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October 21, 2015

New UFCW Canada Flags Abuse of Migrant Agriculture Workers in Canada

A new report from UFCW Canada and the Agriculture Workers Alliance reveals how many of Canada’s more than 45,000 migrant and temporary agriculture workers regularly face workplace and human rights abuse. The Status of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada 2015 details how this mostly invisible workforce, hidden away in agriculture centers across Canada, is left vulnerable to exploitation because of legislative and regulatory discrimination that denies migrant agriculture workers basic workplace, labor, and health and safety rights.

Currently, in Ontario – the province with the largest agriculture workforce – workers in the sector are excluded from unionizing under the Labour Relations Act. In most jurisdictions across the country, migrant agriculture workers are also restricted from the fullest protection of provincial employment standards and health and safety regulations. As the new report details, the result is that Canada’s migrant agriculture workers are faced with conditions where exploitation and abuse are all too common. Migrant and temporary agriculture worker programs in Canada are regulated by the federal government, and typically tie a worker to one employer with no option to seek another if there is a workplace problem.

Providing transferable work permits is just one of the report’s 19 recommended legal reforms to provide fair treatment for migrant agriculture workers. Other recommendations include an impartial worker appeal process when faced with arbitrary repatriation, national standards to monitor and discipline offshore recruiters, mandatory dormitory health and safety inspections, as well as revising discriminatory legislation where it exists, to provide agriculture workers the same rights as other workers to join a union and bargain collectively.

The full report on the status of Migrant Agriculture Workers in Canada 2015 is available for download in PDF format at www.ufcw.ca/statusreport2015.

October 15, 2015

Honoring a Devoted UFCW “Cancer Kicker”

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Originally posted by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Frank Meehan spent two decades spearheading the United Food & Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) effort to raise money to defeat blood cancers. As president of the Long Island, NY Local, he was one of the first leaders to act upon the union’s national relationship withThe Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Then last spring, in a twist of fate, he ended up losing his life to one of the aggressive leukemias he’d been hoping to see cured.

“It’s so ironic. He worked so hard for this cause,” said his wife Pam. “He kicked off UFCW’s involvement for years. For him to pass from acute myeloid leukemia (AML) just blew us all away.”

Meehan, who was 75, looked and felt fine when he went for his annual physical in December. He had a low level of vitamin B12 that he couldn’t seem to kick but that was it. When a doctor did a bone marrow biopsy in March just to be safe, he was diagnosed with AML. The initial treatment knocked out his white blood cells and when he developed a complication, it couldn’t be treated and he got pneumonia. He died on Easter Sunday, only three weeks after being diagnosed.

At first his family was angry. He did so much to fight leukemia. Why would this happen to him?

“But then you ask why it would happen to a small child,” said Pam Meehan. “There’s no answer. It’s just a devastating loss.”

This year’s Light The Night Walk is a special one for Local 1500 as members are participating in the Oct. 17 event in East Meadow in honor of Meehan. The “Cancer Kicker” group has traditionally raised more than $50,000 a year for LLS by hosting walks at Shea Stadium, bowling tournaments, comedy shows, raffles and bus trips to Atlantic City, When Meehan retired in 2005, the local raised more than $100,000 in his honor and donated it to LLS.

“Frank lived a life of openhearted generosity and cared for all who met him,” said Tony Speelman, secretary-treasurer for Local 1500. “He touched the lives of thousands of working men and women through his kindred spirit, generosity and loving demeanor. He was a friend, a father, a husband, a grandfather, but no title could ever sum up the essence of Frank Meehan. He was simply one of a kind.”

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The labor leader was at the forefront of battles to improve the working conditions of thousands of union members. A part-time grocery store worker who rose to become a store manager, he became an organizer and union representative, and was elected president of Local 1500 in 1984.

David Timko, LLS’s senior vice president for volunteer engagement, said that once Meehan understood the LLS mission and the tragedy of blood cancers, he took up the cause. The union held him in high regard and he was an inspiration to others, Timko said. While sick in the hospital, he signed a release to donate blood and other samples for research.

“He lived such a rich life and did so much for others,” Timko added. “He spent so many years fundraising for LLS and he passed away just as we were beginning to make progress.”

Pam Meehan said she continues to have great hope for upcoming research. For her husband, doctors said that getting AML was like flipping a switch. One minute you’re fine, the next you’re sick.

“I hope somewhere out there someone will find a way to turn that switch off and save other people from going through this,” she said.

Donate to Local 1500’s team here.

UFCW a Powerful Voice

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has been a powerful voice for LLS for an amazing 32 years – raising close to $77 million! In 2015 alone, the UFCW raised $1.9 million in the U.S. and more than $2.5 million in Canada. Fundraising activities included charity golf tournaments, auctions, dinners, bottle drives, bowling events and sporting clay shooting events along with participation in LLS campaigns such as Light The Night, Team In Training and other activities.

The UFCW is now focusing on getting more of its locals to participate in the Light The Night Walk and it looks like that number will triple this fall.

Here are just a few examples of how the UFCW has been involved. Local 328, representing workers in Rhode Island, southern Massachusetts. and eastern Connecticut, reached the $1 million milestone recently through its annual golf tournament. In addition, UFCW Local 75 in the Cincinnati/Dayton area raised $110,000 with a charity golf tournament, Shoot for a Cure event and participation in Light The Night. UFCW members affiliated with The Beer Store supported a bottle drive for LLSC throughout Canada that raised more than $1.7 million.

The UFCW, the largest private sector union in the country, represents workers in the grocery industry as well as nursing homes; retail clothing stores; poultry, meatpacking and food processing plants; and in numerous other retail and food manufacturing areas.

October 13, 2015

Poll of Workers Who Make Less Than $15 Shows 72% Support for Unions

fight for 15Seventy-two percent of underpaid workers approve of labor unions, and 75 percent support a $15 minimum wage and a union according to the first-ever poll of workers paid less than $15 an hour.

The poll, released last Monday by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), follows on an April 2015 NELP study that found 42 percent of workers in the nation are paid less than $15 an hour. With the presidential campaign season heating up and Democrats convening next week for their first candidate debate, the poll looks at the voting preferences of this critical demographic of underpaid workers:

  • 69 percent of unregistered respondents say they would register to vote if there were a presidential candidate who supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and making it easier for workers to join a union;
  • 65 percent of registered voters say they are more likely to vote if a candidate supports $15 and a union for all workers; and
  • 69 percent of respondents favor raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The poll is the latest in a band of research demonstrating growing public support for unions and the importance of unions in the economic recovery. A recent Gallup Organization poll found a sharp uptick—to 58 percent—in approval of labor unions amongst the general population; the poll released today shows a significantly higher level of support among underpaid workers—higher than any Gallup study has recorded for the general population since 1959:

  • 72 percent of underpaid workers approve of unions;
  • 69 percent say it should be easier for workers like themselves to join together and form a union;
  • 72 percent believe unions can make a real difference in whether or not workers like themselves get raises;
  • 66 percent say they would have a better chance of making $15 an hour and being able to support their families if they could join a union; and
  • Support for $15 and a union is particularly strong in the South: 77 percent of Southern respondents expressed support.

“We’ve long known that unions help create good jobs and boost the economy, and now we know that underpaid workers share that view as well,” said NELP Executive Director Christine Owens. “An overwhelming majority want $15 and a union—and a president who will stand behind them in support of these basic rights. Underpaid workers in our country are a powerful force to be reckoned with in the workplace and the voting booth.”

October 5, 2015

Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike

via Union Plus

via Union Plus

This year, Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Delano Grape Strike, and provides us with an opportunity to pay tribute to two great labor leaders who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and helped to organize one of the most successful strikes in labor history—Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

On September 8, 1965, Filipino farm workers in Delano, Calif., who were members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), walked off the job at table grape farms in the area to protest the low pay and poor working conditions.  The leaders of AWOC knew that a successful strike had to include the many Latino farm workers in Delano, and they reached out to Chavez, Huerta and the NFWA to join them in their fight for dignity and respect on the job. Chavez insisted that the Filipino and Latino strikers work together and take a vow to remain nonviolent, and expanded the goals of the strikers to include the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.  Realizing their common goals, the NFWA and AWOC merged to form the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee in 1966.

In 1966, Chavez led a strike of California grape workers on a 300 mile march from Delano to Sacramento to raise awareness for their cause.  Soon, the strike spread to thousands of workers and the movement gained national attention and support from around the country, including the support of Robert F. Kennedy.  In 1967, Chavez shifted his focus and urged consumers and supermarket chains to boycott table grapes.  In response to the plight of the farm workers, Americans throughout the country refrained from buying table grapes in a show of support.  After five years of nonviolent strikes, boycotts, marches and fasts, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee succeeded in reaching a collective bargaining agreement with table grape growers in California in 1970—resulting in better pay, benefits and workplace conditions for thousands of farm workers.

In 1972, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee was accepted into the AFL-CIO and changed its name to the United Farmworkers Union. A year later in 1973, Chavez and Huerta led another successful consumer boycott against California grape growers that resulted in the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which allowed farm workers to form unions and bargain for better wages and working conditions.


September 25, 2015

UFCW Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

hispanic heritage month for fbHispanic Heritage Month is a time for the UFCW to pay tribute to Hispanic Americans and their positive contributions to our communities and our country.

The origins of this celebration date back to President Lyndon Johnson, who first established Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968.  In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to cover a 30-day period from September 15 to October 15.  Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted into law in 1988, and the start date of September 15 was chosen for the celebration because it marks the anniversary of independence for a number of Latin American countries.

Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, the UFCW will pay tribute to the culture and history of Hispanic Americans and their positive impact on the labor movement.

Do you have a story to share about your Hispanic heritage or how the Labor movement has played a role in your life? Let us know here and we might share it on our blog and social media!


September 14, 2015

Union, Yes: Unions Help Kids in Our Communities

Unions-Help-Children-Move-Up-LadderA new study shows yet another benefit of unions you may not be aware of: The New York Times this week wrote about a study that “suggests that unions may also help children move up the economic ladder.”

The paper–written by researchers at Harvard, Wellesley and the Center for American Progress–essentially finds that children born into low-income families have a greater chance of ascending “to higher incomes in metropolitan areas where union membership is higher.”

The Times article points out that it seems that no other link to upward mobility is as strong as the one found in the study. It’s also another reason why the decline in union membership is so troubling.

Beyond the effect of unionization on parents’ wages, the researchers found that this trend is also attributed to the fact that “unions are effective at pushing the political system to deliver policies — like a higher minimum wage and greater spending on schools and other government programs — that broadly benefit workers.” Perhaps the best and most recent examples of this are seen in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, where the minimum wage has been raised significantly.

And the correlation between increased union membership and increased income earning percentile for children doesn’t just apply to children in the lowest percentile, but children of all households.

Interestingly, the study also found that “children with fathers who belong to a union have significantly higher wages than children who don’t. But when it’s the mother who belongs to a union, only the wages of daughters rise.”

When trying to determine why, the Times notes that “it’s possible that the explanation is sociological: Daughters with a mother who belongs to a union may be more likely to work themselves, which means they’re more likely to have higher wages. Or, put differently, union membership is helping to change social norms.”

What norms are unions changing exactly? “Giving workers a greater sense of agency.” That sense, that union workers have the power to speak out if they are mistreated, then spreads to their peers.

Richard B. Freeman, one of the study’s authors, summarizes the takeaway nicely: “things that have a small effect at the individual level can have a larger aggregate effect.”

September 2, 2015

Honoring the History of Labor Day

via activerain.com

via activerain.com

While most Americans view Labor Day as the last long weekend of the summer and another day off work, the history behind the holiday was actually a result of one of the most intense and violent struggles for workers’ rights.

In 1894, during a time of severe economic and social unrest, thousands of workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike to protest the way George Pullman, founder and president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, treated his workers.  Pullman was one of the wealthiest men in the Chicago area, and subjected his workers to high rents and low pay in the company town he had built for them near the factory.  His actions forced many of his workers into debt and poverty.  When his workers rebelled and went on strike with the support of Eugene Debs and the American Railway Union, Pullman gained the support of President Grover Cleveland, who ordered federal troops to intervene—leading to a bloody confrontation and the deaths of more than 30 Pullman workers.  Soon afterwards and amid growing criticism to the brutal response to the striking workers, President Cleveland established Labor Day as a national holiday in an effort to appease organized labor.

One hundred and twenty-one years after the Pullman Strike, our country is still grappling with economic and social unrest as income inequality persists and the right of workers to stick together for better workplace conditions continues to be challenged.  Too many American workers are struggling to survive in low-wage, part-time jobs that hamper their ability to move up the economic ladder. And the sheer desperation of many Americans who simply want to work has enabled many companies to cut wages and hours, misclassify workers as independent contractors or hire temporary workers to avoid providing benefits, subject their workers to erratic scheduling practices, and punish those who speak out for better workplace conditions.

Many of these abuses are a direct result of the smaller number of unionized workers.  Fortunately, America’s workers are realizing that the key to economic prosperity for working people is power in numbers.  Across the country, thousands of low-wage, part-time workers are leading the fight to narrow the wealth gap by sticking together for better wages and benefits. Like the Pullman workers, they are standing up to their wealthy employers through strikes and protests in the face of threats and intimidation.  Some have even lost their jobs in their fight for a voice on the job.  Despite these setbacks, they continue to call attention to our country’s increasing reliance on low-wage, part-time jobs and its devastating effect on American workers.

This Labor Day, let’s take time to remember those before us who stood up to powerful corporate and political interests to fight for a better life and a more equitable society.  Let’s honor them by focusing on the power we all have to define a brighter path forward for the millions of workers and their families who deserve and have earned a better life.

September 1, 2015

The True Meaning of Labor Day

DSC_0180Today, The Hill published an Op-Ed by UFCW International President Marc Perrone and Executive Vice President Esther Lopez. In it, they remind us all that Labor Day isn’t just about celebrating the end of summer and cooking out. It’s a day to celebrate all hard-working men and women in America, including those who have been left out, thanks to our broken immigration system. Read the full op-ed below:

While many Americans look at Labor Day as the last weekend of summer and another opportunity to sit back and enjoy a barbeque with friends and family—the holiday was created to celebrate the accomplishments of hard-working men and women.

Labor Day is about celebrating the sacrifices working people have made to the shared prosperity of this country. It’s about valuing people, regardless of where they were born, for their work and the contributions they make to the economic well-being of our great country.

This Labor Day, we must challenge the political status quo that has left too many hard-working men and women to struggle alone in the shadows.

Nowhere has the failure of the status quo been more evident than in the struggle fix our country’s broken immigration system. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, over 8 million of which are active in the workforce. We’re talking about workers, parents, community leaders, friends and neighbors whose hard work and daily contributions to our economy merit full participation in our society.

While an overwhelming majority of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform, our national dialogue continues to be hijacked by endless fearmongering and the antics of presidential campaigns jockeying for 2016.

Case in point, Donald Trump.

Donald Trump’s eccentric soundbites have not only dominated the conversation, they have further divided and obfuscated the serious debate over our country’s immigration crisis. Along with Mr. Trump’s unrealistic campaign promise to build a wall along our 2,000-mile long southern border, his calls for overturning the 14th amendment and constitutional right of birthright citizenship are radical and dangerous.

Immigration reform will clearly be a key issue as we head into the 2016 presidential elections. Both parties have a responsibility to engage in a substantive debate about how we can actually fix a broken immigration system that penalizes workers and families. Too much is at stake to let this important issue be driven by extreme proposals and divisive rhetoric.

All politicians, those in office and those running for office, need to understand that the inaction that has pervaded our political system is unacceptable. Inaction is not an option for millions of hard-working men and women who aspire to be Americans.

Above all, we as a country cannot afford to continue down a path that enables and permits employers to exploit all workers by cutting wages, lowering benefits, and punishing those who dare to speak out for a better life.

We would hope that every candidate acknowledges the fact that if you live and work hard in America, if you’re contributing to the prosperity of this nation, you should have the opportunity to become an American.

This Labor Day, let’s honor and respect the work of all hard-working people.

For the sake of a better America we all must believe in, let’s put divisive partisan politics aside and challenge our 2016 candidates to do what is right for the country, and not themselves.

Perrone is the president of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. López is executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

August 31, 2015

Join the UFCW Women’s Network in Supporting Union Women’s Health

CLUWThe UFCW Women’s Network is a proud supporter of  Coalition of Labor Union Women’s (CLUW) “Getting to Know You and Your Health Needs” campaign.

CLUW’s commitment to empower union women includes providing health information. To assist in tailoring that information, CLUW created a short survey with HealthyWomen. Survey results will allow CLUW to provide union women with the health information they want on a regular basis, delivered via the communications format/s they prefer.

Take the short survey here:


HealthyWomen will be holding a drawing for a $100 gift card that every woman completing the survey can enter to win!

August 26, 2015

Why Unions Matter: Fighting to Protect Our Jobs

Sylvia, in black vest

Sylvia Hovington knows first-hand just how important unions are.

Sylvia is a member of UFCW Local 1776 and works for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). The Local represents 3,500 members working retail at PA Wine and Spirits Stores and in the warehouses that deliver to licensees such as bars, restaurants, and sporting facilities.

Coming from a “labor family”, Silvia started working for the PLCB in her twenties, seeking a job that that would support its employees and had advancement opportunities.  “Make sure you join the union!” Silvia’s aunt told her. And of course she did; she’s now been a member for 28 years. Sylvia’s daughter is also carrying on the family tradition–her UFCW job enables her to work for the PLCB as she finishes up college.

But in 2013, the job Sylvia loves and the security it provided for her family came under threat. For years, Republicans in the state House of Representatives have been trying to privatize the sale of liquor in their state, meaning 3,500 good union jobs would be lost and sent to retailers like Walmart, which pay low wages and treat their workers poorly, Sylvia notes. In 2013, Republican governor Tom Corbett, who claimed he would stop at nothing to pass a privatization bill, helped push a bill through the state House.

For the first time in her career Syliva was scared for her job. “How was I going to feed my family?” she thought. Her husband also had a good job but they needed more than one salary to pay their mortgage, car payments, her daughter’s tuition, and support the rest of her family. “It’s a very scary thing when your livelihood is about to be snatched away from you. It doesn’t just affect the worker but their whole family.”

But Sylvia and her fellow Local 1776 members “were not going down without a fight.”

As a shop steward, Sylvia was used to keeping her fellow members updated and educating young members about what being part of a union family means. Now, she would be doing that across the state.

In order to stop the privatization bill from passing in the state Senate Local 1776 and members like Sylvia went into overdrive to save their jobs. They held lobby days in Harrisburg, went from store to store talking to Wine and Spirits workers, and sent letters to their representatives telling them not to support this bill that would hurt the families of over 3,500 workers and be bad for the state budget.

After months of mobilizing workers and spreading their message, receiving support from other UFCW Locals and the International as well as other labor unions, Sylvia and fellow union members have come out victorious. This year, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf vetoed the privatization legislation.

“The reason why we still have our jobs is because we belong to a union,” says Sylvia. “Unions keep the jobs flowing.”

She wants the Republicans who have been trying to pass the privatization bill in her state and who have claimed that unions are unnecessary to know a few things.

“The UFCW has helped me so much. My Local offers daycare reimbursement that helped me work when my daughters were young. They make sure you get dental and medical. They make sure we are payed a good living wage. Without them, I might not have been able to take my maternity leave.”

Without the protection and support of a union, says Sylvia, workers are not guaranteed these things. And that is why she is thankful this Labor Day, that unions exist.

The fight for PLCB workers isn’t over since they could face similar legislation again. But they know that whatever happens in the future, the union has their back.