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January 6, 2005

Sisters of Mercy Health Care Facilities Targeted for Anti-Nurse Agenda

Sisters of Mercy medical facilities throughout the United States will be the target of handbilling by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) in response to the unfair anti-nurse position the Sisters of Mercy have taken in St. Louis, Region 5 Director Al Vincent, Jr. announced today.

Handbilling has begun at nine Sisters of Mercy facilities in eight cities in four states, and will progressively be expanded to more than 200 medical facilities owned and operated by the Sisters of Mercy.

Registered nurses at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, members of UFCW Local 655, have been on strike since December 15, 2004.  At issue are the hospital’s demands to silence nurses’ collective voices about vital patient care issues such as adequate staffing and safe patient assignments.

Recently, St. John’s Mercy Hospital in Washington, Mo., took retribution against a nurse who worked there and at the Medical Center in St. Louis simply because she refused to cross the nurses’ picket line.  Charges have been filed against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board for the illegal retaliation against the Washington nurse.  The Washington hospital is 50 miles from St. Louis.

“St. John’s and all the Sisters of Mercy health care facilities have a reputation of providing high quality care for patients.  Now, we’ve been forced onto the picket line for standing up for those exact principles,” said Colleen Schmitz, RN, a long-time St. John’s nurse and negotiating committee member.

Beginning on January 3, 2005, Sisters of Mercy facilities targeted for handbilling are:

• In Missouri: Springfield, and Joplin;

• In Oklahoma: Ardmore and two medical facilities in Oklahoma City;

• In Arkansas: Fort Smith and Hot Springs;

• In Kansas: Fort Scott and Independence.

On January 3, 2005, UFCW Local 655 notified the Federal Mediation Service (FMCS) that it intends to begin picketing in Washington on January 13.  The union’s handbilling will launch organizing efforts at each of the facilities and detail the anti-nurse agenda the Sisters of Mercy are showing in St. Louis.

“The hospital wants to silence the nurses’ fundamental right to a voice at work — gained under and guaranteed by federal law. This effort to silence its dedicated and professional nurse staff would undermine professional standards. And diminishing professional standards can only lead to compromised patient care,” said UFCW Region 5 Director Al Vincent.

St. John’s registered nurses are members of the Professional Division of UFCW Local 655. Throughout the United States, the UFCW’s Professional Division represents more than 100,000 health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, medical centers, doctor’s offices and health care systems. UFCW Local 655 is the largest union in the State of Missouri.

 

September 2, 2004

Food And Commercial Workers Leader Takes Helm Of Largest Working Women Network In The Country

Phillips Vows to Enhance Organizing Opportunities for Working Women

Long-time labor activist Susan L. Phillips was elected as the fourth National President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) on August 28, 2004.  She succeeds Gloria Johnson, who served as CLUW president since 1993 and was the group’s treasurer since CLUW’s founding in 1974.

Phillips currently directs the Working Women’s Department of the 1.4 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and serves as UFCW International Vice President.  She leads the union’s programs for mobilizing UFCW women and retirees, with major emphasis on organizing and political action.

“Susan Phillips is a dedicated leader for UFCW women and all working families. I am proud that she will share her skills, commitment and vision with union women throughout the labor movement,” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President.  “Under Susan’s leadership, I know that CLUW will make even greater gains for working women across the country,” Hansen continued.

Women are nearly half of the labor movement, and experts predict that in the next 10 years, women will be the largest single force entering the job market.

“Studies show that when women are a majority in a workplace, they are more likely than men to vote to join a union.  That’s why CLUW is needed more than ever,” Phillips observed.

“I will see that CLUW renews its efforts to advance the labor movement’s fundamental goal:  organizing the unorganized.  We will work to provide resources to the labor movement to target women workers for union organizing campaigns, and will vigorously support these campaigns directly and by mobilizing like-minded progressive groups for support,” said Phillips.

Under Phillips’s leadership, CLUW plans to make special efforts to reach out to young women, who are critically important to growing the labor movement.

“Working women have a number of key concerns for themselves and their families, including affordable health care, quality child and elder care, job security, and retirement income,” she said. “CLUW will continue to communicate with its members, other union activists, and working women – both union and nonunion – on these subjects, as well as advocating at all levels of government for progressive policies to improve the lives of  working families.””

“CLUW will build on its solid three-decade foundation of advocacy on behalf of working women to bring new energy to our founding principles:  organizing unorganized workers, increasing women’s participation in their unions, promoting affirmative action in the workplace, and mobilizing for legislative action,” Phillips noted.

“CLUW is a key component of the labor movement’s future.  We will continue to work closely with the other AFL-CIO constituency groups through the Labor Coalition for Community Action to formulate strategies, build alliances, and develop programs to strengthen and build our unions in the months and years ahead.”

Before coming to the UFCW in 1984, Phillips worked as a Legislative Representative for the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department, Public Information Director for the National Consumers League and Legislative Writer for the U.S. House of Representative’s Democratic Study Group.

In addition to CLUW, Phillips currently represents the UFCW on the boards a variety of groups, and has traveled extensively throughout the world speaking on behalf of the U.S. labor movement and teaching communications and leadership development programs to unionists abroad.

The UFCW is the nation’s largest private sector union and represents workers in industries dominated by women workers, such as retail and health care.  More than half of all UFCW members are women and nearly one third are age 25 and under.

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April 2, 2004

Kroger Workers Ready to Hold the Line for Health Care

Background Briefing:

The Facts and Faces Behind the Potential Strike at Kroger
Saturday, April 3, 2004
5:00 p.m.
UFCW Local 455
121 Northpoint Dr., Houston United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

Locals 455 and 408 will provide a background briefing on the issues and individuals that are involved in contract negotiations with Kroger supermarkets in the Houston area. A research analyst will be available with data to show Kroger’s rising market share and healthy financial picture.

The workers and their families will also discuss the issues and the impact that the contract dispute will have on their lives. Health care is a top concern to workers and they are ready to hold the line against draconian company demands for cuts to health benefits.

The company’s latest proposal does not, in fact, offer improvements to workers’ health plan but would take away health coverage for 40% of the workforce. Experts will share more details about the health care plan and the impact on workers. The UFCW and Kroger continue to negotiate.

The contract covering 11,000 Kroger employees expires Saturday at midnight. Workers will be voting on the company’s proposal at two meetings at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

November 21, 2003

California Supermarket Strike hits local Safeway stores

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR NOVEMBER 22, 2003

CALIFORNIA SUPERMARKET STRIKE HITS LOCAL SAFEWAY STORES

National Picket Lines to Hit Washington Area Safeway Stores this Weekend

70,000 Supermarket Workers on Strike for Affordable Health Benefits

Directions

Safeway shoppers in the Washington area will likely see picket lines at their local stores this weekend. After six weeks on the streets, Southern California supermarket workers are taking their fight across the country. From the San Francisco Bay to the Chesapeake, Safeway shoppers will be confronted by striking UFCW members asking them: Do Not Shop Safeway.

Local labor, religious and community leaders, joined by hundreds of striking and supporting union members, will launch the local campaign at noon on Saturday, November 22, at the Safeway store at 6500 Piney Branch Road NW in Washington, DC. More than 200 striking UFCW members from California will be joined by workers from West Virginia, acting in support, will blanket Safeway stores in Washington, D.C. and Maryland and ask customers to take their grocery business to a more responsible employer.

More than 70,000 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) members in Southern California have been on strike against Vons, owned by Safeway, Albertsons and Ralphs, owned by Kroger, for six weeks. 4,000 Kroger workers in West Virginia have been holding the line for affordable health care at work against the Safeway-led charge to destroy health benefits for workers and their families.

Southern California strikers have extended picket lines to Safeway stores in the San Francisco Bay area and throughout Northern California. The DC-area extension is the latest push to educate consumers about Safeway’s anti-worker agenda.

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WHO: Striking supermarket workers, national and local labor leaders, religious and community leaders.

WHAT: Hold the Line for Health Care – Pickets Hit Local Safeway Stores

WHEN: 12:00 noon, Saturday, November 22, 2003

WHERE: Safeway, 6500 Piney Branch Road, NW, Washington, DC

Directions

November 17, 2003

Southern California Supermarket Workers Extend Picket Lines to Fresno

Press Materials (pdf)

After five weeks on strike, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union are extending picket lines to Fresno Safeway stores. Picket lines are now up at Safeway in San Francisco, Oakland, Castro Valley and Hayward. Strikers are holding the line across the state of California to send a clear message to Safeway—we will not let giant corporations eliminate health care.

Picket lines will go up at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 16, at the Safeway at 5638 E. King’s Canyon in Fresno. The striking workers are asking customers to support them in the fight to save affordable health care by choosing to shop elsewhere. Southern California workers will be available for interviews and photographs.

The extension of picket lines to Northern California Safeway stores is the first phase of the nationalization of the grocery strike. The fight to protect health benefits from complete elimination goes beyond Southern California—workers are standing together across the state, and across the country, to hold the line for affordable health care. Picket lines in Northern California have been met with great support from customers.

More than 70,000 UFCW members in Southern California have been on strike since October 11th. Workers in Northern California supermarkets will be bargaining with Safeway, Albertson’s and other employers next year and are preparing to face similar demands for cuts to health care.

WHO: Southern California striking workers

WHAT: Extension of picket lines to Fresno Safeway stores

WHEN: Sunday, November 16, 2003 at 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Safeway, 5638 E. King’s Canyon, Fresno

November 7, 2003

Supermarket Strike Spreads as Picket Lines Begin Move to Northern California Safeway Stores

November The street fight for affordable health care is about to get bigger as striking Southern California supermarket workers bring their picket lines to Northern California Safeway stores. In advance of the picket lines, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today launched an air campaign with a multi-station radio ad campaign with one spot that targets Safeway CEO Steve Burd’s stock sales immediately prior to the onset of the strike. According to the ad, Burd dumped about $20 million worth of stock before the strike. Safeway stock prices have plummeted since the dispute began. Other ads feature a working mom and a child of a striking worker asking shoppers not to patronize Safeway.

Picket lines will go up at selected Northern California Safeway stores in the next several days and will continue indefinitely. UFCW members working in those stores will continue on the job according to their contracts, but pickets will ask customers to honor the line and to shop elsewhere. The Northern California action is the first step in the nationalization of the supermarket strike. UFCW International President Doug Dority announced last week that he would authorize the extension of picket lines across the country. Following the Dority announcement, newspaper ads featuring strikers and the health care issue appeared in Washington, Baltimore, Denver, Seattle and Northern California. A separate ad on CEO Steve Burd’s management record ran in the Wall Street Journal.

UFCW members are bargaining with Safeway, Kroger and Albertson’s in Arizona, Indiana, Oregon and Tennessee and are preparing for possible walk-outs.

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Copies of the radio commericals are attached:

COMMERCIAL #1

As working moms, we have to make sure our kids have the health care they need when they need it. As Safeway employees, we sacrificed wage increases so our kids could have good medical coverage. Now, this giant corporation wants to slash our health care—not because the company isn’t making a profit—it just wants more. I’m Lucy Medler a 20 year Safeway-Von’s employee and a working mom. I’m asking you from my family to yours, please don’t shop Safeway.

A message from the working men and women of the UFCW – we’re holding the line for health care for all working families.

COMMERCIAL #2

First, Safeway’s CEO Steve Burd sold about $20 million worth of company stock. Then, he forced me and 70,000 other workers onto the streets to save our families’ health benefits. We’re out of work— shoppers have been inconvenienced— and Safeway stock prices have taken a nose dive— but— Steve Burd is looking out for himself. It’s time to turn the tables— I’m Kathy Shafer a 28-year Safeway Vons employee. Send Steve Burd a message–please don’t shop Safeway when you see our picket lines.

A message from the working men and women of the UFCW – we’re holding the line for health care for all working families.

COMMERCIAL #3

It’s just me and my mom at home now. We do great on our own but we need to be able to go to the doctor or buy medicine when we’re sick. My mom’s company Safeway makes money year after year but I guess it’s just not enough. Now they want to take my health care away. My name is James and Safeway forced my mom to strike for me. Please help us keep health care. Don’t shop at Safeway while we’re on strike.

A message from the working men and women of the UFCW – we’re holding the line for health care for all working families.

October 28, 2003

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Union Presidents, National, Consumer, Civil Rights, Religious, and Women’s Community Leaders Will Announce Actions to Support Striking Grocery Workers

Sweeney to be Joined by UFCW President Doug Dority, SEIU President Andrew Stern, IAM President Thomas Buffenbarger, NOW President Kim Gandy

Across the country, from Southern California to West Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio, almost 90,000 supermarket workers are on strike, fighting to save affordable health care for their families and all of America’s workers.   Under the banner of “Hold the Line for America’s Health Care,” AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and UFCW President Doug Dority will be joined by other union leaders, as well as national leaders from consumer, civil rights, religious, and women’s groups to show their commitment and support for the striking workers.  Several of the strikers will be also be available. Sweeney and the other labor leaders will announce a major initiative to support the striking workers, including nationwide financial support.

WHO:

  • AFL-CIO President John Sweeney
  • Douglas Dority, President, United Food and Commercial Workers, UFCW
  • Andrew Stern, President, Service Employees International Union, SEIU
  • Thomas Buffenbarger, President, International Association of Machinists, IAM
  • Kim Gandy, President of National Organization for Women, NOW
  • Leaders from religious groups, health policy, women’s, and community leaders
  • Striking grocery workers from Southern California

WHAT: For the past two weeks, workers have held the line for America’s health care against managements’ proposed cuts that would make health insurance unaffordable and unattainable for grocery workers.  Press conference in support of striking grocery workers. Slide presentation of the health care proposals at the heart of disputes.  Announcement of AFL-CIO strike fund.

WHEN: Thursday, October 30, 2003, 1:00 PM EST

WHERE: AFL-CIO, President’s Room, 815 16th St. NW, Washington, DC.

(A call-in number will be available for out-of-town reporters. Call Sarah Massey at 202-637-5018.)

September 25, 2003

Immigrant Workers Stand Up for a Voice on the Job

 On the eve of the historic national Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride arriving in Omaha, a group of 250 mostly immigrant workers at the Casa de Oro plant stood up for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 271.  In an election Tuesday, September 23, 2003, workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of UFCW representation.
 “”Workers communicate in at least four languages—English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Bosnian—but spoke with one unified voice yesterday when they stood up for more secure benefits, improved safety at the plant, and the respect and dignity that come with union representation,”” said Donna McDonald, President of UFCW Local 271.
 Casa de Oro, owned by ConAgra, waged a strong anti-union campaign in an attempt to intimidate workers from standing up for the UFCW.  Workers overcame the fear tactics by connecting with UFCW Local 271 members from nearby meat packing plants meeting who met with workers in their homes to share their experiences.
 The UFCW Local 271 has worked closely with Omaha Together, One Community (OTOC) to build community support for worker organizing efforts—a partnership that has led to organization and a union contract to immigrant workers three Omaha area plants.
 UFCW contracts for immigrant workers have produced tangible improvements in workers’ lives including wage increases and affordable, family health insurance.  Union contracts also:
>  protect immigrant workers from unfair firings;
>  protect workers from discrimination based immigration status; and
>  provide workers with representation and impartial arbitration to protect their rights.
 The contracts also establish multi-cultural funds that provide resources for programs such as safety training in Spanish and English as a second language classes.
 The Casa de Oro workers with their union, UFCW Local 271, are looking forward to sitting down with management and working toward a contract as soon as possible.
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August 20, 2003

Organizing Movement Grows Among Wal-Mart Workers

Worker efforts to get a voice on the job at Wal-Mart stores in North America are gaining ground. Canadian Wal-Mart workers in Thompson, Manitoba, narrowly lost their efforts to get a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) – 61 to 54. The election signals a growing movement of workers ready to stand up for a better future at Wal-Mart.

The Thompson, Manitoba, vote was the first opportunity for an entire store of Wal-Mart workers to vote as a group. Several recent union elections at U.S. Wal-Mart stores have been blocked by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) due to Wal- Mart’s illegal actions to intimidate workers and suppress their efforts to get UFCW representation.

Wal-Mart used its union busting campaign in Manitoba like it has in stores across the United States – pulling out all the stops to harass, intimidate and threaten workers from exercising their fundamental democratic freedom to choose union representation. Time and time again, Wal-Mart has thumbed its nose at federal law and used illegal tactics to suppress workers’ voices – threatening to close the store, harassing union supporters, spying on worker activities or firing union supporters.

Last Saturday, Wal-Mart fired night stocker Kelvin Blackman after he appeared at a NLRB hearing about holding a union election at his Clinton, Maryland Wal-Mart store. UFCW Local 400 filed charges and Blackman’s co-workers stood behind him. Wal-Mart felt the pressure from its workers and reinstated Blackman less than 48 hours later. Wal-Mart are seeing that they aren’t alone, that they have the support of their communities and that when they stand together they can win.

Despite Wal-Mart’s scare tactics, the Manitoba workers showed real courage and demonstrated that workers across the U.S. and Canada are gaining the strength to stand up and take action for better wages, benefits and working conditions at the world’s biggest corporation.

“”The Manitoba vote shows that around the globe…in the U.S., Canada, Germany, whereever Wal-Mart operates…workers need and want a union voice to make the company live up to its promises of good wages and great working conditions,”” said Mike Leonard, UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Strategic Programs. “”Thsi is a movement that can’t be stopped. There will be more union elections at Wal-Mart and workers are going to win.””

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August 5, 2003

Las Vegas Wal-Mart Worker to Share Spotlight with Presidential Candidates

(Las Vegas) – Wal-Mart underestimated Larry Allen when it fired him last Friday in retaliation for his union activity. Tonight, Mr. Allen has the ear of key Democratic Presidential candidates following the AFL-CIO’s national working families Democratic presidential forum in Chicago.

Allen is joining thousands of union members on Tuesday, August 5th from 8:00-9:30 p.m. E.T. at Chicago’s Navy Pier where the candidates are responding to questions posed by workers. C-Span will broadcast the forum.

Allen is a produce clerk at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at Eastern & Serene in Henderson, Nevada. He began work there in May, 2002, and got involved in the effort to organize for a voice on the job in September.

Allen took two vacation days to attend United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Convention in San Francisco and participate in a presidential health care forum on August 1, 2003 with five Democratic presidential candidates who were critical of Wal-Mart’s inadequate health insurance. Allen spoke with reporters before the forum to give a background perspective the health care crisis.

When Allen returned to work on Friday, he was summarily fired on the pretext that he violated the company’s no-solicitation policy. He was fired “”pending investigation.”” Wal-Mart’s own policy requires a complete investigation before an employee is terminated. Wal-Mart’s labor relations’ policy dictates that no personnel action can be taken in a store with union activity without approval and involvement of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based labor relations “”people”” division.

He has always been a reliable, hard-working employee who received a good evaluation in April. His only brushes with discipline came when he confronted a co-worker who he believed was sexually harassing his wife — Allen told him to “”knock it off.”” Allen was written up. A couple months ago, a manager took him aside and told him that he really shouldn’t be passing out union cards in the break room. But federal law and Wal-Mart’s store policy protects workers from retaliation from union activity in “”non-work areas”” including break rooms.

Before his wife got a job in a union supermarket and became eligible for health insurance through her employer, Allen went without. He worked full-time at Wal-Mart but couldn’t afford to buy the company’s health plan. In January, 2003, Allen started feeling odd and sought treatment at an emergency clinic. He was in the beginning stages of having a stroke and was treated in the Intensive Care unit for five days. Health care workers saved his life, even though he couldn’t pay for their services. Luckily, he had a full recovery and suffers no effect from the stroke. He takes prescription medicine now to help prevent another incidence – medicine that would cost him more than $300 per month. Thanks to his wife’s employer-provided health insurance, he pays a small fraction of that bill $8.00. He will spend the rest of his life trying to pay back the more than $30,000 he owes to the hospital.

Wal-Mart workers in Las Vegas and across the country are standing up for a voice on the job with the UFCW. The Las Vegas workers have set up their own website — www.walmartworkerslv.com