News and Updates
October 20, 2005
UFCW Canada Press Release — The national director of the union on strike at a Tyson Food’s plant (Lakeside Packers) in Brooks, Alberta, Canada has stepped up his call for Prime Minister Paul Martin to facilitate a resolution “”before someone gets killed””, in the wake of three picketers and the union’s local president all being hospitalized after being attacked by Tyson company personnel.
|Click here to watch live video taken at the scene of the car accident.|
“”On Thursday three picketers ended up in hospital after they were viciously outnumbered and beaten by Lakeside managers,”” recounted Michael J. Fraser, the national director of UFCW Canada, “”and now they attempt to murder the President of the local union by ramming his car off the road.””
“”Premier Klein has said he’s not prepared to intervene. Then let Prime Minister Martin show leadership and use his power to facilitate a resolution. Tyson’s Lakeside Packers is a federally licensed and inspected plant. Tyson’s tactics have created an explosive situation. This is not the Wild West or the Old South. Assault and attempted murder are not acceptable bargaining tactics.””
It is the second time this week Fraser has called on the Prime Minister to get involved. Fraser made his latest comments while enroute to Alberta where yesterday Doug O’Halloran, the president of UFCW Local 401, was chased and forced off the road by cars driven by Lakeside Packers management personnel.
O’Halloran is now listed in guarded condition.
Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, the owners of Lakeside Packers, forced the strike after rejecting a settlement drafted by a mediator appointed by the Alberta government to facilitate a first-contract agreement.
September 14, 2005
Morristown, Tenn. – The 700 workers at the Koch Foods poultry processing plant now have a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1995. Workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of union representation during the vote on Friday, September 9, 2005 with 465 yes votes, 18 no, 12 voided ballots and 10 challenged by the Labor Board.
This is victory for the Koch Foods workers, but also the entire Morristown community. Workers reached out and gathered support from area churches, congregations and other community groups. The company agreed to remain neutral throughout the union campaign – which allowed for workers to vote in an environment free from intimidation or harassment.
“Workers, the community and the company are now working together to make a better workplace and a better life for the 700 families at Koch Foods. When workers came together to demand better wages and working conditions, management responded positively. This process has been a positive situation for everyone,” said Bill McDonough, UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing.
The union drive at Koch Foods was the subject of a New York Times article on September 6, 2005 highlighting a resurgence of union activity among poultry plants in the South. Poultry workers at the Gold Kist plant in Russellville, Alabama continue to organize.
UFCW is the nation’s leading poultry worker organization with more than 60,000 of its 1.4 million members working in the poultry industry.
July 29, 2005
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), its local unions and its officers are committed to rebuilding worker power. We have undertaken the process to restructure and revitalize our union to meet the needs of our current and future members. For our union to succeed on behalf of our members, we must be part of a revitalized and dynamic labor movement that connects with a new generation of workers struggling in the 21st century’s global economy.
We are building on a tradition and record of success. The U.S. labor movement has brought unprecedented prosperity, broad-based political democracy, human rights and legal protections to workers and their families. The labor movement changed the world, and transformed the living standards of working families. Both the AFL and the CIO played critical roles in the success of the labor movement in bringing economic security to workers. The merged AFL-CIO was a product of that success.
Now, the world has changed, and workers’ rights and living standards are under attack. Tradition and past success are not sufficient to meet the new challenges. We, as a movement, now must change to meet the challenges confronting workers. We have an historic opportunity and obligation to organize and lead a new movement for the 21st century.
The UFCW, along with the other unions of the Change to Win Coalition, has a vision and strategy for the future. The Change Coalition prepared and presented to the AFL-CIO a comprehensive reform proposal for change. At the core of our proposal for change is the redirection of resources to rebuild worker power through strategic organizing to increase the number of unionized workers within an industry or occupation. Engaged and organized union workers in an industry constitute the foundation of worker power.
The dynamics of the new economy demand industry-wide organizing and coordinated bargaining to improve living standards, ensure affordable health care and renew respect for work and workers. Solidarity means workers in an industry standing together in their union, and supporting all other workers in their industry.
We believe in worker solidarity, and in organizing to build worker power through solidarity. On this core issue— redirecting resources to organize industry-wide for worker power— there is a fundamental difference between the Change Coalition and the AFL-CIO. We believe international and local unions are best positioned to succeed in organizing.
The UFCW and the Change Coalition unions are rapidly moving forward to develop a national organizing, bargaining and political program based on our vision and strategy for the future.
We believe workers will organize, if there is an opportunity and a strategy for them to win. Workers cannot wait for a change in the political or corporate climate to organize. In fact, the current hostile political and corporate climate is the result of a failure to organize. Organizing workers changes everything.
We believe in coordinated, strategic bargaining that mobilizes the strength of all union members in an industry around common contract goals. Workers bargaining in isolation from one another dilutes their power and divides their strength.
We believe that we must have a strong and vibrant political program connected to the needs, concerns and goals of workers, irrespective of political parties and labels. We must ensure that we are the voice of workers to politicians and elected officials– and, not the voice of politicians or any political party to workers. Politicians will find that as we grow our labor movement, we will also grow our political power.
The UFCW, in order to pursue the most effective course of action for its members and all workers in its core industries, is terminating its affiliation with the AFL-CIO effective immediately.
While our affiliation ends, our commitment to work with the AFL-CIO and unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO on issues and programs where we share common goals remains unchanged. I believe our movement is united in our basic principles and values, even if we pursue different strategies. The UFCW and its local unions will continue to fund and work with state and local federations in politics and lobbying, and for mutual support of worker struggles.
I ask you and other AFL-CIO unions to reject efforts to build barriers within our movement, and to work in cooperation with Change Coalition unions in the myriad areas where we share common goals. We can build our movement, and again change the world to bring prosperity and well-being to workers here and around the world.
July 24, 2005
Seven hundred and fifty workers at two Koch’s Foods poultry processing units in Morristown, Tennessee have filed a petition for a union election to be conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Workers at the Morristown plant approached the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1995, seeking a voice on the job. Workers have been organizing at the plant for the past month. A majority of workers at the two units have signed UFCW union authorization cards.
“UFCW currently represents Koch’s Foods workers at two plants in Mississippi,” said George J. Saleeby, International Vice President and Director of UFCW Region 3. “Koch’s workers in the Morton and Forest plants are able to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions. The workers in Morristown came to us because they also want a voice on the job.””
The U.S. government requires workers and the union of their choice to have at least 30% of their co-workers sign union authorization cards in order to file for a NLRB election. During an election, eligible workers at the location vote for or against the petitioning union. When a union is voted in by 50% plus one person, both the company and union sit down to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract for the workers and to improve workplace conditions.
June 15, 2005
Statement of Joe Hansen, International President, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
WASHINGTON — The following is a statement by Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, at the ‘Change To Win’ Coalition meeting:
Yesterday, the International Executive Board of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) unanimously endorsed a reform proposal to restructure the AFL- CIO, and to revitalize the labor movement.
Today, we join with some of the largest and most dynamic unions in the labor movement in a coalition for change.
These actions reflect the UFCW’s commitment to build a 21st century labor movement that can bring hope, and a plan of action for a better life, to a new generation of workers. We recognize that today’s realities-a new global economy, unrestrained corporate power, hostile government-present a formidable challenge to our movement. But, we must always remember that from our greatest challenges come our greatest accomplishments.
Labor in the 20th century stood at its lowest point in the 1930s. But, at our lowest point, we also stood on the verge of our greatest growth, our greatest strength and our greatest impact on the economy and society. From the depths of economic depression in 1935, we rose, within 20 years, to our largest percentage of the workforce, and we created the working middle class.
Today’s workers face the steady erosion of their power in the workplace, in the economy and in the political process. Rising profits, increasing productivity and a growing economy have not brought rising wages, better benefits, or economic security. There is a power imbalance between workers and the giant corporations that dominate the world economy.
The UFCW and our coalition partners are committed to redressing this imbalance, and to rebuilding worker power.
The current AFL-CIO administration asserts that there is little difference between our reform agenda and their AFL-CIO Officers’ Proposal.
There are profound differences in our visions for the future for America’s workers. We believe in organizing, not simply for more members, but in organizing to build worker power. The foundation of worker power is in increasing the number of union workers in an industry or occupation. Our proposals specifically direct resources to organizing in a union’s core industries. Our proposal provides for a leadership structure that promotes diversity and full participation and gives authority to the affiliates representing the majority of members.
Rebuilding worker power will give workers the hope for a better future. Workers with hope will organize, they will stand up, they will act in solidarity at work, in the community and in the political process. The starting point for our new movement to rebuild worker power is here, and it starts with us. This is the beginning.
We are going forward to bring a platform for change to the AFL-CIO convention. We will engage all other unions in a dialogue for change. Our purpose is not to divide, but to unite unions in a dynamic new movement for today’s workers.
The unions you see here are the unions representing the emerging 21st century workforce — young people, women, minorities, new immigrants and older workers forced to extend their work lives. From hospitality to retail to services, and from health care to transportation to construction, our unions are fighting the battles, confronting the employers and organizing the workers that are the future in America.
Yesterday, the UFCW Board also authorized the executive officers to disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO. This action was not taken lightly. We are committed to a united, reformed labor movement. But, the status quo will not stand. We will not be chained to the past, our obligation is to the future of our members.
As I said, in the 1930s, we were at our lowest point, but also on the verge of our greatest accomplishments. When the CIO left the AFL in the 1930s, it did not set us back, it propelled the movement forward. The CIO was committed to organizing the workforce of the day — mass production workers — and it changed the labor movement.
I believe today we are taking the steps that will change the labor movement and change the future for workers.
May 16, 2005
Washington, DC – International President of United Food and Commercial Workers, Joe Hansen, today released the following statement on AFL-CIO Reform:
The UFCW joins today with the Laborers’ Union, SEIU, Teamsters, and UNITE HERE in rejecting the AFL-CIO Officers’ Proposal and in calling for genuine reform that will build worker power.
The AFL-CIO Officers’ Proposal continues the status quo, and does not provide for genuine reform to build worker power. The UFCW supports, and will work for, a unified labor movement, but unity must be based on a shared commitment to revitalize the movement to empower workers. Unity without purpose is meaningless.
The status quo will not stand. We must build a 21st century labor movement for a new generation of workers. We are proud of our past-American unions have brought generations of working families prosperity, opportunity, and dignity-but, we must change now to meet the challenges of a changing world.
Unrestrained corporate power operating in a global economy is attempting to strip workers of their voice in the workplace, the economic well-being of their families, and the integrity of their government. A growing labor movement that engages and organizes workers, according to where they work and the jobs they do, can create a powerful force to raise living standards, provide for secure health care and retirement, make government responsive, and restore the American dream for working families.
We must start by changing the structure of the AFL-CIO and redirecting the resources of the labor movement to build worker power. As the cornerstone of reform, organizing should be the focus of unions to increase the number of organized workers in their core jurisdictions. The percentage of organized workers in an industry or occupation is the foundation of worker power. The AFL-CIO should be structured to further core industry organizing.
Affiliated unions representing the majority of union members should play an expanded role in the leadership and direction of the Federation. To maximize the power of workers, the Federation should provide central coordination for multi-union bargaining and organizing.
Only a growing labor movement can give workers a stronger voice in politics, and elect a worker-friendly government at the federal, state, and local levels.
January 6, 2005
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
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.
April 2, 2004
The Facts and Faces Behind the Potential Strike at Kroger
Saturday, April 3, 2004
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
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
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.
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