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November 7, 2011

NATIONAL BEEF WORKERS CHOOSE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS FOR A UNION VOICE ON THE JOB

(Dodge City, Kan.) – A majority of the 2,500 workers at National Beef’s Dodge City, Kansas beef slaughter and processing facility voted to join UFCW District Local 2, in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, on Thursday and Friday, November 3 and 4, 2011.

The workers’ campaign began when several National Beef workers contacted the UFCW seeking a union voice on the job. At that time, National Beef and the UFCW agreed on a fair and balanced process that allowed employees to vote on whether or not they wanted union representation. UFCW represents the workers at a neighboring Cargill beef slaughter and processing plant in Dodge City.

“Helping to organize my co-workers into a union was a life changing journey,” said Rebecca McGary, a worker in the fabrication department at National Beef.

“We know that workers at Cargill, just down the street from National Beef, have had a contract with Local 2 for many years – and that means they have always had a say in their wages, benefits and working conditions,” said Ramon Prieto who works on the kill floor at National Beef and who took a leading role in organizing his co-workers. “That’s why I voted to join the UFCW, so that we all will have a chance to negotiate benefits and salaries, job security, and a better life for our families.”

The National Beef workers are the latest in a series of meatpacking workers to join the UFCW at locations across the country. On October 19, approximately 1,000 workers at a JBS beef kill facility in Plainwell, Michigan joined UFCW Local 951. On October 25, 125 workers at a Farmland Foods facility in Carroll, Iowa joined UFCW Local 440. And in late September, 300 workers at Nebraska Prime in Hastings, Nebraska joined UFCW Local 293.

October 27, 2011

Workers at Carroll, Iowa, Packing Plant Vote to Join UFCW Local 440

More than 125 workers at the Farmland Food meatpacking plant in Carroll, Iowa, voted Tuesday for a voice on the job with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 440. The vote adds the Farmland workers in Carroll to the Farmland Denison workers already represented by UFCW Local 440.

“Im proud that my coworkers stood together to get a long-awaited voice on the job here in Carroll,” said Gary Schaefer, a mechanic in the plant. “We won our union voice by using worksite solidarity among workers from all parts of the world. Our cross-cultural unity was key to bringing everyone together.”

Saul Trevino, a receiving dock employee, said, “Together, we talked to each other about organizing and how together wed be able to advocate for better working conditions for everyone in the plant. Im glad were now UFCW Local 440 just like the Farmland workers in Denison.”

UFCW Local 440 represents 1200 workers in western Iowa in the meatpacking and food processing industry.

October 26, 2011

FARMLAND FOOD WORKERS SAY UFCW YES!

(Denison, Iowa) – More than 125 workers at the Farmland Food meatpacking plant in Carroll, Iowa, voted yesterday for a voice on the job with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 440.

Yesterday’s vote adds the Farmland workers in Carroll to the Farmland Denison workers already represented by UFCW Local 440.

“”Im proud that my coworkers stood together to get a long-awaited voice on the job here in Carroll,”” said Gary Schaefer, a mechanic in the plant. “”We won our union voice by using worksite solidarity among workers from all parts of the world. Our cross-cultural unity was key to bringing everyone together.””

Saul Trevino, a receiving dock employee, said, “”Together, we talked to each other about organizing and how together wed be able to advocate for better working conditions for everyone in the plant. Im glad were now UFCW Local 440 just like the Farmland workers in Denison.””

UFCW Local 440 represents 1200 workers in western Iowa in the meatpacking and food processing industry.

October 18, 2011

STATEMENT OF SUPPORT FOR OCCUPY WALL STREET MOVEMENT BY THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement issued by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:

“The protest that began as Occupy Wall Street has now bloomed into a mass movement spanning more than 300 cities nationwide. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest corporate greed and demand good jobs now.

“The movement is spreading like wildfire, with Americans standing up for economic justice across the nation. This is a movement started by ordinary Americans, fed-up with the growing inequality in this country – people who simply want good jobs and a shot at the American Dream. The UFCW shares that vision for America.

“The people “occupying” cities across the country are workers, students, and the unemployed. They are our friends and relatives, our neighbors and co-workers. They are fighting for the same things we are: good jobs, fairness, and an end to corporate greed and attacks on workers.  And it’s part of a larger movement, one that started earlier this year as workers fought back against corporate greed and right-wing politicians in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and across the nation.

“In Wisconsin, hundreds of thousands of workers and outraged community members stormed the capitol in Madison after anti-worker politicians rammed through legislation attacking the rights of workers. In Ohio, over a million signatures were gathered to repeal Ohio’s SB 5. Corporate America has launched an unprecedented attack on our jobs and our rights, but the other 99% aren’t just rolling over.

“So exactly what do we – the 99% – have to be so angry about? To begin with: worker productivity has been rising over the past decade, but wages have remained stagnant while the cost of health care has skyrocketed, leaving the average American struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the gap between the richest 1% and the rest of us has gotten even wider.

“What we have seen over the past few weeks is more and more ordinary Americans standing up and demanding their share of the success that’s being hoarded by the wealthiest 1% of the country. UFCW has been encouraging its members and local unions to join Occupy actions in their communities. We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these brave Americans as they fight to make America a better, more just nation.”

August 12, 2011

STATEMENT BY UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION PRESIDENT JOSEPH HANSEN ON USTR

Washington, D.C. – Following is a statement issued by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Joseph Hansen:“The decision by the Obama Administration and the Office of the United States Trade Representative to move forward with an arbitration against Guatemala for violating its workers’ fundamental labor rights is a victory for working people in the U.S. and abroad. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) protects workers’ right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively for their wages and working conditions. Yet, Guatemala has a shameful record when it comes to workers’ rights. The decision underscores America’s commitment to strict labor standards in our trade deals. This will be a significant step toward raising working standards in Guatemala and throughout Central America. “

July 28, 2011

H&M Workers at Six New York Stores Say Union Yes with UFCW

QUEENS, NY – Two hundred forty New York City-area H&M workers at six stores have formed a new union at their workplace with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 888. These workers join more than 1,200 other New York H&M workers that stood together and formed a union as part of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Council of the UFCW.

 

“I love my job and I’ve worked there a long time,” said Natasha King, a four-year Sales Associate at the H&M in Staten Island, New York, “but there was room for change.”

 

H&M recognized the workers’ choice for a real voice on the job after an overwhelming majority of workers at the stores signed cards to show their desire for UFCW representation.

 

“This shows, once again, that when the process is fair and free that retail workers want to and will choose to form a union,” said Tom Plumb, Director of the Retail Stores Division of the UFCW International Union. “Together, retail workers across the country are making retail jobs into good long-term retail careers in union stores like H&M.”

 

“Retail workers, especially part-time workers like me, need a union for fair treatment, fair pay, affordable health care and equality in the workplace,” said King. “We’ll stand together and protect each other as a team, as a union.”

 

The six newly unionized stores are located in Queens, Brooklyn, West Nyack, White Plains, Yonkers and Staten Island, New York. They join the union for retail workers, the UFCW, and are part of a group of workers at major retailers across the country including Macy’s, Syms, RiteAid and more. The UFCW is working across America to build a movement of retail workers that raises standards and ensures that America’s fastest-growing profession is also the source of millions of good jobs.

 

July 19, 2011

Statement by UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O’Neill on Proposed NLRB Rule to Modernize Union Election Process

Washington, D.C. –  The following remarks were delivered by UFCW Executive Vice President and Organizing Director Pat O’Neill, who testified at the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) public meeting on July 19, 2011 regarding the NLRB’s proposed rule changes to the union election process:

“American workers are struggling to make ends meet during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Workers in the grocery, retail, meatpacking and food processing industries are no exception.  Union contracts offer the best opportunity for stable, middle class jobs. While the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the fundamental right to join a union and achieve the benefits of collective bargaining, the NLRB’s current rules are seriously outdated, needlessly complex, and foster frivolous litigation.  The current process creates barriers to workers exercising their fundamental right to form a union. It’s time to return the process to its original intent – which is to give workers a clear path to making the choice when they want collective bargaining.

“We view the proposed election rule changes as a modest but important first step toward modernizing and streamlining an outmoded process that encourages unnecessary, time-consuming and wasteful litigation.

“The proposal to defer resolution of most voter eligibility issues until after the election, including all bargaining unit disputes affecting less than 20 percent of the unit, would make the current process more efficient and worker-friendly. Just ask the employees of Home Market Foods in Norwood, Mass., who sought representation by UFCW Local 1445. Workers petitioned for an election in a unit of all production, maintenance, shipping, receiving and housekeeping employees, including 11 quality assurance (Q.A.) technicians but excluding nine Q.A. technologists, who the technicians consider to be their supervisors. However, the company argued that none of the Q.A. workers should be in the unit – or if they were included, that the technologists were not supervisors and should vote in the election.  By disputing the Q.A. workers’ status, the company delayed the election until 79 days after the petition was filed.  And during this delay, management used the time to further threaten workers with job loss and plant closure if they won in the election. The workers lost the election 104-114. If the Q.A. employees’ eligibility to vote had been deferred until after the election, the election would have taken place before the employer’s scare tactics had their intended effect. In that case, the workers would have won the election by a big enough margin that their votes would not have affected the outcome.

“This is exactly why the proposed changes are needed.  Workers go to work to earn a living, not to get engaged in a protracted lawyer-driven tug of war with their employer. When workers want to organize a union, they want to do it immediately.

“The proposed rule changes will not interfere with employers’ free speech rights. Workers know their employers’ views on unionization.  And if workers are unclear about their employers’ position, it doesn’t take long for them to find out.  Nor will this rule change lead to “ambush” elections, as claimed by employer-funded lawyers.  Almost all union election campaigns are well underway and well known to employers long before an election petition is filed. In virtually all instances, employers have ample time to communicate with their workers.

“This fact is supported by a recent study by Professors Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell and Dorian Warren of Columbia, both of whom will address this panel later today.  Their research shows that “Thirty-one percent of serious [unfair labor practice] violations occurred 30 days before the petition was filed and 47 percent of all serious allegations occurred before the petition was filed.” The data support their conclusion that employer “opposition starts long before the filing of the petition.”  UFCW organizers have long known and experienced this first-hand many times.

“The UFCW is optimistic that the proposed rule changes will begin to restore the NLRB election process back to what it was intended to do – give workers a clear process to organizing a union.  We are, however, concerned about the possible elimination of the blocking charge policy.  Strong employer opposition to union organizing campaigns is the rule rather than the exception. Workers and their unions, when faced with serious employer unfair labor practices during the critical period, may need temporary postponement of the election to try to counter the employer’s illegal conduct. The blocking charge policy is needed to help attempt to prevent that from happening.

“The UFCW will make a more detailed response to the Board’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the written comments it plans to file. Again, thank you for this opportunity to speak in support of the proposed rule.”

June 21, 2011

UFCW Statement on the Proposed NLRB Rule that would Standardize the Representation Election Process

Today’s proposed rule from the National Labor Relations Board comes down to basic fairness on the job. When workers choose to vote to form a union on the job, the vote shouldnt be plagued by delays, bureaucracy or obstacles. Working people are already struggling. And, theyre waiting and wondering when the economy will recover to a point that therell be enough stable, middle class jobs in their communities.  They shouldnt have to struggle to get a union voice on the job. They shouldnt have to wait and wonder when theyll get justice on the job.

Just ask the workers at the 2 Sisters Food Group plant in Riverside, California. When a majority decided they wanted a union voice in their workplace, their employer used the lengthy timeline of the NLRB election process to mount a vicious harassment and intimidation campaign. Instead of investing in their workforce, they hired anti-worker consultants. They distributed anti-union flyers. They forced attendance at daily anti-union meetings. They insisted on including leads who appeared to be supervisors in the unit, which workers agreed to, in order to avoid a lengthy pre-election litigation delay.

As Election Day neared, bosses escalated their campaign by hiring uniformed security guards to monitor the comings and goings of every worker. They illegally fired five workers for their union support-one just a week before the election. When the voting came, off-shift workers were forced to wait at a parking lot gate and then personally escorted one by one to the ballot box by the company CEO, then escorted off company grounds.

The harassment, intimidation and illegal firings were too much.  Workers feared for their livelihoods, and they narrowly lost their bid for a union.

Todays proposed rule is an acknowledgment that the pressure and bullying 2 Sisters workers encountered shouldnt happen in an American workplace or at an American ballot box. American workers have the right to vote on whether to form a union; and the election process should be straightforward and streamlined; it shouldnt involve long delays nor require workers to navigate a legal maze.

 

June 3, 2011

Advisory: Bangladeshi Labor Leader to Present New York City Pension Fund Proposal at Walmart Shareholder Meeting

WHO: Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor leader and former garment worker

WHAT: Akter will deliver NYC Pension Funds’ shareholder proposal on behalf of New York City Comptroller John C. Liu at Friday’s shareholders meeting, calling on the company to require reports on suppliers’ compliance with international human and workers rights standards.  Press availability on-site / Photo Opportunity.

WHEN: Friday, June 3, after Akter’s presentation

WHERE: Walmart Shareholders Meeting
Bentonville, AR

CONTACT:
Ryan Vanderbilt at 202.285.8227 / rvanderbilt@asgk.com
Jennifer Stapleton at 202.466.1576 / jstapleton@ufcw.org
Matthew Sweeney, Office of NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, 212-669-3747, msweeney@comptroller.nyc.gov

Bentonville, AR–Kalpona Akter, the executive director of the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity, will deliver a proposal at Walmart’s shareholders meeting Friday, calling on the nation’s largest retailer to require its suppliers around the globe to publish reports on their compliance with international standards of human and workers rights.

The proposal, put forth by New York City Controller John C. Liu and the New York City Pension Funds, will be voted on by Walmart shareholders on Friday. NYC Pension Funds hold Walmart shares valued at more than $300 million.

Akter faces years in prison or even a potential death sentence on unsubstantiated criminal charges of fomenting garment worker unrest in Bangladesh. In 2010, Bangladeshi factory owners, including a Walmart subcontractor, filed a false criminal complaint against Akter, which resulted in her being arrested, imprisoned for 30 days, and tortured.

Factory workers in the country have organized to raise the minimum wage — from 12 cents an hour to 35 cents — but have been met with backlash. Eighteen members of Congress have sent letters on Akter’s behalf to Walmart, five other U.S. retailers, and to the U.S. Trade Representative.

Online press kit at: http://www.ufcw.org/makingchange/shareholder.cfm

April 28, 2011

STATEMENT BY UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION PRESIDENT JOE HANSEN ON THE AT&T AND T-MOBILE MERGER

Washington, D.C. –  The acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T is good news for workers, consumers and the U.S. economy.  This merger represents an opportunity for the U.S. to expand high speed broadband and buildout, narrow the digital divide and improve the quality of service for consumers.  This merger also gives T-Mobile workers the same protections and bargaining power as the 42,000 unionized workers at AT&T, the only wireless provider that has a unionized workforce.

A strong partnership already exists between the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the German trade union, ver.di, and the two unions formed a joint organization called TU that represents T-Mobile workers on both sides of the Atlantic.  In Germany, Deutsche Telekom, which owns T-Mobile, fully recognizes workers’ bargaining rights, and ver.di is a full and positive partner.  That has not been the case in the U.S., where T-Mobile workers have been discouraged from forming a union.

Amid the anti-union legislation sweeping through the country, this merger is a positive step in the right direction for workers who want to make their own choice about having a bargaining voice.  The UFCW has no doubt that T-Mobile’s workers will benefit from their association with the CWA and the union’s president, Larry Cohen, and finally have a voice in their workplace.