United Food and Commercial Workers

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United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
UFCW logo.svg
Full name United Food and Commercial Workers
Founded June 1979 (1979-06)
Members 1,274,156 (2013)[1]
Affiliation AFL-CIO, CLC
Key people Anthony "Marc" Perrone, International President[2]
Office location Washington, D.C.
Country United States, Canada
Website www.ufcw.org

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is a labor union representing approximately 1.3 million workers[1] in the United States and Canada in industries including agriculture, health care, meatpacking, poultry and food processing, manufacturing, textile, chemical trades, and retail food. UFCW is affiliated with the AFL-CIO; it disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO in 2005 but reaffiliated in 2013.


Membership (US records; ×1000)[3]

Finances (US records; ×$1000)[3]
     Assets      Liabilities      Receipts      Disbursements

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.[4] 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.[5]

Activity in retail markets[edit]

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, Tops Markets, A&P, Pathmark, King Kullen, Waldbaums and Wakefern Food Corporation. The Union also operates in Canada in major food retail chains such as Loblaw Companies Limited.

Activity in Canadian agriculture[edit]

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.[6] 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.[citation needed]

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.[7] 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, saying that they were tricked into joining the union.[citation needed]

National Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division[edit]

In 2010, many of California medical-marijuana business owners voted to become UFCW Local 5 members. Recognized shops included 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, many more California business owners signed a neutrality agreement with UFCW, including Humboldt Bay Wellness Center and 707 Cannabis College in the Emerald Triangle of the California north coast. 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.

But few of these Top-Down Recognitions or Neutrality Agreements resulted in competitive contracts for cannabis workers in California. Only a handful of dispensaries in California have due-paying members, despite claims that the UFCW cannabis campaign's have grown their membership.

The industry was originally targeted for organizing by then, UFCW Local 5, statewide special operations director, Dan Rush. Rush has since been charged with alleged violations of Taft-Hartley, the legislation that defines legal union activities, and both the local and international have shied away from his involvement with them.

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 could represent cannabis workers nationwide.

On 17 September 2015, the office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California announced that a federal grand jury had indicted Rush on a variety of counts on the basis of his activities relating to his work at Local 5, as well as other activities.[8][9]

Immigration raids[edit]

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.[10]

Work stoppages and conflict with corporations[edit]

2003 California grocery strike[edit]

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. These changes were proposed due to competition from non-union retailers like Wal Mart.[11] 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.[12]

Smithfield Foods[edit]

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.[13] 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."[14] 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.[15]


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.[16] 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.[17] After a couple years of unsuccessful negotiations between the union and Wal-Mart the workers at the store decided to leave the union.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20]


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.[21]


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.[22]

Landrum–Griffin Act violations[edit]

The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (also "LMRDA" or the "Landrum-Griffin Act"), is a United States labor law that regulates labor unions' internal affairs and their officials' relationships with employers.[23]

On October 22, 2013, the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) of the United States Department of Labor 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.[24]

A UFCW member in Southern California filed a complaint in 2013 with the OLMS 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.[25]

A statement reported: "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". Funds were returned to the appropriate local unions, following the investigation by the Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards.[26]

Political activities[edit]

The UFCW's political action committee spent $11,145,605 in the 2014 election cycle, 99% of which went to Democratic candidates and 1% of which went to Republican candidates.[27] UFCW’s PAC spent $673,309 in independent expenditures promoting the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and contributed $1.8 million to Democratic federal candidates in 2008 and $1.7 million to Democratic congressional candidates in 2010. In early 2011, the Obama administration granted waivers to 28 different UFCW healthcare plans, allowing them to avoid full compliance with the Affordable Care Act for a year.[28]

UFCW has a political advocacy arm called the Active Ballot Club (ABC). The policy positions that ABC advocates for include increasing the minimum wage and comprehensive immigration reform.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-056. Report submitted March 26, 2014.
  2. ^ "Marc Perrone Elected President of 1.3 Million Member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union". United Food and Commercial Workers. December 15, 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  3. ^ a b US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-056. (Search)
  4. ^ "A New Labor Movement?", International Socialist Review Issue 01, Summer 1997. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
  5. ^ "UFCW Joins AFL-CIO". United Food and Commercial Workers. August 8, 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Dunmore v. Ontario". Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. 2001-12-20. Archived from the original on January 25, 2010. Retrieved 2015-04-21. 
  7. ^ "NUPGE and UFCW sign agricultural workers protocol". National Union of Public and General Employees. 2004-02-17. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-21. 
  8. ^ "FBI — Union Organizer Indicted for Corruption, Attempted Extortion, and Money Laundering". FBI. 
  9. ^ http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndca/pr/union-organizer-indicted-corruption-attempted-extortion-and-money-laundering
  10. ^ "Enforcement, Lawsuits". Legal Action Center. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  11. ^ Kendall, Diane Elizabeth (2005). Framing Class: Media Representations of Wealth and Poverty in America. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 149. ISBN 9780742541689. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ "Smithfield suit targets union". Charlotte Observer. 2007-11-28. Archived from the original on 2007-11-30. Retrieved 2007-12-05. 
  14. ^ "Smithfield Foods defends union lawsuit". Charlotte Observer. 2007-11-27. Retrieved 2007-12-05. [dead link]
  15. ^ Greenhouse, Steven (2008-12-13). "After 15 Years, North Carolina Plant Unionizes". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  16. ^ "Quebec Wal-Mart bargaining unit is decertified". labour-reporter.com. Canadian Labour Reporter. 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  17. ^ "Wal-Mart Ordered to Allow Union Contract in Quebec". 2008-08-15. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  18. ^ "Quebec Wal-Mart workers leave union". 2011-10-31. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  19. ^ Wal-Mart workers in Weyburn, Sask., vote to dump union CBC News, August 13, 2013
  20. ^ Kabel, Marcus (2006-07-18). "Wal-Mart, Critics Slam Each Other on Web". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-12-05. 
  21. ^ "UFCW LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN IN BRITAIN AGAINST "THE TWO FACES OF TESCO"" (Press release). United Food and Commercial Workers. 2008-06-04. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved 2015-04-21. 
  22. ^ "Bashas' Family of Stores Files Lawsuit against United Food & Commercial Worker's Union". Reuters. 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  23. ^ JR Bellace and AD Berkowitz, The Landrum-Griffin Act: Twenty Years of Federal Protection of Union Members' Rights (1979). 363 pp.
  24. ^ "Voluntary Compliance Agreements 2013". United States Department of Labor. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  25. ^ "LMRDA Violation: UFCW Shaun Barclay". Uncharted.ca. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  26. ^ "Office of Labor-Management Standards Division of Enforcement" (PDF). Uncharted.ca. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  27. ^ "United Food & Commercial Workers Union". OpenSecrets.org. Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  28. ^ Lucas, Fred (January 31, 2011). "Obama Administration Has Given Obamacare Waivers to 28 Food Workers Union Locals--Union’s PAC Spent $673,309 to Get Obama Elected". CNS News. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  29. ^ "Active Ballot Club". United Food and Commercial Workers. Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 

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