UFCW 21 - A Voice for Working America

Summer 2012 Newsletter


In this issue:

» The Big Picture: Everyday Heroes

» The Inside Story: Major Changes Underway in Health Care Industry

» Members Stand Up for Their Rights

» The Benefits of Being UFCW 21 Members

» Union Merger Goes Into Effect

 » And more...

The Big Picture: Everyday Heroes

by UFCW 21 members Scott Shiflett, Meat Cutter (Safeway) and Kyong Barry, Service Supervisor (Albertsons)

Who decides how our schools are run? How our food is produced? How safe our hospitals are? How much we pay in taxes? The answers are: it depends. It depends on each of us.

 What we do and how many co-workers, friends and family we can get involved to take action is what can make the difference between making things better for regular working people, or letting those with all the money run the show.

 While union members won’t agree on everything (and that is fine), it’s when we can put aside those differences and agree on something to focus on together that we can make the biggest changes.

Everyday heroes put pressure on elected officials so that the laws and budgets at the local, state and national level better represent the interests of working people and not just millionaires.

We remember back in 2010 when we were in bargaining for our new contract with some of the largest grocery chains in America and the employers were focused on cuts to pensions and health care. Later in 2011, fellow UFCW 21 members like the professional, technical and service workers at MultiCare Health Systems campaigned against these same kind of cuts as they stuck together for a fair contract.

In both cases the economy was in many ways worse than today. And we were pushing not just to keep what we had, but to improve wages, secure retirement and protect health care benefits. And after long, hard campaigns, we were able to achieve contracts that we could be proud of.

Regular, working people are the everyday heroes who make things better in our communities. Everyday heroes help keep a keen eye on our employers to make sure they follow our contracts. Everyday heroes get out there and help workers who want a union but do not yet have one.

Everyday heroes are actively involved in elections and put pressure on elected officials so that the laws and budgets at the local, state and national level better represent the interests of working people and not just millionaires. By taking action together, we have made progress in past elections – for example when we secured the highest minimum wage in the nation for workers in our state.

And this November, we hope to make history again as we defend marriage equality, it’s a civil right. Additionally, as rank and file members who sit of the UFCW 21 Executive Board we are looking to elect Jay Inslee as our next Governor (and we are happy that he won the primary in August). He has a record of standing with workers—like his strong support for our minimum wage law. His opponent does not. We’re also working to support other pro-worker candidates like President Obama, and defeat a dangerous Charter School proposal that threatens to take money away from our already strapped public schools.

The Inside Story:
Major Changes Underway in Health Care Industry

As we go into the fall of 2012, significant transformations continue to take place in the health care industry across America. One such change is a drive toward consolidation, including several of our employers like Providence and MulitCare. This results in more “corporatization” of the health care industry with increased pressure to generate profits and can result in negative side-effects concerning patient care and access to health care.

One way to push back on corporatization in health care is by effectively organizing the people who provide the health care.

One way to push back on corporatization in health care is by effectively organizing the people who provide the health care. Organizing for a stronger voice in the workplace not only can improve working conditions, wages and benefits. It can also help improve quality of care for patients and serve as a counterbalance to the corporate drive for profit.

Achieving a stronger voice in the workplace was one of the leading reasons for the recent USNU Local 141 merger with UFCW 21. With now 15,000 health care members, we can coordinate our contract negotiations, political and public policy work, and organizing efforts more than ever before.

And by acting together, we can improve the lives of UFCW 21 members and others throughout our community. An example of this was the passage and defense of the Affordable Care Act. While far from perfect, the law (passed in 2010 and re-affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2012) will do a lot of good: help younger people get coverage by allowing many to stay on parents’ plans, reduce costs for seniors to get prescriptions, outlaw denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and drastically cut uncompensated care by boosting the numbers of people with insurance.

Members Stand Up for Their Rights...

What’s Not in Your Wallet?

When we work hard, play by the rules and do our jobs, we expect to get paid our fair share. Unfortunately, it does not always happen that way. Studies show that each year literally billions of dollars are lost from workers’ pay checks through wage theft of one kind or another. When we are vigilant, we can get paid correctly. An example of incorrect payment took place at Whidbey General where a Steward and follow-up investigations found over 300 workers had been incorrectly paid over several years. In July of 2012, the successful grievance resulted in $161,000 in back pay for these workers. Keeping an eye out for problems and challenging illegal or contract violations allow us to get our fair share. If you have a question or concern, contact your Steward or Union Rep. If you’d like to learn more about wage theft, you might want to check out “Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid-And What We Can Do About It” by Kim Bobo.


Nurses To Get Paid for Missed Breaks and Meals

In July, there was good news for hundreds of nurses at Providence St. Peter Medical Center as an agreement was reached on a 2006-2009 meal and break grievance. Dawn Cutler, RNC was an Executive Board member of USNU Local 141 when she and another nurse initially filed the grievance. Dawn said, “I am proud of what we were able to get done by acting together. We need to keep at it to make our employers accountable.” While the total sum is substantial, the amount for an individual depends on several factors. As UFCW 21 now represents over 15,000 workers in Health Care, we can have even more power and continue to defend against unfair, illegal, or contract violations that negatively impact members and their patients.

“Working together as union members we persevered through years of litigation to get this settlement and begin the important work of changing the culture around meals and breaks. Now more than ever we need to work to keep what we have won by ensuring we have appropriate staffing that guarantees our contractual and legally guaranteed breaks and lunches on a daily basis,” concluded Dawn Cutler RNC, Family Birth Center at St. Peter Hospital and Executive Board member of UFCW 21.


Eyes and Ears For Forty Years

Dorothy Harris is not the type of person who seeks the spotlight. But her story deserves some coverage. Over her time as a 40-year union member, she has become a strong defender of what is right. Dorothy has done her job well and become very respected in her workplace – by co-worker and manager alike. She has been on contract negotiation teams to achieve fair contracts. She’s joined ABC, gone to Olympia and Washington DC and phone banked to increase the voice of union members in politics. She currently serves as an elected leader on the UFCW 21 Executive Board representing the Miscellaneous (Laundry) division. And as a worker at Aramark Laundry, she’s been a long-time Steward keeping her eyes and ears open for issues facing co-workers and working to get those issues resolved so our rights are protected. Stewards like Dorothy keep our union strong.


Get Connected, Get Paid

Earlier this year, when the state’s minimum wage went up (now the highest in the nation at $9.04/hour), that triggered a pay raise for workers across Washington including many new hires at Macy’s. But which workers were new, did they know about this trigger, and were they getting paid correctly? That’s where Emily Hunter, a lead Steward at the Alderwood Macy’s, came in. By connecting with those new hires at the bottom of the wage scale, she was able to help them get paid what they had a right to get paid. Stewards reaching out to new hires is a critical part of building the union.


Nothing to Sneeze At

Nancy Norman, a File Maintenance Clerk at Fred Meyer in Covington, noticed something that didn’t add up. Her keen eye caught an error in her employer’s math that was keeping workers from their proper credits toward sick leave. As we work to make improvements to the broken sick leave policies in general (and expand beyond the big win last year in Seattle that provides paid sick days), we need to assure that at the very least employers can correctly follow the sick leave language we do have in our contract. Nancy caught the fact that Fred Meyer was not doing this. That led to a formal grievance that was recently settled which will set this record straight so that all Fred Meyer workers will be fairly treated when accruing their sick leave hours in the future.

The Benefits of Being UFCW 21 Members

Your union (UFCW 21) is the largest private sector union in the state of Washington, with 43,000 workers in grocery stores and retail, health care, and other service sector and industrial jobs. Our collective voice is what gives workers the power to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Wages: On average, union members earn about 20% more in wages than non-union workers.

Health Benefits: Union members are more likely to receive quality, affordable health benefits from their employers.

Retirement Security: Union members are far more likely than other workers to have a guaranteed pension.

Other Benefits on the Job: Union members also have more vacation days, more paid leave, and greater job security.

A Voice at Work: Union members get to negotiate with management—as equals—over wages, benefits, and other issues.

Representation: As a union member, you have the right to union representation during an investigation that could lead to discipline.

Fair Treatment: The “just cause” provision in your union contract means that management must apply discipline in a fair and consistent manner.

Your Contract: Your wages, benefits, and working conditions are spelled out in writing in a legally-binding union contract, which is bargained for and voted on by union members.

Having a Union Makes a Difference

Get Involved... We encourage you to get involved and make your union stronger.  Each worksite has a Union Representative — union staff that regularly visit your worksite to inform you about what’s happening around the union, and help make sure everyone’s rights are protected. Each workplace also has one or more Stewards. A Steward is a union member like you who has been trained to enforce co-workers’ rights in the workplace and speak out on union issues. 

Union Merger Goes Into Effect

In May and June, members of UFCW 21 and USNU Local 141 UFCW (which represented thousands of nurses), each voted by over 93% to merge. This merger went into effect in July and the new UFCW 21 is larger and stronger than ever. UFCW 21 continues to be the largest private sector union in the state with over 43,000 workers in grocery stores and retail, health care and other industry jobs.

Know Your Rights — Weingarten Rights

Your right to union representation

If you’re called into a meeting that you think could lead to discipline, stop! Ask for union representation. You can say: “ I request a union representative during this meeting. If you accuse me or ask me questions I believe may lead to my discipline, I have a right not to answer those questions and will continue to ask for a union representative until you comply with my request.”

You have a right not to be alone.  After exercising your rights, call your union Rep.
Click here for a Weingarten Rights posting for your union bulletin board.

Sign up for the 2012 Stewards Conference on October 4!

This year’s conference is looking to be the best ever. Hundreds are already registered. Have you? If not, RSVP soon with your Union Rep, or sign up here.

On the front cover:

Despite all the serious benefits that come along with being a union member, we also know how to have fun. One example is our summer picnics, where members and their families have lots of fun and win prizes.

Sign up to get our newsletter and updates by email:

Blue + Yellow = Green Be green and get your news electronically instead of on paper.