News and Updates
March 24, 2015
Workers meet to discuss future of co-ops and the food industry
Charlemont, Mass. – Dozens of co-op workers from three states and representing six both worker- and member-owned co-ops met Saturday at the first-ever regional co-op workers summit. The event, hosted by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1459, was the first of its kind.
“Co-ops have a unique place in our economy,” said Dan Clifford, President of Local 1459. “They are businesses that have the higher purpose of serving the communities in which they operate. As the co-op movement grows, sometimes the voice of co-op workers get lost. This summit was an important step to ensure those voices are heard and that co-ops live up to their highest aspirations.”
Workers from co-ops in Western Massachusetts, New York and Vermont gathered for panels on the future of the co-op movement and their role in improving their workplaces, their communities and the food we all eat. They also heard from Frances Moore Lappé, best-selling author of Diet for a Small Planet, who spoke about the important role that co-ops and co-op workers can have in building a more sustainable global economy.
“It’s critically important that the co-op movement doesn’t leave the workers’ voice behind,” said John Cevasco, a grocery worker from Greenfield’s Market in Greenfield, Mass. and a UFCW Local 1459 member. “We found our voice at Greenfield’s by forming a union, and I know our co-op is stronger because of it.”
“Our communities need high quality, local food and good family-supporting jobs,” said Russell Ziemba, a worker from the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, N.Y. “Co-ops can play a critical role in meeting those needs if they listen to the voice of their workers. That’s why I’m glad I had the opportunity to be here and learn from other co-op workers in my region.”
The co-op workers also issued a series of collective recommendations to the regional and state food system plans, re-envisioning how the food system could serve the needs of citizens even better. They hope by injecting the voice of ground level workers and co-ops into the plan that they can make the plans both more ecologically and economically more sustainable.
March 10, 2015
Healthcare workers at United Pioneer Home in Luck, Wis., voted “Union Yes” in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. Workers showed their strong support for having a union voice and joined UFCW Local 1189. Dignity, respect, and a voice on the job were among the reasons the workers felt they needed to belong to a union.
United Pioneer Home workers Rachael Schmid and Heidi Swanson said, “We’re excited to have a voice. When we tried to speak up to make our workplace better, our voices would go unheard and the home’s board of directors would speak for us. This was a problem because they wouldn’t listen to us and they didn’t understand the changes we needed.”
“I’m looking forward to having respect and dignity on the job,” said Sam Everson, who also works at United Pioneer Home.
United Pioneer Home is a retirement home that provides long-term care and housing to senior citizens in the Luck, Wis., community.
February 25, 2015
In June 2014, the UFCW accepted 36 promising young members from across the country into the first-ever session of the UFCW GOLD Internship program, which launched in Chicago.
Now, after a wildly successful first year, the GOLD program is preparing for its 2015 session. The UFCW GOLD Internship Program provides growth opportunities for learning and development in order to raise up future union leaders and activists.
The 2015 program will select 36 rank-and-file members in the United States to participate in a seven-week program. The program will run from June 21 – August 5, 2015. Interns are required to participate in the entire length of the program. All interns should have a valid driver’s license and be flexible with travel outside of their home area.
During the program, there will be a four-week action project that interns will be individually assigned. Action projects will be assigned within one of five areas: Legislative and Political Action; Organizing; Collective Bargaining; Civil Rights; and Health and Safety. Last year’s action projects included working on a earned sick leave ordinance in the city of Chicago; working on a Retail Bill of Rights in San Francisco; participating in the Summer for Respect alongside Walmart workers fighting for justice on the job; and many other important projects relating to the welfare of working people.
You can learn much more about the upcoming session, and what previous GOLD participants learned from their experiences by visiting the updated website: http://gold.ufcw.org/.
Be sure to also check out the video recap of the 2014 session, where participants share their experiences and talk about what service projects they worked on.
“Getting the chance to come out to Chicago, meeting different people from different locals—it’s been an eye opener,” said 2014 UFCW Local 21 participant Bruce Le.
Fellow participant Samantha Christian also noted that after completing the program she felt like “we are all related—we are all brothers and sisters. I’ve never been as comfortable with people as I have been with the people I met here.”
Melissa Berry said she applied to become a GOLD participant because she felt that “a lot of people don’t know the role of their union, or what part they can play in it. I was eager to meet new people and learn about how we can spread the message.”
Tracy Officer, who worked on a service project in the Seattle area, said that “this internship builds us up—it gives us the knowledge to go back to our locals and give them the inspiration to say, ‘We are one. If you have an issue, we are fighting it together, and you don’t have to do it alone.’ I’ve been in the union for almost twelve years and I didn’t know that until this program.”
The deadline to apply to the 2015 session is April 1, 2015. You can find both the English and Spanish applications at http://gold.ufcw.org/application/.
February 9, 2015
One of the greatest moments of the Civil Rights era was the March on Washington in 1963–one of the largest non-violent protests to ever occur in America. The March on Washington brought thousands of people of all races together, in the name of equal rights for everyone–whether they were black or white, rich or poor, Muslim or Christian. Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. made one of his most inspiring and famous speeches at the march, which culminated on the National mall.
But history has often overlooked the man who was the driving force behind this monumental event–a man named Bayard Rustin. Rustin was the one who organized the march, bringing methods used by Gandhi as well as the Quaker religion to Washington to ensure peace, but also impact. It was Rustin who helped shape Dr. King into the iconic symbol of peace he is remembered as.
As a young adult, Rustin worked with many kinds of people who influenced his activism, including ministers and labor organizers. During World War II, Rustin fought against racial discrimination in war-related hiring, and was later jailed for two years after refusing to enter the draft. Then, after protesting segregated transit systems, he was sentenced to work on a chain gang for several weeks.
Despite being punished for his beliefs, Rustin continued to work towards changing things for the better. In 1953, Bayard Rustin arrived in Montgomery, Alabama to partake in the famous bus boycott that kicked off after Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat on the bus for a white man. The boycott brought many civil rights leaders to the area, including a young Dr. Martin Luther King, who had not yet embraced non-violence. But Rustin taught many who were partaking in the boycott how Gandhi had used peaceful tactics to bring change in India, and people saw the importance of these tactics, and began to embrace them, focusing on direct protest.
Rustin was also a champion of workers rights. In 1965, Rustin and his mentor A. Philip Randolph co-founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a labor organization for African-American trade union members. Much of his work emphasized that labor rights were an integral part of the civil rights movement.
Although Bayard Rustin was a tireless activist, his life achievements are unknown to many, and he has even been called the “lost prophet” of the civil rights movement. This is largely because not only was Rustin silenced and threatened like many others were for being a black man speaking out for equal rights, but also because he was openly gay in a time when homophobia and bigotry was rampant. Rustin continued his life as an openly gay man, even after being incarcerated for it, and is seen as a champion of the LGBT movement still today. Despite being beaten, arrested, jailed, and fired from various leadership positions, Rustin overcame and made a huge impact on the civil and economic rights movements.
America has a long way to go before Rustin’s dreams of equal human rights for all are achieved, but without him, we perhaps would not be where we are today. Today, we have a black president, more women in leadership positions, and more of legislation in the states overturning old and outdated laws barring gay couples from marrying. These are just a few examples of the progress our country has made since Rustin’s time, and working people will continue to work so that ALL people have equal rights–at work and at home.
January 13, 2015
Bonnie Ladin Union Skills Training Program Provides Great Opportunity for Union Leaders and Staff, Community Activists
Adapted from the AFL-CIO
The AFL-CIO Bonnie Ladin Union Skills Training Program (BLUS) 2015 classes are now open for registration.
The program is designed for union leaders, staff and community activists and offers intensive hands-on training around the areas of collective bargaining; organizing; arbitration and grievance handling; leadership for new union officers; strategic campaigns for contracts; teaching techniques; and best financial practices.
Taught by a group of experienced instructors, the BLUS program brings together rising union activists and community allies with the end goal of helping participants to better serve their unions and communities.
The classes cover many aspects of union training, such as writing contract language, arbitration, and organizing.
Most classes are held at the MITAGS training center in Linthicum, MD. MITAGS is close to BWI Airport, Amtrak, and I-95. Free shuttle service is offered to and from the airport and train station.
For more information, visit aflcio.org/union-skills.
This is a great opportunity for UFCW Locals and members to get more involved in their union, workplace, and community.
January 8, 2015
Last month, service and maintenance workers at Providence Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, Wash., voted ‘Union Yes’ to join UFCW Local 21. More than 240 workers at the hospital won union representation.
UFCW Local 21 members from the nearby Providence Sacred Heart hospital were an active part of the campaign, reaching out to Holy Family workers with stories of their own organizing drive and first contract.
“Several years ago, we organized a union because we wanted job security and protection from management. Since we formed our union, we have had significant pay increases, rights at work, and peace of mind,” recounted Colette O’Harra, a housekeeper at Providence Sacred Heart. “I am proud to stand with the workers at Holy Family as they join our union family.”
Workers at Providence Holy Family look forward to using their new voice on the job to improve patient care and to negotiate a contract that provides better job security and fairness in the workplace.
November 13, 2014
Workers in Southern California Begin First Sit-Down Strike in Company History to Protest Retaliation
***Follow the conversation at #WalmartStrikers and watch live stream at Blackfridayprotests.org***
LOS ANGELES – OUR Walmart members, some of whom were part of the first Walmart strike in October 2012, have just sat down near registers and next to racks of a Walmart store in Crenshaw. The group of striking workers, from stores throughout California, has placed tape over their mouths signifying the company’s illegal efforts to silence workers who are calling for better jobs. Even as the mega-retailer brings in $16 billion in annual profits and Walmart’s owners build on their $150 billion in wealth, the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.
“Stand Up, Live Better! Sit Down, Live Better!” the group chanted before sitting down.
Workers are holding signs resembling those of the first retail sit-down strike at Woolworth in 1937, when retail workers at the then-largest retailer in the country called for the company to increase pay, provide a 40-hour work week and stop the retaliation against workers who spoke out.
“I’m sitting down on strike today to protest Walmart’s illegal fear tactics and to send a message to management and the Waltons that they can’t continue to silence us and dismiss the growing calls for $15 an hour and full-time work that workers are raising across the country,” said Kiana Howard, a mother and Walmart striker.
“Walmart and the Waltons are making billions of dollars from our work while paying most of us less than $25,000 a year,” Howard continued. “We know that Walmart and the Waltons can afford fair pay, and we know that we have the right to speak out about it without the company threatening the little that we do have.”
To date, workers at more than 2,100 Walmart stores nationwide have signed a petition calling on Walmart and the Waltons to publicly commit to paying $15 an hour and providing consistent, full-time hours. After taking the petition to members of the Walton family, supporters committed to returning to stores on Black Friday if jobs aren’t improved by then.
“Walmart is a giant engine creating vast wealth for one family and heartbreaking poverty for many working families, just like Woolworth’s in the 1937, when 100 young women in Detroit sat down and occupied a Woolworth’s store, and won wage increases and many other demands,” said Dana Frank, an expert on the U.S. labor movement, professor of history at University of California, Santa Cruz and the author of Women Strikers Occupy Chain Store, Win Big: The 1937 Woolworth’s Sit-Down. “The strike was enormously popular, because it struck a chord in the public: Woolworth’s, like Walmart, was paying its workers poverty wages, but raking in spectacular profits that the public knew about. In Crenshaw today, as brave Walmart workers sit down to protest the company’s threats against employees who speak out for better jobs, it’s time for Walmart to finally heed the growing movement calling on it to improve jobs and respect working people.”
“We cannot continue to allow our country’s largest private employer to pay workers so little that they can’t put food on the table for their families and then punish those who speak up about it. Walmart’s actions are immoral, illegal and they are destroying the American values that we all hold dear,” said Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
The sit-down strike comes on the heels of a New York Times story on how persistent understaffing at Walmart stores is contributing to wasted food, un-stocked shelves and lower sales. For the past three years, workers have been raising concerns about understaffing and theimpact on the company’s wellbeing with managers, shareholders and executives. Investors and analysts are also reacting today to the company’s third-quarter financial reports, which indicate that persistent staffing problems are keeping the company from improving customer traffic and growing the business.
Hundreds of community supporters plan to join striking workers later this evening at 5 p.m. outside the Walmart store located at 8500 Washington Blvd in Pico Rivera, where the first protests against Walmart’s illegal retaliation were held in 2012.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.
October 29, 2014
For 35 years, the center has served “as a bridge between working people, their communities, organizations, and UMass Dartmouth.” Their awards and dinner banquet are one of the largest gatherings of labor leaders and activists in the area.
The Southeastern Massachusetts labor movement joined the center in honoring UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill for his work with the UFCW’s Walmart campaigns.
“I am honored to accept it on behalf of the 1.3 million members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union,” said Pat as he accepted his award.
“Brothers and sisters, we are at crossroads in the labor movement. There is no sugarcoating it.Workers are struggling to make ends meet. More and more families are falling behind. Income inequality is getting worse. Minimum wage workers are living in poverty. Hard working immigrants are still living in the shadows.
But in too many corners of our movement, labor is trying to address 21st century challenges with 20th century solutions. It is not working. Some will tell you we need more time—that things will get back to normal eventually.
I say if you’re heading toward a cliff at 100 miles an hour, you don’t need more time. You need a change in direction. That is why I am so proud of our dynamic and forward-looking Walmart campaign.
There are those who say Walmart is too big, too entrenched, and too powerful. That we don’t stand a chance against the world’s largest retailer.
Every important battle for justice has had its share of naysayers. It is always easier to analyze than to mobilize.
Here is what I believe—when we stand together and work together and fight together and dream together—there is nothing we cannot achieve. Last week, Walmart workers and their allies sent shockwaves across the country. They shut down Park Avenue in front of Alice Walton’s $25 million penthouse. They set up a blockade of K Street in front of the Walton Family Foundation in Washington, DC. And they delivered thousands of petitions to the Phoenix home of Walmart Chair Rob Walton calling on the company to give workers $15 dollars and full-time hours. The media coverage surrounding these events was substantial and a clear message was sent to the Walton family and Walmart executives: workers will not be pushed around.”
UFCW Locals 1455 and 328 were in attendance to support Pat as well.
October 21, 2014
More than 120 workers at Flexon in Newark, New Jersey, overwhelmingly voted to join RWDSU Local 262. The workers – who manufacture lawn and garden hoses sold through retailers including Target, Walmart, Home Depot, and Costco – won the union voice they sought in order to address a number of problems in their workplace.
“We were fed up and decided that we needed representation, a voice on the job and job security,” said day shift worker Heriberto Moran, who has worked at Flexon for 32 years.
Flexon employees wanted to create better jobs and reached out to RWDSU Local 262. Workers said they were tired of working for minimum wage with no annual wage increases. Workers said they would work 12 hour shifts – sometimes seven days a week – and had no benefits or healthcare plan. The workers’ campaign flourished despite intimidation and harassment by management. Workers weren’t surprised, given the lack of respect from management that they had grown accustomed to.
Workers were bombarded by daily letters, captive audience meetings, faced numerous threats of plant closure, undocumented status threats, threats of deportation and strike threats throughout the campaign by numerous company representatives.
October 17, 2014
Recently, long-time UFCW Local 1500 member Jerry Knapp was recognized for his years of active service to his union and fellow union members by Region 1, and was awarded with a member award along with several other members who have made a difference in their workplaces. He was taken aback when he learned he was being recognized, Jerry said, but it was nice to know someone knew he existed. After talking with Jerry, it was clear to us why someone would take notice of Jerry and his time in the UFCW:
Since 1966, Jerry has worked as a union member at Shoprite in Fishkill, New York. Working as a department manager at one time, he is now happily employed as a clerk as he nears retirement. In 1994, Jerry was named the Primary Shop Steward at his store–a role in which he still has today. Jerry says that his job “is a good job because of the union,” and that as UFCW members, he and his coworkers aren’t abused or taken advantage of, and they earn good pay and benefits.
But Jerry knows that these things that make a good union job good are only obtainable when people are active in their unions. Jerry has attended countless area meetings, participated in the negotiating process, and been there to advise fellow members on their rights and responsibilities. Being active and engaged, says Jerry, enables union members to have a say in what happens on the job, to choose your lifestyle, and have your career needs and desires heard, as opposed to working for a non-union company that can make promises and change their minds about policies at the drop of a hat. With a union, he notes, you have the right to go back to the bargaining table.
Not only is Jerry involved in his workplace, but in the wider community and Local as well. Jerry has helped other folks achieve the union difference through his organizing efforts, and he has worked to help elect politicians who will represent and look out for the working people in his area. Jerry’s peers have noted that his work has not only earned him the respect of his coworkers, but of management as well. It’s clear that at the end of this year when Jerry goes into retirement, which will be his 49th year of service in the union, he will be dearly missed at work by all.
His advice for others that want to get more involved in the union is to ask themselves what they think they need or want out of their job or in the workplace, and then go after it. If you don’t take advantage of the power you have as a union member by negotiating or working together, notes Jerry, then you don’t have the right to complain.
“Don’t sit back,” he says. “The union starts with ‘U’!”