• Background Image

    News and Updates

    Workplace Safety & Health

February 10, 2014

UFCW Minority Coalition Kicks Off Trailblazers Publication with Tribute to Addie Wyatt

January 14, 2014

Member Spotlight: Gary Southall

Union Strong. What’s behind that saying? Easy–union members.

What makes a union strong, are the members: workers who stand together, are involved in their workplace and communities, and work to better the lives of all working people. This week we would like to shine a light on one of those members.

Gary Southall has worked at Kroger–as a head deli clerk, a head checker, a head frozen food clerk, and now as a cashier–in Jackson County West Virginia for 41 years. He has been a UFCW member for just as long. Coming from a union family, it seems to be in his blood: “My dad, my grampa, all the uncles–everybody union members for as long as I can remember.”

When he began working at Kroger at the age of 16, the union was already in place, however, Gary eventually got more involved with his union, and has become a true member activist over the years. Not only is Gary a Local 400 steward, but is an avid supporter of programs in his community that benefit working people and better living conditions for young people.

Local 400 member and steward Gary Southall

Local 400 member and steward Gary Southall

One such program is the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition, which works to reduce underage alcohol abuse and substance use among youth. He has helped garner $1500 in donations for the coalition, $500 of which is from UFCW Local 400. Gary is also a member of the Central Labor Council, and an officer with the AFL-CIO, and as part of the AFL’s national initiative, he strives to be very involved in his community, even if it doesn’t involve union members. “We just take care of each other,” Gary says of the work he does.

Gary also lobbies for the UFCW, and this week helped re-introduce a bill that will prevent the sale of alcohol through self-checkout machines. The bill’s intent is to curb the ease with which already intoxicated or underage consumers can purchase alcohol.

When talking to Gary, its clear that he really cares for the youth in his community, and wants them to have as much opportunity in life as possible. Gary, working with the West Virginia AFL-CIO, has helped promote an educational video called Labor in the Mountains, which tells the story of labor’s history in West Virginia and the coal-industry, as told by a grandfather who lived through much of it, as he answers his granddaughter’s questions. Seeing the importance of teaching students about Labor’s influence on the middle class, the group worked hard to ensure that, effective this year, the video will now be shown in all middle school and high school civics classes in Jackson County, and they are working to spread this to the curriculum of other counties as well. Similarly, Gary is also working with others to promote an award-winning book called Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type in which some literate cows leave notes for their farmer, demanding better working conditions and eventually going on strike. They are hoping to  get a copy of the book into all third grade classes in the county, as well as community libraries.

On top of helping to promote labor education for kids, Gary is also involved with a program called Reconnecting McDowell, which works to help kids living in poverty in this neighboring Appalachain county, by improving education, providing food, and helping kids find safe spaces, among many other things.

Now in his fourth year at the Leadership Academy, hosted by the AFL-CIO and the West Virginia University institute of labor studies and researches, Gary has emerged as a true leader, helping others to see why unions are so important.

Gary has been through two strikes at Kroger, earlier on in his career. It was during those times when he saw how important the union difference was: “At that time I was working part-time, and  I wasn’t making very much money–but when I went back to work after the strike, I was making double that money, which was fantastic for a young guy still in school.”

“But the point [of the union] in general, for me and for everybody, if they know it, is that you have a voice–you’re not out there by yourself, and you have someone to help you if you need help. You know your union steward–I’m a union steward and I have been for 15 or 20 years. No one can come out here and single you out, or say ‘If I don’t like ya, we’ll fire ya’ or that kind of thing.” He says that the union creates better work practices, and prevents unsafe working conditions: “you’ve got someone to say, ‘you know you can’t do that’ and if someone says ‘you need to do this or we’ll fire you’ well, no, we aren’t gonna do it if it’s not safe.”

“We’ve got welfare benefits, like pretty good insurance and I’ve got six weeks of vacation now. Industry-wide, at least my area here in West Virginia, no one else in the grocery business makes the kind of money that we make.”

But one story Gary likes to tell, to show what solidarity can do, doesn’t have anything to do with wages or benefits. “It may sound kind of silly but, I have a son who will be 36 in April. When he was 6 weeks old, Kroger came in one day, and some of us fellas had started growing beards–and I don’t remember what the reason was, but we had decided to grow beards. Anyway they came in and they told us we couldn’t grow a beard on company time, that if we wanted to grow one, we had to grow it on our own time, and shave it off for company time.” Gary says that this mandate didn’t sit too well them. “Of the people still there, and there are four in my workplace that were there when this happened–we still have that beard that we couldn’t grow 35 years ago. That was the last day I was clean-shaven, and I haven’t shaved from that day on, 35 years ago.” Gary and his coworkers stood together, in doing something as simple as not shaving off their beards, and Kroger backed off. Recently, one of Gary’s close friends and co-workers was asked to shave. His response was, “I’ll tell you what–the day that Gary Southall shaves, I’ll do it too.”

Gary is a true example of what unions can do when members are active and involved, and how they benefit the people in their communities. Stories like his inspire us to stay strong and continue sticking together in solidarity for the middle class, and all working people!

 

If you know a UFCW member who inspires you, or has a story worth telling, please contact Mia Perry at mperry@ufcw.org

 

January 13, 2014

UFCW President Hansen Statement on the Retirement of George Miller

DSC_0248WASHINGTON, 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.”

###

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.

 

August 7, 2013

OUR Walmart Statement on OSHA Settlement with Walmart

UFCWnewsWashington, DC– Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it has reached a settlement with Walmart on a large number of repeated and serious worker safety violations including a lack of proper training on handling of hazardous chemicals and dangerous conditions related to poorly maintained equipment. In response, OUR Walmart members issued the following statement:

“The national settlement reached today between OSHA and Walmart resolves the highest penalties any individual Walmart store has ever faced as a result of health and safety violations – over $350,000. The problems detailed in the settlement are issues we have been raising for years, but it’s clear that the company has consistently failed to listen to our concerns, let alone address them.

“This is just the latest indication of Walmart’s malfeasance throughout the supply chain, and these serious problems represent a major danger to workers, the environment, and the company’s future. As workers we routinely face inadequate fire safety measures, including blocked fire exits, and do not receive proper training on how to safely handle hazardous chemicals. Poorly maintained equipment, including balers and compactors, represent another hazard, made worse because these machines often lack appropriate mechanisms to ensure worker safety.

“We like our jobs and want what’s best for the company. We hope that today’s settlement sends a message to Walmart that cutting corners on safety comes at great costs, not just to employees, but also to the company.  Moreover, Walmart needs to go beyond the settlement, start listening to its workers, and investigate its stores throughout the country to see if these violations are widespread and where they find violations, fix them. These issues are about the very basic right employees have to work in safe environments.”

###

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

 

 

STATEMENT FROM STACY MITCHELL ON OSHA SETTLEMENT WITH WALMART

In response to today’s settlement, Institute for Local Self Reliance senior researcher Stacy Mitchell issued the following statement:

“Walmart’s negligence in managing hazardous chemicals is yet another illustration of its disregard for the environment and the health of workers and communities. While Walmart publicizes its solar installations, behind the scenes, the company is continuing to cut corners and harm the environment throughout its operations and supply chain.”

 

###

 

 

July 31, 2013

NLRB Nominees Confirmed by Senate

NLRB-rulings

For the first time in a decade, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has a full slate of confirmed board members.

The five members are current NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce; Nancy Schiffer, a former AFL-CIO associate general counsel; and NLRB attorney Kent Hirozawa, currently the chief counsel to Pearce; and attorneys Philip Miscimarra and Harry Johnson, who have represented management in labor disputes.

This is welcome news for workers everywhere. With the NLRB at full strength, workers will be able to stick together and speak up for fair wages, good benefits, and safe working conditions without fear of employer intimidation or harassment.

Without the NLRB, employees who have been cheated or treated unfairly would have little recourse for wrongs committed against them.

Senate Republicans agreed to hold up-or-down votes on the NLRB nominees as part of a deal with Democrats to avoid rule changes that would limit the ability of the minority party to filibuster executive branch nominees.

These confirmations are a pleasant change from the obstructionist tactics Senate Republicans have become known for.

Hopefully this marks the beginning of a more functional U.S. Senate that is more responsive to the needs of working families.

July 18, 2013

UFCW Praises Confirmation of Tom Perez as Labor Secretary

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.”

###

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.

July 16, 2013

UFCW President Hansen on Senate Rules Agreement

WASHINGTON, D.C. Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement after the Senate reached an agreement on nominations to the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and other key posts.

“When it comes to the Senate, this is the best day for workers and their families in years, if not longer. Today a path was created to confirm a Secretary of Labor with a track record of standing up for workers’ rights, a fully functioning NLRB that can carry out its important mission of promoting collective bargaining and protecting the right to organize, and the first director of the CFPB so everyday consumers have an advocate to defend them from the predatory practices of big banks.

“Today would not have been possible without the voices of millions of Americans—including many UFCW members—who have demanded that the Senate end the gridlock and give nominees to important posts an up or down vote. While a change in rules did not occur, today’s agreement is a direct result of those pushing for a more functional Senate. I sincerely hope this marks the beginning, not the end, of a process where executive branch nominees are considered in a fair and timely fashion.”

###

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.

July 10, 2013

Joint Statement by Richard L. Trumka (AFL-CIO) and Joe Hansen (ChangetoWin) on the Walmart and GAP Bangladesh Safety Alliance: Weak and Worthless

UFCWnewsThe so-called Global Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, announced today by Walmart, Gap and the Bipartisan Policy Center, was developed without consultation with workers or their representatives and is yet another “voluntary” scheme with no meaningful enforcement mechanisms. Companies that sign onto the alliance but fail to meet a commitment face no adverse consequences beyond expulsion from the scheme. Instead, workers will continue to pay.

In stark contrast, more than 75 corporations from 15 countries, including the United States, have signed the binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety negotiated with Bangladeshi and international unions. The Accord has rules to make real improvements in the safety of garment workers.  Workers, unions and worker rights organizations negotiated this agreement with employers and integrated worker safety efforts by governments and the International Labor Organization (ILO).  The AFL-CIO and Change to Win,  along with global unions IndustriAll and UNI and numerous organizations representing Bangladeshi workers, also endorse it. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win reject the Walmart/GAP plan as a way to avoid accountability, limit costs and silence workers and their representatives.

Rather than sign the binding Accord, Walmart and Gap are pushing a weak and worthless plan that avoids enforceable commitments. The Bipartisan Policy Center, which has clear financial and political connections to Walmart, is releasing the document, which is the product of a closed process and has been signed only by the same corporations that produced it.

The Accord departs from the broken system of voluntary corporate responsibility in supply chains that has so often failed to protect workers. It makes a clear commitment to worker safety and rights, and to transparency. It expresses values that most countries uphold.

The Accord has been endorsed by the United Nations, the ILO, the government of Bangladesh, both the parliament and commission of the European Union, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Members and leaders in both houses of the U.S. Congress have also endorsed the Accord.

In the last eight years, more than 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have been killed in preventable factory fires and building collapses while producing mostly for European and U.S. markets.  This tragic loss of life requires more than a wink and a nod from two of the richest corporations in the world. It means taking responsibility for the safety of workers by entering into a legitimate, binding process that will save lives.  Seventy-five brands have taken that important step.  It is time for Walmart and GAP to join them, rather than trying to undermine those efforts and maintain a system that has a long and bloody record of failure.

Statement online here: http://www.aflcio.org/Press-Room/Press-Releases/Joint-Statement-by-Richard-L.-Trumka-AFL-CIO-and-Joe-Hansen-ChangetoWin-on-the-Walmart-and-GAP-Bangladesh-Safety-Alliance-Weak-and-Worthless

For the latest udates, follow @AFLCIO and @RichardTrumka on Twitter.

###

July 10, 2013

Joint Statement by Richard L. Trumka (AFL-CIO) and Joe Hansen (Change to Win) on the Walmart and GAP Bangladesh Safety Alliance: Weak and Worthless

The so-called Global Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, announced today by Walmart, Gap and the Bipartisan Policy Center, was developed without consultation with workers or their representatives and is yet another “voluntary” scheme with no meaningful enforcement mechanisms. Companies that sign onto the alliance but fail to meet a commitment face no adverse consequences beyond expulsion from the scheme. Instead, workers will continue to pay.

In stark contrast, more than 75 corporations from 15 countries, including the United States, have signed the binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety negotiated with Bangladeshi and international unions. The Accord has rules to make real improvements in the safety of garment workers.  Workers, unions and worker rights organizations negotiated this agreement with employers and integrated worker safety efforts by governments and the International Labor Organization (ILO).  The AFL-CIO and Change to Win,  along with global unions IndustriAll and UNI and numerous organizations representing Bangladeshi workers, also endorse it. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win reject the Walmart/GAP plan as a way to avoid accountability, limit costs and silence workers and their representatives.

Rather than sign the binding Accord, Walmart and Gap are pushing a weak and worthless plan that avoids enforceable commitments. The Bipartisan Policy Center, which has clear financial and political connections to Walmart, is releasing the document, which is the product of a closed process and has been signed only by the same corporations that produced it.

The Accord departs from the broken system of voluntary corporate responsibility in supply chains that has so often failed to protect workers. It makes a clear commitment to worker safety and rights, and to transparency. It expresses values that most countries uphold.

The Accord has been endorsed by the United Nations, the ILO, the government of Bangladesh, both the parliament and commission of the European Union, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Members and leaders in both houses of the U.S. Congress have also endorsed the Accord.

In the last eight years, more than 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have been killed in preventable factory fires and building collapses while producing mostly for European and U.S. markets.  This tragic loss of life requires more than a wink and a nod from two of the richest corporations in the world. It means taking responsibility for the safety of workers by entering into a legitimate, binding process that will save lives.  Seventy-five brands have taken that important step.  It is time for Walmart and GAP to join them, rather than trying to undermine those efforts and maintain a system that has a long and bloody record of failure.

June 12, 2013

New York City Thrift Store Workers Vote to Join RWDSU/UFCW

Unique Thrift store workers in New York City voted to join the RWDSU for better wages and working conditions.

Unique Thrift store workers in New York City voted to join the RWDSU for better wages and working conditions.

This week, workers at Unique Thrift in the Bronx, New York, voted to join the RWDSU/UFCW. All 64 workers at the Bronx store will be part of the bargaining unit. The workers who sort through the donated goods and staff the Unique Thrift stores in the Bronx, and other parts of New York and New Jersey are speaking out about their working conditions. Workers are paid low wages, receive no paid sick days or vacations, are verbally abused by managers and are often hurt on the job.

“As a single mom living in New York City, it is extremely difficult to survive off $7.50 an hour,” said Joanna Carrillo, Unique Thrift employee. “I was proud to vote yes to join the RWDSU because we deserve respect, better wages, and basic benefits such as health care and paid time off.”

Unique Thrift is a for profit thrift store which contracts with the Lupus Foundation. The company solicits donations in the name of the Lupus Foundation, sells the clothes for profit and sends the charity a comparatively small contribution.