News and Updates
Employee Free Choice Act
September 10, 2009
(Washington, DC) – Building on growing momentum, thousands of progressive activists from around the country came to Washington, D.C., this morning to tell their elected leaders that workers need and deserve meaningful labor law reform. Joining them will be several hundred UFCW members who support the Employee Free Choice Act. The diverse group will unite in one voice to remind lawmakers why the legislation is vital to rebuilding our economy.
The massive delegation headed to Washington represents organizations and individuals who view the Employee Free Choice Act as fundamental to the future of America’s middle class. Whether they are small business owners, veterans, farmers, students, faith leaders, civil rights activists, women’s advocates, or environmentalists, people from around the state are joining others from across the country to send a powerful message that updating our obsolete labor laws is a fundamental cause for everyone.
Once in Washington, activists will meet with congressional members and other leaders on Sept. 10 to discuss the importance of passing the Employee Free Choice Act this year, as it is a critical vehicle on the path to long-term and sustainable economic recovery. The legislation will give workers a fair path to form a union, toughen penalties against employers who violate the law, and prevent companies from delaying and stalling negotiations to deny workers a contract.
May 12, 2009
UFCW Local 1529 members and community leaders met on May 7th in a community forum to discuss how the current economic crisis affects their livelihoods and offer Main Street solutions to hard working Americans. The town hall meeting in West Memphis, Arkansas, was part of a statewide and national mobilization of everyday working Americans who are coming together to bring about change in the workplace through passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
Speakers included Leo Chapman, former mayor of West Memphis and first
African American elected to that position, Irvin Calliste, International
Representative for the Steelworkers’ Union and President of the
Memphis AFL-CIO Labor Council, and Billy Myers, International
Representative for the United Food & Commercial Workers Union.
At the meeting, Chapman said workers would have more opportunities if it were easier to join a union. “”Look at the people where they’re behind, if
they were unionizing they would be in a better position than they are
today. We want to enjoy the same rights and privileges as anyone else.”
Calliste noted that unions are a core part of our country, saying, “Because of unions, this country thrived. It’s not a coincidence that when union membership declined, the middle class started declining with it. Unions are responsible for the great middle class in this country.”
Billy Myers urged UFCW and community members to mobilize for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field so workers can have more opportunities to get ahead. “I tell the workers it’s illegal [the company anti-union campaigns]. They can’t fire you for union activities. But in the back of my mind, I know it happens. Right now there’s no level playing field, the company has all the power. We must change that.”
Passing Employee Free Choice is crucial to growing the middle class and building an economy that works for everyone. It will allow workers to have a voice at work and to bargain collectively for higher wages, benefits, and job security. The bill seeks to level the playing field between workers and their employers because it would give workers–not their employers–the power to choose to join a union either through majority sign-up or through an election.
April 30, 2009
Washington, DC – Walmart workers from across the nation are converging today on Capitol Hill for a National Organizing Meeting to brief Senators about wages, benefits and the Employee Free Choice Act. Nearly 100 Walmart workers from 17 states are participating in the event. As part of their campaign for a union voice on the job, they will urge lawmakers to level the playing field for working people by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.
“I made the trip into Washington DC to stand with my fellow Walmart workers and to urge my Senators to pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” said Dominique Sloan a Dallas, Texas, Walmart worker. “We need change in this country. All you have to do is look at how all the money goes to CEOs. But when it comes to workers, it’s always the same, no health care or health care that’s too expensive and low wages. We need to change that.”
The National Organizing Committee is made up of Walmart workers from Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Despite Walmart’s well-documented history of anti-working family activities, workers say they are excited by the election of Barack Obama, excited that the President says it’s not too much to ask Walmart to pay decent wages and provide good health care, and excited that the Employee Free Choice Act can help bring the change that helps workers and makes Walmart live up to its responsibilities.
“I have three boys, and I had to get Florida Kids Care to cover their medical,” says Cheryl Guzman, a Walmart worker from Miami. “It’s either you eat, or you have medical coverage, that’s not right. That’s why I’m part of Walmart Workers for Change.”
Ten workers recently shared their stories in a new video, released earlier this week. Workers from the National Organizing Committee will be available to the press today after a Capitol Hill briefing at 10 a.m., in 328 Russell Senate Office Building.
Walmart Workers for Change is a new campaign made up of thousands of Walmart workers joining together to form a union and negotiate better benefits, higher wages, and more opportunity for a better future. The campaign is a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers nationwide, with nearly one million working in the supermarket industry. Many of UFCW members also work at national retail stores such as Bloomingdales, Macys, H&M, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Saks Fifth Avenue, RiteAid, CVS, and Syms.
April 23, 2009
Washington, DC – Walmart Workers for Change, a new campaign of thousands of Walmart’s 1.3 million associates across the country who are standing up and demanding a voice in the workplace, today released a new video that highlights the sorts of anti-worker tactics they are facing from the world’s largest retailer.
“The associates are afraid,” said Cynthia Murray, a Walmart associate in Laurel, Maryland. “They’re intimidated, and they are afraid. My family and other families have paid the price for freedom. And when you tell me I can’t talk about a union, you’re taking my freedom from me.”
Workers in more than 100 stores in 15 states across the country have joined together and signed union representation cards, citing a lack of respect from the company, as well as poverty-level wages and sub-par benefits as reasons they need a union voice on the job.
Despite Walmart’s long and well-documented history of anti-worker activities, associates say they are emboldened by the election of Barack Obama and the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress.
The campaign comes at a time when workers find their wages have stagnated, even as Walmart and the Walton family continue to make record profits. Walmart’s recently released 2009 10K shows the company made $13.4 billion in profits last year.
“Walmart’s slogan is ‘Save Money, Live Better,’” said Vikki Gill, a former Walmart manager in St. Louis, Missouri. “Walmart is saving money and living better at the associates’ expense.”
In the new video, which can be viewed at http://www.walmartworkersforchange.org/index.php/pages/articles/walmarts_war_on_workers, 10 workers from coast to coast detail the company’s response to their organizing efforts. Dominique Sloane and Mark Moore, of Dallas, Texas, were told that their store would be closed if workers voted to organize. In Miami, Florida, Cheryl Guzman was interrogated by a manager about who among her colleagues supported a union. Linda Haluska, of Glendale, Illinois, was called into four mandatory meetings in one week, where she and her colleagues were shown anti-union, anti-Employee Free Choice videos.
“Since we’ve started talking union, the company has been holding meetings, they’ve flown people in,” said Sloan. “They’ve even mentioned as far as with the union, there’s a possibility that stores may close.”
Walmart Workers for Change is a new campaign made up of thousands of Walmart workers joining together to form a union and negotiate better benefits, higher wages, and more opportunity for a better future.
The campaign is a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), America’s neighborhood union. The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers nationwide, with nearly one million working in the supermarket industry. Many of UFCW members also work at national retail stores such as Bloomingdales, Macys, H&M, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Saks Fifth Avenue, RiteAid, CVS, and Syms.
March 24, 2009
WASHINGTON, DC – UFCW members from across the country visited the halls of Congress today to speak with their elected officials and to urge passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. The workers, who have tried to join the UFCW, came to Washington to share their stories about forming a union in the workplace and to urge their elected representatives in Congress to make the passage of Employee Free Choice a priority.
The action comes on the heels of the introduction earlier this month of the legislation in both the Senate and the House.
“I believe that if Congress really cares about fixing the economy and rebuilding the middle class, it should pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” said James Satler, a former Fresh & Easy grocery worker from California. “The economy should work for everyone, not just CEOs.” Satler was fired for attempting to organize a union at his workplace.
Despite having majority support at work, Darlene Bruzio and her co-workers at Giant Eagle in Pennsylvania lost their union election because of employer interference. “When you have more than 80% support for joining a union, like we did at my store, and still lose an election, you know that the system is broken,” Bruzio said. “Members of Congress should stop the corporations that are gaming the system by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.”
While most workers’ stories heard in Congress today highlight the intimidation and harassment workers face when trying to form a union, Armando Martinez, a Hormel Foods worker from Nebraska, shared a positive experience of getting a voice on the job without intimidation. “I know that having a union makes the difference because I have worked in places where employees are threatened when they try to get a voice on the job,” Martinez said. “When I started working at the Hormel Foods plant in Freemont, the UFCW already represented the workers. All I needed to do was sign up to show I wanted to join the union—all without any intimidation or harassment from the company.”
Sixty million workers say they would join a union if they could. With Employee Free Choice, workers, not employers, will decide how to form a union. Workers will have the option of majority sign up in addition to a secret ballot election. The Free Choice legislation will establish meaningful penalties for employers who break the law and harass or fire workers for wanting a union. Finally, Employee Free Choice will ensure that workers gain a first contract through a provision that calls for binding arbitration if workers and management cannot reach an agreement within 120 days.
Photos of today’s event are available. Media inquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 10, 2009
(Washington, D.C.) – It is time for leadership. With a faltering economy and millions of hardworking families struggling to make ends meet, only strong leadership can end thirty years of wage stagnation and renew the American Dream for America’s workers. The Employee Free Choice Act would kick start the engine of America’s middle class.
The introduction of the Free Choice legislation today gives Congress the opportunity to show American workers that they are willing to stand up for real change for working families and shape a brighter future for our children and our grandchildren.
1.3 million UFCW members and their families are counting on their Senators and Congresspersons to show leadership and support the Employee Free Choice Act.
Without the Employee Free Choice Act, workers will continue to fight a one-sided, losing battle to exercise their legal rights at work. The recent stimulus package was a necessary first step in the right direction. But if our country is to have a sound and sustainable economy, we must fully renew the opportunity for workers to achieve the American Dream. Union membership is the engine of a middle-class economy.
UFCW members and working families across the nation are standing firmly in support of this legislation. We will not let corporate America drown out reasonable debate on this issue with lies and exaggerations about the process by which workers can choose a union.
We will not let Congress forget why corporate America is spending millions of dollars on ads and lobbyists. Companies like Wal-Mart are profiting from our economic downturn while thousands of Wal-Mart workers try to stay afloat with part-time incomes, unaffordable health care and questionable job security. Severe income inequality is destroying the American Dream and today we stand united to say it’s time to level the playing field for American workers.
UFCW members will continue to make our voices heard so that every worker can freely choose to join a union to improve their lives, without intimidation, harassment or fear.
February 3, 2009
Joe Sorrentino, a worker at a Wakefern PriceRite Supermarket in North Providence, Rhode Island, has been punished for standing up for a union at his workplace, according to charges filed by UFCW Local Union 328 with the National Labor Relations Board.
Sorrentino and other PriceRite employees have been working to organize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), but have faced a campaign of company harassment and intimidation. Shortly after receiving national attention for speaking out on behalf of the Employee Free Choice Act at a Washington, DC, press conference on January 13, Sorrentino was demoted and given a pay cut—the kind of harassment by corporations against workers that the Employee Free Choice Act would eliminate.
UFCW Local 328, in Providence has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, seeking reinstatement of Sorrentino’s position and pay, as a Night Crew Chief.
“This is the way companies destroy worker attempts to gain a voice on the job,” said Dave Fleming, UFCW local 328 President. “They wage fear campaigns. They fire. They spy. They intimidate. They send a clear and frightening message that if you support forming a union, you will be punished.”
A study from Cornell University scholar Kate Bronfenbrenner found that:
- In 25 percent of organizing campaigns, private-sector employers illegally fire workers because they want to form a union.
- Half of employers threaten to shut down partially or totally if employees join together in a union.
- Ninety-two percent of private-sector employers, when faced with employees who want to join together in a union, force employees to attend closed-door meetings to hear anti-union propaganda; 80 percent require supervisors to attend training sessions on attacking unions; and 78 percent require that supervisors deliver anti-union messages to workers they oversee.
- Seventy-five percent hire outside consultants to run anti-union campaigns, often based on mass psychology and distorting the law.
Joe Sorrentino, like countless other workers trying to improve their workplace, exercised his right speak out for a union on the job,” said Fleming. “The next thing he knew, he was demoted with a wage cut of $3 an hour.”
February 6, 2007
(Washington, DC) — For most Americans, the suggestion of an election sounds like the most reasonable, fair decision-making process around. But in America’s workplaces, union elections turn into a process for terminations, intimidation, fear and abuse at the hands of employers. Union elections turn into extremely undemocratic processes for thousands of workers.
Jose Guardado is one of them. Speaking out in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, Mr, Guardado recounted his experience attempting to organize a union at Nebraska Beef meatpacking plant in Omaha, Nebraska.
“”I came to this country to follow the American dream. I thought that in the most powerful country in the world, workers were free to express themselves,”” said Jose Guardado, a meatpacking worker and union activist. “”I thought the laws protected workers who wanted to form a union. I was wrong. Instead, I found that when employers break every law, abuse workers and silence our voices, no one does anything to stop them.””
Guardado was a leader in an organizing drive at the Nebraska Beef meatpacking plant where more than 900 workers signed cards to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). As the workers’ campaign gained strength, the company began a vicious anti-union campaign. The company harassed union supporters, threatened to close the plant, threatened to call immigration and terrified union supporters who stood up for a voice on the job. The company’s illegal anti-union campaign narrowly defeated the worker organizing effort but resulted in numerous NLRB charges. Jose, like several other workers, felt like a marked man in the plant due to his leadership role in the organizing drive. The company eventually fired him.
Today, Mr. Guardado is a member of UFCW Local 271 and works at XL Four Star Beef in Omaha. He continues his fight for justice and a voice on the job for workers at Nebraska Beef.
“”Workers at Nebraska Beef still suffer the abuse and indignity that existed before the union campaign. Workers are still being threatened and fired. And, there is no way to ever have a fair election there. We need this law to protect workers’ rights. We need this law to ensure that workers everywhere have a chance to make the American dream a reality for their families,”” said Guardado.