News and Updates
Right to Organize
July 31, 2014
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 President Obama’s executive order designed to ensure that the United States only does business with companies that respect workers’ rights.
“The President’s executive order makes clear that the U.S. will not do business with companies that violate our nation’s labor laws. Employers who cheat workers out of wages, fail to provide safe workplaces, and illegally retaliate against those who try to organize a union should never be considered for a government contract. On the other hand, companies that uphold our laws and treat their workers with dignity and respect should be given preference when it comes to federal procurement.
“Today’s announcement builds on years of work by UFCW members and our partner unions to create a system that is fairer for workers and encourages a race to the top when it comes to labor standards. These efforts included a 2013 resolution passed unanimously by delegates to the UFCW convention calling on the creation of a ‘High Road’ procurement process.
“In the last several years, the meat and poultry industries have received over 1 billion dollars from taxpayers. Many workers in these industries work full-time yet are not paid enough to support themselves or their families. They also must endure dangerous workplace conditions and chronic underreporting of injuries by their employers. This executive order sends a message that companies who engage in this type of anti-worker activity must change the way they do business or lose access to their government contracts.
“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary of Labor Perez, and all those involved in crafting this executive order. Today’s announcement is an important first step in ensuring our government is doing everything in its power to protect America’s workers.”
July 30, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement regarding the Employee Empowerment Act.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to organized labor as the ‘principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.’ He believed, as we do, that union rights are civil rights. For decades, these rights have been under attack by those who want to deny workers a voice on the job. Workers are routinely fired or otherwise retaliated against for standing up and speaking out. This is against the law. But too many employers would rather pay fines under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) than allow for a process that lets workers choose a union freely and fairly. To them, these minimal penalties are not a deterrent, but the cost of doing business.
“The Employee Empowerment Act would amend the NLRA to give victims of labor discrimination the same protections available under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Currently, back pay is the only remedy available to these workers. Passage of this legislation would give victims the right to sue for compensatory and punitive damages in federal court, ensuring employers are held appropriately accountable for illegal retaliation and truly discouraging anti-union activity.
“The rise in labor discrimination hurts all Americans, but especially workers of color. Unionized African-American workers make 36 percent more than their non-union counterparts. For Latino workers, the union advantage is even greater. I urge Congress to swiftly pass this legislation which is good for workers, our economy, and builds on the successes of the Civil Rights Act.”
June 30, 2014
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 Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn.
“In today’s Harris v. Quinn ruling, the anti-worker Supreme Court sided with those who want to deprive employees of any ability to collectively bargain with their employers. This decision primarily affects home health care workers, but sets a terrible precedent for other Americans seeking a voice on the job.
“This is the Supreme Court’s latest attack on the foundation of our democracy. From weakening the Voting Rights Act to allowing unfettered corporate money in politics, the conservative justices are all too willing to do the bidding of anti-worker special interests. Workers and unions will respond to this latest attack as we always have—by redoubling our efforts to bring a voice on the job and fair wages and working conditions to all Americans.”
June 23, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Kim Mitchell, who works at Macy’s in Washington D.C. and is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 400, today attended the White House Summit on Working Families to bring attention to the union difference in the retail industry.
As a result of the strong union contract between Macy’s and its workers, Mitchell has been able to live comfortably and support her family. Mitchell, who is a single mother, earns $20 an hour and benefits from “predictive scheduling” which helps ensure her hours are both adequate and predictable.
“I am here with a simple message—union jobs are the best jobs,” she said. “My membership in the UFCW has allowed me to achieve my dream of financial security and peace of mind. Our contract is more than a document—it’s my family’s livelihood.”
Also attending the summit were a group of “Walmart Moms” who are speaking out for fair wages and respect on the job. “Millions of workers, especially working women, have stories similar to mine,” said Bene’t Holmes, a Walmart worker and single mother from Chicago. “They are trapped in a cycle of low wage jobs with unpredictable hours that make it so difficult to raise a family. My hope is this event will help elevate the ongoing national conversation about making today’s workplaces better for everyone, including working mothers like me.”
Detailing the widespread problems retail moms face on low-pay and erratic scheduling, national public policy organization Demos released a report earlier this month showing how these conditions keep millions of hard-working women and families near poverty. The report also concluded that if large retailers established a new wage equivalent to $25,000 per year for full time work it would improve the lives of more than 3.2 million female retail workers and lift 900,000 women and their families directly out of poverty or near poverty.
The summit convened businesses, economists, labor leaders, policymakers, advocates, and ordinary citizens to discuss policy solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of working families. Last Tuesday while at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, President Obama credited the labor movement with building the middle class and said the United States “should do everything we can to strengthen unions in this country.”
“I am glad the President is focusing on these important issues,” Mitchell said. “I am here to tell the White House that the best way to lift up working families is to make sure everyone who wants to join a union is able to do so freely and fairly.”
May 13, 2014
UFCW locals representing workers across New York traveled to the State Capitol in Albany today to lobby on issues important to working families. Members and staff from UFCW Locals 1, 1500, and 2013, along with RWDSU Locals 338 and 1102 were in attendance.
A major focus of the lobby day was to push back against efforts to gut the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which took effect in April of 2011. The law requires that employers give workers written notice of wage rates once a year, a provision some Senate Republicans are targeting for repeal. UFCW members made it clear that wage theft is a serious problem and all workers have the right to know if they are being cheated out of money. They called for the Wage Theft Prevention Act to be strengthened, not weakened by repealing the written notice requirement.
Members also discussed the need to raise the minimum wage and pass paid sick leave legislation. For decades, workers’ wages have stagnated while corporate profits and CEO pay have risen to record heights. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be over $10 an hour today, but instead it sits at only $8.00 in New York. Members demanded that the minimum wage be raised so it is a living wage.
Members lobbied for statewide paid sick leave, building on the momentum of legislation passed in New York City. They stressed that no worker should be forced to risk their job and their livelihood just because they get sick. Workers without paid sick leave are 1.5 times more likely to go to work sick and contagious than those who have paid sick days. Members said providing paid sick leave would make every workplace more healthy and productive.
Finally, members told their legislators it was long past time to pass the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, which would include farmworkers under state labor law. This would guarantee that New York’s farmworkers have the right to organize and bargain collectively for the wages and benefits that they deserve. UFCW members understand that all workers must be afforded their fundamental rights.
The lobby day was a great success and members who took part spoke about the importance of meeting directly with their legislators.
“Lobbying is an important way to remind these elected officials who they work for,” said UFCW Local 1500 member John Kubinski, who works at ShopRite in Staten Island. “If we don’t tell them what we want then they cannot properly represent us.”
Local 1500 member Jeff Guardado, who works at Stop & Shop in West Islip, talked about power in numbers. “We’re all fighting for the same cause,” he said. “We stand up for the little people. The little people are many. The powerful are few.”
Local 1500 member Georgette Wilson, who works at Stop & Shop in Hempstead, agreed. “We are here to speak out for those who don’t have the opportunity to have their voice heard.”
Local 1500 member Keith Jefferson, who works at Pathmark in Coney Island, summed up the day. “Too often these elected officials look at papers and they don’t see faces. They need to see faces. I like when my union does this. We fill up the whole bus and all of us come here.”
Members said they will be boarding the bus again next year for the 2015 New York Lobby Day.
May 7, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement regarding President Obama’s upcoming visit to a California Walmart to discuss energy efficiency.
“On Friday, President Obama will stand side by side with a company known for low wages, few benefits, unreliable hours, discrimination against women, violating workers’ rights, and yes, environmental degradation. Despite promising to be a leader on climate, Walmart’s greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise. According to its own Global Responsibility Report, the company’s emissions grew 2 percent, nearly half a million metric tons, in the last year alone. In addition, Walmart still lags badly behind other large companies when it comes to renewable power, with its projects and purchases deriving only 3 percent of electricity from these sources.
“More than anything, the President’s visit sends a terrible message to workers across America. He is lending credibility to a bad actor when he should be joining the calls for Walmart to change. A federal agency—the National Labor Relations Board—is prosecuting Walmart for retaliating against workers who stand up and speak out. Taxpayers are subsidizing Walmart which pays many of its own workers so little that they must rely on food stamps and Medicaid. And at a time when there is a renewed conversation about addressing income inequality, Walmart’s business model is making the problem worse.
“After the pep rally in California, I invite the President to meet with Walmart workers who can tell him firsthand about their struggles.”
April 15, 2014
The UFCW has released a scorecard for the first session of the 113th Congress. Members of both the House and Senate were graded on a series of bills that impacted workers and their families.
The House of Representatives scorecard included measures to gut workers’ rights, end the government shutdown, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
The Senate scorecard included votes on comprehensive immigration reform, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the confirmation of both Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and three pro-worker nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.
The UFCW is committed to holding elected officials accountable for their actions.
To see how members of Congress voted, click here.
February 5, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following in response to the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) reviving a proposal to streamline union elections.
“When the Senate cleared a path for the current NLRB to be confirmed, I called it the best day for workers and their families in years, if not longer. Today we are beginning to see why. I salute the Board for reviving a common sense and desperately needed proposal to streamline the process for workers to form a union. Too many employers use frivolous litigation and other technicalities to create delays so they can intimidate, harass, and in some cases fire pro-union employees before an actual vote occurs. This proposal would limit the influence of bad actors and ensure workers can have their voices heard in a fair and timely fashion. I hope this is the first of many steps the NLRB will take to carry out their mission of promoting collective bargaining.”
January 13, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement after Congressman George Miller (D-CA) announced his intention to retire at the end of the 113th Congress.
“Today is a sad day for the labor movement and the entire nation. George Miller will go down as one of the single greatest champions of working men and women in the history of Congress. For four decades, Congressman Miller has led the fight on organizing rights, fair pay, workplace safety, and corporate accountability. He has been an unwavering friend to me and the entire UFCW, giving our members a voice in the halls of power. When it was apparent the Affordable Care Act would cause problems for workers in union health plans, it was Congressman Miller who stepped up and tried to find a solution, an effort he continues to this day. It is simply undeniable that workers are better off because of his service. Many will seek to carry on Congressman Miller’s good work, but no one can ever replace him.”
July 18, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following statement was released today by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) after the Senate confirmed Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor.
“Tom Perez is a passionate advocate for workers and will make a great Secretary of Labor. Whether on the picket line, through his efforts to pass a living wage ordinance, or in the coalitions he built among immigrant and workers’ rights organizations, UFCW members have experienced his advocacy firsthand. We look forward to working with him to level the playing field for low-wage workers, improve workplace safety, and make comprehensive immigration reform the law of the land.”