News and Updates
October 9, 2014
Orange, Conn. – On Wednesday, October 8, 175 workers at Aurora Products, a natural food processing company in Orange, Conn. voted to join the 9,000 member strong United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 371 (UFCW Local 371) based in Westport, Conn.
“Our votes were hard fought and won by Aurora workers who are on the line each day and concerned about the livelihoods of their coworkers. I’m happy that we can finally move forward, together,” said Ariceli Martinez, a production line worker who works at the plant.
Workers reached out to UFCW Local 371 wanting to address longstanding issues at the plant without fear of being intimidated or retaliated against.
“We are proud of the hard work and determination workers at the plant have shown throughout the past few months,” said Thomas A. Wilkinson, UFCW Local 371 President. “They reached out to us to make this happen and they saw this effort through Election Day. We have more work to do ahead and are confident that we can help workers win a contract they deserve at Aurora Products.”
Aurora Products, headquartered in Orange, Connecticut is a growing natural and organic processing plant, specializing in dried fruits, nuts, trail mixes, salad toppings, and granolas. Workers will now work with the company to come to an agreement that addresses worker concerns at the plant while helping the company grow.
“We need a chance and a voice,” said Troy Stephenson, a production line worker. “Voting together was just a first step towards making things better for our work environment, for our communities, and for our families.”
UFCW Local 371 is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries.
August 25, 2014
Cargill workers in Fort Worth, Texas, voted to join UFCW Local 540. There are more than 200 workers at the ground beef processing plant where they produce hamburger patties and sausage. Workers decided to come together for a union voice for several reasons. Workers claim that many of their peers have been unjustly fired. And, they say verbal abuse and disrespect on the job are common. When the company threatened to cut wages, workers went into action to fight back.
With a union voice and a union contract through UFCW Local 540, workers say they are looking forward to dignity and respect on the job, good wages, and affordable benefits.
July 31, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the UFCW, today released the following statement in response to President Obama’s executive order designed to ensure that the United States only does business with companies that respect workers’ rights.
“The President’s executive order makes clear that the U.S. will not do business with companies that violate our nation’s labor laws. Employers who cheat workers out of wages, fail to provide safe workplaces, and illegally retaliate against those who try to organize a union should never be considered for a government contract. On the other hand, companies that uphold our laws and treat their workers with dignity and respect should be given preference when it comes to federal procurement.
“Today’s announcement builds on years of work by UFCW members and our partner unions to create a system that is fairer for workers and encourages a race to the top when it comes to labor standards. These efforts included a 2013 resolution passed unanimously by delegates to the UFCW convention calling on the creation of a ‘High Road’ procurement process.
“In the last several years, the meat and poultry industries have received over 1 billion dollars from taxpayers. Many workers in these industries work full-time yet are not paid enough to support themselves or their families. They also must endure dangerous workplace conditions and chronic underreporting of injuries by their employers. This executive order sends a message that companies who engage in this type of anti-worker activity must change the way they do business or lose access to their government contracts.
“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary of Labor Perez, and all those involved in crafting this executive order. Today’s announcement is an important first step in ensuring our government is doing everything in its power to protect America’s workers.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.
June 27, 2014
Workers at a Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Lumber Bridge, NC, are uniting together and organizing themselves into a union in order to ably negotiate fair wages, benefits, and better working conditions. With the help of activists from UFCW Local 1208, the group has shown substantial progress in garnering support from coworkers, with at least 700 workers (out of 2000 workers at the plant) expressing support for a union.
Workers like Jasmine Isom, a Mountaire Farms worker and mother, have reported being subjected to extreme heat on the job, discrimination, intimidation, low wages, and denied access to emergency health care following on-the-job injuries. The poor working conditions are a major factor in the need for workers to join together to improve conditions at the poultry plant.
Local 1208 President Keith Ludlum, who helped organize his co-workers into a union in the nearby Smithfield Processing Plant, noted that it took 16 years to organize within the Smithfield plant and committed to doing “whatever it takes” to fight for workers.
The right to form a union is critical to ensuring that workers have a voice on the job, and utilizing that right is the best way for many to ensure they get fair pay and just treatment while at work. The Mountaire workers in Lumber Bridge are the latest newcomers to the millions of workers across the country that are seeking for and finding that voice.
June 23, 2014
Eighty workers at the CertainTeed drywall plant in Proctor, West Virginia, voted “Union Yes” on June 6 to join the International Chemical Workers Union Council.
Lance Heasley is a former steward and member-activist with UFCW Local 45C and works as an instrument technician at Axiall, where he and his fellow union members make chlorine and other caustic chemicals. Many of them, including Lance, live side-by-side with workers at the CertainTeed and know each other socially. So, when Lance heard his friends and neighbors talk about how hard it could be working at CertainTeed, he started talking to them about the difference a union could make.
He began to go out of his way to have conversations with CertainTeed workers and slowly built a committee of interested workers. He reached out to the ICWUC organizing department and worked with them to sign up CertainTeed workers on authorization cards. Workers began texting and calling each other and holding meetings to talk about the need for a union at CertainTeed. One of those workers was Carl Sweeney.
One of the major issues for Carl was being able to speak up and speak out without fear of retaliation. “I wanted to go to work every day and not worry about what I said or if I’d be the next one out because someone didn’t like me,” said Carl. “I wanted to speak up when I saw something unsafe and know the problem would be fixed, not seeing me as the problem for bringing it up.”
As soon as the CertainTeed workers filed with the National Labor Relations Board for an election, the company brought in an anti-union law firm and began holding mandatory anti-union meetings and one-on-one sessions to persuade workers to back down. But they stood strong and stayed united, despite company attempts at intimidation.
“I knew I could lose my job, but I also knew something had to change,” said Carl. “We had to stick together, stay united, to make CertainTeed a better place to work.”
That work paid off and Carl and his coworkers are looking forward to addressing their concerns at the bargaining table – including rapidly rising healthcare costs, favoritism, and safety concerns in the workplace.
June 6, 2014
Agreement Sets New Standards, Raises Floor for Cannabis Industry Workers
Oakland,CA –Workers at Bhang Chocolate, a cannabis chocolate company in Oakland, Calif., voted overwhelmingly yesterday to ratify their first union contract, becoming members of the 33,000 member-strong United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5, which is based in San Jose, Calif.
“We’re working towards a better future and this new contract is just the beginning,” said Beny Valencio, a chocolatier who has worked at Bhang Chocolate for more than two years.
Among other significant gains and protections for workers in the cannabis industry, the newly ratified contract provides for wage increases, employer health care contributions, paid sick leave and vacation benefits.
UFCW Local 5 members work primarily in retail grocery and meat processing with growing numbers employed in department stores, retail drug stores, candy stores, jewelry stores, agriculture and food processing, wholesale meat, seafood processing, financial services, education and the cannabis industry among others.
“This union contract means everyone at Bhang Chocolate has a voice and everyone will be heard,” said Becky Strider who has worked as a packer at Bhang Chocolate for the past four years.
In the United States and Canada, UFCW is the union for workers in the cannabis and hemp industries. UFCW members in the cannabis industry work predominantly in dispensaries, coffee shops, bakeries, patient identification centers, hydroponics stores, and growing and training facilities.
Headquartered in Oakland, Calif., Bhang Chocolate, an award-winning cannabis chocolate company, is the premier medically infused chocolate company.
UFCW Local 5 is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. Visit cannabisworkers.org or Facebook.com/CannabisWorkers to learn more about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights in the cannabis and hemp industries.
May 15, 2014
More than 30 QSI Contract Sanitation workers came together for a union voice on the job and voted to join the RWDSU Southeast Council. The workers in Buena Vista, Georgia, work sanitation inside a Tyson poultry plant. Workers at QSI Contract Sanitation say they needed a voice on the job to address the lack of a grievance procedure and improve their jobs at the plant.
“Every one of us voted to join the RWDSU. We are looking forward to seeing improved working conditions and higher wages in the near future,” said Leon Burke, a five-year employee at QSI.
The poultry processing workers at the Tyson plant are already members of the RWDSU and played a critical role in assisting QSI Contract Sanitation workers win a union voice. After speaking with their RWDSU co-workers, QSI workers realized the only way they could resolve the lack of a grievance procedure and improve their jobs was by joining a union and negotiating a union contract.
“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the RWDSU Tyson steward leadership and members,” Burke continued.
March 27, 2014
She began working in the meatpacking industry in 1941. Although she applied for a job as a typist for Armour and Company, African American women were barred from holding clerical positions and she was sent to the canning department to pack stew in cans for the army. Due to a contract between Armour and the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA), she earned more working on the packinghouse floor canning stew than she would have made working as a typist, and joined the UPWA after learning that the union did not discriminate against its members.
In 1953, she was elected vice president of UPWA Local 56. In 1954, she became the first woman president of the local, and was soon tapped to serve as an international representative. She held this position through the 1968 merger of UPWA and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen until 1974, when she became director of the newly formed Women’s Affairs Department. In 1970s, she became the first female international vice president in the history of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen and later served as director of its Human Rights and Women’s Affairs and Civil Rights Departments. She served as the first female African American international vice president of the UFCW after Amalgamated and the Retail Clerks International Union merged in 1979.
She and her husband were ordained ministers and founded the Vernon Park Church of God in Chicago. She played an integral role in the civil rights movement, and joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in major civil rights marches, including the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and the demonstration in Chicago. She was one of the founders of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the country’s only national organization for union women. She was also a founding member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the National Organization of Women.
In 1984, Addie Wyatt retired from the labor movement as one of its highest ranked and most prominent African American and female officials. In honor of her work, she was named one of Time magazine′s Women of the Year in 1975, and one of Ebony magazine′s 100 most influential black Americans from 1980 to 1984. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists established the Addie L. Wyatt Award in 1987. She was inducted into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor in 2012.
March 26, 2014
More than 150 Sodexo food service workers at Texas Christian University (TCU) voted to have a union voice on the job Monday night and join UFCW Local 1000. According to the workers, the vote was motivated by a change in Sodexo company policy that resulted in roughly 70 percent of TCU dining employees losing benefits such as health care coverage, vacation time, and sick leave.
Sodexo redefined full-time employment terms for workers last fall. When the change took effect, many full-time Sodexo workers at TCU became or were reclassified as part-time workers, effectively losing benefits they previously had as full-time employees.
During the campaign, Sodexo workers had support not only from UFCW Local 1000 members, but TCU students as well. Some students and student groups on campus actively voiced support for the workers’ right to join a union, including the campus chapter of the NAACP.
Negotiations for the workers are set to begin soon.
March 6, 2014
Local 1208, which is largely made up of Smithfield Foods workers in Tar Heel, North Carolina, recently hosted a rally as part of a “Poultry Worker Appreciation Day“. The event was created to bring awareness to the need for improved working conditions and living wages for the workers at the Mountaire Farms plant, which processes chicken.
About 65 Local 1208 members served baked beans and chicken to the plant workers, staying from 4 a.m. on Wednesday until around 2:30 a.m. the following morning, to make sure they were present for all of the workers’ shift changes. The UFCW members, wearing their UFCW gold, held signs to support the plant workers, demanding equal rights, and calling for more reasonable work-weeks.
Local 1208 Secretary-treasurer Terry Slaughter, who was present at the rally, said that “the workers are the ones that put chicken on our tables and get the poultry orders out. It is hard to feed your family on $9 an hour. These employees need more money and more respect for the job that they do.”
Standing in solidarity with the plant workers, the UFCW is supporting these workers, who have begun trying to organize and join a union. In fact, more than 400 of Mountaire’s 2,000 workers have signed union cards, indicating such interest.
“We’re trying to get management to show more appreciation for their employees … all the things that a job is supposed to show employees,” Slaughter said.
Yesterday, attorneys with Local 1208 filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board in Winston-Salem, N.C. The union is asking for an immediate injunction to stop severe and widespread violations of federal labor law.
“We are tired of the treatment and low pay we endure daily at Mountaire,” said Jasmine Isom, who has worked there for three years. “We work hard full time jobs and $10.00 an hour is not enough to raise our families on.”
The charges, which you can learn more about on Local 1208’s facebook page, say that Mountaire Farms has been disciplining employees for their union activity, threatening to have employees arrested, engaging in surveillance and coercion, interrogating employees, threatening termination and change in personal working conditions if employees support the union – all in violation of workers’ legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
“The Mountaire workers are standing up to this company and saying we will not be abused and disrespected any longer. We stand proudly with these workers,” said Keith Ludlum, President of Local 1208. “Anytime Mountaire violates the rights of workers we will hold them accountable.”