News and Updates
July 12, 2011
Wisconsin voters are voting for something important today. They’re voting in primaries for Democratic opponents to face the the six Republican Senators who helped ram through Governor Scott Walker’s bill to eliminate collective bargaining back in March. But it just wouldn’t be a Wisconsin election without more dirty tricks from Republicans, right? So of course, working voters are facing a particularly dirty trick from Walker’s allies today.
Today, Wisconsin working family voters are taking another step to take back their government from Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) radical, anti-family, anti-community, pro-Koch Brothers agenda. And they have to defeat a Republican dirty trick to do it…these primary elections have been marred by Walker supporters who recruited fake candidates to run in the elections in an attempt to sow confusion among voters. The winners of today’s elections will face the six Republicans in an Aug. 9 general election.
But workers are on the case. Union members, including many UFCW members, are out in force to knock on doors and educate folks about the primary candidates today. The vote today is an important first step in recalling the Walker Six. A gain of even just three seats would break Walker’s stranglehold on the Senate. So all eyes are on Wisconsin today–and if you’re a Wisconsinite, don’t forget to vote!
June 30, 2011
On June 29, 2011, UFCW members from all around Ohio joined a crowd of thousands in downtown Columbus to deliver 1,298,301 signatures to repeal SB 5 to the Ohio Secretary of State office. We Are Ohio volunteers collected more signatures than any other petition drive in Ohio history. The citizen-driven petition drive exceeded the 3% threshold and collected at least 6%, or double the amount required by Ohio law in all 88 counties.
UFCW Local 75 members stand with a firefighter supporter as they march to turn in over a million signatures for the repeal of SB5 in Ohio.
June 24, 2011
June 22, 2011
The House rushed to approve a flawed photo ID requirement for Ohio voters. Now Republican senators are doing the same
In March, Republicans in charge of the Ohio House hustled to passage misguided legislation requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. The expectation was, the state Senate would take a more deliberative approach, even put off action until the fall. Then, on Tuesday morning, Keith Faber, the chairman of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, delivered the big surprise: The photo ID proposal would be folded into a larger elections bill headed for a committee vote in the afternoon and a floor vote today.
Faber argued, essentially, the timing is right, the elections bill headed for passage. Of course, he and his colleagues have known about the long-in-the-works elections proposal for months. If anything, the photo ID bill offended so many because it did not receive the ample airing of the overhaul legislation.
Now, the Senate simply has incorporated the flawed language of the House bill, the requirement that voters present a driver’s license, passport or other government-issued identification card with a photograph. Sound fairly reasonable? Consider that many people with disabilities do not have such identification. One estimate holds that one-quarter of African-Americans and one-fifth of Ohioans over age 65 do not have a photo ID.
Remember, Republican lawmakers already addressed the identification requirement a few years ago, many voters now showing a photo ID at the polls, or a copy of a current utility bill, paycheck or other government document that contains the voter’s name and address. All of this was done in the name of preventing voter fraud, though the problem didn’t exist then — and it still does not.
Jon Husted, the secretary of state, has explained, reasonably, that he could support the photo ID requirement as long as voters have other options for proving their identity at the polls. He now has been stiffed by his fellow Republicans.
The thinking of the majority is curious. Republicans have fanned concern for the false problem of voter fraud, the party of less bureaucracy adding new hoops. In doing so, they have opened the way to real concerns, registered voters facing undue difficulties casting ballots, disenfranchisement, in a word.
Not surprisingly, many of the affected voters are more likely to side with Democratic candidates. The photo ID proposal fits into the pattern of Republican majorities in other states. More, it reflects subtler changes in the larger elections bill, broadening the field for voter error and disqualification, leaving ballots vulnerable to mistakes by poll workers, excessively narrowing the time for early voting.
Republicans carp about the sharp elbows of Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat and the previous secretary of state. Yet she sought a truly inclusive effort to repair the shortcomings in Ohio elections. Now that process has devolved, Republicans inviting the impression of a party in power looking to serve first its own agenda, not the larger interest of the state.
June 14, 2011
Washington, D.C. – The following remarks were delivered by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Joseph T. Hansen at the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness meeting in Durham, N.C. on June 13:
“I look at the work of this council as an effort to look at primarily non-legislative approaches to address the plight of the millions of unemployed or underemployed workers in this country.
“I believe we need to play to our country’s strengths. While not as sexy as some things you will hear today, one of our country’s strengths is agriculture—directly employing over 2 million Americans. And when you add related processing, distribution and retail jobs, that number grows to almost 4 million.
“The UFCW represents over 300,000 workers in food manufacturing—mainly in meat and poultry processing. The U.S. meat and poultry industry directly employs 1.8 million people and pays $45.5 billion in wages and benefits. An estimated 580,000 people have jobs in distribution of meat and poultry products, and over 1 million more retail jobs depend on the sale of meat and poultry products to the public. The meat and poultry industry is a growing industry with growing employment.
“Exports are a significant—and increasingly important driver—of this job growth.
- For every $1 billion in beef exports, over 12,000 jobs are created.
- For every $1 billion in pork exports, over 13,000 jobs are created.
- For every $1 billion in poultry exports, over 11,000 jobs are created.
“Industry economists believe that a focused governmental effort to address barriers to United States’ meat exports to Asian countries has the potential to add thousands of jobs in the U.S. Secretary Vilsack and Ambassador Kirk have done important work in this area. We have already begun to see results. China has started to recognize that it is in their self-interest to address their domestic food situation by cracking open their import door to U.S. meat. As a result, food exports to China are growing strongly.
“Right now, we have additional opportunities with Russia. Since Russia is looking to join the World Trade Organization, it is important to get their commitment to drop their various methods of blocking U.S. meat imports. I know Ambassador Kirk and his team are aware of these issues, but I wanted to take this opportunity to stress the impact these issues have on U.S. jobs.
“Along with meat exports, I wanted to take this opportunity to stress another issue—the importance of traditional defined benefit pensions in the economic health of this country. Virtually all economists agree that the U.S. economy needs to be rebalanced:
- We need more national saving, investment, and new business formation; and
- We need less debt fueled consumption.
“The continuance of defined benefit pension plans needs to be part of that rebalancing. In 2007, public and private defined benefit pension plans had nearly $9 trillion in assets and, in the aggregate, these plans were almost fully funded. The downturn in financial markets reduced many of the plans’ funding. There is a consensus among labor and employers that there is a need for relief – not to change the requirement to fully fund pensions, but to extend the time frame for achieving such funding.
“Defined benefit plans have made significant investments in infrastructure in support of job generation in the U.S. We cannot afford to lose this source of funds which help create jobs. A well-thought out program of federal government guarantees and other financial incentives directed at pension investors could encourage such plans to invest even greater allocations to rebuilding America’s infrastructure. We hope that the Administration and Congress can work to achieve these goals.
“Finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for keeping America’s unemployed at the top of your Administration’s priorities. I look forward to working with the council to help you continue to create job opportunities for American workers. Thank you.”
April 28, 2011
Today, on Workers’ Memorial Day, the UFCW will join workers in the U.S. and around the world to honor the thousands of workers who have been killed on the job and the millions of workers who have suffered from injuries, sickness or diseases in their places of work. This year’s memorial day marks the 40th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the right of workers to a safe workplace, as well as the 100th anniversary of one of the worst workplace disasters to take place in our country.
One hundred years ago, on March 25, 1911, a fire spread through the cramped floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. When the workers—mostly young female immigrants—tried to escape, they encountered locked doors and broken fire escapes. Rather than be burned alive, the workers began jumping out of windows and fell to their deaths on the street below as bystanders watched in horror. That terrible tragedy, which took the lives of 146 workers, served as a catalyst for major labor reforms and changed the way we work and live.
A century later, the fight to protect workers continues amid anti-union legislation that is sweeping though the country. Just three years ago, managers at the Imperial Sugar Company in Port Wentworth, Georgia—one of the few non-union plants in the industry—tolerated dirty and dangerous worksite conditions, and 15 workers without a collective voice died in a massive fire and explosion. Twenty years ago, 25 poultry workers at the Imperial Foods plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, were locked inside by their bosses and died in a horrible fire. Like the Triangle workers, they had no other voice to demand safety. Indeed, we just saw the worst mining disaster in 40 years, as the executives at the Massey coal mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, told their subordinates to put production first before any other job duties. Surviving workers testified to the rampant fear that effectively suppressed complaints in a company that had viciously opposed unions for decades.
The right to a safe workplace was won after decades of struggle by workers and their unions. On Workers’ Memorial Day, we honor and pay tribute to the men and women who died at Imperial Sugar, Imperial Foods, Massey Energy and all the other dangerous workplaces. In their memory, we renew our commitment to preventing such tragedies by supporting workers who are struggling to protect their basic rights–including safe jobs, workplace fairness, collective bargaining, freedom from discrimination and favoritism.
March 30, 2011
WHAT: Press availability with Ernestine Bassett – a Laurel, Maryland Walmart Associate who is working to organize her workplace, after her participation at Monday’s White House event on women and organizing.
WHEN: Approximately 10:30 EDT, Monday, March 28, 2011
WASHINGTON – Monday morning at 9:00am EDT, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the White House and Department of Labor are hosting a Women’s History Month forum with women workers and organizers, discussing their courageous roles in organizing their workplaces.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls will be joined by women who are currently working to organize their workplaces, including Ernestine Bassett, a Walmart Associate from Laurel, Maryland. A significant majority of Walmart’s hourly Associates are women.
“”As a retired CWA member, I understand there is strength in numbers. I know first hand the pride that comes with being part of a union. That’s why I am committed, despite significant intimidation from my employer, to winning that same respect for my fellow associates at this county’s largest private employer, Walmart,”” said Bassett.
On March 25, 1911, one hundred years ago, 146 garment workers – most of them young women and girls – died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City. A seminal event in the United States labor movement, public pressure after the fire spurred critical and long overdue workplace safety reforms. This compelling history highlights the critical need to ensure worker safety and labor standards for all workers. It is also a story of women who were seeking to improve their workplaces and lives by organizing– the same action many women are taking up today in the workplace.
The White House event is not open to the press, but Ernestine Bassett will be available for interviews after the discussion.
Jennifer Stapleton, Assistant Director of the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Making Change at Walmart campaign said, “”Ernestine Bassett is a profile in courage – working to organize her store despite intimidation by her employer, Walmart. The role of our campaign, Making Change at Walmart, is to stand with workers like Ernestine, who are organizing for respect in the workplace. We’re looking forward to her participation and the discussion.”
Casie Yoder – (202) 223-3111 x1451 / email@example.com
March 28, 2011
(Washington, D.C.) – This morning, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the White House and Department of Labor hosted a forum with women workers and organizers, discussing their courageous roles in organizing their workplaces.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, were joined by women who are currently working to organize their workplaces, including Ernestine Bassett, a Walmart Associate from Laurel, Maryland.
“We are still fighting to provide adequate working conditions for all women and men on the job, ensure that no person within our borders is exploited for their labor, and uphold collective bargaining as a means to give workers a seat at the tables of power,” said President Obama in a proclamation released at the event.
“At today’s event, the Administration made it very clear that it values the role unions play in building the middle class in this country,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “We thank them for standing with courageous women who are currently trying to improve their lives by organizing their workplaces.”
“Walmart is the largest private employer in this country,” said Patrick O’Neill, UFCW Director of Organizing. “Their practices set the standard for the retail industry. We are pleased that the White House and Department of Labor gave a Walmart associate the chance to testify about the intimidation she and her coworkers face when trying to exercise their legal rights to organize for respect on the job.”
“I am committed, despite significant intimidation from my employer, to winning respect for my fellow associates at Walmart,” said Ernestine Bassett. “We are organizing to ensure safety and a better life for all Walmart associates.”
To watch the event online, visit:
September 30, 2010
FOOD WORKERS UNION APPLAUDS SENATE DEMOCRATS FOR INTRODUCING SENSIBLE COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL
WASHINGTON — United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) International President Joe Hansen released the following statement today in response to the introduction of comprehensive immigration reform legislation by Senate Democrats:
“The legislation introduced today by Senators Menendez and Leahy is an important step toward real, meaningful comprehensive immigration reform.
“As we have said, for too long, our nation’s badly broken immigration system has allowed unscrupulous employers to drive down wages and working conditions in industries across the nation, while creating an underground economy where labor laws are shredded and workers are afraid to report safety violations.
“The legislation announced today would chart a new course for our country: A course that protects workers, respects families and reflects our nation’s rich immigrant tradition.
“We applaud these Senators for offering real leadership and sensible solutions to our nation’s challenges, and we stand ready to work with them to ensure that pragmatic immigration reform becomes a reality. The labor movement has already released historic joint principles on immigration. The House has introduced a CIR bill, and now Senate Democrats have acted. It is time to roll up our sleeves and make this happen.
”It is unfortunate that Republicans across the country continue to use the issue of immigration as a tool to divide and to scapegoat. The American people want and deserve more. So rather than fabricating stories about beheadings in Arizona, let’s use this opportunity, and this legislation, to begin a level-headed debate about revamping our immigration system and revitalizing our economy.”
September 28, 2010
WASHINGTON – As activists, advocates and working families from across the country prepare to rally for good jobs in Washington on October 2, 2010, a new national poll conducted by Lake Research for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) shows that the American public is overwhelmingly in favor of government action that addresses income inequity and that seeks to level the playing field for all American workers.
At a near universal level of agreement, voters strongly believe our economy needs to be defined by jobs with benefits and wages that can support a family. It is exactly this message that families from across the country are coming to Washington on Oct. 2nd to deliver to Congress.
“American voters want our nation’s lawmakers to focus on creating economic policies that support and sustain good, quality jobs,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “They want politicians who will stand up to the fringe elements of our society and to stand for pragmatic solutions to our economic challenges.”
“One Nation is about turning our attention to the needs of people,” said Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP. “A strong economy is only strong if it provides good jobs that support families and bring opportunity. We need to get our country moving; we need to get on common ground, we are coming together this Saturday to start this process; we are going to turn out in force this election cycle, and elect leaders who put people first.”
“The UFCW poll shows that a huge majority of Americans agree we must improve job quality, even as we focus on creating new jobs,” said Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). “That’s just one of the reasons why on October 2 we’ll be joining thousands of our friends on the National Mall calling for jobs, justice, and, yes, comprehensive immigration reform.”
Over the last 30 years, workers’ wages have remained essentially stagnant, while worker productivity skyrocketed by 75 percent. For three decades, American workers have been producing more, but taking home paychecks that don’t reflect their hard work. Consequently, we see the biggest pay gap in nearly a century.
“The only way to achieve lasting economic recovery and to ensure future prosperity is to address the wage inequity crises that is plaguing our nation’s workers,” added Hansen. “If our elected officials fail to address this issue, our nation can never fully regain its financial footing.”
With so much of the cable television debate focused on the noisy fringes of our society, it seems that the aspirations and needs of the vast majority of hard-working Americans are getting drowned out by the noise and the nonsense of the extreme elements of the political debate.
The reality, as this poll shows, is that the American people want pragmatic government solutions and sensible legislative actions that address job creation and that ensure a foundation for secure and stable communities.
Voters have a clear vision of what kind of economy they want, and while they understand the current economic situation is difficult, they still believe that all jobs should pay a living wage, come with affordable, quality health care, and offer real retirement security.
The poll, taken among 700 randomly selected registered voters nationwide, shows:
- Concern about the economy goes beyond the present; voters are deeply questioning the types of jobs America will have in the future. Eighty-seven percent of voters are very or somewhat concerned that America’s future jobs will be low-wage and low-benefit — including 65 percent who are very concerned.
- Eighty-nine percent of voters agree that economic development should result in jobs with good wages and benefits that can support a family.
- Eighty-four percent of voters agree that economic recovery means creating jobs with good benefits so people can afford to take care of their families, not low- wage jobs with no benefits.
- Eighty-four percent of voters favor requiring that government contracts go to companies that provide good paying jobs and benefits so that their employees don’t end up on welfare programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
According to the Lake poll, a majority of voters believe job growth must be good job growth. In a number of polls, Lake Research has found that a key economic frame for Americans is to have good-paying jobs—no matter what the sector.
To make that happen our elected officials must actively engage in the policy decisions that guide economic growth and job creation, and they must correct the current wage gap so that as worker productivity increases, paychecks also increase.
In addition to pushing for economic policies that address income inequality and quality job growth, the UFCW, NCLR and other civil rights organizations will be using the One Nation Working Together rally to push for comprehensive immigration reform as a key component of economic recovery and prosperity.
Study after study has shown that meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform would help bolster the economy and ensure that there is fairness and justice in America’s workplaces.
“Failure to enact immigration reform impedes our economic recovery efforts because under the current system, unscrupulous employers exploit undocumented immigrants to lower wages and working conditions for all workers,” added Murguia. “Reform that requires undocumented immigrants to come forward, pay taxes, and learn English to obtain legal status would strengthen labor standards for all, by eliminating the ability of bottom-feeding employers to rip off workers.”
The UFCW will continue working with leaders like NCLR and NAACP, as well as other labor organizations, to organize and mobilize our members and their families around key issues facing our communities—from job creation to labor law reform to immigration reform.
June 9, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following is a statement from Jackie Nowell, Director of Occupational Safety and Health at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:
A year ago today – June 9, 2009 – it was a warm afternoon in Garner, North Carolina when a powerful explosion leveled the ConAgra Foods plant. A tragic error in judgment while installing a new water heater led an outside contractor to repeatedly release natural gas from a pipe into an enclosed room near the center of the building and an unknown spark set it ablaze.
The resulting explosion and toxic ammonia release killed four people and injured 70 others. It was a preventable tragedy that destroyed lives, livelihoods and a community of friends and neighbors. The United Food and Commercial Workers represented the more than 300 ConAgra workers affected by the blast and saw first-hand the devastation caused by this explosion.
Conflagrations like this one killed and injured workers from Missouri to Michigan, and yet no regulations existed to prevent contractors from purging gas lines into closed spaces. Working with authorities and experts from across the country we set about to change this. Our fight became marked by even greater urgency after five workers were killed in yet another gas purging explosion in Connecticut that February.
Along with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, who investigated this explosion, we urged the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – who provides safety codes for building contractors across the country – to adopt regulations that would prevent contractors from purging explosive gasses into enclosed spaces. But after heavy lobbying from the natural gas and propane industries, the NFPA wilted like old lettuce and failed to stand for the safety of America’s workers.
So here we are, one year later. The plant in Garner rather is scheduled to close, bringing a second round of devastation to the community. We know we can’t bring back these workers, these friends, these family members back to their community and their loved ones. The broken system at the NFPA has failed to learn from these tragedies and has bowed to industry pressure to let these deadly indoor gas purges continue unregulated.
This is frankly unacceptable. As Debra Petteway, a Food and Commercial Workers member who worked in the ConAgra plant and lost her son to the explosion said, “Louis Watson was my son, he was my only son, and now he’s gone. They didn’t have to die, and if someone doesn’t fix this, it’s going to happen again.”
Ms. Petteway is right. The NFPA, who is supposed to protect workers like her son, has shirked their duty.
So one year later, the “experts” charged with protecting America’s workers have failed to learn from this tragedy or from the legions before or after. How much longer will we wait with no regulatory or legislative action for the safety of American workers? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and our legislators must not wait for these quasi-governmental regulatory bodies to demonstrate their craven kowtowing to industry demands any longer. We need comprehensive legislative or OSHA regulation so that the lessons of those who gave their lives in these explosions are not forgotten and all those that come later are protected from a similar fate.