News and Updates
March 18, 2013
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 27, 2013
Last Wednesday, UFCW members and staff from UFCW Locals 75, 1059, and the RWDSU gathered to speak out against right-to-work legislation during a lobby day in Columbus, Ohio. Following trainings with UFCW local union and International staff on lobbying best practices, UFCW members went into their meetings with their state representatives and state senators.
“Reaching out to our legislators regarding issues important to working families is one of the most valuable things we can do,” said Local 1059 member Travis Long who works at Kroger. “It was great this year, and I look forward to more opportunities in the future.”
Both veterans of past lobby days and first-timers reported they had a positive experience. Many legislators requested more information on UFCW issues and several scheduled follow-up meetings back home in their districts to continue the dialogue with UFCW members.
Also that day, hundreds of UFCW Local 75 and 227 members educated their legislators about “no rights at work” legislation during a lobby day in Frankfort, Ky. Speaker Pro Temp. Larry Clark welcomed UFCW members to the Capitol and spoke against “no rights at work”.
The following day UFCW allies in the House Labor and Industry Committee exposed the flawed arguments of “no rights at work” proponents. Members also stood in solidarity with their brothers and sisters from the Kentucky Trades against an effort to remove prevailing wage from school projects.
Members ended the day with thank you letters to the legislators they had visited, along with “sorry I missed you” notes to legislators they were not able to reach. “Lobby day is a time for legislators to hear what is important to UFCW members,” said Jeff Pleasant, assistant chief steward at JBS. “Our lobby day has grown every year, and we will continue to fight to keep ‘no rights at work’ out of our state.”
February 22, 2013
The UFCW recently kicked off its public campaign for comprehensive immigration reform. Civil Rights and Community Action Department Director Esther Lopez says she expects a bill to be introduced in March or April, followed by hearings in May or June, and a vote in August.
In addition, over 80 UFCW leaders have signed a letter to President Obama in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
“The time to create a principled, legal immigration system that treats all immigrants with respect and dignity is right now,” the letter read.
Immigration reform rallies are being planned across the country. If you live near any of these major cities, be sure to support the cause! And if you don’t, gather a group of coworkers and friends and let political leaders in your area know that the time for immigration reform is now.
The scheduled rallies are as follows:
l February 25: San Francisco
l February 28: Houston
l March 6, 12, or 13: Minneapolis/St. Paul
l March 7: Chicago
l March 11: Phoenix
l TBD: New York City
February 21, 2013
Last week, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights which would help eliminate the incentive for employers to drop health coverage for their part-time workers. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) penalizes employers who fail to provide health insurance to full-time workers but includes no such penalty for part-timers (defined as working less than 30 hours a week).
This loophole has driven some national employers to announce plans to reduce workers’ hours in order to avoid the penalty. Walmart dropped part-time health coverage last year. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights seeks to level the playing field and protect the millions of part-time workers in retail and other service industries.
Workers are encouraged to contact their Members of Congress this week while Senators and Representatives are in their home states and districts. You can find the full text of the bill here.
The UFCW continues to use every avenue possible—whether through the regulatory process or legislation—to strengthen the ACA and protect quality, union-negotiated health benefits. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights is a part of that effort.
February 20, 2013
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
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).
February 11, 2013
Three women a day are killed as a result of domestic violence. Every one out of five women are raped in their lifetime. These sobering statistics are why reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should be above petty politics. Unfortunately, House Republicans are casting aside their moral compass for their political one and women across the country are being left vulnerable.
The annual incidence of domestic violence has decreased by more than 53 percent since VAWA became law in 1994 and reporting by victims has also increased by 51 percent. This dramatic improvement helps explain why the VAWA has been reauthorized twice since 1994 without controversy.
The latest version of the bill, which has bipartisan support in the Senate from Democrats and Republicans, broadens the law by expanding its provisions to cover Native Americans, gays, and lesbians. The bill would also give more emphasis to sexual assault prevention and take steps to reduce the rape kit backlog.
While the bill is expected to pass in the Senate with bipartisan support, House Republicans are balking at the prospect of allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit domestic and sexual violence on reservations. Perhaps they should look at the statistics.
Compared with other groups, Native American women are more likely to be raped and abused. The National Congress of American Indians released findings that showed 39 percent of American Indian and Alaska native women will experience violence by a partner in their lifetimes.
Currently, non-Native Americans who abuse their spouses often go unpunished because federal authorities don’t have the resources to pursue misdemeanors committed on reservations.
At UFCW, we have a long, proud history of standing up for fair and equal treatment of all workers both inside and outside of the workplace. Expanding the VAWA to Native Americans, gays, and lesbians isn’t just an essential step towards ensuring the domestic abuse crisis in this country is met, it’s also the right and fair thing to do.
Moderate House Republicans should call on their leadership to pass the bipartisan Senate bill as soon as they are able. Lives are depending upon this bill getting off the back burner and passing. The battered and abused don’t have time for these political games.
January 7, 2013
Last Friday, #WhyMyPaycheckIsLessThisWeek began trending on Twitter. Tweeters were quick to blame President Obama, free birth control, immigrants, and a number of other things for the deductions they saw in their paychecks last week, following the “fiscal cliff”.
Rush Limbaugh ranted that paychecks declined in order to pay for “another Obama vacation,” and similar (outrageous) complaints have been made by other conservatives with large followings as well.
None of these are true. In reality, the decrease in paychecks is due to the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, which went into affect on January 1st. According to Working America, the payroll tax cut expiration was, among other things, the result of “the lack of attention to job-creating policies that help workers pay their bills, and devotion of Republicans and some Democrats to ‘cutting spending’ while protecting the interests of their wealthy and corporate sponsors.”
Here’s a bit more background, based on actual facts, not accusations:
-The payroll tax cut lowered payroll taxes from 6.2% to 4.2%, and went into effect in 2010. It was set to expire in December 2011, but after a vote was extended until January 1st, 2013.
-As the new year approached, the “Fiscal Cliff” was created in order to set a deadline about how to offset the national debt.
-President Obama, in his initial offer to Boehner, wanted to extend the payroll tax holiday, however he was rejected because the offer did not extend Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans. During the series of concessions and offers that took place during the fiscal cliff negotiations, the payroll tax holiday extension was dropped, as a concession by President Obama to House Republicans.
-Regardless, experts predicted the concession of the payroll tax holiday extension as early as September 2012, before the country knew who our next President would be.
November 30, 2012
President Obama has sent a proposal to the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives that will help ensure that 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses won’t have to ring in the new year with a tax increase.
If Congress fails to act on this proposal, a typical middle class family of four will see a $2,000 tax increase. Imagine having $2,000 less to spend in 2013! Everything from buying groceries to paying your rent or mortgage will become more difficult to afford. It’s the absolute last thing working families need or deserve.
It’s important that the voices of working families are heard in this debate. President Obama is asking voters everywhere to contact their members of Congress and let them know how taking away $2,000 from your income will impact you and your family. The Twitter hashtag, #My2K, has been created to make this conversation easy to join.
Please help ensure a happy new year for all of us by making your voices heard. Go to Twitter today and send a tweet with #My2K attached to friends, family and members of Congress.
November 8, 2012
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”