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August 28, 2012

Fighting Fire with Food and Support

In July of 2009, a terrible fire broke out at the Patrick Cudahy meatpacking plant in Milwaukee, WI. The massive Smithfield plant was completely consumed by the fire, threatening lives, costing millions of dollars in damage, and displacing over 1,400 workers, leaving them without work.

The devastating fire at the Patrick Cudahy plant prompted UFCW Local 1473 to immediately reach out across the labor community.  The Patrick Cudahy Worker Relief Fund was formed, and generous donations were made.  Local 1473 members then worked with the the Milwaukee County Labor Council and the Hunger Task Force to establish a food bank specifically for the Patrick Cudahy workers.  The Hunger Task Force, which, prior to the fire had relied on the Patrick Cudahy plant to supply many of the products in their food bank, was now helping to feed the displaced workers.

With the support of the Hunger Task force and other organizations, members were able to stick together and move toward recovering from the fire. Three years later, members are back at the plant to continue their work and support for organizations like the Hunger Task Force that play such an important role in their communities.

Last week, members from UFCW Local 1473 again joined partners Smithfield, Patrick Cudahy, and Pick ‘n Save in the latest event for the Feeding the Hungry campaign. The 40,000 pound donation went to the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, WI. Some of the members of Local 1473 still work at the nearby Patrick Cudahy meat processing plant, continuing to help produce products such as hams and bacon, which were part of the donation to the Hunger Task Force. This latest Feeding the Hungry donation exhibited the special and continued relationship members share with the Hunger Task Force.

Local 1473’s story is a powerful reminder that even in times of disaster, when people stick together, there is always hope.

The UFCW is committed to ensuring that families across the country have the relief and the opportunities they need to weather the current economic crises. As the foodworkers’ union, with members working in grocery stores, packing plants, and food processing plants, UFCW members and locals have long been involved in programs to help the hungry and provide for those in need. One of the most successful, and certainly the largest, of these programs is the joint UFCW/Smithfield Feeding the Hungry (FTH) Program – a three-year, multi-city, coast to coast effort to donate and deliver more than 20 million servings of protein to food banks through Feeding America’s network.

All across the country UFCW members are on the frontlines of efforts to improve and strengthen their communities, and this partnership reflects their unwavering commitment to protect and advocate for families during tough times. This partnership is about bringing together organizations with the resources, the relationships and the know-how to ensure that vulnerable communities across the country have access to well-supplied food banks. Our goal is simple: Get good, nutritious food to as many families, in as many communities, as possible.

August 24, 2012

Union-Made Back to School Supplies

To make sure your child’s back-to-school supplies are union-made, check out this great resource from the Union Label and Services Trades Department!

The flyer also notes that the luckiest kids in the nation are getting an education provided by union teachers, principals, and custodial/support staff.  We couldn’t agree more.

August 14, 2012

Local 1208 Serves as Role Model in Community

UFCW Local 1208 has been very busy this year! So far in 2012, Local 1208 has seen both tremendous progress in both the Smithfield Plant they represent, and in their local community of Tar Heel, North Carolina. This progress is due to the actions, member related and community outreach events, and the key role Local 1208 has taken in transforming the working environment for those living in Tarheel and its surrounding counties. Below, see a few of the things Local 1208 has been up to!

Defferred Action Event- St. Pauls, NC 
This event was coordinated by a group of local students. The forum included a PowerPoint presentation given by immigration lawyers, which discussed President Obama’s newest immigration reform.  The floor was opened for questions about the new reform, immigration, and deportation.  Many UFCW members attended, and Local 1208 had the chance to share its support of both immigrants and immigrant reform. Local 1208 is also currently working with attorneys across North Carolina to coordinate labs that will assist people with the application process as new reforms roll out.  Way to make everyone feel welcome!

Community Health Fairs- Fayetteville and Red Springs, NC
Local 1208 this year continued their tradition of participating in Community Health Fairs, which offer free information and services from local health care organization and the communities they serve. Local 1208 offered a range of information about work place safety, health laws (OSHA Q/A), and workers’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace.

Monthly Obama Sticker Contest- Tar Heel, NC
Each month, Local 1208 rewards it members for showing support for Obama by holding an Obama sticker contest.  The contest involves picking a car at random from the Smithfield Packing Plant (which they represent) parking lot that boasts a “UFCW for Obama” bumper sticker. Not only does each monthly winner receive a VISA gift card, but they also earn the right to have their picture proudly publicized throughout the plant during the corresponding weekly action, encouraging others to participate.  

Head over to the Local 1208 facebook page to see what else the Local is doing!

August 10, 2012

UFCW Members Show their True Colors with Generous Donations to Haiti

In 2010, UFCW local unions from around the country pledged generous funds for Haiti to aid in the healing of the destruction and suffering that tool place and still continues today due to the devastating earthquake. 
The UFCW Charity Foundation will distribute more than $450,000 to help bring food, water, and technology to the local children and families in Haiti.
Reviving Haitiis a partner in supporting a water project for the town of Chardonette, Haiti. The town is home to 8,000 people who currently use an unfiltered spring as their water source. The project will create a new water system that will pump and filter water to a series of reservoirs so the local families can have access to clean water.  Eventually the water system will be extended and used to send clean water to other neighboring towns as well. 
Other projects that funds are supporting include: 
·        Hope for Haiti – UFCW Local 888 is overseeing the project that will build computer labs and a library at the St. Francois de Sales Primary and Secondary School in Riviere Froide, Carrefour. 
·        High Hopes for Haiti – The Mortel Family Foundation is supporting a project to build computer labs and a libraryat the John Stine College in St. Marc, Haiti.
·         God to Haiti – UFCW Local 1625 member Jean Myril is leading a project to provide hot meals for the children and families in Bitho, Leogane.

August 9, 2012

Young Union Members Step Up to the Plate at UALE Leadership Summer School

This summer, two young women from Local 400 gave up some time in the sun to learn more about something close to their hearts- union leadership.
To do so, Brittany Metts, 20, from Safeway #1276 and Stephanie Pryor, 29, from Giant #326, attended  the 37th United Association for Labor Education (UALE) Northeast Summer School for Union Women in Amherst, Massachusetts. 
Metts and Pryor were chosen to attend the Summer School because they have been active Local 400 members throughout the community, attending rallies, meetings and events- helping to give the younger members of Local 400 a voice. 
“For Local 400, engaging the young membership has always been key, with the average age of our membership being 24-years-old,” said Local 400 president Tom McNutt. “Brittany and Stephanie have shown great potential participating in actions around Giant and Safeway negotiations. The UALE Summer School is a great avenue for them to acquire additional skills to provide the best possible support for the youth of Local 400 today and to be able to assume a greater leadership tomorrow.”  
The leadership courses Metts and Pryor enrolled in were focused on developing skills regarding collective bargaining, labor law, grievance handling, public speaking, organizing, safety and health, and mobilizing for political and legislative activity. 
Metts’ favorite class was leadership, where she learned the importance of listening, identifying situations and obstacles when in a leadership role, and communicating effectively. The biggest accomplishment she had while at UALE was gaining more confidence in herself as a leader.
Metts also offered some suggestions of her own to her union sisters in the room, who were struggling with reaching out to the younger union members:
Brittany Metts and Stephanie Pryor

“It’s all about being personable and telling your story,” she said. “You can’t put an age on maturity. Yes, I’m only 20 but I have gone through some experiences that say a 40-year-old just experienced,” Metts added. “We as humans, as women, have a lot more in common than you think, if you just take the time to listen.”

Some sage advice.
Pryor also weighed in, noting that, “it’s important to have an open mind and just take a moment to talk with people around you in your stores.”
Pryor’s favorite class was collective bargaining, where the students participated in a mock negotiations exercise.
“We learned all the tactics management play and how to read their body language,” she said. “Though I was lucky enough to be on the union side of the table during the exercise it was still tough knowing that the ‘members’ would be counting on you. It really opened my eyes to the pressures the leadership of our union faced at the bargaining table with Giant and Safeway recently.”
Metts and Pryor hope to serve as leaders for the young adults in Local 400 and their communities, although it seems as if they have already made a difference among their peers. When they return, they plan to put their new skills to work by leading a youth workshop for the members who are under the age of 35. The workshop will help generate a network of young Local 400 members to meet and discuss not only issues at work, but other challenges life has to offer as well.
“We want to engage the young members and grow the network so they can be the voice of young workers at rallies, events and most importantly inside their facilities,” said Metts
Metts and Pryor would also like to close the gap that sometimes exists between the older and younger generation of workers.
“We want both generations to understand that there are so many mentors around you and stepping outside of your comfort zone is a good thing,” explained Metts. “We all are in this family, we are all union brothers and sisters and regardless of age, we need to stick together.”
“It’s terrific that our union sisters Brittany and Stephanie are taking the initiative and reaching out to the younger membership,” McNutt said. “After all, they are the future of the labor movement, they are the future of Local 400, so educating members on where the labor movement has been and where it’s going is essential.”
August 2, 2012

ConAgra Foods Workers Choose a Union Voice on the Job with UFCW Local 455

July 27, 2012

UFCW Members Show Community Spirit in Rockmart, Georgia

UFCW/ICWUC Local 90-T in Rockmart, Georgia took time out this week to volunteer at their local Home Spun Festival – registering voters, giving away water bottles, and talking to friends and neighbors about what it means to have a union voice on the job.

The Home Spun festival is a tradition dating back 35 years in Rockmart, but this year marks Local -T’s first official involvement in the festival. The local staff and members in attendance were in agreement that it won’t be their last!

What a great way to spend the day – union brothers and sisters coming together for the good of the community to share information on voting and workplace rights. Do you have more stories about union members giving back in their communities? If so, send them along to submissions@ufcw.org and your story could be featured right here on the blog!

July 18, 2012

UFCW Members, Family Members Awarded Union Plus Scholarships

July 12, 2012

National Labor College Graduates the Class of 2012

Here on the blog, we like to recognize those who work hard and strive to help the cause of the working family.

Congratulations to the 78 newest graduates of the National Labor College Class of 2012!

The students graduated this past Saturday with Bachelors degrees, representing 25 unions across the nation including UFCW, as well as Working America, the AFL-CIO’s Community affiliate.
“Today, it is vitally important that we have NLC graduates with the skills necessary to put our members back to work and to effectively respond to the strident challenges we face to our basic right to bargain collectively,” said John Sweeney, President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO. “By balancing work, education, union roles, and family responsibilities, the graduates have achieved a tremendous accomplishment.”

Several students were highlighted for their outstanding contributions to the NLC community:

  • Helen Foreman-Hines of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was awarded the prestigious President’s Award.
  • Mark King, president of the student government association and member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was elected by his fellow graduates as class speaker and received a distinguished paper award for his senior thesis.
  • Jon Leinbaugh of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA) and Joseph Walsh of the Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) were awarded the 2012 Bert and Annabel Seidman Prize for Advancing Social Policy.
  • Trenton Reich of Working America and Paul Simon of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) received distinguished paper awards for their senior theses.

About National Labor College
Established as a training center by AFL-CIO in 1969 to strengthen union member education and organizing skills, today the NLC is the nation’s only accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union leaders, members and activists. Learn more at www.nlc.edu.
July 10, 2012

Decline in Working Class Jobs Hurts Our Kids

New research about the bifurcation of American society has produced some alarming information about the opportunity gap in our country.

Although there is of course inequality in the standards of living among America’s adults, the inequality in opportunity for our children is sometimes overlooked.  But it is a growing problem. According the the article from the NYTimes, in the decades to come, our country will be even more divided than it is now.  In decades past, kids of college-grads and high-school grads invested similarly in their children. Now, however, more affluent parents spend much more on their childrens’ futures, while the less affluent have decreased in those investments.

 Aside from money, the most important thing affluent parents are giving to their kids is time. In fact, affluent parents have quadrupled the amount of time they spend with their kids, whether it be at home, supporting them at a sporting event, or driving them to any plethora of extracurricular activities.  Meanwhile, high-school educated parents have increased child-care time, but only slightly. In the previous generation of families, things were opposite, and it was the working-class families who spent more time together. But now, the attention gap in the first three years of life for working-class family kids, when it is most important, is only growing.

Of course, the gap in the amount of money we spend on our kids is growing too. Affluent parents have increased the amount they spend on their kids enrichment activities by $5300 a year, whereas the financially stressed have only increased the amount they spend per year to $480.

Data taken in 1972 shows that kids from the bottom quartile of earners participated in about the same number of activities as the kids from the top quartile.  The facts today are starkly different.  Rich kids are now involved in twice as many activities as poorer kids, and twice as likely to excel in those activities.

This growing chasm among the classes is also causing the less fortunate children to become more pessimistic and detached. One researcher noted that “It’s perfectly understandable that kids from working-class backgrounds have become cynical and even paranoid, for virtually all our major social institutions have failed them — family, friends, church, school and community.” These kids are less likely to participate in voluntary service work that could provide them with a sense of purpose, they do worse in school, and their opportunities are limited.

A long series of cultural, economic and social trends have merged to create this sad state of affairs. Traditional social norms were abandoned, meaning more children are born out of wedlock. Their single parents simply have less time and resources to prepare them for a more competitive world. Working-class jobs were decimated, meaning that many parents are too stressed to have the energy, time or money to devote to their children. 
Affluent, intelligent people are now more likely to marry other energetic, intelligent people. They raise energetic, intelligent kids in self-segregated, cultural ghettoes where they know little about and have less influence upon people who do not share their blessings. 
The political system directs more money to health care for the elderly while spending on child welfare slides.
Equal opportunity, once core to the nation’s identity, is now a tertiary concern. America’s leaders need to change this, and take advantage of all of the human capital in our country rather than the most privileged two-thirds of it. Let’s focus on bringing back working class jobs so that our kids will have a bright future.
Click here to read the full article by David Brooks from NYTimes.com