News and Updates
April 20, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), released the following statement regarding the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to extend the comment period on its proposed poultry inspection rule.
“The UFCW applauds Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to extend the comment period on USDA’s proposed poultry inspection rule in order to further study its impact on worker safety. We have said all along that this rule should be halted until it is proven that increased line speeds are safe for workers. The UFCW will use this 30-day extension to work directly with USDA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Obama Administration to determine a course of action to study the probable effects of increased line speeds on worker health and safety. Today is a victory for all poultry workers who can rest assured that their safety on the job is being taken seriously.”
April 11, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today announced its opposition to a Big Poultry-driven inspection process being considered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The proposed rule, which would increase the speed that birds are processed from 70-91 a minute to a maximum of 175 a minute, could put workers at poultry plants in increased danger.
“Increased line speeds means increased bottom lines for Big Poultry,” said Mark Laurtisen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “For workers, it means more danger on the job.”
By increasing line speed so dramatically, workers will be at heightened risk of repetitive motion related injuries. In fact, a recent study by Wake Forest University showed that 59 percent of poultry workers had definite or possible carpal tunnel syndrome at current line speeds. Despite these alarming statistics, no comprehensive effort has been made to determine the impact this proposed system will have on the health and safety of workers.
“Quite frankly, it is no surprise that Big Poultry wants to rush this new system into operation,” Lauritsen said. “That’s why USDA—as the responsible regulator—must slow this process down until it can guarantee that workers are protected.”
The UFCW is calling on USDA to halt this rule until the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts comprehensive studies on the impact it would have on the health and safety of workers in poultry plants. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must then use that information to develop a standard that would adequately protect workers.
Many UFCW members have already submitted their opposition to USDA in advance of the April 26 comment deadline. The UFCW will continue its push for worker safety into the summer and beyond.
November 9, 2009
The UFCW and Smithfield Foods are launching a joint Feed the Hungry Program today in New York City to bring much needed assistance to the growing number of people facing hunger and food insecurity in our communities. The project will help deliver more than one million servings of protein to the Food Bank of New York City.
Today’s kick-off event is the first in a multi-city tour across America that will reach from coast-to-coast. The UFCW and Smithfield plan to donate at least 20 million servings of food to a local food bank at each of the scheduled stops.
The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that more than 36 million people in the United States, including 12.6 million children, live in households considered to be food insecure. That is more than 1 in 10 households who experience hunger or the risk of hunger.
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. 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, including our represented grocery stores, 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.
December 15, 2004
Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) expressed its support for the nomination of Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns to take the helm at the Secretary of Agriculture.
In a letter addressed to the bipartisan leadership of the United States Senate, UFCW International President Joe Hansen stated that Governor Johanns “has all of the necessary attributes and experience to lead our nation’s Agriculture Department””.
“His innovative and compassionate leadership so impressed our locals in his state that he was endorsed by our union for reelection in his last campaign. He earned this achievement with his efforts at outreach, inclusion, and understanding of workers—especially those in the agricultural industry,” Hansen added.
The UFCW, which represents workers in multiple areas of food production including meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and vegetables, has many interests at the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding food safety, meat and poultry inspection, international trade, contract agriculture and many others.
The UFCW stated its confidence that Governor Johanns will make decisions fairly balancing all perspectives. “That has been his history as Governor, and we look forward to working with him as Secretary of Agriculture,” declared Hansen.
“Governor Johanns has been a true leader for Nebraskans working in the meat packing and food processing industries. He showed his commitment to fairness and equality for all workers by issuing the state’s first Worker Bill of Rights. We were proud to work with him on that program and look forward to his leadership at the Department of Agriculture,” said Donna McDonald, President of the Omaha, Nebraska-based UFCW Local 271.