News and Updates
July 28, 2011
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
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
Ryan Vanderbilt at 202.285.8227 / email@example.com
Jennifer Stapleton at 202.466.1576 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Sweeney, Office of NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, 212-669-3747, email@example.com
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.
March 28, 2011
(Washington, D.C.) – This morning, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the White House and Department of Labor hosted a forum with women workers and organizers, discussing their courageous roles in organizing their workplaces.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, were joined by women who are currently working to organize their workplaces, including Ernestine Bassett, a Walmart Associate from Laurel, Maryland.
“We are still fighting to provide adequate working conditions for all women and men on the job, ensure that no person within our borders is exploited for their labor, and uphold collective bargaining as a means to give workers a seat at the tables of power,” said President Obama in a proclamation released at the event.
“At today’s event, the Administration made it very clear that it values the role unions play in building the middle class in this country,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “We thank them for standing with courageous women who are currently trying to improve their lives by organizing their workplaces.”
“Walmart is the largest private employer in this country,” said Patrick O’Neill, UFCW Director of Organizing. “Their practices set the standard for the retail industry. We are pleased that the White House and Department of Labor gave a Walmart associate the chance to testify about the intimidation she and her coworkers face when trying to exercise their legal rights to organize for respect on the job.”
“I am committed, despite significant intimidation from my employer, to winning respect for my fellow associates at Walmart,” said Ernestine Bassett. “We are organizing to ensure safety and a better life for all Walmart associates.”
To watch the event online, visit:
October 29, 2010
When: Wednesday Oct. 27th 1:30 p.m.
Where: March begins at 111 Zeta Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15238
After several months of feeling intimidated and threatened by managers, Giant Eagle employees have had enough. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 23, joined by a number of community organizations, will march on the corporate headquarters, to deliver support post cards signed by fellow employees at 36 stores, to say enough is enough.
“”We have the right to talk about our union, with our co-workers, with other Giant Eagle employees, with anyone we want to. This is America and we don’t check our free speech rights at the door when we take a job with Giant Eagle” said Deborah Wieloch, an employee at the Shady Side Market District Store.
Weiloch was arrested in September when she, on her day off work, went to the Waterfront Giant Eagle to talk to employees on break about their contract and other union issues. UFCW Local 23 filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over the incident.
Weiloch’s arrest came as part of what employees see as a wave of anti-unionism on the part of Giant Eagle.
“We’ve been told we can’t wear buttons, we’ve been told not to talk about our union, we’ve been threatened with arrest or worse, being fired,” explained Jim D’Alessandro. “It isn’t right. They are infringing on our right to free speech and violating our nation’s laws that ensure we have a right to organize and be organized. Our contract even gives us the right to talk about our union during work.”
The members of UFCW got tired of harassment from management and started a postcard campaign to tell Giant Eagle they are tired of it.
While corporate Giant Eagle has pressured workers to remain silent and tried to keep their actions out of the press, workers have received tremendous support from allies and the public.
Along with a delegation of several dozen UFCW Local 23 members taking the cards to the corporate headquarters, community groups will be on hand to show support, including ACTION United, NAACP, Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburgh UNITED, and others. A number of UFCW Local 23 members will be dressed as the Founding Fathers, complete with wigs and costumes, to reinforce the message that free speech rights are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
October 5, 2010
(Souderton, PA.) – Nearly 1,200 workers at the JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, voted today to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776.
“I am delighted that we stood together and made the right choice to form a union,” said Bernard Coneghen, who has worked at the Souderton facility for 27 years. “We had the opportunity to speak with representatives of the UFCW about the benefits of having a voice at work and were able to make an informed choice about forming a union.”
The workers’ victory today was the successful conclusion of a months-long campaign designed to give a voice to the nearly 1,200 JBS workers in Souderton, but also as part of a UFCW-led nationwide effort aimed at raising wages and benefits for all workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries.
“The outcome of this election shows that when workers get a free and fair process, they choose union representation,” said Wendell Young, IV, UFCW International Vice President and President of Local 1776.” The UFCW applauds JBS for taking the high road to allow the workers to have a free and fair process. Having a union makes it better for everyone, workers, the company, and the larger community.”
The Brazilian firm JBS, S.A. acquired the former Moyer Packing Company’s Souderton facility with the purchase of the Smithfield Beef Group in 2008. JBS, out of respect for its workers, allowed a free and fair process for workers to decide about union representation.
“We achieved our victory because we stood together and that’s what made us strong,” said Melina Martinez, who has worked at the plant for the last six years. “Now that we have a union, we want to get right to work on a contract that protects our rights and improves our working conditions.”
By choosing UFCW Local 1776 today as their bargaining representative, workers at the JBS plant in Souderton will be joining together with 27,000 JBS workers and 250,000 meatpacking and poultry workers across the country who already enjoy the benefits of union representation with the UFCW.
UFCW Local 1776 represents thousands of packinghouse and food processing workers in Pennsylvania at plants such as Empire Kosher Poultry in Mifflintown, Cargill in Hazelton, BC Natural Chicken in Fredericksburg and Citterio USA in Freeland.
For more information or to arrange interviews with workers, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
UFCW Local 1776 represents 24,000 members who work in southeast, northeast and central Pennsylvania, northeast Maryland and southern New York in supermarkets, drug stores, food processing plants, government services, manufacturing facilities, nursing homes, professional offices and Pennsylvania’s Wine and Spirits Shops.
September 14, 2010
Washington, DC—United Food and Commercial Workers Local Union (UFCW) 220* ratified a new contract, yesterday, ending a three-and-a-half-month strike at the Dr Pepper Snapple Group owned Mott’s Plant in Williamson, New York. The new agreement restores wage levels, maintains affordable health care, and continues the pension plan.
The strike became a national symbol for working people struggling to maintain middle class jobs and strong communities, after Dr Pepper Snapple Group imposed a $1.50 per hour wage decrease and other cuts on the workers. UFCW members, along with community and other allies, engaged in nearly 600 actions, including handbilling shoppers at grocery stores across the country in support of Local 220* members. Driven by blogs and social networks, tens of thousands of people joined the cause of the Mott’s strikers, advocating for good jobs with paychecks that pay the bills.
Local 220* members will be back on the job September 20, eager once again to make applesauce and other great products for American families.
September 17, 2009
STATEMENT BY JOE HANSEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERICAL WORKERS UNION, ON ON UNITE HERE AFL-CIO AFFILIATION
“”The UFCW respects the decision by UNITE HERE to return to the AFL-CIO. The disputes involving UNITE HERE and SEIU have been difficult for all concerned. It is my hope that this decision could establish the kind of distance and calm to bring an end to a dispute that has served as a distraction for too long. I believe a resolution is within grasp of the parties, and I’m hopeful that an expeditious and fair settlement can be reached.
“We will continue to work closely with UNITE HERE and all unions in our efforts to advance the cause of working people.”