On March 19, the UFCW OUTreach board voted to formally endorse the Equality Act, a new bipartisan bill that would strengthen protections for workers and families across the country and help to end discrimination that has impacted so many communities.

Every American deserves the freedom and opportunity to earn a living and build a better life for themselves and their family without facing discrimination. In a majority of states, LGBTQ Americans are still not fully protected from discrimination. While many states have strengthened protections for workers and families who are at risk, the current patchwork of laws leave many vulnerable to discrimination.

This bill would ensure that all Americans enjoy the full protection of the law and are not discriminated against when it comes to employment, housing and other public accommodations. In addition to bipartisan support in Congress, the bill has also been endorsed by a broad coalition of more than 160 leading American companies across the country.

“While our UFCW union contracts protect our LGBTQ members on the job, the lack of non-discrimination laws across our country leave them exposed to discrimination once they walk out of their workplace,” said UFCW OUTreach Chair Michele Kessler, who is the Northcentral Division Director and Secretary-Treasurer at UFCW Local 1776KS. “It’s time to get this law finally passed and we urge our UFCW family to help by contacting their members of Congress to support the Equality Act.”

You can get more information about UFCW OUTreach here.

March 25, 2019

Local 663 Helps Members Make Their Voices Heard in State Capitol

Veronica Orellana of Worthington, Minn., speaks at the state capitol in St. Paul on Feb. 21.(Photo by Dave Orrick / Pioneer Press)

Every member’s voice deserves to be heard, especially on issues that impact their jobs and their families. UFCW Local 663 is helping its members speak out in support of a new bill that strengthens economic opportunities for communities across Minnesota. The bill is H.F. 1500, the License Access and Public Safety Act, which will open up a road of opportunity not only for our members, but for all workers in the state of Minnesota.

On Feb. 21, UFCW Local 663 and Freedom to Drive MN coalition partners joined Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler at the state capitol in St. Paul, Minn., in support of this bill, which would expand eligibility for obtaining a driver’s license or Minnesota identification card to include all members of the workforce.

Veronica Orellana, a student from Worthington, Minn., and the daughter of UFCW Local 663 member José Orellana, shared what this bill would mean for her family.

“My mother and father work hard to provide for our family,” Orellana said. “They work to build us a better life together. As the next generation, I see that every day. Every Minnesotan deserves the chance to live, grow and go wherever we want to without fear. That’s why I’m supporting this bill.”

“Our union drives Minnesota forward when we invest in people,” said UFCW Local 663 President Matt Utecht. “Access to driver’s licenses is the right thing to do. Expanding access to driver’s licenses for all people of age, regardless of status, supports our UFCW union families—in Worthington, Madelia, Butterfield, Luverne, Twin Cities and all the way to Pequot Lakes. But it’s not just about our UFCW 663 union family. It’s bigger than that. Union membership isn’t just about fighting for our union families, it’s about fighting for better lives for all working families. And that’s why we support driver’s licenses for all.”

UFCW Local 663 is one of the leaders of the Freedom to Drive MN coalition, which includes nonprofit organizations, other unions, community advocates, faith-based organizations, workers’ rights advocates and local businesses.

March 18, 2019

Locals Lobby to Protect Workers’ Rights

UFCW locals are holding lobby days at their state legislatures to protect the rights of our members and all workers in their respective states.

UFCW Locals 75 and 227 are taking a stand against an anti-worker insurance bill, which is moving in both chambers of the Kentucky State Legislature (HB 317 and SB 171). This legislation would cut the amount of a worker’s weekly unemployment insurance benefits by 25 percent every five weeks. This legislation would also cut the number of weeks that a worker could receive these benefits from 26 to 20 weeks, which would have an adverse effect on Kentuckians who live in economically distressed communities and need more time to find a suitable new job. In February, both locals also lobbied together in support of another piece of legislation to protect workers in the state–the Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act (SB 18), which would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, including more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth or a temporary transfer to less strenuous duties.

“Providing common sense accommodations for pregnant workers is just that, common sense,” said UFCW Local 75 President Kevin Garvey. “I applaud the members of the Kentucky Legislature for taking an important step towards ensuring babies are born healthy and avoiding unnecessary medical complications for Kentucky’s working mothers.”

UFCW Local 227 also joined together with UFCW Local 700 in a day of action at the Indiana State Legislature last month in support of similar legislation–the Pregnant Workers’ Bill of Rights. This legislation has been introduced in both chambers (HB 1073 and SB 590) and would prohibit an employer from discriminating against a pregnant job applicant or employee. This legislation would also require an employer to provide reasonable employment accommodations for a pregnant employee, including giving them breaks from sitting or standing for long hours and helping them avoid chemicals, radiation, or other hazardous substances.

“Pregnancy accommodation is good for workers and good for business; family-friendly workplaces see increased productivity, loyalty, and retention of employees,” said UFCW Local 700 President Joe Chorpenning. “Twenty-three states have already passed laws to provide a clear and consistent standard for employers.”

“Most accommodations are free or low cost but are invaluable for the hard-working women and their families who will benefit,” said UFCW Local 227 President Bob Blair. “The personal stories and passion for this issue is what will move the legislation.”