News and Updates
May 8, 2012
WASHINGTON – The almost $600,000 settlement announced Monday between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and DeMoulas Super Markets Inc., commonly known as Market Basket, is a step forward for the safety of retail workers everywhere. The settlement requires safety fixes at all of the companys more than 60 stores across Massachusetts and New Hampshire, along with real safety programs for workers going forward.
Its critical that OSHA continues to take company-wide actions like these to protect workers, said Jackie Nowell, Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Occupational Safety and Health Office. Rather than addressing problems with employers like Market Basket piecemeal and leaving workers at risk OSHA can make real changes to systematic problems that occur across an entire company.
The enforcement action came after repeat safety violations by the company including two serious injuries to Market Basket workers in almost-identical falls from unguarded storage areas in two different stores. Workers at Market Basket dont have a union at their work, making it harder to stand up for safer stores.
This new enforcement program clearly shows that when OSHA finally gets tough with bad-actor employers, workers get better protection far faster than waiting on empty promises by corporate executives to comply with our basic safety laws, said Nowell. We hope the Obama Administration will continue using these new tools to give all workers especially the many retail workers who dont yet have a union a safe place to work.
April 20, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), released the following statement regarding the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to extend the comment period on its proposed poultry inspection rule.
“The UFCW applauds Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to extend the comment period on USDA’s proposed poultry inspection rule in order to further study its impact on worker safety. We have said all along that this rule should be halted until it is proven that increased line speeds are safe for workers. The UFCW will use this 30-day extension to work directly with USDA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Obama Administration to determine a course of action to study the probable effects of increased line speeds on worker health and safety. Today is a victory for all poultry workers who can rest assured that their safety on the job is being taken seriously.”
April 18, 2012
(Washington, D.C.) — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, today released the following statement after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) approved a final rule to modernize the union election process.
“”This NLRB rule is a modest but important first step toward ensuring a level playing field for workers in the union election process. Preventing unnecessary delays and frivolous litigation means less time for employers to intimidate, harass, and in some cases fire pro-union employees. Every worker has the right to decide whether he or she wants a union, free of interference.
“Now it is time for the Senate to confirm President Obama’s nominees to the NLRB. Leaving the Board short of a quorum in 2012 is unacceptable.”
April 11, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today announced its opposition to a Big Poultry-driven inspection process being considered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The proposed rule, which would increase the speed that birds are processed from 70-91 a minute to a maximum of 175 a minute, could put workers at poultry plants in increased danger.
“Increased line speeds means increased bottom lines for Big Poultry,” said Mark Laurtisen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “For workers, it means more danger on the job.”
By increasing line speed so dramatically, workers will be at heightened risk of repetitive motion related injuries. In fact, a recent study by Wake Forest University showed that 59 percent of poultry workers had definite or possible carpal tunnel syndrome at current line speeds. Despite these alarming statistics, no comprehensive effort has been made to determine the impact this proposed system will have on the health and safety of workers.
“Quite frankly, it is no surprise that Big Poultry wants to rush this new system into operation,” Lauritsen said. “That’s why USDA—as the responsible regulator—must slow this process down until it can guarantee that workers are protected.”
The UFCW is calling on USDA to halt this rule until the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts comprehensive studies on the impact it would have on the health and safety of workers in poultry plants. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must then use that information to develop a standard that would adequately protect workers.
Many UFCW members have already submitted their opposition to USDA in advance of the April 26 comment deadline. The UFCW will continue its push for worker safety into the summer and beyond.
March 13, 2012
The move, which comes just days after another judge temporarily halted the law, will have consequences for the upcoming April 3 presidential primary in Wisconsin, which state officials had hoped to apply the law to.
“A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence — the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote — imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people,” Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote in issuing the permanent injunction, according to the wire service.
“Voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression,” he added in his eight-page ruling.
In Niess’s view, the law would have eliminated the right to vote for certain eligible voters who lack sufficient resources to obtain valid identification.
The voter ID law would have required voters to show photo ID, such as a driver’s license or other state-issued identification, in order to vote.
There are currently four lawsuits that are involved with challenging Wisconsin’s law, part of the ongoing national battle on whether voter ID laws are appropriate.
Currently, 15 states have voted ID laws, and pending legislation in 31 states propose to introduce or strengthen voter ID requirements, reports the AP.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said he will appeal the injunction.
March 1, 2012
“The end is near for Scott Walker,” said UFCW Local 1473 President John Eiden. “He has abused his office in ways that defy comprehension—inflicting pain and hardship on Wisconsin working families to line the pockets of his corporate buddies. He’s been both a statewide disaster and a national disgrace.”
Eiden said he feels confident the people of Wisconsin will remove Walker from office but stressed that a recall is not enough. “Replacing Governor Walker with a champion for workers is the most important thing we can do,” he said. “Kathleen Falk is the right person for the job.”
As Dane County Executive, Falk used the collective bargaining process to achieve both fiscal responsibility and fairness for workers. She saved taxpayers $11 million dollars by negotiating contracts that included wage and benefit concessions without taking away workers’ rights. Falk has led the charge against Walker’s war on workers and provides the perfect contrast to his extreme policies. She is running on a platform of good jobs, successful schools, and affordable health care.
A poll released Tuesday showed Falk leading Walker in a hypothetical matchup. “UFCW Local 1473 will be working day and night to make Kathleen Falk our next Governor,” Eiden said. “One year of Scott Walker has been one year too many. It is time to fix this terrible mistake and return our great state back to someone who will make us proud.”
February 1, 2012
Just days before billions of people will be tuning in to watch Indianapolis host the Superbowl, the Indiana GOP is putting the wrong kind of spotlight on the Hoosier state. Governor Mitch Daniels will sign “right-to-work” into law today, making Indiana the first state since Oklahoma to adopt this destructive law.
As you know, “right-to-work” is not about rights or work. It is, as President Hansen said in the Huffington Post, “the ultimate transfer of wealth from the 99 percent to the 1 percent.”
You can guarantee that special interest groups, big corporations, and anti-worker zealots will try to use their victory in Indiana as leverage to pass “right-to-work” in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Maine, New Hampshire, and in more and more states around the country.
Not on our watch! Click here to join our rapid response program so that together, we can fight back against anti-worker attacks. You can also sign up by using your cell phone to text the letters UFCW to 698329.
January 10, 2012
Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published in 1906, sparking a public outcry around safety issues in the meatpacking industry. That’s how long the industry has been infamous for its hazardous working conditions.
The good news is, according to new reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workplace safety in the meatpacking industry is steadily improving, with injury and illness rates for full-time workers on the decline.
The bad news is, in comparison to other industrial and manufacturing sectors, meatpacking and poultry processing are still among the most dangerous. Food manufacturing workers are twice as likely to experience injuries and illnesses than industrial and manufacturing workers as a whole. The meatpacking industry also ranks high for severe injury and illness cases – meaning those that cause workers to miss days at work or those that necessitate restricted work activities or even job transfers. Nationally, the poultry industry has the fifth-highest rate of worker illness across all industries.
Though progress has been made on worker safety in the meatpacking and poultry industries, we must understand what the numbers really mean, and make sure we are addressing issues that really make a difference in improving safety and health in these industries.
Some in the meat industry, like the trade association (read: lobbying outfit) American Meat Institute, are quick to highlight improvement using data that does not reflect the most dangerous jobs in the industry. That’s a slippery slope – and one that risks obscuring the truth on safety for the sake of profit-margin. The truth is, there is some doubt about the accuracy of the BLS numbers themselves. Studies conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conclude that both BLS and OSHA miss from 20 percent to as much as 50 percent of the nation’s workplace injuries. A number of factors can cause this kind of under-reporting: workers sometimes don’t report injuries because of fears surrounding their immigration status and retaliation by their employers; employers are motivated to under-count injuries in order to win safety awards, and managers are incentivized by low-injury bonuses; and finally, some employers have instituted programs requiring workers who report injuries or accidents to undergo drug testing – adding additional risk to reporting.
For all these reasons, we must not let a modest increase in overall workplace safety lull us into a false sense of security when it comes to the meatpacking and poultry processing industries. We must continue to strive for better and safer workplaces for all meatpacking and poultry processing workers – and for collective bargaining agreements as well as stronger regulations that make it safe for all workers to report hazards and injuries.
January 6, 2012
On January 4, they held meetings with their legislators to reiterate that RTW is wrong for Hoosier families. Amy Hale, a member of UFCW Local 700 who works at Kroger in Fishers, IN, was one of the participants., “I believe in the middle class and I’m fighting for workers’ rights and to keep my head above water,” she said. Without my union I wouldn’t be where I am today. If this legislation passes, incomes would drop significantly. Our standard of living would go down. We can’t let that happen.”
While Indiana Republicans control every lever of state government, the process requires a working quorum, which House Democrats have denied them to this point. “We refuse to let the most controversial public policy bill of the decade be railroaded through with the public being denied their fair and adequate input,” said House Democratic Leader and UFCW-ally Patrick Bauer.
In the meantime, workers from UFCW and several other labor unions continue to voice their concerns to legislators about the negative effects RTW will have on the quality of life for Hoosier working families.
November 8, 2011
“The repeal of Senate Bill 5 is bigger than just one law or one state. It sends a message to all those who would try to balance the budget on the backs of our workers: you do so at your own peril. It shows that the right to bargain collectively for a better life is fundamental—not some perk that can be stripped away on a whim. The votes cast today in Columbus and Cleveland and everywhere in between will have aftershocks in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Washington D.C.
“America’s working families want a good job that pays a fair wage, decent affordable health care, access to a quality education for their kids, and a little money left in the bank so they can retire with dignity. They also understand that the economic mess we find ourselves in today was caused by Wall Street, not Main Street. They know the guilty parties are speculators and predatory lenders, not teachers and first responders. Extreme politicians like Governor Kasich are waging war on the middle class.
“Today’s vote shows that we are fighting back. And better yet, we are winning. I am proud of the UFCW and its members for their great work in Ohio. We understand that an attack on one worker—whether public or private sector, union or non-union—is an attack on all workers. We are proud to be part of diverse coalition of activists, including the entire labor movement, who dedicated countless hours to the fight for workers’ rights in Ohio.
“Tonight we know that America’s middle class will no longer sit idly by. The silent majority is silent no more. Every elected official that would do us harm should take notice.”