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January 6, 2012

UFCW Members in Indiana Continue to Fight Right-to-Work Legislation

On January 4, they held meetings with their legislators to reiterate that RTW is wrong for Hoosier families.  Amy Hale, a member of UFCW Local 700 who works at Kroger in Fishers, IN, was one of the participants., “I believe in the middle class and I’m fighting for workers’ rights and to keep my head above water,” she said. Without my union I wouldn’t be where I am today. If this legislation passes, incomes would drop significantly. Our standard of living would go down. We can’t let that happen.”

While Indiana Republicans control every lever of state government, the process requires a working quorum, which House Democrats have denied them to this point. “We refuse to let the most controversial public policy bill of the decade be railroaded through with the public being denied their fair and adequate input,” said House Democratic Leader and UFCW-ally Patrick Bauer.

In the meantime, workers from UFCW and several other labor unions continue to voice their concerns to legislators about the negative effects RTW will have on the quality of life for Hoosier working families.

November 8, 2011

Statement from UFCW International President Joe Hansen on Election Results in Ohio

“The repeal of Senate Bill 5 is bigger than just one law or one state. It sends a message to all those who would try to balance the budget on the backs of our workers: you do so at your own peril. It shows that the right to bargain collectively for a better life is fundamental—not some perk that can be stripped away on a whim. The votes cast today in Columbus and Cleveland and everywhere in between will have aftershocks in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Washington D.C.

“America’s working families want a good job that pays a fair wage, decent affordable health care, access to a quality education for their kids, and a little money left in the bank so they can retire with dignity. They also understand that the economic mess we find ourselves in today was caused by Wall Street, not Main Street. They know the guilty parties are speculators and predatory lenders, not teachers and first responders. Extreme politicians like Governor Kasich are waging war on the middle class.

“Today’s vote shows that we are fighting back. And better yet, we are winning. I am proud of the UFCW and its members for their great work in Ohio. We understand that an attack on one worker—whether public or private sector, union or non-union—is an attack on all workers. We are proud to be part of diverse coalition of activists, including the entire labor movement, who dedicated countless hours to the fight for workers’ rights in Ohio.

“Tonight we know that America’s middle class will no longer sit idly by. The silent majority is silent no more. Every elected official that would do us harm should take notice.”

November 7, 2011

I Made A Difference in Ohio:

Wow. What an amazing eight months. From gathering signatures to helping fill out absentee applications to registering new voters, I have had the experience of a lifetime I will never forget, and I will be forever grateful. I made a difference by helping to give voters a voice. I came to them and put a face on the issue. Now, no matter what the outcome, they have been able to use their voices to speak up for good jobs. To speak up for Ohio workers.

I registered my grandson, his best friends and a young lady in high school just waiting for the opportunity to be able to vote. The future of Ohio will be okay in the hands of these young people. Registered another eighteen year old young woman who was balancing an infant on her hip while taking care of her handicapped mother in a poverty stricken neighborhood. Went away with the thought she was going to improve her corner of the world, starting with her signature.

I was in Circleville the last day of voter registration and talked to a seventy year old first time voter who had a date with her son to go to the polls. My high school government teacher came to a drive thru petition signing and never had to leave his car. I’ve had conversations with people from 18 to 98, some I will never forget. So many stories.

The new friends I’ve met, again – wow. My partner in this venture has literally picked me up, dusted me off and inspired me to go on. We can just look at each other and burst out laughing. We are starting to finish each others sentences, a little scary. And lastly I am inspired by my union leadership and will be FOREVER grateful that I can be involved in this effort to help working families across Ohio.

I made a difference.

Juanita Smith is a UFCW member and works as a meatcutter in Chillicothe, Ohio.

November 3, 2011

UFCW & other Unions Provide Food For Protestors at Occupy Oakland

A festive atmosphere reigned in Oakland’s Civic Center Plaza late Wednesday afternoon as workers from the United Food and Commercial Workers union carried tray after steaming tray of burgers, beans and rice in for a mass feast.

The union was one of many under the Alameda Labor Council umbrella that staged the giant foodfest for thousands of Occupy Oakland demonstrators, who called for a citywide “general strike” Wednesday to protest economic conditions. The line wound around the corner.

For more of this story from the LA Times, click here.

October 28, 2011

Right-to-Work is a Lie

Statement of Joe Chorpenning, President, Local 700 United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) On Interim Study Committee on Employment Issues

The Republican -backed recommendation in support of so-called right-to-work (r-t-w) legislation is a direct assault on Hoosier working families. The Republican proposal will lower wages, cost good jobs, reduce economic growth, and lead to higher taxes with fewer services.

The Republican majority on the study committee chose to ignore the overwhelming empirical evidence that r-t-w will drain billions of dollars from the Indiana economy with lost wages, eliminated health care and pension benefits, and more workplace deaths and injuries. At the same time, public services will face an increased burden of more families in poverty and a smaller tax base.

There was no empirical evidence presented to the study committee that r-t-w will result in a net increase in jobs. None! Not a single fact was presented or a single instance of an identified company declining to locate in Indiana because of the lack of a r-t-w law. In fact, Indiana already outperforms most r-t-w states in key measures such the unemployment rate and national rankings of states for business location.

R-t-w is an unwarranted government intrusion in the private sector. It restricts the ability of private parties—private sector workers and private sector companies—to negotiate mutually beneficial contracts. State government interference will not improve the collective bargaining process.

There is an economic crisis in our country. Poverty-rates and economic inequality are at record levels. Unemployment, loss of health and pension benefits, and home foreclosures threaten the middle class. From Montana to Mississippi, r-t-w states lead the nation with the highest poverty rates. Indiana should not go done the low wage path to increased poverty.

We need an honest economic plan with an emphasis on education, training and community development. Hoosiers are ready to move forward. The Republicans on the study committee are taking us backward.

(UFCW Local 700 represents 13,000 members working in neighborhood grocery stores and food processing plants across Indiana.)

October 20, 2011

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Endorses Obama 2012

The following is a statement from UFCW International President Joe Hansen:

I am proud to announce that the UFCW is endorsing President Obama’s reelection campaign because our members understand how much is at stake in this election. President Obama has stood up for the jobless, the uninsured, the middle class taxpayer, Medicare recipients, working women, and accountability from Wall Street. UFCW members are ready to mobilize for the president and to elect more leaders who will stand with him in Congress and statehouses across the country.

Cashiers and grocery workers are ready to stand up to elect leaders who will ensure good jobs stay in their communities and that their children can achieve their dream for a better life. Meatpackers and food processors are ready to stand up to elect leaders who will keep fighting to hold Wall Street gamblers accountable to the home owners and retirees who have invested in their future and deserve security and honesty from financial institutions.

Working families are struggling during this recession – a recession created by Bush-era tax breaks, lack of financial regulation and unnecessary military escalation. Turning our economy around is going to take a tremendous effort – an effort that must be led by a president who speaks for the 99 percent of Americans who clock into work every morning, instead of those who simply watch stock tickers all day.

UFCW members are energized because corporate-backed politicians at the federal and state level have launched an all-out assault on working people. President Obama is fighting back.

UFCW members have never stopped fighting back in statehouses and in their communities. They are ready to win the fight for the White House in 2012. The UFCW will be mobilizing, organizing and energizing our members, their friends and families to keep President Obama in the White House and to elect a Congress that works hard for hard working Americans. Ours is an enthusiastic choice to stand with President Obama as he fights against political opposition that seeks to enrich a select few at the expense of millions of regular Americans.

October 19, 2011

UFCW Local 75 Members Join Teamsters, Public Employees, and Faith Leaders in Toledo and Cincinnati to Rally for Good Jobs

On October 11, nearly 800 UFCW Local 75 members turned out for a joint rally with Teamsters Joint Council 26. Then, on October 12 in Toledo, almost 300 Local 75 members turned out, joining members of Teamsters Local 20.

Local 75 members took the time to come out for these rallies because they know how important it is to fight for good jobs in their neighborhoods – and that includes fighting to defeat Issue 2, Ohio’s harmful anti-worker law. Both rallies featured local firefighters and faith leaders, and Local 75 was proud to be joined by Teamsters International President James P. Hoffa.

“Good jobs grow our communities. Good jobs allow parents to put dinner on the table, make a home, and to send their kids to college,” said UFCW Local 75 President Lennie Wyatt. “Politicians shouldn’t tell us that good jobs are destroying our neighborhoods; good jobs are what make safe, vibrant communities for all of us.” To see more photos from the rallies, visit Local 75 on Facebook.

October 19, 2011

Statement of Support for Occupy Wall Street

“The protest that began as Occupy Wall Street has now bloomed into a mass movement spanning more than 300 cities nationwide. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest corporate greed and demand good jobs now.

“The movement is spreading like wildfire, with Americans standing up for economic justice across the nation. This is a movement started by ordinary Americans, fed-up with the growing inequality in this country – people who simply want good jobs and a shot at the American Dream. The UFCW shares that vision for America.

“The people “occupying” cities across the country are workers, students, and the unemployed. They are our friends and relatives, our neighbors and co-workers. They are fighting for the same things we are: good jobs, fairness, and an end to corporate greed and attacks on workers. And it’s part of a larger movement, one that started earlier this year as workers fought back against corporate greed and right-wing politicians in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and across the nation.

“In Wisconsin, hundreds of thousands of workers and outraged community members stormed the capitol in Madison after anti-worker politicians rammed through legislation attacking the rights of workers. In Ohio, over a million signatures were gathered to repeal Ohio’s SB 5. Corporate America has launched an unprecedented attack on our jobs and our rights, but the other 99% aren’t just rolling over.

“So exactly what do we – the 99% – have to be so angry about? To begin with: worker productivity has been rising over the past decade, but wages have remained stagnant while the cost of health care has skyrocketed, leaving the average American struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the gap between the richest 1% and the rest of us has gotten even wider.

“What we have seen over the past few weeks is more and more ordinary Americans standing up and demanding their share of the success that’s being hoarded by the wealthiest 1% of the country. UFCW has been encouraging its members and local unions to join Occupy actions in their communities. We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these brave Americans as they fight to make America a better, more just nation.”

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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.

October 16, 2011

You can vote NO on Issue 2 today!

The fight to repeal SB 5 is heating up.

Voter registration continues until October 11. And – between now and October 11, you can register to vote AND vote early at the same time. Please take advantage of this opportunity. You can vote in person or by mail. Don’t wait … vote NO on Issue 2 TODAY! Click here for more information.

ISSUE 2 is UNSAFE, UNFAIR and HURTS Ohio’s Middle Class Families

UNSAFE

  • Issue 2 puts all our families’ safety at risk. It makes it harder for emergency responders, police and firefighters to negotiate for critical safety equipment and training that protects us all.
  • Issue 2 will make our nursing shortage worse.  It makes it illegal for nurses, hospital and clinic workers to demand reasonable and safe staffing levels—so nurses will juggle more patients while their salaries and benefits are cut

UNFAIR

  • The same Columbus politicians who claim “we all must sacrifice” left themselves a gaping loophole in the law, making a special exception for politicians and upper management.
  • Ohio’s public employees have already sacrificed—saving Ohio taxpayers more than $250 million through pay freezes and unpaid furlough days, and an additional $100 million in increased health care contributions from employees.
  • It’s not Ohio values to let firefighters, police and teachers lose their rights and see wages and benefits gutted, while insiders, politicians and people at the top sacrifice nothing.

HURTS US ALL

  • Instead of creating jobs to fix our economy, politicians like Gov. Kasich gave away hundreds of millions in corporate tax breaks—draining our state budget without creating jobs—and passed flawed laws like SB 5 to pay back their campaign donors.
  • Teachers, nurses, firefighters are not the reason Ohio’s budget is in trouble. Big corporations, their high-paid lobbyists and the politicians they fund are blaming middle class Ohioans for a problem they caused.

Issue 2:  Another example of the politicians turning their backs on the middle class.

October 6, 2011

NYT: Confronting the Malefactors

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear, but we may, at long last, be seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people.

When the Occupy Wall Street protests began three weeks ago, most news organizations were derisive if they deigned to mention the events at all. For example, nine days into the protests, National Public Radio had provided no coverage whatsoever.

It is, therefore, a testament to the passion of those involved that the protests not only continued but grew, eventually becoming too big to ignore. With unions and a growing number of Democrats now expressing at least qualified support for the protesters, Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.

What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right.

A weary cynicism, a belief that justice will never get served, has taken over much of our political debate — and, yes, I myself have sometimes succumbed. In the process, it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.

In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.

Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

Now, it’s true that some of the protesters are oddly dressed or have silly-sounding slogans, which is inevitable given the open character of the events. But so what? I, at least, am a lot more offended by the sight of exquisitely tailored plutocrats, who owe their continued wealth to government guarantees, whining that President Obama has said mean things about them than I am by the sight of ragtag young people denouncing consumerism.

Bear in mind, too, that experience has made it painfully clear that men in suits not only don’t have any monopoly on wisdom, they have very little wisdom to offer. When talking heads on, say, CNBC mock the protesters as unserious, remember how many serious people assured us that there was no housing bubble, that Alan Greenspan was an oracle and that budget deficits would send interest rates soaring.

A better critique of the protests is the absence of specific policy demands. It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.

Rich Yeselson, a veteran organizer and historian of social movements, has suggested that debt relief for working Americans become a central plank of the protests. I’ll second that, because such relief, in addition to serving economic justice, could do a lot to help the economy recover. I’d suggest that protesters also demand infrastructure investment — not more tax cuts — to help create jobs. Neither proposal is going to become law in the current political climate, but the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate.

And there are real political opportunities here. Not, of course, for today’s Republicans, who instinctively side with those Theodore Roosevelt-dubbed “malefactors of great wealth.” Mitt Romney, for example — who, by the way, probably pays less of his income in taxes than many middle-class Americans — was quick to condemn the protests as “class warfare.”

But Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.

And if the protests goad some politicians into doing what they should have been doing all along, Occupy Wall Street will have been a smashing success.