United Food and Commercial Workers
|Full name||United Food and Commercial Workers|
|Key people||Joseph T. Hansen, International President|
|Office location||Washington, D.C.|
|Country||United States, Canada|
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is a labor union representing approximately 1.3 million workers in the United States and Canada in many industries, including agriculture, health care, meatpacking, poultry and food processing, manufacturing, textile, G4S Security, chemical trades, and retail food. Until July 2005, UFCW was affiliated with the AFL-CIO, where it was the second largest union by membership. Along with two other members of the Change to Win Coalition, the UFCW formally disaffiliated with the AFL-CIO on July 29, 2005. On August 8, 2013, UFCW reaffiliated to the AFL-CIO.
- 1 History
- 2 Activity in retail markets
- 3 Activity in Canadian agriculture
- 4 Advocacy and community involvement
- 5 Work stoppages and conflict with corporations
- 6 LMRDA violations
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
The UFCW was created through the merger of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters union and Retail Clerks International Union following its founding convention in June 1979. William H. Wynn, president of the RCIU and one of the designers of the merger, became president of UFCW at the time of its founding. The merger created the largest union affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The UFCW continued to expand both by organizing and merging with several smaller unions between 1980 and 1998. In 1980, the Barbers, Beauticians and Allied Industries International Association merged with UFCW, followed by the United Retail Workers Union in 1981 (now Local 881).
In 1983 UFCW held its first regular convention in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Also in 1983, the Insurance Workers International Union voted to have their 15,000 members join the UFCW.
In 1984 and 1985 UFCW pursued aggressive campaigns and organized 136,000 workers. In 1986 the Canadian Brewery Workers Union merged with the UFCW. Still aggressive in their organizing efforts, the UFCW organized another 81,000 workers in 1986, nearly 100,000 in 1987, and over 100,000 in 1988. However, it was also during this time period that the UFCW leadership refused to support an Austin, Minnesota meatpackers local (P-9) in its contract dispute with the Hormel Foods Corporation. The UFCW ultimately struck a deal with Hormel management, seized control of Local P-9, and removed the local union leaders, actions that dealt a significant blow to the credibility of the UFCW in the eyes of many in the larger labor movement. This dispute was the subject of the award-winning documentary, American Dream.
In 1991 the 5000 members of the Independent Foodhandlers and Warehouse Employees Union in Rhode Island and Massachusetts merged with the UFCW to form Local 791. In 1992 the Leather Goods, Plastics, Handbags and Novelty Workers Union merged with the UFCW. In 1993 the International Union of Life Insurance Agents of Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota also merged with the UFCW, adding another 1,500 members to the union. Bringing about the largest addition to the UFCW since its creation in 1979, on October 1, 1993, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and their 100,000 members, merged with the UFCW, becoming the RWDSU District Council of the UFCW.
In 1994 Douglas H. Dority was appointed the second International Union President by the UFCW International Executive Board following the retirement of William Wynn. Dority was subsequently elected to remain International President at the UFCW's fourth regular International Convention in 1998, and again at the fifth regular convention in 2003. Also in 1994, the 15,000-member strong United Garment Workers of America merged with the UFCW. In 1995 the 15,000-member Textile Workers and the 15,000-member Distillery Workers unions merged with the UFCW, forming respectively the UFCW Textile and Garment Council and the UFCW’s Distillery, Wine and Allied Workers Division.
In 1996 the 40,000 members of the International Chemical Workers Union merged with the UFCW to form the International Chemical Workers Union Council of the UFCW. In 1997 the Canadian Union of Restaurant and Related Employees merged with the UFCW. In 1998 both the United Representatives Guild, Inc. and the Production Service and Sales District Council merged with the UFCW.
In 2003, 80,000 members of the UFCW across the country went on strike to protect their wages and benefit packages.
In 2004, following the retirement of Dority, Joseph T. Hansen was appointed by unanimous vote of the UFCW International Executive Board to be the third International President of the UFCW. At the UFCW's Sixth Regular International Convention in 2008, Hansen ran unopposed and was re-elected.
In 2005, after leaving the AFL-CIO, the UFCW joined six other unions — the Teamsters, SEIU, UNITE-HERE, Laborers, United Farm Workers and Carpenters — in creating a new labor federation, the Change to Win Federation.
On August 8, 2013, the UFCW announced it was changing its affiliation back to AFL-CIO in a statement from its President, Joe Hansen
Activity in retail markets
The UFCW currently operates in a number of major grocery chains throughout the United States, including Albertsons, Dierbergs, Kroger, Meijer, Rosauers, Schnucks, Safeway, Supervalu, Giant Food LLC, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, BiLo, Tops Markets, A&P, Pathmark, King Kullen, Waldbaums and Shop Rite. The Union also operates in Canada in major food retail chains such as Loblaw Companies Limited.
Activity in Canadian agriculture
The UFCW has attempted to organize agricultural workers in Ontario, Canada since 1995, when the provincial government passed legislation prohibiting those workers from joining unions. In 2001 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of UFCW Canada in the case of Dunmore v. Ontario. In the ruling, the Court held that the Ontario government violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying agricultural workers unionization rights under Ontario labor law as it had infringed on those workers' freedom of association.
Since the decision, the provincial government has supported legislation that gives agricultural workers the right to join or form an association but no rights to collective bargaining. The UFCW continues to challenge this legislation while making efforts to reach Ontario farm workers. On June 30, 2006, the Ontario government announced that it would extend coverage to farm workers under that province's occupational safety and health legislation, another longstanding demand of the UFCW.
In 2004, UFCW Canada and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) signed a formal organizing protocol recognizing the UFCW as the union with primary jurisdiction for organizing agricultural workers in Canada and agreeing to cooperate on joint organizing and advocacy campaigns. in June 2008, UFCW Canada Local 832 (Manitoba) was successful in achieving a first collective agreement covering some 60 Mexican migrant farm workers at Mayfair Farms in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. This is the first Canadian agreement of its kind. In 2010, the workers of mayfair Farms de-certified UFCW claiming they were tricked into joining the union.
Advocacy and community involvement
Food equity initiatives
In 2010, the UFCW launched "Feeding the Hungry," a joint program with Smithfield and celebrity cooks Paula Deen and Chef Jeff Henderson to donate and help deliver 20 million servings of protein over three years to assistance organizations around the country. The partnership was designed to bring assistance to the growing number of people facing hunger and food insecurity during the recession. The UFCW has also been vocal in the fight against food deserts. New York-based UFCW Local 1500 is a leading partner in the New York FRESH Initiative which served as a model for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative legislation introduced by New York legislators Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez (D-NY). The UFCW successfully launched two major supermarkets into previously underserved areas in the Bronx and has advocated for similar community benefits agreements in urban and rural food deserts across the country.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), on Wednesday, September 12, 2007, unsuccessfully sought court intervention to enjoin the government from illegally arresting and detaining workers including U.S. citizens and legal residents while at their workplace. The lawsuit—filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas— named the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency as defendants. The suit came as a response to ICE's Swift raids of December 12, 2006 at six meat packing plants across the United States. The UFCW represents workers at five of the plants including Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Ia.; and Grand Island, Neb. UFCW's two lawsuits related to the raids were both dismissed.
National Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division
On May 29, 2010, hundreds of California medical-marijuana industry workers voted to become UFCW Local 5 members. They included workers at Oaksterdam University, the Oaksterdam Gift Shop, the Blue Sky Coffee Shop/Dispensary, the Bulldog Coffee Shop, AMCD Dispensaries Inc, and the Patient ID Center, all in Oakland. Soon after the workers at Medi-Cone Farms of California, joined the union.
Between memorial Day weekend 2010 and June 2011, hundreds more joined across California, including Humboldt Bay Wellness Center and 707 Cannabis College in the Emerald Triangle of the California north coast.
The industry was originally targeted for organizing by then, UFCW Local 5, statewide special operations director, Dan Rush. The international union realized that the industry consisted of the union's core industries, retail pharmacy and healthcare, agriculture, food processing and textiles-with hemp.
In September 2011, some of Colorado’s industry associations of legal-compliant marijuana sellers, representing 8,000 people, voted to join the UFCW. The labor union, which traditionally bargains mostly with grocery and meat-packing companies, solidified the national division that had over a thousand members in Colorado and California by that time.
The national division targets oppressed workers in every state that has clear state laws and workers suffering from oppression, discrimination, injustice and inequality.
Legal-marijuana employers “want to become a top-notch industry, and be recognized as so,” Ken Correia, owner of Solace Meds in Fort Collins, Colorado and a union member, said in an interview. “We want to be able to offer benefits. We want to be able to offer retirement funds.”
Leukemia Society of America
The UFCW is one of the top contributors to the Leukemia Society of America, which is dedicated to finding a cure for the fatal blood disease. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society recognized the UFCW with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 for the union members' 23 years of commitment and contributions.
Rebuilding in Haiti
The UFCW partnered with Hope for Haiti to support the rebuilding of a computer lab and library at St. Francois de Sales school in the neighborhood of Riviere Froide, commune of Carrefour, Port-au-Prince.
Before the earthquake in 2010, the school provided education to more than 1,350 students in the kindergarten, primary and secondary levels. Carrefour is near the epicenter of the earthquake, and the school was reduced to rubble. UFCW funds were matched by Hope for Haiti so that the entire project could be completed. The UFCW also worked with the Mortel Family to rebuild James Stine College, a high school in Haiti.
Work stoppages and conflict with corporations
2003 California grocery strike
On October 11, 2003, the UFCW declared a strike on Vons (owned by Safeway Inc.), in Southern California, because of company-proposed changes to the new labor contract. These changes included cuts in health care and pension benefits, and the creation of a two-tier system in which new workers would be paid on a different schedule than existing workers. The day following the strike, Albertsons and Ralphs, owned by Kroger, locked out their Southern California employees.
The strike ended on February 26, 2004 when the UFCW and affected companies reached an agreement on a new contract. Union employees voted to end the strike, and many employees cited financial difficulties as a reason for ratifying the agreement. The new labor contract included concessions granted by the chains relating to current employee benefits and wages, and concessions granted by the union relating to creating two tiers of employees and cutting benefits overall.
Since the 1990s, the UFCW had been embroiled in a dispute with non-unionized meat processing company Smithfield Foods. The UFCW had repeatedly attempted to organize the company's Bladen County, North Carolina meat-packing plant but Smithfield Foods resisted this organization. In 2007, Smithfield filed a federal lawsuit against the UFCW citing the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, claiming that the union orchestrated a public smear campaign to hurt Smithfield's business as a method of extorting the company. In the media, a Smithfield official cited the lawsuit as necessary by claiming that the company was "under attack," while union officials responded by calling the lawsuit an "attack on democracy and free speech." In October 2008, the UFCW and Smithfield reached an agreement, under which the union agreed to suspend its boycott campaign in return for the company dropping its RICO lawsuit and allowing another election. On December 10 and 11, workers at the plant voted 2,041 to 1,879 in favor of joining the UFCW, bringing the 15-year fight to an end.
Wal-Mart, a non-unionized company, has repeatedly been accused by the UFCW of treating its workers poorly and driving down employment standards. The UFCW has repeatedly attempted to organize the chain, but these attempts have been unsuccessful in the United States.
In Canada, the UFCW managed to win union recognition at two Wal-Mart stores in Quebec and one in Saskatchewan. Wal-Mart closed the Jonquière store and workers in Saint-Hyacinthe voted to decertify UFCW in 2011. The union has also applied for recognition at a dozen other Wal-Marts and had won a contract with a Wal-Mart store in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. After a couple years of unsuccessful negotiations between the union and Wal-Mart the workers at the store decided to leave the union. The last remaining unionized Wal-Mart in North America was located in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Wal-Mart successfully repelled an attempted UFCW unionization campaign here in August 2013 when the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the union's attempt to compel Wal-mart to reach a collective agreement with it; workers at the Weyburn store then voted 51 to 5 to decertify the union.
In April 2005, as part of a volley of accusatory websites created by Wal-Mart and the UFCW, the union created Wake Up Wal-Mart, a U.S.-based website and campaign with the stated goal of reforming Wal-Mart's business practices.
In 2007, Tesco, a British corporation, opened a chain of U.S. grocery stores under the Fresh & Easy banner. To date, no stores in the chain are unionized. In 2008, the UFCW and MP Jon Cruddas launched a campaign in Britain attacking the company's refusal to negotiate with the union. The campaign alleges that Tesco is not acting in the highest standards by which it operates in the UK as it concerns employee rights.
In 2007, Bashas' filed a lawsuit against UFCW with the Supreme Court of Arizona. The lawsuit names the UFCW and the union's operatives - including its "false-front" organization, "Hungry for Respect" - for alleged defamation and intentionally interfering with the grocer's operations to extort an agreement for union representation. The company also named Radio Campesina (a project of the United Farm Workers Union founded by Cesar Chavez), Councilman Michael Nowakosky, and Reverend Trina Zelle as defendants.
On October 22, 2013, Department of Labor OLMS accepted a voluntary compliance agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5 (located in San Jose, Calif.), concerning the challenged election of officers conducted on September 4, 2012, as well as the March 22, 2013 re-run election ordered by the International union. The union agreed to conduct a new election, including new nominations, for the offices of president, secretary-treasurer, recorder, and vice-presidents 1 through 31 under OLMS supervision. The investigation of the challenged election disclosed that union resources were used when the UFCW International President sent a campaign letter to various UFCW officers soliciting contributions and his executive assistant obtained the recipients’ addresses while on union time. The agreement follows an investigation by the OLMS San Francisco-Seattle District Office.
A UFCW member in Southern California filed a complaint in 2013 with the Department of Labor of Office Labor Management Standards against former UFCW 1036 Trustees for illegally transferring $100,000.00 from the local union (1036) to UFCW International in a violation of Section 303 of the LMRDA.
"The investigation disclosed that on February 26, 2009, the trustee (Shaun Barclay) appointed by the International (UFCW) to manage the affairs of the local (1036) transferred $100,000 of the local's monies to the International...The (UFCW) International... agreed that the transfer was unlawful and should not have occurred" and the International returned the funds to the appropriate local unions, following the investigation by the Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards
- US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-056. Report submitted March 26, 2014.
- US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-056. (Search)
- "A New Labor Movement?", International Socialist Review Issue 01, Summer 1997. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
- "Dunmore v. Ontario". Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. 2001-12-20. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- "NUPGE and UFCW sign agricultural workers protocol". National Union of Public and General Employees. 2004-02-17. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- http://www.legalactioncenter.org/clearinghouse/litigation-issue-pages/enforcement-lawsuits. Missing or empty
- "Smithfield suit targets union". Charlotte Observer. 2007-11-28. Archived from the original on 2007-11-30. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- "Smithfield Foods defends union lawsuit". Charlotte Observer. 2007-11-27. Retrieved 2007-12-05.[dead link]
- Greenhouse, Steven (2008-12-13). "After 15 Years, North Carolina Plant Unionizes". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
- "Quebec Wal-Mart bargaining unit is decertified". labour-reporter.com (Canadian Labour Reporter). 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
- "Wal-Mart Ordered to Allow Union Contract in Quebec". 2008-08-15. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- "Quebec Wal-Mart workers leave union". 2011-10-31. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
- Wal-Mart workers in Weyburn, Sask., vote to dump union CBC News, August 13, 2013
- Kabel, Marcus (2006-07-18). "Wal-Mart, Critics Slam Each Other on Web". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- "UFCW LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN IN BRITAIN AGAINST "THE TWO FACES OF TESCO"" (Press release). United Food and Commercial Workers. 2008-06-04. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "Bashas' Family of Stores Files Lawsuit against United Food & Commercial Worker's Union". Reuters. 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
- United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 81 Records Circa 1970-2000. 81.74 Cubic Ft.(96 Boxes) At the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.
- Wilbert McLeod Chapman papers. 1932-1970. 59.12 cubic feet tape (143 boxes and 1 folder). At the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.
- Official website
- United Food and Commercial Workers Canada
- Ansley, Fran and Anne Lewis. Going South, Coming North: Migration and Union Organizing in Morristown, Tennessee, Southern Spaces 19 May 2011.
- Gibson, Rich. "The California Grocery Strike." Cultural Logic. 2004.
- One Hat for Labor? by David Moberg, The Nation, April 29, 2009