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December 1, 2015

Bob’s Tire Company Workforce Votes Union “YES” in Historic Victory

This month, the story of a group of immigrant workers who organized and formed a union with UFCW Local 328 at Bob’s Tires Company in New Bedford, Massachusetts, back in September was highlighted in the November issue of Common Ground.

The following is adapted from Local 328’s website:

On Wednesday September 23rd, 2015, the workers of Bob’s Tire Company in New Bedford, Massachusetts voted 65-5 in favor of having UFCW Local 328 represent them during contract negotiations with the company. This was a significant and historic victory for the city of New Bedford, which maintains a very large Central and South American workforce. The workers of Bob’s Tire belong to the K’iche’ ethnic group from Guatemala, and their decisive victory marked the first time a group of workers from the Mayan community have organized with a union.

12045729_10153558385527557_3645819820551464456_oMeetings with the workers from Bob’s Tire, who are employed by the temporary agency BJ’s Temp Service, began when a delegation of well over half the workforce attended a meeting at CCT, a New Bedford community organization that specializes in fighting for social and economic justice for Latin Americans in the city. Between two meetings held over the course of five days, over 75% of the workers signed union authorization cards, leading us to file a petition shortly thereafter.

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Director of CCT Adrian Ventura (far left) with the worker committee from Bob’s Tire Company.

None of this work could have been possible without the help the Local received from the head of CCT, Adrian Ventura. Adrian’s exhaustive efforts for years in the field of social justice advocacy speak volumes not only of his character, but of his commitment to the workers of New Bedford. Working with Adrian and Jobs with Justice, the Local continued to hold meetings with the workers  Election Day rapidly approached.

aspacioWhen polls finally opened at 6am at the New Bedford facility, and over the next two hours a majority of the workers cast their ballots until the first block of voting concluded at 8am. The polls opened again at 11am, allowing anyone who had yet to cast a vote to do so, and then closed for the last time at 1pm. As one of the committee members, company officials, community group leaders and union organizers looked on, the representative from the National Labor Relations Board in Boston began tallying the ballots. By the end, a very large pile of “YES” ballots sat next to a diminutive pile of “NO” ballots. The results were signed by the company and the Local, and the first step of a long process toward social and economic justice for the workers of Bob’s Tire was over.

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The enormity of this success cannot be understated. A 65-5 vote is not only indicative of the strength of the collective willpower of the workforce at Bob’s Tire, but it is also a reflection of what can be achieved when workers come together to demand a higher quality of life for themselves and for their families. These workers have sent a strong message to the owners of not only this company, but to businesses throughout the city: injustice will not be tolerated, and that workers are willing to stand collectively against it. The workers at Bob’s Tire also sent a message to New Bedford’s K’iche’ community, its Latin American community, and to the city as a whole: the time for worker action is now. The workers at Bob’s Tire are willing to fight to improve their working conditions, their wages, and their benefits. We hope that other workers in the city and beyond take note, and recognize that by working together and speaking as a strong, unified voice, great things can be achieved. In the meantime, congratulations to the workers at Bob’s Tire Company, and we look forward to working with you in the weeks, months, and years to come.

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Tomas Ventura, member of the Bob’s Worker Committee and the union observer for the election, holding the final tally.

To see more photos of the workers from Bob’s, see the photo album. (photo credit to Lisa Maya Knauer)

For more news coverage, click here.

November 23, 2015

Victory at Wedge Co-Op in Minneapolis

20151118_171802Last Monday, workers at Wedge Community Co-op in Minneapolis voted to form a union with UFCW Local 1189, making it the first co-op grocery in the Twin Cities area, home to many co-ops, to unionize.

The Wedge employees began their union drive last December, because they wanted to unionize in order to make their jobs sustainable and mirror the values at their workplace, which promotes a sustainable food system. The co-op’s management had already complied with a neutrality agreement they’d signed with unionized warehouse workers. “It was really a worker-driven thing,” Local 1189 Organizing Director Abraham Wangnoo said of the recent victory. “You could just see the excitement in a lot of the people who’d been part of this whole thing.” He added that the workers wanted to be able to “maintain a voice on the job and a sense of control and leadership in the operation of the co-op.”

Once the results of the election are certified by the National Labor Relations Board, the the 136 grocery workers will be part of the UFCW union family

A union drive at the Wedge Table, a cafe and market in the area that is also owned by the Wedge, is still ongoing.

 

 

November 16, 2015

Hard-Working IKEA Retail Workers Strike for Union Recognition

Workers Shut Down Normal Operations of Boston-Area Store

via UNI Global Union

via UNI Global Union

BOSTON – Early this morning, workers at a Boston-area IKEA store went on strike, shutting down normal store operations in an effort to improve the lives of hard-working IKEA workers and their families.

The striking workers are the first unionized retail workers at an American IKEA store, and are taking this action in response to IKEA USA’s refusal to recognize their union and enter into contract negotiations.

“Instead of doing what is right, IKEA has chosen to fight its own hard-working employees. That is wrong. All we want is the chance to earn a better life,” said eight-year IKEA coworker Chris DeAngelo. “We are dedicated to our jobs, and wish IKEA would honor its own policy and respect our union rights.”

Today’s action follows the decision of workers in the Goods Flow In department at IKEA Stoughton to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest private sector union with 1.3 million members.

The workers requested that IKEA USA recognize their union after following a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process that allows companies to voluntarily recognize a union when workers demonstrate majority support. Seventy-five per cent of workers in the bargaining unit signed a petition affirming their desire to join the union.

The action today highlights a failure to follow IKEA Group policies, which explicitly state support for the right of workers to bargain collectively and to join a union of their choice in the company’s internal code of conduct.

The Stoughton IKEA store has been the subject of a recent NLRB complaint filed in Boston, alleging that the company violated federal law by unlawfully infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected union activity. The company has since settled the complaint with the NLRB.

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Join the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) online at www.ufcw.org

We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.

 www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational    @UFCW

 

November 12, 2015

IKEA Retail Workers Form First U.S. Retail Store Union

Workers Challenge IKEA’s American Labor Relations Record by Calling for Union Recognition

P1010396BOSTON – Today, workers at the IKEA furniture store in Stoughton, Mass. filed with the company for union recognition. While IKEA USA has union manufacturing plants in Danville, Va., and IKEA Group prides itself on positive relationships with unionized workers in stores around the world, this is the first time that IKEA retail workers in the United States have formed a union.

The bargaining unit consists of workers in the Goods Flow In department. The workers are joining the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest private sector union with 1.3 million members.

“I love working at IKEA, and I want to make a career here,” said eight year IKEA co-worker Chris DeAngelo. “A union is the best way to work together to live our values and build an even better IKEA. We’ve gone through a lot at our store, but this is a chance to turn over a new leaf and reset the relationship between IKEA’s hard-working men and women and management. If IKEA does what is right and chooses to recognize our union today, it will show that IKEA respects our right to join a union without fear of retaliation or harassment.”

Workers are seeking union recognition in an NLRB process that allows an employer to voluntarily recognize a union when workers demonstrate majority support. An overwhelming majority of Goods Flow In workers have signed a public petition to join the union. A copy of the petition can be obtained by contacting mbulloch@ufcw.org.

The Boston-area IKEA store has been the subject of a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint filed in Boston, alleging that the company violated federal law by unlawfully infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected union activity. The company has since settled the complaint with the NLRB.

The effort to improve the lives of IKEA workers has garnered domestic and international support. Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, stated, “here at the meeting of our World Executive Board, the affiliates of UNI, representing 20 million workers, including those working at IKEA stores the world over, have stated their unequivocal support for the brave actions of workers in IKEA Stoughton”.  Jennings continued, “we call on IKEA to listen to the workers at Stoughton and recognize their union rights; and we have today committed to stand with these workers until they have a union contract.”

UNI Global Union is an international federation of unions, representing the unions of IKEA retail workers around the world.

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Join the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) online at www.ufcw.org

We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.

 www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational    @UFCW

 

UNI Global Union, based in Nyon, Switzerland, represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade. UNI and our affiliates in all regions are driven by the responsibility to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and collective bargaining.

October 20, 2015

LabCorp Workers Vote Union Yes

LabCorp WebsiteLabCorp workers at labs across San Diego and Los Angeles County voted union Yes this week to join UFCW Local 135 and UFCW Local 770. The workers join a growing movement of phlebotamists and lab technicians who have come together from the Northwest to the Southwest to raise standards in the health-care industry.

LabCorp is one of the largest laboratory networks in the world, employing workers throughout the United States and Canada. Given the company’s prominence, workers hope that through the growing power of their combined voice, LabCorp workers will be able to influence and improve standards for workers throughout the industry.

“I voted yes for all the young workers at LabCorp,” said Leon Guttierez, who joined the UFCW in May along with his coworkers at the Chino LabCorp location. “I want them to have a better future than I did while working in this industry for so long. ”

California LabCorp workers began their organizing campaign after a chance encounter with their unionized counterparts in Washington state. With the encouragement and support of their northwestern coworkers, LabCorp workers in California are coming together and finding their voice.

Already, their organizing efforts are paying off as many LabCorp workers have seen significant raises since the campaign began.

Visit LabWorkersUnited.com to learn more.

September 29, 2015

11 Important Facts About Latinos in the U.S. Workforce to Keep in Mind During Hispanic Heritage Month

Originally posted by AFL-CIO

11 Important Facts About Latinos in the U.S. Workforce

In a new report released this week, Latino Workers and Unions: A Strategic Partnership for America’s Progress, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement details the work environment for Latinos in the U.S. workforce. The picture the report paints isn’t a pretty one. Here are 11 important facts about Latino workers in the United States:

1. The Latino population is the fastest growing group in the United States, currently at more than 55.4 million (17% of the overall population).

2. More than 26 million Latinos represent about 15% of the workforce, a number expected to nearly double by 2050.

3. In 2013, nearly one in four Latino families lived below the poverty line, nearly twice the national poverty rate.

4. Nearly one-fourth of Latinos work in low-wage jobs.

5. In 2014, the Latino unemployment rate was 6.7%, above the national rate of 5.5%.

6. In 2014, the average nonunion Latino made just $547 a week.

7. More than two-thirds of Latinos lack retirement accounts, and more than 80% of Latino households have less than $10,000 in retirement savings.

8. Nearly 30% of Latinos lack health insurance.

9. More than three-fourths of Latino workers work in jobs where they face minimum wage or overtime pay violations.

10. In 2013, nearly 800 Latinos died at U.S. workplaces, the highest total since 2008.

11. Latinas on the job earn only 56% of what a white man earns and more than 75% of Latinas in the southern part of the United States report sexual assault being an issue in the workplace.

The report says that the key way for Latinos to improve this situation is through unions, a partnership that will yield many benefits for unions, too. The report concludes:

Although the current outlook for Latinos is uncertain, their potential for growth is impressive. Wielding over $1.5 trillion in purchasing power, making huge gains in the workforce and electorate, it’s no surprise that the future for Latinos can be drastically different and positive. But in order to realize this potential, Latinos must harness their strengths and exert their voice in the workplace.

Gaining access to a union will be an essential step for Latino workers and their families. Through union representation, Latinos can achieve higher wages that will help them fight poverty and gain access to health and retirement benefits.

September 1, 2015

President Perrone Statement on Extreme Poverty Increasing in America

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marc Perrone, International President of the largest private sector union in the nation, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), released the following statement in response to news that the number of people struggling to survive on just $2 per day has more than doubled since 1996, placing 1.5 million American households into extreme poverty.

 “The idea that there are 1.5 million families in America, the wealthiest nation on Earth, living on just $2 per day is beyond shocking and should be a wakeup call to all our political leaders – especially those running for President – that real change is needed now.

“This dire situation has only been worsened by irresponsible corporations like Walmart who rely on scheduling techniques that too often provide workers with unpredictable schedules and pay. These erratic scheduling practices make it clear that Walmart and many other bad employers are ok with making work hurt rather than pay.

“It is time for elected leaders, of both parties, to understand that a living wage, reliable work schedules, and the ability of all workers to organize and negotiate better lives, are keys to reducing poverty and strengthening our nation’s economic future.

“We can’t continue down a path where the jobs that are created only serve to perpetuate low wages, poverty and despair. We must do better, and our union family is committed to fighting these economic injustices in every way possible.”

July 22, 2015

Workers at Stoney Brothers Approve First-Ever Oregon Contract for Marijuana Workers

Stoney Bros L555

Workers at Stoney Brothers, a marijuana dispensary in Portland, Ore., have approved the first-ever union contract for cannabis workers in Oregon and have joined UFCW Local 555. The vote to approve the contract was unanimous and sets a new standard for cannabis workers in Oregon.

“With our new contract, I am excited to have paid holidays and vacation time,” said Kyle Maestra, a site manager at Stoney Brothers. “That is unusual in the cannabis industry.”

The three-year contract includes salaries starting at $15/hour with some making as high as $34/hour, regular raises, affordable health insurance through a multi-employer fund, pension contributions, paid vacations and sick leave, as well as seniority and grievance protections.

“All workers deserve the benefits of a union contract,” said Dan Clay, President of UFCW Local 555, “and workers in the cannabis industry are no different. Starting with the workers at Stoney Brothers, we can build a home-grown Oregon cannabis industry that respects workers and provides good, family-supporting jobs.”

Workers at Stoney Brothers have expressed excitement about their industry-leading compensation package.

“Health insurance is important to me,” said Hannah Poole, a patient consultant at Stoney Brothers. “My union health insurance plan is comprehensive and gives me real peace of mind.”

Stoney Brothers and UFCW Local 555 look forward to growing together as the company plans to open several new retail and growing facilities in the near future.

June 17, 2015

More LabCorp Workers Say Union Yes and Join UFCW Local 1428

labcorpOn Saturday, June 13, UFCW Local 1428 welcomed 40 new UFCW members who work at six different LabCorp facilities across southern Calif., after they overwhelmingly voted “yes” and won their election.

Adrianna Beltran, a LabCorp worker from Covina, California spoke about gaining a voice on the job:

“I am very happy to join my coworkers who voted in May! It was very disrespectful that LabCorp fought us so hard during our election. We are forming a union because we want to better our working conditions. I want to address retirement so that we can have a better future. For my coworkers who are voting next, if we stick together we can achieve much more!”

Veronica Beltran, a UFCW LabCorp worker who won her election back in May, had a message for her new union brothers and sisters:

“Congratulations on winning your election! We are all working really hard to make our workplace better. Because we are forming a union, LabCorp is making fast promises of changes that they had said ‘no’ to for many years! This is exactly why having a union works! Now, let’s keep winning the elections so that we can get our contract!”

Local 1428 hopes to begin discussing contact negotiations in July.

June 3, 2015

Food Front Co-Op Workers Vote Union Yes

Food Front Victory PhotoWorkers at Food Front Co-op stores have voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 555. After an overwhelming vote in favor of joining the union, 91 workers will become members of UFCW Local 555.

Food Front Co-op has two stores in the Northwest and Hillsdale neighborhoods of Portland. With more than 10,000 member-owners, democratic governance is a foundational value at Food Front. As union members, store workers will now have their own democratic voice in the co-op.

“We are the union at Food Front,” said Russell Kwong. “Our union will help assure customers that we are treated fairly and that the co-op is run democratically. Improving our standards at the co-op benefits employees, customers and owners — and subsequently the whole community.”

For Food Front workers, a union voice on the job reinforces the collaborative values that brought them to the co-op. In the coming weeks, workers will sit down with management to negotiate a first contract that solves existing problems and improves working conditions.

“The bottom line is that we wish to be respected, heard, treated equally and most of all supported,” said Kira Davis, a store worker. “I believe that creating our union can help strengthen us. As a union, we will empower everyone through education, communication and action.”