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March 24, 2015

UFCW Local 555 Pushes For Paid Sick Leave in Oregon

Oregon Lobby DayMore than 50 UFCW Local 555 members went to the Capitol building in Salem last week to convince legislators to pass a paid sick leave law that will cover every worker in Oregon.

“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.”

June 5, 2014

UFCW Local 555 Members Celebrate Adoption of Bill Protecting Grocery Workers

Local 555 Secretary Treasurer Jeff Anderson, Sarah DeMerritt, and Local 555 President Dan Clay pose with a signed copy of Senate Bill 1546.

UFCW Local 555 Secretary Treasurer Jeff Anderson, member Sarah DeMerritt, and President Dan Clay pose with a signed copy of Senate Bill 1546.

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.