News and Updates
March 24, 2015
“I’m here to help pass a first day paid sick leave law that will benefit every worker in Oregon,” said Jane Killduff, a 17-year member of UFCW Local 555 who works at Albertsons. “It’s important to have paid sick leave on the first day – right now it doesn’t begin until you’ve been out for three days. It’s a major disconnect when the current paid sick leave policy makes it so hard for people who work around food all day to stay home when they’re sick.”
The push for paid sick leave resonates with UFCW members on a personal level. From the checkout lane to the deli, they want customers and the food they buy to be safe and healthy. The issue has inspired many UFCW Local 555 members to lobby for the first time.
“I can’t wait to tell all my coworkers what a blast I had today,” said Justin Dupuis, a five-year UFCW Local 555 member who works at the Safeway distribution center in Portland. “I learned about the legislative process and what it takes to pass good laws. Most of all I just felt like being here was making a difference. Passing paid sick leave for the entire state is going to make Oregon stronger and healthier.”
Over the past few years, members of UFCW Local 555 have helped Oregon’s two largest cities, Portland and Eugene, pass paid sick leave laws. These victories have created momentum. Local 555 members like Ricardo Morales, who works at Safeway in The Dalles, feel like paid sick leave can and should be adopted statewide.
“I’m at lobby day because I believe we can help pass better laws that will give workers better lives,” said Morales. “Our two largest cities have passed paid sick leave, why not the entire state?”
Members who work in Portland, the first place in Oregon to adopt paid sick leave, were excited to share their experience with legislators who were on the fence.
“I was inspired to be here today to help pass paid sick leave,” said UFCW Local 555 member Amber Hamilton who works at QFC. “I live in Portland where it already passed and it’s been great. I want every worker in the state to have it. People are a lot happier. When you get sick, it’s nice to know you have the time to recover. I wish more UFCW members would lobby. As the saying goes, the more the better.”
It was difficult to walk down a hallway in the Capitol without seeing a flash of gold. UFCW members quickly realized that their presence was having an impact both inside and outside of meetings.
“Just standing in the hall, people stop by and tell us ‘great gold shirts!” said Ellen Hudson, a UFCW Local 555 member who works at the Oregon City Fred Meyer. “It’s a great form of recognition. I wish every UFCW member would take time to lobby their elected representatives. I don’t feel you have the right to moan and groan and complain if you’re not willing to step out of your comfort zone and do something. I learned a long time ago that if you don’t speak up, you get rolled over. If we can find the courage to speak up, we’ll always be heard.”
March 23, 2015
When Governor Walker signed the unfair “right to work” bill into law he proclaimed, “Wisconsin now has the freedom to work.”
When I heard that line, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I wanted to laugh because I knew he was wrong. I wanted to cry because I knew this law was going to make life more challenging for myself, my family, and my friends.
I work at Fair Oaks Farms in Kenosha and am a proud member of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1473. Every few years my coworkers and I sit down with Fair Oaks Farms and negotiate workplace rules, pay raises, health care, and other terms of our employment. There are disagreements, but we have always managed to work out a fair deal.
This “right to work” law upends that entire process by giving corporations all across Wisconsin the right to divide workers. The motivation to undermine worker unity is simple – greed and profits. If the worker side of the bargaining table is weaker, then corporations won’t feel like they have to pay them as much or provide them with as good benefits.
These aren’t just personal fears of mine – they’re facts.
Study after study has shown workers in “right to work” states are poorer, sicker, less likely to have retirement security, and are more reliant upon government programs like food stamps and Medicaid.
That doesn’t sound like freedom to me. That sounds like a fiasco.
Most concerning of all, this “right to work” law was pushed through and bankrolled by an out of state organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Here’s how ALEC works. They bring corporations and state legislators together at lavish conferences and wine and dine them to their hearts content. In exchange for being given a ritzy vacation, state legislators are sent home with model legislation that’s written by the corporate attendees.
ALEC wrote the Wisconsin right to work law. It’s legalized bribery.
I understand the value of belonging to a union because I wasn’t always a part of one. My life was pretty tough before I became a UFCW member. I was always finding myself in jobs with an unreliable schedule. As a result, the only thing I could truly rely on was my paycheck being too small. I had no stability, no benefits, and no chance to get ahead.
When I started full time at Fair Oaks Farms almost four years ago I became a member of the UFCW and my life improved dramatically.
I started having a fair schedule that provided me with full-time hours. There was health insurance available for my family that I could actually afford. Before the UFCW I had no insurance at all. I finally started earning enough money that I could start saving for my retirement and my son’s college education.
Most importantly, walking into work every day filled me with pride because I was providing my family with a good life.
When working people are allowed to stick together in their workplace and bargain for better wages and benefits their employer is much more likely to respect their needs. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.
This “right to work” law is an attempt to hurt every worker in Wisconsin. The politicians who helped pass it are stripping us of our stability because their corporate donors want to pay us all less so they can make more profits. It’s shameful and wrong.
Living with this unfair law will not be easy, but if Wisconsin workers stand shoulder to shoulder in their workplaces, we’ll still be able to earn the hours and wages that we deserve.
October 15, 2014
UFCW members continued an aggressive canvassing operation this past week in Michigan. They are going door to door working to convince every resident they talk to that their vote matters in the November 4th midterm election.
“We need our government to start working for the people. That won’t happen until more people vote and involve themselves,” said Dawn McClanahan, a member of UFCW Local 876. “We’re canvassing and holding conversations with voters to increase turnout and increase the voice of workers at the ballot box.”
For UFCW Local 876 member Steve LeVey, the memory of 2010 has inspired him to get out the vote this year.
“I remember too well what happened in 2010. The everyday people who won the 2008 election stayed home and we got stuck with a Governor and a state legislature that passed right-to-work. We can’t afford another election like 2010.”
Victory for McClanahan, LeVey, and other UFCW members in Michigan would be electing Congressman Mark Schauer as Governor.
“We’re supporting Mark Schauer because he’s the only candidate who’s committed to helping workers,” said LeVey. “His vision for Michigan is all about making life better for the common man and woman.”
Staff from locals across the country and the International Union will be pouring into Michigan and other battleground states this week to help UFCW members get out the vote for candidates who champion workers and their rights.
June 5, 2014
The UFCW Local 555 union gained a victory last week when Oregon Governor signed Senate Bill 1546 into law. The bill contained a provision grocery workers of the Local 555 had advocated for, in which the penalty for the unintentional sale of alcohol to a minor was reduced. As a result of the bill, the penalty for such a first-time offense went down from a misdemeanor to a Class A Violation. The bill was put into effect immediately after it was signed, with overwhelming support from both the House and Senate. The details and text of the bill can be found here.
The local union was instrumental in getting the bill passed, as local member Sarah DeMerritt had testified in support of the bill before the Oregon Senate. Sarah’s testimony was striking: in June of 2013, DeMerritt was working as a Safeway checker when she sold a six-pack of beer to someone she believed was of legal drinking age but was actually part of an Oregon Liquor Control Commission sting. As she told the committee, “I thought the customer looked old enough to purchase alcohol and was a familiar neighbor that I had carded and sold to in the past.” DeMerritt had passed all previous stings and stresses that she takes her responsibility to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors very seriously.
DeMerritt’s unfortunate experience served as the basis of her advocacy for the bill, which was the focus of the Local 555’s latest UFCW Lobby Day. The passage of the bill serves as proof of the success of coordinated political action by workers committed to making a change. If you or your local union want to attempt to effect change through organizing a Lobby Day, this guide will help you.
May 13, 2014
UFCW locals representing workers across New York traveled to the State Capitol in Albany today to lobby on issues important to working families. Members and staff from UFCW Locals 1, 1500, and 2013, along with RWDSU Locals 338 and 1102 were in attendance.
A major focus of the lobby day was to push back against efforts to gut the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which took effect in April of 2011. The law requires that employers give workers written notice of wage rates once a year, a provision some Senate Republicans are targeting for repeal. UFCW members made it clear that wage theft is a serious problem and all workers have the right to know if they are being cheated out of money. They called for the Wage Theft Prevention Act to be strengthened, not weakened by repealing the written notice requirement.
Members also discussed the need to raise the minimum wage and pass paid sick leave legislation. For decades, workers’ wages have stagnated while corporate profits and CEO pay have risen to record heights. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be over $10 an hour today, but instead it sits at only $8.00 in New York. Members demanded that the minimum wage be raised so it is a living wage.
Members lobbied for statewide paid sick leave, building on the momentum of legislation passed in New York City. They stressed that no worker should be forced to risk their job and their livelihood just because they get sick. Workers without paid sick leave are 1.5 times more likely to go to work sick and contagious than those who have paid sick days. Members said providing paid sick leave would make every workplace more healthy and productive.
Finally, members told their legislators it was long past time to pass the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, which would include farmworkers under state labor law. This would guarantee that New York’s farmworkers have the right to organize and bargain collectively for the wages and benefits that they deserve. UFCW members understand that all workers must be afforded their fundamental rights.
The lobby day was a great success and members who took part spoke about the importance of meeting directly with their legislators.
“Lobbying is an important way to remind these elected officials who they work for,” said UFCW Local 1500 member John Kubinski, who works at ShopRite in Staten Island. “If we don’t tell them what we want then they cannot properly represent us.”
Local 1500 member Jeff Guardado, who works at Stop & Shop in West Islip, talked about power in numbers. “We’re all fighting for the same cause,” he said. “We stand up for the little people. The little people are many. The powerful are few.”
Local 1500 member Georgette Wilson, who works at Stop & Shop in Hempstead, agreed. “We are here to speak out for those who don’t have the opportunity to have their voice heard.”
Local 1500 member Keith Jefferson, who works at Pathmark in Coney Island, summed up the day. “Too often these elected officials look at papers and they don’t see faces. They need to see faces. I like when my union does this. We fill up the whole bus and all of us come here.”
Members said they will be boarding the bus again next year for the 2015 New York Lobby Day.
February 26, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement opposing Arizona Senate Bill 1062.
“I urge Governor Jan Brewer to veto SB 1062. It is nothing more than a hate bill passed under the guise of protecting religious freedom. The legislation was drafted so broadly as to allow discrimination against nearly any Arizonan on religious grounds. But make no mistake—its target is members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. At a time when LGBT equality is advancing on several fronts, the Arizona legislature is seeking to relegate some of its citizens to second-class status. This is both shameful and unconstitutional. There is significant and growing momentum for equality across America on everything from employment nondiscrimination to the freedom to marry. Those who want to stop this momentum and protect the status quo are desperately trying to fight back. That is what SB 1062 and similar efforts are all about. At the UFCW, we have always been on the side of equality, both in our contracts and the law. We stand with business, labor, Republicans, and Democrats in calling for SB 1062 to be vetoed.”
April 23, 2013
UFCW members lobbied in support of the New York DREAM Act, the Fair Elections Act, the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, medical marijuana, and conveyed their strong opposition to the Walmart tax credit that was structured into the recently passed minimum wage deal.
For Isha Matko, a UFCW Local 1500 member who works at Gristedes in New York City, this was her first lobbying experience.
“We’re here to help bring a voice to more workers. This helps to ensure that Assemblymembers and Senators are seeing and hearing from real people. It’s a powerful experience being able to talk with people who have the ability to make a difference in all our lives.”
The real impact in lobbying comes from elected officials being able to attach a personal face to the bills that they vote on. Having a lobby day sends a strong reminder that they work for real people–not just the wealthy or big corporations. Juan Guardado, a UFCW Local 1500 member who works at Stop & Shop in West Islip, had a very personal reason for lobbying.
“I’m happy to be here because I really support the DREAM Act. I have a family member who is undocumented and despite getting straight A’s wasn’t eligible for any financial aid. He had to stop going to school because he couldn’t afford it. It’s important for working people to talk to their elected officials because they need to see firsthand that we care, we’re informed and we’re struggling.”
As the lobby day came to a close, UFCW Local One union representative Mark Manna of Buffalo hit on the true importance of the day.
“We’re working people. We don’t have $1,000 suits or a big checkbook, but we have a right to let our elected officials know what we’re concerned about. At the end of the day we keep score with votes, not with how much money is raised.”
Too often, when the word “lobby” is tossed around people immediately think “wealthy” and “special interest.” Yesterday in New York, UFCW members made sure their elected officials associated “lobby” with “workers.”
March 13, 2012
The move, which comes just days after another judge temporarily halted the law, will have consequences for the upcoming April 3 presidential primary in Wisconsin, which state officials had hoped to apply the law to.
“A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence — the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote — imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people,” Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote in issuing the permanent injunction, according to the wire service.
“Voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression,” he added in his eight-page ruling.
In Niess’s view, the law would have eliminated the right to vote for certain eligible voters who lack sufficient resources to obtain valid identification.
The voter ID law would have required voters to show photo ID, such as a driver’s license or other state-issued identification, in order to vote.
There are currently four lawsuits that are involved with challenging Wisconsin’s law, part of the ongoing national battle on whether voter ID laws are appropriate.
Currently, 15 states have voted ID laws, and pending legislation in 31 states propose to introduce or strengthen voter ID requirements, reports the AP.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said he will appeal the injunction.
March 1, 2012
“The end is near for Scott Walker,” said UFCW Local 1473 President John Eiden. “He has abused his office in ways that defy comprehension—inflicting pain and hardship on Wisconsin working families to line the pockets of his corporate buddies. He’s been both a statewide disaster and a national disgrace.”
Eiden said he feels confident the people of Wisconsin will remove Walker from office but stressed that a recall is not enough. “Replacing Governor Walker with a champion for workers is the most important thing we can do,” he said. “Kathleen Falk is the right person for the job.”
As Dane County Executive, Falk used the collective bargaining process to achieve both fiscal responsibility and fairness for workers. She saved taxpayers $11 million dollars by negotiating contracts that included wage and benefit concessions without taking away workers’ rights. Falk has led the charge against Walker’s war on workers and provides the perfect contrast to his extreme policies. She is running on a platform of good jobs, successful schools, and affordable health care.
A poll released Tuesday showed Falk leading Walker in a hypothetical matchup. “UFCW Local 1473 will be working day and night to make Kathleen Falk our next Governor,” Eiden said. “One year of Scott Walker has been one year too many. It is time to fix this terrible mistake and return our great state back to someone who will make us proud.”
February 1, 2012
Just days before billions of people will be tuning in to watch Indianapolis host the Superbowl, the Indiana GOP is putting the wrong kind of spotlight on the Hoosier state. Governor Mitch Daniels will sign “right-to-work” into law today, making Indiana the first state since Oklahoma to adopt this destructive law.
As you know, “right-to-work” is not about rights or work. It is, as President Hansen said in the Huffington Post, “the ultimate transfer of wealth from the 99 percent to the 1 percent.”
You can guarantee that special interest groups, big corporations, and anti-worker zealots will try to use their victory in Indiana as leverage to pass “right-to-work” in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Maine, New Hampshire, and in more and more states around the country.
Not on our watch! Click here to join our rapid response program so that together, we can fight back against anti-worker attacks. You can also sign up by using your cell phone to text the letters UFCW to 698329.