News and Updates
December 13, 2007
Washington, D.C. – Once again, President Bush has chosen to turn his back on America’s uninsured children by vetoing a new version of a health care bill that would have expanded coverage to 10 million children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Despite broad public support for this legislation, the president has made it clear that health and well-being of America’s children is not a priority.
While President Bush and his followers bicker with Congress over SCHIP funding and eligibility issues, America’s families are struggling to balance the high cost of housing, food, fuel and education with health care plans that include high out-of-pocket premiums, deductibles and co-payments. These flawed health care plans are proving to be too expensive for millions of Americans to afford, and many families with young children are being forced to join the growing population of Americans who are uninsured.
A majority of voters believe that no American should be denied access to health care. It is our hope that Congress will listen to the voters who put them in office and override this veto. We also hope that President Bush and his followers are held accountable for putting big business before the millions of families who are simply trying to survive without coverage. The UFCW will continue to fight for health care reform so that all Americans and their children have access to a healthier future.
November 15, 2007
(Washington, Nov. 14) – – The AFL-CIO and UFCW today welcomed OSHA’s announcement that the agency will finally issue the rule requiring employers to pay for personal protective safety equipment – a measure that will prevent tens of thousands of workplaces injuries every year.
“”It is unfortunate that nine years have passed since the rule was proposed, and that it took a lawsuit by the unions and Congressional intervention before the Bush Administration would act,”” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “”America’s working men and women deserve the proper equipment to keep them safe on the job, each and every day, and we will thoroughly review this rule to make sure it protects them.””
“”Workers have spoken out for this rule and now Congress and the courts have forced the DOL to act. Our members will be watching to see this rule is enforced in every workplace,”” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President. “”Workers should no longer be required to dip into their own pocket to keep themselves safe from harm at work.””
Both the litigation and the FY 2008 Labor-HHS funding bill set a deadline of November 30, 2007 for final action by OSHA.
This rule is a basic requirement that codifies OSHA’s long-standing policy that it is the employer’s responsibility to pay the cost of protecting workers from safety and health hazards. The rule makes clear that employers must pay for hard hats, goggles, face shields, chemical resistant suits, and other required safety equipment. It does, however, include some exemptions from the employer payment requirements, most notably for safety shoes and prescription safety glasses that can be worn off the job.
The AFL-CIO and UFCW will be reviewing the rule in detail to determine if it provides workers with the level of protection that is needed and required by law.
For more information about workplace safety and personal protective equipment, click here.
November 2, 2007
Washington, D.C. – Despite passage in the Senate yesterday and broad public support, President Bush has threatened to veto a new version of a children’s health care bill that will provide coverage to 10 million children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This modified bill is a responsible approach to addressing America’s broken health care system, and another veto will further highlight this administration’s indifference to the plight of millions of children who are without coverage.
A majority of Americans believe that health care is a moral issue and that no American should be denied access to health care. The president’s veto threat is another reminder of his callous disregard for the millions of American workers and their children who have nowhere to go for their basic health care needs.
More must be done to narrow the growing divide between the healthy and wealthy few and the growing population of American workers and their children who are struggling to survive without health care coverage. The UFCW will continue to fight for health care reform so that all Americans have the coverage they need to lead healthy and productive lives.
March 19, 2007
Responding to AFL-CIO, UFCW Lawsuit, Bush Administration Agrees to Issue Safety Equipment Rule for Employees
In response to a lawsuit filed by the AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the Bush Administration has agreed to issue a final rule on employer payment for personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees. In 1999, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first proposed a PPE rule that would require employers to pay the costs of protective clothing, lifelines, face shields, gloves and other equipment used by an estimated 20 million workers to protect them from job hazards.
“We applaud the decision to finally issue a final rule on employer payment for their employees’ protective equipment” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “This rulemaking has taken far too long. We will be monitoring the Department of Labor’s actions to make sure they honor this commitment and issue a strong, protective rule.”
On January 3, 2007, the AFL-CIO and UFCW filed a lawsuit against the Bush Administration over its failure to finalize the payment for PPE rule. The court ordered the Bush Administration to respond to the lawsuit by March 19. On March 14, the Secretary of Labor filed papers with the court committing to issue a final rule in November 2007.
“This is a victory for workers who have suffered needlessly while awaiting action by the Bush Administration,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “According to OSHA’s own estimates, 400,000 workers have been injured and 50 have died while the rule has been in limbo. We expect a strong final rule this November.”
Workers in the meatpacking, poultry and construction industries, and low-wage and immigrant workers are most vulnerable to injury.
The rule was first announced in 1997 and proposed in 1999 by OSHA after a ruling by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission that OSHA’s existing PPE standard could not be interpreted to require employers to pay for protective equipment. The rule proposed in 1999 did not impose any new obligations on employers to provide safety equipment; it simply codified OSHA’s policy that employers, not employees, have the responsibility to pay for it.
In 1999, OSHA promised to issue the final PPE rule in July 2000. But it missed that deadline and has missed every self-imposed deadline since. The agency has failed to act in response to a 2003 petition by the AFL-CIO and UFCW and numerous requests by the Hispanic Congressional Caucus.
February 2, 2006
GROUP TARGETS WAL-MART & PRESIDENT BUSH FOR EFFORTS TO SHIFT HEALTH CARE COSTS FROM EMPLOYERS TO EMPLOYEES HURTING AMERICA’S CHILDREN AND GROWING OUR HEALTH CARE CRISIS
Washington, DC – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, launched a new online grassroots effort calling on Wal-Mart and President George Bush to stop supporting health savings accounts, which are the first step by corporate America to destroy our employer-based health care system, where two-thirds of American workers currently get their health care coverage.
The “”First Wal-Mart, Now President Bush”” online initiative was launched in response to Wal-Mart’s and now President Bush’s newfound support for so-called privatized health care options, like “”Health Savings Accounts.””
“”Wal-Mart is determined to use its special interest power to destroy the employer-based health care system in America. Both Pres. Bush and Wal-Mart have teamed up to shift the health care costs from multi-billion dollar corporations to workers struggling to get by – it is a national disgrace,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com
Beginning in January 2006, Wal-Mart introduced Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) as an additional health coverage option for its 1.3 million employees in the United States. Wal-Mart’s HSAs will do nothing to increase the number of workers’ insured under the company’s plan, since only Wal-Mart employees who have had company health care for more than a year are eligible for the HSAs. In general, HSAs shift the burden for health care coverage to workers, come with high deductibles, punish low-income workers who can not afford to contribute to such plans, and reward wealthy executives and business owners with tax-free shelters. Because of Wal-Mart’s low pay, Wal-Mart workers can neither substantially invest in an HSA nor afford the exorbitant HSA medical deductibles, which range up to $6,000 under Wal-Mart’s plan.
“”Sadly, Wal-Mart and President Bush share the same irresponsible idea for solving America’s health care crisis. Wal-Mart and Bush’s scheme will worsen the growing health care divide in America, not insure one additional worker, and grow corporate profits at the expense of workers, their children, and their families,”” added Blank.
The online campaign, which will initially launch on key progressive websites, like Dailykos.com, will reach over 10 million unique visitors during the first week. The petition will call on Americans to “”say no to the Wal-Mart/Bush-backed HSAs and yes to corporations paying their fair share for health care.””
The “”First Wal-Mart, Now Bush”” campaign is the latest grassroots effort by WakeUpWalmart.com. Since April 5th of 2005, over 176,049 supporters have joined WakeUpWalMart.com – one of America’s fastest growing social movements.
The text of the online petition follows below:
Tell Bush and Wal-Mart – “”Health Savings Accounts Won’t Save Health Care””
Only George Bush would turn to Wal-Mart, a corporation who fails to provide company health care to more than 600,000 of its workers, for health care advice. What’s Wal-Mart’s solution to America’s growing health care crisis – privatized health care so you pay for it and they don’t!
Why do Wal-Mart and George Bush want health savings accounts (HSAs)? Simple.
HSAs are a backdoor for large profitable companies, like Wal-Mart, to further reduce or even eliminate health benefits for hard-working Americans. By shifting health care costs away from employers and on to workers, HSAs will not only undermine employer-based health plans, where two-thirds of Americans get coverage, but will force even more workers and their families to go without health care.
Help us stop the Wal-Mart & Bush health care crisis from infecting America.
Tell Bush and his wealthy corporate contributors like Wal-Mart, HSAs are a huge step backward for working families and do nothing to solve our nation’s health care crisis. Rich profitable companies, like Wal-Mart, have a responsibility to provide affordable health care to hard working Americans, not come up with new schemes to try and reduce their health care costs at the expense of workers, their families and their children.
Sign our petition today. Say no to the Wal-Mart/Bush-backed HSAs and yes to corporations paying their fair share for health care.
July 24, 2005
Washington, D.C. — The segment of the American workforce most likely to suffer injury or death on the job was targeted in a scam operation by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. ICE officers masqueraded as safety instructors to round up documented and undocumented construction workers in North Carolina with a flier announcing a mandatory Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) meeting, earlier this month, then arrested 48 undocumented workers who attended the meeting.
“OSHA is responsible for worker safety and health,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen. “For ICE to stage a sham OSHA meeting in order to round up and arrest people undermines OSHA’s mission, and is a step backwards for state and federal efforts to reduce worker injuries and deaths. The word being brought back to worksites, after a scam like this, is that OSHA can’t be trusted. That kind of perception diminishes OSHA’s ability to do the critical work of protecting America’s labor force.”
There are more than 10 million foreign-born workers in the US, making up about 15% of the workforce. Immigrant workers have the highest rates of on-the-job injuries and fatalities. Hispanic workers suffer 69% of all on-the-job injuries/deaths. In the meatpacking industry, more than half of the workers are foreign-born, and in some plants, up to 80% of the workers are immigrants.
“This unscrupulous action has shattered the trust between OSHA and the workers who depend on the agency the most,” said Hansen. “More and more often, it is immigrants who work in the most dangerous industries such as construction or meatpacking. How can OSHA reach these at-risk workers with safety information now? To these workers, OSHA no longer means safety, but betrayal. The Bush administration must denounce the kind of trickery that undermines safety.””
July 28, 2004
(Boston, Mass.) – John Kerry offers a real alternative of hope for America’s working families with a program for job growth, health care reform and homeland security. His ideas, his energy and his record of personal commitment and sacrifice for the values of working America has excited and activated workers in every region, every occupation and every industry.
John Kerry’s vision stands in stark contrast with record of the Bush Administration– more than 4 million workers have lost health insurance, real wages have gone down, millions of jobs have been lost, hundreds of thousands of workers have been needlessly injured because the ergonomic standard was repealed and millions face a pay cut because overtime law has been gutted. To say there is no difference between Bush and Kerry is to ignore the impact of Bush policies on the real lives of working families.
Ask a poultry worker crippled with repetitive motion injuries whether there is difference? Bush killed the ergonomic standard that could have prevented those injuries, while John Kerry fought on the Senate floor to keep the standard in force.
Ask a grocery store worker who was forced to strike for more than 4 months to keep health care benefits whether there is difference? Bush has done nothing except protect the interests of the drug companies and the insurance giants while everyday thousands of workers lose benefits. John Kerry has always been a fighter for health care reform and has a plan that helps protect health care benefits at work.
Ask a health care worker working long hours to support a family whether or not there is difference? George Bush re-wrote the overtime regulations to deny many health care workers overtime no matter how many hours they worked, lowering their living standards and denying them family time. John Kerry fought to protect overtime pay.
On every issue, John Kerry offers a pro-worker, pro-family, pro-America alternative to the Bush Administration. Another Bush Administration would inflict more and more suffering on working families. The election of John Kerry is the starting point for a new American dream that embraces the workforce and meets the challenges of the 21st century. For workers, voting matters, and electing John Kerry will make the difference between going forward in prosperity and security, or falling backward in economic and national insecurity. John Kerry is our best hope for the future of working America.
April 28, 2004
Today, we mourn for workers who needlessly lost their lives on the job this year. We also mourn for the loss of workplace protections and safety regulations killed by the anti-worker Bush Administration.
This is an administration that goes out of its way to hurt workers. President Bush’s first major legislative action upon taking office was to sign legislation repealing OSHA’s ergonomics standard. This important worker safeguard, issued in November 2000, was ten years in the making and would have prevented hundreds of thousands of workplace injuries a year.
Today we also honor the workers who have been killed and injured on the job and their families. Last week, a UFCW member—a young worker from Guatemala—was killed working in a poultry plant. Thousands of workers, particularly immigrant workers, risk serious and sometimes fatal injury at work in workplaces such as poultry and meatpacking plants. No worker should be forced to risk their life to put food on the table for America’s families.
The UFCW is encouraged by actions such as those by Senator Edward Kennedy who is working to strengthen worker safety by introducing a bill this week that will expand protections for workers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Senator Kennedy’s bill includes a mandate that employers pay for safety gear they require workers to wear. The Bush Administration has so far refused to complete and issue this standard. It will also strengthen penalties against employers who kill or seriously injure workers by willfully violating OSHA standards.
The Bush Administration has joined with business supporters to roll back, block, or stall needed worker protections. This Worker’s Memorial Day, the UFCW reiterates its commitment to electing a President that will put worker need before corporate greed.
April 23, 2004
George W. Bush’s new overtime rules pick up his pace for lowering living standards for American workers and putting more dollars into the bank accounts of his corporate campaign donors. The most anti-worker White House in the modern political era just gave workers their biggest pay cut in history. Millions of workers could potentially lose thousands of dollars each year as a result of the Bush Administrations actions.
Bush shoved the pay cut through over the objections of both Houses of Congress and millions of workers. The rewritten overtime rules open the door for employers to reclassify jobs so that workers who’ve always earned overtime would now become exempt. Lead workers in grocery store deli, dairy, produce, and meat departments could now be classified as managers and have their pay slashed under the new Department of Labor (DOL) regulations. Health care industry technicians and nurses, among millions of other workers, could also be reclassified out of overtime pay.
“American workers have received nothing but double dealing and disappointment from the Bush White House,” said United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW) President Joe Hansen. “That’s precisely the case with the DOL’s 500 pages of “clarifying” regulations on overtime—the only thing they clarify is how completely special corporate interests dominate the Bush Administration.”
Under George W. Bush’s leadership, the US economy has lost more jobs than at any period since the Great Depression. Forty-four million people—the overwhelming majority of them from working families—have no health insurance. Health care costs are skyrocketing. Millions of jobs are being shipped overseas while the number of working poor in this country, struggling in low-wage, no-benefit jobs, is increasing.
“Obviously, George W. Bush surveyed the state of working America and concluded it was time for a pay cut,” Hansen added.
The UFCW is mobilizing a worker-to-worker movement to inform UFCW members about the President’s pay cut. Working people will hold the Bush Administration accountable this November for four years of hostile policies aimed at lowering working family living standards.
April 13, 2004
(Washington, DC) At tonight’s prime time press conference, President George Bush claims to be prepared to address the important issues facing Americans. But working families won’t be in that room. President Bush won’t be facing the tough questions that most Americans deserve to have answered, such as:
- You are the first President since Herbert Hoover to preside over a period of job loss. Among the few parts of our economy where jobs are growing, they are by and large, part-time, low-wage, no benefit service jobs — Wal-Mart jobs. How do you plan to turn around the US economy and create jobs that can support families?
- Your administration has been attempting to rewrite overtime regulations which could cause the largest pay cut in American history and cut overtime for 8 million workers. Both the House and Senate are on record in opposition to this regulation. Will you be going forward with this regulation before the November election?
- 44 million Americans are uninsured, with that number growing every day. More large companies are cutting benefits for workers. Supermarket workers in Southern California were forced to strike for five months to protect their families’ health benefits – costing the companies billions of dollars in lost sales. What are you planning to do to make sure health insurance is available and affordable for all Americans?
- The minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 1996. Do you favor raising the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7 an hour as proposed in the Senate?
- Your Administration claimed hundreds of thousands of new jobs were created in March. Tens of thousands of those jobs were striking supermarket workers returning to work. How can you take credit for this as job growth when it was simply the end of a strike?
Working Americans deserve answers from their President. It is time for the Bush Administration to offer up a real plan for economic recovery.