News and Updates
January 29, 2014
President Obama delivered the State of the Union on Tuesday night, addressing a number of concerns submitted to us throughout the week by UFCW members. Here are highlights from his address:
“Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.”
Along with issuing an executive order that creates a $10.10 minimum wage for federal contractors, President Obama called on Congress to pass the Harkin-Miller bill which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, index it to inflation, and ensure no one who works full-time in America lives in poverty.
“Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let’s support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.”
Every single American has the right to vote, but being forced to wait hours to exercise this right is unfair and wrong. President Obama’s bipartisan voting commission has and will continue to take steps towards making sure every eligible voter can access the polls.
“I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.”
Millions of Americans are still without a job and struggling to make ends meet. President Obama called for the restoration of unemployment insurance because it is simply wrong to cut off assistance to people who lost their job through no fault of their own.
“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.”
President Obama, along with most Americans and the UFCW believe that aspiring Americans should be allowed to step out of the shadows and onto a fair path to citizenship.
The State of the Union made it clear that President Obama wants to assist Americans who have not yet seen or felt a full recovery from the Great Recession. It is time for Congress to do their part to help working families find the success they deserve in 2014.
May 21, 2013
UFCW President Joe Hansen in The Hill: Treat nonprofit healthcare fairly
“If you already have health insurance through your job — and because many of you are members of unions, you do — nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change your coverage or your doctor. Let me repeat: Nothing in this plan will require you to change your coverage or your doctor.” Those were the words spoken by President Obama at the AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh on Sept. 15, 2009.
Since then, Congress has passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and it has been signed into law.
It has withstood a challenge before the Supreme Court. Regulations have been issued, exchanges created, and open enrollment is set to begin in a matter of months. Unfortunately, what also has become increasingly clear with each passing day is that the president’s statement to labor in 2009 is simply not true for millions of workers.
For decades, unions have negotiated high quality, affordable health insurance through nonprofit Taft-Hartley plans — one of the few reliable private providers for lower income individuals.
These plans are mutually agreed upon between union members and participating employers and provide insurance to millions of American workers.
In addition to being a long-standing and successful provider, these plans have been models of efficiency, achieving better cost savings than for-profit insurance carriers with medical loss ratios often exceeding 90 percent. That means 90 cents out of every dollar go to patient care.
Savings in healthcare can free up money for wages and pensions, and thus drive the economy forward for all of us.
But as currently interpreted, the ACA would block these plans from the law’s benefits (such as the subsidy for lower-income individuals and families) while subjecting them to the law’s penalties (like the $63 per insured person to subsidize Big Insurance). This creates unstoppable incentives for employers to reduce weekly hours for workers currently on our plans and push them onto the exchanges where many will pay higher costs for poorer insurance with a more limited network of providers. In other words, they will be forced to change their coverage and quite possibly their doctor. Others will be channeled into Medicaid, where taxpayers must pick up the tab.
In addition, the ACA includes a fine for failing to cover full-time workers but includes no such penalty for part-timers (defined as working less than 30 hours a week). As a result, many employers are either reducing hours below 30 or discontinuing part-time health coverage altogether. This is a cut in pay and benefits workers simply cannot afford. For example, a worker making $10 an hour that has his or her schedule cut by six hours a week would lose $3,100 a year in income. With millions of workers impacted, this would have a devastating effect on our economy.
Beginning next year, states are required to have health insurance exchanges up and running to cover the growing uninsured population in this country.
The ACA offers a subsidy to lower-income individuals and families so they can afford to purchase this insurance. As many of our members fall into this category, we believe the subsidy can and should apply to nonprofit plans. All we want is equality — where our plans are treated the same as for-profit insurers.
The Obama administration has refused our request, citing legal hurdles. But since the treatment of Taft-Hartley plans is not fully described in the ACA, we believe the regulatory process is exactly the appropriate place to deem them qualified health plans eligible for subsidies. Any objective review of the evidence and reasonable definition of what our funds provide leads to this conclusion.
We’d be open to a legislative fix, but ultimately this is the administration’s responsibility. They are leading the regulatory process. It’s their signature law.
We don’t want a handout. Our members want to keep the healthcare they currently have. Let me repeat — our members want to keep the healthcare they currently have. We just want them to be treated fairly.
Hansen is the president of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and chairman of Change to Win.
March 18, 2013
UFCW President Hansen Statement on the Nomination of Tom Perez as Labor Secretary
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 nomination of Tom Perez as the next Secretary of Labor.
“The UFCW strongly supports the nomination of Tom Perez as Labor Secretary. Tom led the Maryland Department of Labor with excellence and is strongly qualified for this post. Now more than ever, workers need a champion at the Department that will fight for fair wages, safe workplaces, and the right to organize. I am confident Tom Perez will provide that leadership.”
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.
February 20, 2013
The Minimum Wage Debate
In last week’s State of the Union Address, President Obama made it clear that raising our country’s federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour was one of his top priorities. Many agree with President Obama that raising the minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 is a necessary step to rebuilding our middle class and strengthening our economy, including members of labor unions. Take a look at this chart:
The Center for Economic and Policy Research poses this question:
“Suppose the minimum wage had kept in step with productivity growth over the last 44 years. In other words, rather than just keeping purchasing power constant at the 1969 level, suppose that our lowest paid workers shared evenly in the economic growth over the intervening years.”
As the graph displays, in the past, when minimum wage was tied to productivity, workers benefited:
“This should not seem like a far-fetched idea. In the years from 1947 to 1969 the minimum wage actually did keep pace with productivity growth. (This is probably also true for the decade from when the federal minimum wage was first established in 1937 to 1947, but we don’t have good data on productivity for this period.)
As the graph shows, the minimum wage generally was increased in step with productivity over these years. This led to 170 percent increase in the real value of the minimum wage over the years from 1948 to 1968. If this pattern of wage increases for those at the bottom was supposed to stifle growth, the economy didn’t get the message. Growth averaged 4.0 percent annually from 1947 to 1969 and the unemployment rate for the year 1969 averaged less than 4.0 percent.
This changed in the 1970’s, when the real value of minimum wage declined sharply and only kept up with inflation. This major shift in policy change happened without any public debate it would seem. The Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that if “the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth it would be $16.54 in 2012 dollars”.
A Business Insider piece also quotes Op-Ed columnist Ezra Klein, who notes that:
“a minimum wage is like a proxy labor union; sure it may have some employment effects, but it effectively raises the wage bargaining power of those workers who do manage to find employment. In the absence of such bargaining power, we can’t expect any meaningful increase in wages at the low end of the income spectrum.”
The article also cites a study in which found that minimum wage increases had no adverse effects on employment, and actually lead to increased employment rates among single women with children. Some date also backs the idea that reasonable wage increases affect wage hikes further up the pay scale (and also decreases the wage gap), and also provide workers with motivation to be more productive.
The fact is, raising the minimum wage would raise living standards for millions of workers who are currently living at or just above the poverty line.
As for the second argument, that $9.00 an hour still is not enough to provide a decent living for millions of working class Americans, we agree for the most part. However, not only is $9/hour a step in the right direction, it is also good for union members, who stand to seek even greater wage increases in their contracts, if they make more than the current minimum wage of $7.25.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “unionized food service employees have median weekly salaries that are $100 higher than non-union workers.”
Also, although the President is pushing for a $9 minimum wage, several state governments are pushing for $10 or more, as in Maryland.
$9 an hour is not a perfect solution. It will not raise all of America out of poverty. However, it is certainly a great stride towards providing more Americans a platform to the middle class- something that all of America should agree we need to rebuild in order to restore our economy. As President Obama noted in his SOTU address, no American working a full-time job should be living under the poverty line and nor should, if we can help it, anyone else.
February 12, 2013
Looking Forward to Moving Forward
This evening, President Obama will be giving his fourth State of the Union Address. Working families are looking forward to hearing a speech where jobs and the economy are the primary focus.
A few weeks ago, during his Inaugural Address, the President displayed a boldness not often enough seen in his first term by discussing the need to preserve the social safety system and the need for immigration reform.
To UFCW members across the country who worked tirelessly to ensure his re-election, these subjects were welcomed. Tonight, we’re hoping UFCW members hear even more about the issues they care about – particularly the right to have a voice in the workplace.
For the last couple of years, corporations and their cronies in government have constantly attacked labor unions and the freedom to collectively bargain. It would be welcomed for President Obama to outline his second term vision for a strong economy by condemning the “right to work” campaign that is threatening the American middle class.
This isn’t just important to union members – it’s important to the entire country that the right of workers to collectively bargain for the wages and benefits that they deserve is protected.
Unfortunately, these workplace rights won’t mean much if millions of workers in America still have no rights at all. Last month, President Obama declared that the time to create a pathway to citizenship for aspiring American workers is right now. UFCW members wholeheartedly agreed.
Comprehensive immigration reform is common sense and it’s an issue we’re looking forward to hearing more about this evening.
There’s little doubt among working families that the next few years will hold plenty of challenges. The economy is still in recovery, jobs aren’t plentiful enough, and the partisan gridlock surrounding Congress has become a constant concern. Hopefully tonight President Obama lays out a path forward that promotes a fair shot at prosperity for anyone who dreams of it and makes us all feel confident in the future of our union (both of them).
Grab your friends, your family and tune in tonight at 9 p.m. (ET).
November 8, 2012
UFCW Members Help to Elect Barack Obama!
We polled our members and asked if they voted. The results show that UFCW members had great voter turnout, and played a big role in supporting and re-electing President Obama! Here are some member reactions to the big win:
“yes sir, i voted- we as union workers are the big winners tonight!!”
“God bless America.”
“Thank god!! now if we can just get our congress and senate to work for the people and r president …life will be grand!”
“i am very happy again”
“yes, it is time too celebrate and work hard for a stronger America!”
“yea lets move forward”
November 6, 2012
Joe Hansen Spells Out What’s at Stake Today, in the Huffington Post
“President Obama stands with workers. And Mitt Romney cannot stand them.”
This was UFCW President Joe Hansen’s message, summed up by a simple statement, in yesterday’s Huffington Post article, “A Clear Choice for Workers“.
President Hansen couldn’t have been more on the money. Citing Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke to UFCW members this past Thursday, President Hansen pointed out that there has never been a clearer choice for workers in a presidential election about which candidate will stand up for them and fight for their rights alongside middle class America.
This year, a fed up and frustrated public supported tea party conservatives in several states, and once elected, these officials began a blatant attack on workers with “right-to-work” acts that aimed to take collective bargaining off the table, and threatened unions of all sorts, making the ability for teachers, firefighters, medical workers, and scores of other public employees to have a voice on the job virtually impossible. President Hansen points out that the politicians who worked so hard to pass these type of actions, did nothing to create jobs. Electing Mitt Romney as our next president would only mean more anti-worker policies, when our country is in need of more, quality jobs. President Obama on the other hand, has proven to be a job creator.
President Hansen continues by stressing that unions have no place in the formerly know as “Moderate Mitt’s” presidency, who has flip-flopped into the palm of right-wing conservatives who no longer see union workers as “respectful adversaries across the negotiating table,” but “as bottom lines to be squeezed.”
When Romney says he will go after union bosses, President Hansen says, he is only threatening a cashier, or grocery bagger, or construction worker, or teacher who was brave enough to stand up and form a union and have a voice. If you are undecided about who to vote for today, read Joe’s message and do what’s right for working America- vote for four more years of President Obama.
November 5, 2012
Positive Proof: President Obama is a Job Creator
In the last glimpse at job growth before tomorrow’s election, the numbers showed a modest increase in the month of October, with the unemployment rate now at 7.8 percent. On Friday, The Labor Department reported that 171,000 jobs were added, in a wide variety of career fields. These latest statistics mean that during President Obama’s four years in office, there has been a net gain in jobs.
If this isn’t enough proof for conservative officials who claimed that September’s statistics, that showed the unemployment rate had fallen below 8% for the first time since since the President took office, were a fluke- then we don’t know what is. It’s evident now more than ever that our president is a job creator. The recovery process is slow, and there is still much to be done- like increasing stagnant wages and providing more full time work- but the choice is clear. Go out tomorrow and vote for the working class.
November 2, 2012
Vice President Biden Speaks to Tens of Thousands of UFCW Members At Telephone Town hall
Last night, Vice President Joe Biden spoke to over 50,000 UFCW members who called in to listen to him at a telephone town hall meeting. He talked about the importance of this election for working families, and the need to get out and vote for the candidates that support working people in this country.
“This is the clearest choice labor has had in a presidential election in my lifetime,” said Vice President Biden. “Not only is labor at risk, but the whole middle class is at risk.”
“You, workers, are the only folks keeping the barbarians from the gate,” he continued. “Organized labor built the middle class… These guys are all out of the same mold – Kasich, Walker, Scott, Ryan, Romney, the National Chamber. They may be decent men personally, but you are on their list…You can’t kid yourselves.”
“Guys, we need you. We need you to vote and make sure every labor household votes for us – and we need you to go out there and make the case,” said Vice President Biden. “You guys vouched for me before. Remember. This is not your father’s Republican party…This is not a hard choice…Don’t compare Barack to the Almighty. Compare him to the alternative. And the alternative, for labor, is bleak, if the other guys get elected.”
Listen to the full remarks here: Joe Biden Telephone Town Hall – November 1, 2012.
And then get out and vote! Tell your friends and family to vote! Want more info on how to vote, and how to vote early? Click here to find out more. Remember, as the Vice President said, “The future depends on you.”
November 1, 2012
Early Voting Tool Kit
Early voting has already begun in many states! Why wait until November 6th when you can vote today? Avoid long lines at the polls and other potential issues, and make sure you make your voice heard in this important election. Click here to use our early voting calendar and find out when, where, and how you can vote early in the next week!
Why is this election so important? Because President Obama is pro-worker, pro-union, and pro-middle class. Mitt Romney has made it his agenda to get rid of labor unions as we know them, and supports right-wing policies that will only make it harder for workers to have a voice on the job. So vote to stand up for your rights.