News and Updates
March 7, 2013
CHICAGO, ILL.— Joe Hansen, International President of the UFCW, today delivered the following statement when joining the AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, the Chicago Federation of Labor, students, Latino leaders and workers at a major Chicago rally for urgent federal action for comprehensive immigration reform.
President Hansen’s statement follows:
“Now is the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform – not next year or the year after but right now. We can no longer accept an immigration system that breaks up families, harasses workers, and deports people who are simply trying to achieve the American Dream. We can no longer be a nation that turns away aspiring citizens.
“For centuries, immigrants have come to America’s shores with the dream of making a better life for themselves and their families — from Ellis Island to the Florida Keys to the Rio Grande. But for today’s immigrants, this dream has become a nightmare. Young adults who were brought here as children and have grown up in America—the Dreamers—still do not have a clear path to citizenship. Workers face discrimination, abuse, retaliation, and sometimes worse. Families are unable to reunite.
“Our immigration system is obviously broken. But worse than that, it flies in the face of our values as a nation. So we must reform it. No one is better to lead that reform than the labor movement. It is the workers we represent who are most victimized by our current immigration system.
“For the UFCW, this issue hits close to home. We remember the ICE raids in 2006 where our members were treated like criminals. We remember hearing the stories of workers terrorized just for doing their jobs.
“Other unions have suffered similar experiences, as Wild West immigration enforcement has become the rule instead of the exception. So as a movement, we are as united as ever to make comprehensive immigration reform the law of the land.
“The UFCW is joining our allies in the labor movement and in our communities to mobilize our members in support immigration reform that includes:
- A road map to citizenship for those already here
- An effective mechanism for determining employment eligibility
- Smart and humane border enforcement
- Streamlined family reunification
- A fair process for allocating employment based visas
“But most of all, we want an immigration system that gives immigrants hope, not fear. We want to be a nation that builds dreams, not border fences. We want the families of immigrants to be united, not divided. We want immigrant workers to have rights, not wrongs.
“America has always prided itself on being a country where anyone who is willing to work hard and pursue their dreams can find success. We must live up to that ideal. We must pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
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, http://www.ufcw.org/, or join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/ufcwinternational and www.twitter.com/UFCW
February 20, 2013
In last week’s State of the Union Address, President Obama made it clear that raising our country’s federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour was one of his top priorities. Many agree with President Obama that raising the minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 is a necessary step to rebuilding our middle class and strengthening our economy, including members of labor unions. Take a look at this chart:
The Center for Economic and Policy Research poses this question:
“Suppose the minimum wage had kept in step with productivity growth over the last 44 years. In other words, rather than just keeping purchasing power constant at the 1969 level, suppose that our lowest paid workers shared evenly in the economic growth over the intervening years.”
As the graph displays, in the past, when minimum wage was tied to productivity, workers benefited:
“This should not seem like a far-fetched idea. In the years from 1947 to 1969 the minimum wage actually did keep pace with productivity growth. (This is probably also true for the decade from when the federal minimum wage was first established in 1937 to 1947, but we don’t have good data on productivity for this period.)
As the graph shows, the minimum wage generally was increased in step with productivity over these years. This led to 170 percent increase in the real value of the minimum wage over the years from 1948 to 1968. If this pattern of wage increases for those at the bottom was supposed to stifle growth, the economy didn’t get the message. Growth averaged 4.0 percent annually from 1947 to 1969 and the unemployment rate for the year 1969 averaged less than 4.0 percent.
This changed in the 1970’s, when the real value of minimum wage declined sharply and only kept up with inflation. This major shift in policy change happened without any public debate it would seem. The Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that if “the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth it would be $16.54 in 2012 dollars”.
A Business Insider piece also quotes Op-Ed columnist Ezra Klein, who notes that:
“a minimum wage is like a proxy labor union; sure it may have some employment effects, but it effectively raises the wage bargaining power of those workers who do manage to find employment. In the absence of such bargaining power, we can’t expect any meaningful increase in wages at the low end of the income spectrum.”
The article also cites a study in which found that minimum wage increases had no adverse effects on employment, and actually lead to increased employment rates among single women with children. Some date also backs the idea that reasonable wage increases affect wage hikes further up the pay scale (and also decreases the wage gap), and also provide workers with motivation to be more productive.
The fact is, raising the minimum wage would raise living standards for millions of workers who are currently living at or just above the poverty line.
As for the second argument, that $9.00 an hour still is not enough to provide a decent living for millions of working class Americans, we agree for the most part. However, not only is $9/hour a step in the right direction, it is also good for union members, who stand to seek even greater wage increases in their contracts, if they make more than the current minimum wage of $7.25.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “unionized food service employees have median weekly salaries that are $100 higher than non-union workers.”
Also, although the President is pushing for a $9 minimum wage, several state governments are pushing for $10 or more, as in Maryland.
$9 an hour is not a perfect solution. It will not raise all of America out of poverty. However, it is certainly a great stride towards providing more Americans a platform to the middle class- something that all of America should agree we need to rebuild in order to restore our economy. As President Obama noted in his SOTU address, no American working a full-time job should be living under the poverty line and nor should, if we can help it, anyone else.
January 7, 2013
Last Friday, #WhyMyPaycheckIsLessThisWeek began trending on Twitter. Tweeters were quick to blame President Obama, free birth control, immigrants, and a number of other things for the deductions they saw in their paychecks last week, following the “fiscal cliff”.
Rush Limbaugh ranted that paychecks declined in order to pay for “another Obama vacation,” and similar (outrageous) complaints have been made by other conservatives with large followings as well.
None of these are true. In reality, the decrease in paychecks is due to the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, which went into affect on January 1st. According to Working America, the payroll tax cut expiration was, among other things, the result of “the lack of attention to job-creating policies that help workers pay their bills, and devotion of Republicans and some Democrats to ‘cutting spending’ while protecting the interests of their wealthy and corporate sponsors.”
Here’s a bit more background, based on actual facts, not accusations:
-The payroll tax cut lowered payroll taxes from 6.2% to 4.2%, and went into effect in 2010. It was set to expire in December 2011, but after a vote was extended until January 1st, 2013.
-As the new year approached, the “Fiscal Cliff” was created in order to set a deadline about how to offset the national debt.
-President Obama, in his initial offer to Boehner, wanted to extend the payroll tax holiday, however he was rejected because the offer did not extend Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans. During the series of concessions and offers that took place during the fiscal cliff negotiations, the payroll tax holiday extension was dropped, as a concession by President Obama to House Republicans.
-Regardless, experts predicted the concession of the payroll tax holiday extension as early as September 2012, before the country knew who our next President would be.
December 18, 2012
Support union workers this holiday by buying union-made and made-in-America products this year! There are plenty of sources out there to help you stick to union made stocking stuffers, gifts, and yummy holiday treats to serve at whatever celebration you are hosting or attending. Here are just a few:
Made in America Holiday Gift and Stocking Stuffer Guide from the AFL-CIO (features products from the UFCW as well as Unite Here, USW, IAM, UAW, RWDSU, and many more)
Make it a union-made holiday from the UAW is a guide to union-made toys and electronics, plus other lists of union-made products
The Union-made Holiday Shopping List from Labor 411 features a variety of products from multiple unions, and even has price listings.
image source: http://www.homesteadcards.com/ , where you can buy union-made holiday cards!
November 14, 2012
A few weeks after Hurricane Sandy, families continue to struggle in communities where people have lost their homes and are still without power in the face of winter weather.
Sonia Tirado has family who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy. Born and raised in Coney Island, Tirado was eager to help her community get back on its feet. Tirado is a home health aide at Americare and is a member of UFCW Local 348-S in Brooklyn. When her fellow UFCW members contacted Tirado asking if she would be interested in volunteering to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, she jumped at the chance to help.
“It’s just the right thing to do, to help other people,” Tirado said.
Along with nearly 20 staff and members from UFCW Local 348-S, Tirado spent a day last week distributing supplies, assisting with storm clean up, and helping almost 1,000 Coney Island residents take care of basic needs. UFCW members also coordinated with New York Communities for Change to bring donations of blankets, diapers, and food for the areas devastated by the storm.
Sonia’s work in her community is a great example of the ways UFCW members across the country give back every day. To learn more about UFCW’s community partnerships, click here.
November 8, 2012
We polled our members and asked if they voted. The results show that UFCW members had great voter turnout, and played a big role in supporting and re-electing President Obama! Here are some member reactions to the big win:
“yes sir, i voted- we as union workers are the big winners tonight!!”
“God bless America.”
“Thank god!! now if we can just get our congress and senate to work for the people and r president …life will be grand!”
“i am very happy again”
“yes, it is time too celebrate and work hard for a stronger America!”
“yea lets move forward”
November 2, 2012
As Walmart Supercenter Holds Grand Re-Opening, Workers and Community Protest Attempts to Silence and Retaliate against Workers
Richmond, California–On the heels of first-ever strikes by Walmart workers across the country, workers at the Walmart Supercenter in Richmond walked off the job this morning as the store held its grand re-opening. Joined by community leaders who have been calling for changes at Walmart, workers are on strike in protest of the attempts to silence and retaliate against workers. At the Richmond store, Walmart workers have been working hard to help the store reach today’s grand re-opening date all while facing illegal intimidation from a store manager, including racist remarks and threats of physical violence.
“We will not be silenced by Walmart for standing up for respect and against harassment, intimidation and retaliation,” said Mario Hammod, a worker at the Richmond Walmart. Hammod is one of thousands of members of the national worker-led Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) that has been calling for changes at the company. “In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, I am taking a stand against Walmart’s illegal bullying tactics and practicing my right to peacefully hold a sit-in. We want to be able to celebrate the store’s re-opening, but we cannot continue to work under these conditions of retaliation.”
In an expression of the building frustration that Walmart has not only ignored workers calls for change in Richmond and across the country, but actually retaliated against workers who do speak out, national leaders from civil rights, immigrant rights and women’s rights communities, religious institutions, unions and community leaders have committed to join striking workers in a wide range of non-violent activities on and leading up to Black Friday, including rallies, flash mobs, direct action and other efforts to inform customers about the illegal actions that Walmart has been taking against its workers.
“We cannot stand by while Walmart retaliates against workers who are standing up for a better future for their families,” said Rev. Phillip Lawson, Co-Founder of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
Rev. Lawson, along with other supporters and community groups across the country, has been calling for change through the Unified Call to Change Walmart. “Racist and threatening comments from Walmart will not be tolerated here in Richmond or anywhere. Walmart should be creating good jobs, not threatening workers and turning its backs on the hard-working people that made this ribbon-cutting possible.”
The group protested outside the Supercenter with signs reading, “Stand Up, Live Better, Stop Retaliation” and “Stop Trying to Silence Us.” This comes just weeks after Walmart workers walked off the job in more than a dozen states, including stores in the East and South Bay. At the same time, workers went on strike at Walmart’s largest distribution center outside of Chicago, IL and were joined by hundreds of clergy and community supporters, some of who were arrested by riot police during the peaceful protest. And earlier this fall, workers in Walmart-controlled warehouses in Southern California went on a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs.
Walmart Associates at Richmond have been calling on management to end the retaliations against workers who speak out against harassment and poor working conditions, as well take home pay so low that many Associates are forced to rely on public programs to support their families and understaffing that is keeping workers from receiving sufficient hours and is also hurting customer service. As frontline Walmart workers face such hardships, the company is raking in almost $16 billion a year in profits, executives made more than $10 million each in compensation last year. Meanwhile, the Walton Family – heirs to the Walmart fortune – is the richest family in the country with more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined.
Energy around the calls for Walmart to change its treatment of workers and communities has been building. In just one year, OUR Walmart, the unique workers’ organization founded by Walmart Associates, has grown from a group of 100 Walmart workers to an army of thousands of Associates in hundreds of stores across 43 states. Together, OUR Walmart members have been leading the way in calling for an end to double standards that are hurting workers, communities and our economy.
The alleged Mexican bribery scandal, uncovered by the New York Times, has shined a light on the failure of internal controls within Walmart that extend to significant breaches of compliance in stores and along the company’s supply chain. The company is facing yet another gender discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 100,000 women in California and in Tennessee. In the company’s warehousing system, in which Walmart has continually denied responsibility for the working conditions for tens of thousands of people who work for warehouses where they move billions of dollars of goods, workers are facing rampant wage theft and health and safety violations so extreme that they have led to an unprecedented $600,000 in fines. The Department of Labor fined a Walmart seafood supplier for wage and hour violations, and Human Rights Watch has spoken out about the failures of controls in regulating suppliers overseas, including a seafood supplier in Thailand where trafficking and debt bondage were cited.
Financial analysts are also joining the call for Walmart to create better checks and balances, transparency and accountability that will protect workers and communities and strengthen the company. At the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Bentonville, OUR Walmart member Jackie Goebel brought a stadium full of shareholders to their feet applauding her call for an end to the short staffing that’s hurting workers and customer service. A resolution proposed by Associate-shareholders to rein in executive pay received unprecedented support, and major pension funds that voted their shares against Walmart CEO and members of the board this June amounting to a ten-fold increase, and overall 1 in 3 shares not held by the Walton family against the company’s leadership.
These widespread problems have also thwarted Walmart’s plans for growth, particularly in urban markets. Calling the company a “bad actor,” New York City mayoral candidates have all been outspoken in their opposition to Walmart entering the city without addressing labor and community relations’ problems. This month, the city’s largest developer announced an agreement with a union-grocery store at a site that Walmart had hoped would be its first location in New York. In Los Angeles, mayoral candidates are refusing to accept campaign donations from the deep pockets of Walmart, and in Boston, Walmart was forced to suspend its expansion into the city after facing significant community opposition.
November 2, 2012
Last night, Vice President Joe Biden spoke to over 50,000 UFCW members who called in to listen to him at a telephone town hall meeting. He talked about the importance of this election for working families, and the need to get out and vote for the candidates that support working people in this country.
“This is the clearest choice labor has had in a presidential election in my lifetime,” said Vice President Biden. “Not only is labor at risk, but the whole middle class is at risk.”
“You, workers, are the only folks keeping the barbarians from the gate,” he continued. “Organized labor built the middle class… These guys are all out of the same mold – Kasich, Walker, Scott, Ryan, Romney, the National Chamber. They may be decent men personally, but you are on their list…You can’t kid yourselves.”
“Guys, we need you. We need you to vote and make sure every labor household votes for us – and we need you to go out there and make the case,” said Vice President Biden. “You guys vouched for me before. Remember. This is not your father’s Republican party…This is not a hard choice…Don’t compare Barack to the Almighty. Compare him to the alternative. And the alternative, for labor, is bleak, if the other guys get elected.”
Listen to the full remarks here: Joe Biden Telephone Town Hall – November 1, 2012.
And then get out and vote! Tell your friends and family to vote! Want more info on how to vote, and how to vote early? Click here to find out more. Remember, as the Vice President said, “The future depends on you.”
November 1, 2012
Early voting has already begun in many states! Why wait until November 6th when you can vote today? Avoid long lines at the polls and other potential issues, and make sure you make your voice heard in this important election. Click here to use our early voting calendar and find out when, where, and how you can vote early in the next week!
Why is this election so important? Because President Obama is pro-worker, pro-union, and pro-middle class. Mitt Romney has made it his agenda to get rid of labor unions as we know them, and supports right-wing policies that will only make it harder for workers to have a voice on the job. So vote to stand up for your rights.
September 17, 2012
Big news for labor came out of Wisconsin on Friday, when a judge struck down Scott Walker’s controversial anti-collective bargaining law. Although the governor has said he is sure his state will successfully appeal the judge’s decision about Act 10, we certainly are not. If anything, this news could be just the fuel people need to keep up the fight for labor rights, and do what’s right, especially when this decision comes so near to the November Presidential election.
In a Washington Post article about the ruling, a few possible outcomes of this news are detailed, most of which bode well for the state’s- and the nation’s- labor movement:
Firstly, the decision, although perhaps only temporary, is a big motivator for all those involved in this year’s earlier anti-walker protests. After investing countless resources into the movement to stop his anti-worker legislation from passing, and recall the governor, it was disheartening to lose the battle. Working families see that our efforts were not in vain.
Another point made in the article suggests that now, political polarization and opinion on the issue is not going to fade away, and will only be rejuvenated. Because of the Friday decision, Democrats and Republicans are less likely to compromise on their beliefs regarding right-to-work legislation, essentially giving the labor movement a second wind. Collective bargaining is now back in the spotlight, front and center. The debate is not over.
This is good news folks. Even if the judge’s ruling doesn’t stand up, we know that the fight will not be over.