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    Organizing

April 23, 2009

THOUSANDS OF WALMART WORKERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY UNITE TO CALL FOR A VOICE IN THE WORKPLACE

Washington, DC – Walmart Workers for Change, a new campaign of thousands of Walmart’s 1.3 million associates across the country who are standing up and demanding a voice in the workplace, today released a new video that highlights the sorts of anti-worker tactics they are facing from the world’s largest retailer.

“The associates are afraid,” said Cynthia Murray, a Walmart associate in Laurel, Maryland.  “They’re intimidated, and they are afraid.  My family and other families have paid the price for freedom.  And when you tell me I can’t talk about a union, you’re taking my freedom from me.”

Workers in more than 100 stores in 15 states across the country have joined together and signed union representation cards, citing a lack of respect from the company, as well as poverty-level wages and sub-par benefits as reasons they need a union voice on the job.

Despite Walmart’s long and well-documented history of anti-worker activities, associates say they are emboldened by the election of Barack Obama and the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress.

The campaign comes at a time when workers find their wages have stagnated, even as Walmart and the Walton family continue to make record profits.  Walmart’s recently released 2009 10K shows the company made $13.4 billion in profits last year.

“Walmart’s slogan is ‘Save Money, Live Better,’” said Vikki Gill, a former Walmart manager in St. Louis, Missouri.  “Walmart is saving money and living better at the associates’ expense.”

In the new video, which can be viewed at http://www.walmartworkersforchange.org/index.php/pages/articles/walmarts_war_on_workers, 10 workers from coast to coast detail the company’s response to their organizing efforts.  Dominique Sloane and Mark Moore, of Dallas, Texas, were told that their store would be closed if workers voted to organize.  In Miami, Florida, Cheryl Guzman was interrogated by a manager about who among her colleagues supported a union. Linda Haluska, of Glendale, Illinois, was called into four mandatory meetings in one week, where she and her colleagues were shown anti-union, anti-Employee Free Choice videos.

“Since we’ve started talking union, the company has been holding meetings, they’ve flown people in,” said Sloan.  “They’ve even mentioned as far as with the union, there’s a possibility that stores may close.”

Walmart Workers for Change is a new campaign made up of thousands of Walmart workers joining together to form a union and negotiate better benefits, higher wages, and more opportunity for a better future.

The campaign is a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), America’s neighborhood union.  The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers nationwide, with nearly one million working in the supermarket industry. Many of UFCW members also work at national retail stores such as Bloomingdales, Macys, H&M, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Saks Fifth Avenue, RiteAid, CVS, and Syms.

March 24, 2009

UFCW WORKERS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY URGE CONGRESS TO PASS EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT

WASHINGTON, DC – UFCW members from across the country visited the halls of Congress today to speak with their elected officials and to urge passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. The workers, who have tried to join the UFCW, came to Washington to share their stories about forming a union in the workplace and to urge their elected representatives in Congress to make the passage of Employee Free Choice a priority.

The action comes on the heels of the introduction earlier this month of the legislation in both the Senate and the House.

“I believe that if Congress really cares about fixing the economy and rebuilding the middle class, it should pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” said James Satler, a former Fresh & Easy grocery worker from California. “The economy should work for everyone, not just CEOs.” Satler was fired for attempting to organize a union at his workplace.

Despite having majority support at work, Darlene Bruzio and her co-workers at Giant Eagle in Pennsylvania lost their union election because of employer interference. “When you have more than 80% support for joining a union, like we did at my store, and still lose an election, you know that the system is broken,” Bruzio said. “Members of Congress should stop the corporations that are gaming the system by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.”

While most workers’ stories heard in Congress today highlight the intimidation and harassment workers face when trying to form a union, Armando Martinez, a Hormel Foods worker from Nebraska, shared a positive experience of getting a voice on the job without intimidation. “I know that having a union makes the difference because I have worked in places where employees are threatened when they try to get a voice on the job,” Martinez said. “When I started working at the Hormel Foods plant in Freemont, the UFCW already represented the workers. All I needed to do was sign up to show I wanted to join the union—all without any intimidation or harassment from the company.”

Sixty million workers say they would join a union if they could. With Employee Free Choice, workers, not employers, will decide how to form a union. Workers will have the option of majority sign up in addition to a secret ballot election. The Free Choice legislation will establish meaningful penalties for employers who break the law and harass or fire workers for wanting a union. Finally, Employee Free Choice will ensure that workers gain a first contract through a provision that calls for binding arbitration if workers and management cannot reach an agreement within 120 days.

Photos of today’s event are available. Media inquiries should be directed to press@ufcw.org.

March 10, 2009

UFCW Statement on the Introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act

(Washington, D.C.) – It is time for leadership.  With a faltering economy and millions of hardworking families struggling to make ends meet, only strong leadership can end thirty years of wage stagnation and renew the American Dream for America’s workers.  The Employee Free Choice Act would kick start the engine of America’s middle class.

The introduction of the Free Choice legislation today gives Congress the opportunity to show American workers that they are willing to stand up for real change for working families and shape a brighter future for our children and our grandchildren.

1.3 million UFCW members and their families are counting on their Senators and Congresspersons to show leadership and support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Without the Employee Free Choice Act, workers will continue to fight a one-sided, losing battle to exercise their legal rights at work.  The recent stimulus package was a necessary first step in the right direction.  But if our country is to have a sound and sustainable economy, we must fully renew the opportunity for workers to achieve the American Dream.  Union membership is the engine of a middle-class economy.

UFCW members and working families across the nation are standing firmly in support of this legislation.  We will not let corporate America drown out reasonable debate on this issue with lies and exaggerations about the process by which workers can choose a union.

We will not let Congress forget why corporate America is spending millions of dollars on ads and lobbyists.   Companies like Wal-Mart are profiting from our economic downturn while thousands of Wal-Mart workers try to stay afloat with part-time incomes, unaffordable health care and questionable job security.   Severe income inequality is destroying the American Dream and today we stand united to say it’s time to level the playing field for American workers.

UFCW members will continue to make our voices heard so that every worker can freely choose to join a union to improve their lives, without intimidation, harassment or fear.

December 11, 2008

WORKERS AT THE WORLD

Tar Heel, N.C. – Workers at Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, North Carolina, chose union representation with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).  Workers voted 2041 to 1879 for a voice on the job.

“When workers have a fair process, they choose a voice on the job,” said UFCW Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill. “This is a great victory for the Tar Heel workers. I know they are looking forward to sitting down at the bargaining table with Smithfield to negotiate a contract. The UFCW has constructive union contracts with Smithfield plants around the country. Those union contracts benefit workers, the company and the community. We believe the workers here in Tar Heel can achieve a similar agreement.”

Ronnie Ann Simmons, a veteran of 13 years at the plant said, “We are thrilled. This moment has been a long time coming. We stuck together, and now we have a say on the job.”

Workers at 26 Smithfield-owned facilities around the country already have UFCW representation.

November 20, 2008

HYRUM JBS/SWIFT WORKERS STAND UP FOR VOICE ON THE JOB

Hyrum, Utah – More than 1,100 workers gained union representation with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 711 yesterday at the JBS/Swift beef plant (known locally as the E. A. Miller plant) in Hyrum, Utah, after voting overwhelmingly for a voice on the job.

“We stood together for a better future for our families,” said Isaias Lopez, a 22-year veteran of the plant. “That was the first step. Now, we can work on a first contract that brings greater opportunity to our workplace.”

The Hyrum plant has been in operation for over seventy years and became part of the JBS family with their acquisition of Swift meatpacking almost two years ago. It had been the only JBS/Swift plant in the United States that did not have union representation.

“This victory means we’ll have a voice at work,” said plant worker Adalberto Soto. We voted ‘UFCW Yes.’ It was an easy decision, and it was the right decision for our families and our future.”

“When we sit down with management to negotiate that first contract,” continued Soto, “We won’t sit down alone. We’ll stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our ten thousand brothers and sisters at all the JBS/Swift plants across the country, and with all workers in the packing and processing industry. The more workers who unite in our industry—the   more powerful we are to make better lives for our families.”

Yesterday’s result of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election was a culmination of a worker-led campaign designed to give these men and women a stronger voice on the job and more opportunity for their families.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the Hyrum workers,” said Max Aldama, a member of UFCW Local 1149 and an employee at JBS/Swift’s Marshalltown, Iowa plant who assisted workers in organizing their Hyrum plant. “JBS/Swift has always been willing to work honestly and openly with us in Marshalltown, and I know they’ll live up to the high standards they have always set and kept for themselves.”

November 10, 2008

PriceRite Workers and Grocery Workers

Providence, R.I.—On November 7, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), grocery workers and community members gathered at the Providence PriceRite store on 325 Valley St to reach out to shoppers. Workers handed out flyers to customers and talked to them about the need for good union jobs, especially in this troubled economy.

PriceRite is owned by Wakefern–the same company that owns and/or supplies ShopRite stores in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey, where the vast majority of workers have a union. Those ShopRite workers say their union, the UFCW, gives them benefits like good wages, quality, affordable health care, and respect on the job–the kind of benefits that make grocery jobs the good, middle-class jobs that strengthen communities.

PriceRite stores are primarily located in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Workers in these states also began reaching out to customers today. PriceRite workers say they are not being allowed the same freedom to choose a union–without company interference.

“”I’ve seen PriceRite run all over immigrant workers and disrespect them in lots of ways,”” said PriceRite worker Charles Heirsch. “”That’s not good for workers or families here in Providence.””

“”It’s just unfair,”” said Ronnie Cabral, Jr., a PriceRite employee. “We need the union here, too, so we can get better pay and health care, and job security.””

A majority of PriceRite workers are part-time, and are not eligible for health care. When workers can’t get health care, it means more uninsured families in Providence–and taxpayers footing the bills for government health care. PriceRite workers are reaching out to community members to help make their employer understand: in this troubled economy, the last thing Providence needs is dead-end, low-paying jobs that don’t provide health care coverage.

“”We’re not just workers–we’re a part of the community,”” says Heirsch. “”If we can improve jobs at PriceRite, it will help working families and make our middle class stronger. That’s why we need a union at PriceRite.””

July 19, 2008

CASE FARMS POULTRY WORKERS FORCED TO WITHHOLD THEIR LABOR

(Winesburg, Ohio) More than one hundred frustrated poultry workers walked off the job at Case Farms poultry plant yesterday in a fight for living wages and respect on the job. Over a year ago these same workers chose United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 880 to be their voice on the job and to bargain a fair and living wage for them.
After months of hard bargaining and despite the best efforts of a Federal Mediator, Case Farms refused to budge from its tiny economic offer that would pay them less than their non-union counterparts in North Carolina who do the same work.  Faced with this unreasonable and unfair position, the workers voted overwhelmingly (294-12) to reject the offer and to withhold their labor.
Despite this clear message, the company continued to stonewall in negotiations. A privately owned company, Case Farms has decided to make non-union status and profits for owner more important than paying a fair and living wage to its Winesburg workers. After the company committed numerous alleged unfair labor practices, the workers decided that they were left with no choice, that the company had no interest in treating them fairly, and that the only thing they could do was withhold their labor until the company decided to be fair to them.
Chicken is the number one meat product in the U.S. yet Case Farms is paying its dedicated workforce a paltry $8.10 per hour, on average, which translates into an annual income of $16,000 — 20% below the federal poverty level for a family of four.
Poultry processing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. The dangerous conditions faced by workers in the poultry industry have been documented by academics, the media and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Poultry workers typically perform physically demanding, repetitive work, during which they stand for long periods of time at fast moving production lines while using ultra-sharp knives and scissors. Working in extreme temperatures they often make up to 40,000 repetitive cutting motions per shift.
In addition to the plant in Winesburg, OH, Case Farms operates poultry plants in Morganton and Goldsboro North Carolina. Case has a history of forcing workers to withhold their labor in order to achieve fair treatment by management.
The UFCW International Union represents more than 1.3 million members in the U.S. and Canada, including 250,000 workers in the poultry and meatpacking industries. UFCW Local 880 represents more than 22,000 workers across Northern Ohio including supermarket workers and food processing workers.
March 27, 2008

SUPERMARKET WORKERS NATIONWIDE MOBILIZE FOR GOOD JOBS AND AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Grocery workers are standing up to protect good jobs with affordable health care at supermarkets across the country today. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union in multiple cities are outside of major supermarkets communicating with customers in support of the 26,000 Safeway and Ahold workers in Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., who may be forced on strike because the companies refuse to offer a fair contract that reflects their success.

Supermarket giants Safeway and Ahold, owner of Giant Foods in the metro Washington, D.C. area, are refusing to provide access to affordable health care and living wages their employees have earned. This race to the bottom hurts communities who often have to bear the impact from greedy corporations that force hard-working families onto social services for basic needs.

Workers are taking action and reaching out to customers at Safeway and Ahold-owned stores coast-to-coast today, from Southern California and the Puget Sound to Chicago and along the East Coast.

UFCW members at Safeway-owned stores, Dominick’s and Genuardi’s, and Ahold-owned Stop & Shop stores are concerned about the companies’ bargaining agenda and how it could hurt the industry.

“Safeway and the other big grocery chains already reached agreements with workers in other parts of the country that provide affordable health care and decent wages.  It’s really important that these companies treat all of its employees fairly,” says Melissa Champion, UFCW Local 21 member and Seattle Safeway employee.

Caitlin Lawson, UFCW Local 328, works at Ahold-owned Stop & Shop in Massachusetts.  She said, “When we were fighting for health care and decent wages for part-timers, the workers in Baltimore and Washington took a stand with us.  Now I’m proud to let my company know that I’m still in this fight for a fair contract for all supermarket workers.”

The contract covering workers in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore expires on March 29, 2008.  Over the past 18 months, UFCW members have mobilized in unified actions to support supermarket bargaining.  The central website, www.groceryworkersunited.com, has been a focal point for solidarity actions and coast-to-coast UFCW member solidarity.

Just this week, a grocery worker from Chicago posted a message to UFCW members on the East Coast encouraging solidarity.  Jeff, a UFCW Local 1546 member, wrote, “Remember you are fighting not only for your contract talks, but for the rest of them across the nation. We will be watching here in Chicago because we will be starting grocery talks with Safeway near the end of the year.”

The actions today are the latest steps in the national unity bargaining movement among UFCW members working in the grocery industry.   The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, with nearly one million in the grocery industry.

January 17, 2008

COLORADO PREMIUM WORKERS VOTE

Greeley, CO—Meatpacking workers at Colorado Premium stood strong against employer intimidation to vote in favor of representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 on Wednesday, January 16, 2008.

Colorado Premium workers were dedicated to seeking a union to address basic worker needs on the job—protection from dangerously fast line speeds and access to bathroom breaks.  The results of the first election held on December 7, 2007 were thrown out for unlawful employer conduct. NLRB charges were then filed against Colorado Premium after the company intimidated union supporters and offered raises and other bribes to workers who voted against joining the union.

According to American Rights at Work, union elections are marred by a huge number of illegal actions nationwide. Because the penalties for violating the NLRA are so weak, employers have little incentive to avoid illegal tactics if they will succeed in intimidating workers into abandoning the union effort.

“”The Colorado Premium workers struggled for a voice on the job. Their victory did not come easy. This second election is remarkable considering how difficult it is for workers to organize in the face of employer intimidation,”” said Kevin Williamson, UFCW International Vice President and Director, Region 6.

July 18, 2007

UFCW MEMBERS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REACH TENTATIVE AGREEMENT WITH NATIONAL GROCERS

Community-Worker Solidarity, Regional And National Support Win The Fight For Quality, Affordable Health Care And A Living Wage For All Workers

Washington, DC—Last night, over 60,000 grocery workers in Southern California represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reached a tentative agreement with the country’s largest supermarkets: Kroger, Safeway, and Supervalu.

Details of the contract will be available Monday after workers vote on whether to ratify the agreement on Sunday, July 22.

Southern California UFCW members had the support of community and religious leaders, shoppers, sister unions and UFCW members nationwide throughout the six months of negotiations in their effort to gain improved health care coverage and fair wages.

“This contract goes a long way in maintaining good jobs with health care, wages that pay the bills, and a loyal productive workforce in the grocery industry that is good for workers, communities, and businesses,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.

Throughout the negotiations process, UFCW members demonstrated solidarity and strength in bargaining for a fair contract. Seven UFCW locals in Southern California all worked together in bargaining and coordinating campaign actions and strategies.

Coordinated action with supporters and customers played a pivotal role in gaining a positive settlement. Union members, community members, religious groups, grocery workers, and supporters knocked on thousands of doors, handed out flyers, sent emails and letters of support, wrote editorials, attended rallies and marches, spoke out in churches, and signed pledge cards supporting UFCW members.

The coordinated effort in Southern California is part of a UFCW nationwide unity bargaining program. By supporting each other regionally and nationally, as well as engaging customers and community members in their struggle, grocery workers are improving grocery industry jobs for themselves and their communities.

To learn more about other bargaining campaigns, go to: www.groceryworkersunited.org.