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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

August 4, 2003

DOMINO SUGAR WORKERS WIN SWEETER FUTURE

The future looks much sweeter for the 330 Domino Sugar workers in Baltimore, Md. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 392 members ratified a new three-year contract on Saturday, January 11, 2003, that ends the 35-day strike.

Workers fought back against company demands to alter their retirement plan, take away two paid holidays and increase health insurance costs. The new contract:

Protects the workers’ pension plan by maintaining current benefits and protecting the investments;

Preserves the two paid holidays, Veteran’s Day and New Year’s Eve, that the company pushed to eliminate;

Provides 2% wage increases for all workers; and

Improves the health care plan.

Over the past 35 days, none of the 330 workers crossed the picket line.

“”The Domino Sugar workers stood on the front line against corporate greed and they won,”” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Regional Director. “”Their solidarity gives hope to all working families across the country who deserve fair and decent wages and benefits for the hard work they do every day.””

Workers traveled around the country in “”Truth Squads”” to rally support for their strike from sugar workers in New York, Florida and Georgia. The Baltimore community supported workers by honoring their boycott message and by making donations to the hardship fund for workers’ families.

UFCW Local 392 President Alex Hamilton said, “”I want to thank everyone who supported us in this struggle for a fair contract. Without the generous donations of the good people of Baltimore and our UFCW brothers and sisters, our fight would have been more difficult our spirits lower.””

The UFCW is the voice for working America, with 1.4 million members in food industries — from processing to retail. The UFCW represents workers in supermarkets across the country as well as food processing, meat packing, chemical, distillery, garment and health care facilities.

August 4, 2003

Wal-Mart Snatches Domain Name to Block Union Talk

Wal-Mart claims its associates can speak for themselves.  Why then did the retail giant seize the internet domain name www.unionizewalmart.com?  Simple, to prevent workers from using the web address to build a movement for a voice on the job.

“”Wal-Mart’s actions show what the company is truly afraid of—an organized workforce.  Wal-Mart associates deserve the right to have a voice for fair treatment, living wages and decent family health benefits and the union is going to keep fighting to help them get there,”” said Mike Leonard, Executive Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

Wal-Mart workers haven’t been discouraged.  Worker-run websites are building t a nationwide worker-to-worker network among Wal-Mart associates that is growing.  A community-wide Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club organizing campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada, sparked the worker website: www.walmartworkerslv.com that is run by the in-store organizing committee and has inspired other sites across the country.

Several others sites of note include:

www.walmartyrs.com and www.walmartwatch.com– both sponsored by the UFCW.

www.walmartswaronworkers.com – featuring former Wal-Mart managers describing illegal tactics they were taught to use against union organizing.

www.therighttochoose.com — run by a former Sam’s Club associate in Lansing, Michigan.

www.walmartworkerstexas.com – run by current and former Wal-Mart workers.

www.walmartdayofaction.com – central site for the People’s Campaign- Justice @ Wal-Mart

August 4, 2003

Whole Foods Workers Rally for a Voice at Work

Rally and Press Conference on Friday, April 4, 2003 at 12:45 p.m. at the Whole Foods Market 24th Street and 7th Avenue in New York

Whole Foods workers are ready to expose the whole truth about Whole Foods Markets. “”Take a look behind the company’s ‘core values’ veneer…its high polish ‘commitment’ to team member, communities, and customers”” ask Whole Foods workers in an ad campaign hitting news stands on Friday.

Workers from Madison, Wisconsin, the first Whole Foods workers in the nation to organize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) will lead a rally on Friday at 12:45 p.m. at the Whole Foods Market at 24th Street and 7th Avenue in New York.

Ads will debut this week in the Village Voice, the Villager and weekly newspapers in eight other major media markets. Whole Foods management promotes a set of ‘core values’ that shape the stores. Yet workers feel the company has abandoned those values and seek a voice with the UFCW to help keep the company focused on its founding principles.

Whole Foods faces unfair labor charges for its campaign to suppress worker rights in Wisconsin and Virginia. New York City union members, labor leaders and elected officials will call on Whole Foods to respect local workers and consumers by lifting up workplace standards and obeying the law.

WHO: Whole Foods workers from Wisconsin and Virginia, New York Central Labor Council President Brian McLaughlin, Councilwoman Christine Quinn

WHAT: Hundreds to Rally in Support of Whole Foods Workers Right to a Voice at Work

WHEN: Friday, April 4, 2003 at 12:45 p.m.

WHERE: Whole Foods Market at 24th Street and 7th Avenue in New York

August 4, 2003

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report From British Columbia

Wal-Mart’s Attack on the Union Cited in Canadian Labour Board Complaint

UFCW Wins Meeting with Workers on Company Time

When United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1518 organizer David Noble referred to a Wal-Mart “”hit list”” of pro-union employees during an organizing campaign in a Quesnel, British Columbia, store, management responded with personal attacks on Noble and a denial that the list even existed. Wal-Mart portrayed Noble and the union as liars and told employees to call the police if union reps visited them at home.

As a result, the British Columbia Labour Board has slapped Wal-Mart for yet another violation of workers’ right to organize. The Board ruled that, not only was Noble justified in referring to such a hit list, but that Wal-Mart grossly interfered with the organizing campaign. The company, widely known in the U.S. for its anti-union practices, was attempting to hide its union-busting strategy with an attack on the credibility and truthfulness of the union itself.

The Labour Board found Wal-Mart’s attack on the union and the organizer unfounded and slammed Wal-Mart for their underhanded practices.

“”If Wal-Mart is concerned about this as an organizing tactic, then it should refrain from arbitrarily targeting employees for dismissal as an easy way to solve its people problems,”” the Board decision reads.

The decision is further evidence of Wal-Mart’s mission to silence its workers’ voices and keep its stores union-free. The company is searching high and low for ways to take the focus off of the way it treats its workers by trying to discredit union organizers dedicated to help Wal-Mart workers have a voice in the workplace.

“”There is no shortage of new mistakes that it [Wal-Mart] finds ways to make,”” the decision continues.

The Canadian Labour Board acted quickly to address Wal-Mart’s misdeeds with meaningful remedies that will help workers’ stand up for their rights on the job. Wal- Mart will have to read the decision during a meeting of all employees at the Quesnel store. In addition, the Board ordered Wal-Mart to allow UFCW Local 1518 to address workers for 30 minutes directly following the reading of the decision–allowing Wal-Mart workers the opportunity to hear about the benefits of unionization without interruption from their managers.

“”Wal-Mart’s war on workers is a war they conduct wherever the company operates,”” says UFCW Executive Vice President Mike Leonard. “”These are serious laws designed to protect workers, and Wal-Mart is quickly finding out that violating these laws brings serious repercussions.””

The decision by the British Columbia Labour Board comes on the heels of guilty verdicts found by the National Labor Board (NLRB) in the U.S. Wal-Mart was found in violation of U.S. labor law when the company fired, spied on, and intimated employees in several different stores. The NLRB has ordered Wal-Mart to read and post its decisions in its U.S. stores as a result of the violations.

“”Wal-Mart keeps insisting that it respects its associate’s rights,”” says Local 1518 President Brooke Sundin. “”But this behavior is typical of Wal-Mart all around North America. When workers exercise their legal right to talk to a union, Wal-Mart violates those rights.””