November, 2013

Chicago Whole Foods Workers Stage One-Day Strike To Save Thanksgiving

Some Whole Foods workers in Chicago are staging a one-day strike today to demand a fair system of scheduling that will allow them to enjoy Thanksgiving like millions of other Americans. They’re being joined by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, OUR Wal-Mart and other community allies. Whole Foods worker Matthew Camp says retail workers are facing what he says is a disturbing trend of having to work through Thanksgiving and other holidays that used to be sacred time off to spend with family. Camp says this is why Whole Foods workers in Chicago are striking today.

“The day before Thanksgiving – which of course is an incredibly busy day for a grocery store – essentially to make these two points. One, that this tendency among large retailers is very disturbing. We feel everyone is entitled to this holiday. And secondly we include ourselves in that fist proposal. That we also, having worked so hard for the holiday, are entitled to time to travel, to see our friends, our family,” said Camp.

This strike for better schedules and holidays off is within the context of a larger struggle at Whole Foods.

“We’re organizing with the Workers Organizing Committee and the Fight For Fifteen campaign for better working conditions, a better attendance policy – we don’t have sick days at Whole Foods – and for better wages as well. That being said, this particular action the day before Thanksgiving is really something of our own design. As Whole Foods workers, we were inspired by the OUR Wal-Mart Black Friday strikes that have been going on for the past couple of years,” added Camp.

Additional Coverage: 
Whole Foods workers striking for right to stay home on Thanksgiving
Celeb-loving organic bread company charged with abuse


 

UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

 

Going to work on holiday can be profitable, fun — as long as it’s voluntary

By Jennifer Ledford

With large stores opening on Thanksgiving in droves this year, here are two takes on the new reality of shopping — and working — on this holiday.

A lot of employees of big-box stores have to show up for work this Thanksgiving, and they’re not happy about it. I have a couple of friends at J.C. Penney and Macy’s; one of them plans to call in sick on Thursday.

I’ll be at work, too, at my Jewel-Osco deli counter. I actually don’t mind it. It’s fun to watch customers’ faces light up when we hand them their turkeys. One holiday, a poor woman whose sister had just passed away was facing a sad Thanksgiving with no food. We gave her a free dinner, and it made her day.

Another reason I’ll work is I’ll make time and a half. I also will save someone else from having to come in.

There’s one more reason I don’t mind working this Thanksgiving. It’s my choice.

My friends in the retail industry are afraid of losing their jobs if they don’t work. They would rather be home with their families, but have no say in the matter.

As a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546, I have a union contract that ensures that I won’t be treated unfairly if I choose not to work on a holiday. This will be the 10th time I have worked on Thanksgiving at seven Jewel stores over 13 years.

Showing up on Thursday is not so bad. My co-workers bring in turkeys, mashed potatoes and desserts and we have our own little holiday up in the break room (yes, we bring food to the food store).

We’ll spend a lot of time handing out the dinners that customers have requested. So far, we have about 115 orders from churches and food pantries and about 20 for regular customers.

I’ll probably be at the counter from 8 a.m. to noon, then go home to my 5-year-old and 3-year-old daughters. The overtime money I earned will go into their college fund, with some also for Santa Claus. My turkey will already be in the oven on low heat (sorry, Jewel, I make my own). I’ll turn the temperature up to high and soon our holiday will begin.

Ledford works at a Jewel in Lake County and lives in Sleepy Hollow.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

This piece by UFCW Local 1546 member Jennifer Ledford appeared in the Chicago Tribune on November 24, 2013


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

Walmart Violated Workers’ Rights Nationwide

Website-Slider-Black-FridayThe National Labor Relations Board General Counsel is issuing a decision today to prosecute Walmart for its widespread violations of its workers’ rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs at the country’s largest employer.

The Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June, according to the decision.

The decision addresses threats by managers and the company’s national spokesperson for discouraging workers from striking and for taking illegal disciplinary actions against workers who were on legally protected strikes. Workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights.

“The Board’s decision confirms what Walmart workers have long known: the company is illegally trying to silence employees who speak out for better jobs,” said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice and American Rights at Work. “Americans believe that we have the responsibility – and the right – to speak out against corporate abuses of workers, and this proves we’re finally being heard, and making kinks in Walmart’s armor. Customers, clergy and community members from across the country are standing with Walmart workers bravely calling for better jobs and a stronger economy for all of us.”

Today’s decision addresses charges filed one year ago in advance of Black Friday 2012, when Walmart managers escalated their efforts to threaten and discourage workers from going on legally protected strikes. David Tovar, spokesperson for the company, even went so far as to threaten workers on national television, saying “there would be consequences” for workers who did not come in for scheduled shifts on Black Friday.

Additionally, the decision covers the illegal firings and disciplinary actions that occurred after 100 striking Walmart workers took their concerns to the company’s June shareholder meeting in Bentonville. Support from investors, Walmart workers and the general public continued to grow after tens of thousands of shareholders heard from OUR Walmart members at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

When these workers returned to work, Walmart systematically fired and disciplined them despite their legally recognized, protected absences. This included disciplinary action against at least 43 workers and the firing of at least another 23 worker-leaders.

“Working at the largest employer in the country should mean making a decent living. Those days are long gone,” said Tiffany Beroid, a Walmart worker from Laurel, MD. “Walmart continues to show that it’s afraid to have real conversations about creating better jobs, but would rather scare us into silence. But change at Walmart is too important to our economy and for our families for us to stop speaking out.”

Prior to the extended strike in June, American Rights at Work/Jobs with Justice released a white paper documenting Walmart’s extensive and systematic efforts to silence associates. At that time, there were more than 150 incidents in stores across the country, with few signs that Walmart would soon stop targeting those who speak out and act collectively.

In other labor charges against Walmart, workers have been winning. In California alone, the National Labor Relations Board recently decided to prosecute Walmart for 11 violations of federal labor law from some threats made around Black Friday last year.

In Kentucky, one settlement was reached between Walmart and Aaron Lawson in which Walmart fired Lawson after he distributed flyers and spoke out against the company’s attempts to silence those who called for better wages and consistent hours. As part of the settlement, Walmart agreed to rehire Lawson and provide full back wages for the time that he was out of work.


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

Union Plus Offers Help for Survivors of Illinois Tornados

If you are a union member who participates in Union Plus programs and have been affected by the deadly tornados that struck Illinois, you may be eligible for financial assistance.

Union Plus Disaster Relief Grants of $500 are available to help participants in the Union Plus Credit Card, Insurance or Mortgage programs who are facing financial hardship due to the latest natural disaster. The money does not have to be repaid.

The Union Plus Disaster Relief Fund has provided more than $780,000 in assistance to union members facing hardships following Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, floods, wild fires and other natural disasters.

Click here to visit Union Plus Disaster Relief and learn more about the eligibility requirements and how to apply.

If you are not involved in the Union Plus program, there are other ways you may still be eligible for disaster aid:

Illinois Disaster Assistance

American Red Cross Disaster Assistance

Donate to Help Victims of Natural Disasters
Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps people affected by disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and tornadoes.

To donate by phone via credit card, or to help with any questions you may have about other ways of donating funds to the Red Cross, please call us on:
English: 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
Español: 1-800-257-7575


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

ENDA Passes in the Senate

Photo courtesy Portland Development CommissionThe Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate today, with 64 senators voting in favor. ENDA was first introduced 20 years ago, and this is the first time it has passed the Senate. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) proposed the version that advanced Thursday. Its prospects are more unclear in the House, where observers such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) think there are enough votes to pass the legislation if Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) were to allow it to come to a vote. He has expressed opposition to the bill, so it may not be brought up.

ENDA would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, 29 states allow workers to be fired for being gay and 33 allow workers to be fired for being transgender.

Every Democrat and Independent member of the Senate voted yes on the vote. They were joined by 10 Republicans: Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.