UFCW 21 - A Voice for Working America

Winter 2013 Newsletter

In this issue:

The Big Picture: Immigration Reform - Why it Matters

Imagine. Since being a child, you’ve had to keep a secret just like millions of other hard working people across America. Your secret is that you do not have legal documentation to be in the US. This life in the shadows harms our families, our schools, our tax revenue, our workplaces, and other aspects of everyday life.

UFCW 21 has long supported fixing the broken immigration system and hoped it would have been addressed in President Obama’s first term. It was not, largely because of staunch opposition from Republicans in Congress. But the 2012 election changes things. Political observers now say Republican leaders will have to address immigration head on in order to have any hope of gaining Latino votes in the future. This has set the stage for change and a diverse call for comprehensive immigration reform to happen this year.

“Comprehensive immigration reform can finally help our society move away from a time when millions are forced to live in the shadows and there can be a clear legal path to citizenship.”

For many decades some unions were often opposed to immigration reform, but rising leadership led to a national union turnaround in 2000. UFCW was part of making that change on the national level. And here locally, UFCW 21 has been working closely for years with community partners like OneAmerica to advance comprehensive immigration reform for our members, their families and our communities.

  • Comprehensive immigration reform must include the following principles:
  • Help families by creating a roadmap to citizenship and allow for family members who have been separated to reunite.
  • Create a sensible worker program with protections to ensure full labor rights for all workers.
  • Ensure humane treatment and due process at borders and in detention facilities.
  • Prioritize safety and security in border communities.
  • Promote immigrant integration so that all immigrants can fully contribute to social, economic and civic life in America.
  • Include particular awareness of the issues of immigrant women so as not to create any unintended hurdles in the immigration process.

Comprehensive immigration reform can finally help our society move away from a time when millions are forced to live in the shadows and there can be a clear legal path to citizenship. This will help bring families together who have been and would continue to be separated and help reduce employer abuses and intimidation of workers. 

“By coming together we have a stronger voice for our rights. Let’s stand together again, and win a contract we can proud of.”

Kyong Barry from Albertsons and Jaime Fajardo who works at Fred Meyer have joined together in the past with workers from other stores like Safeway and QFC as well as many independents to take action to protect our rights.

The Inside Story:
Negotiations Begin for Union Grocery Store Workers Across Puget Sound

Negotiations begin in March of 2013 for grocery store workers across the region. UFCW 21 will again be working closely with Teamsters 38 (the union that represents grocery workers in Snohomish County) and with UFCW 367 (the union that represents grocery store members in Pierce and other south Puget Sound counties). 

Standing together for a fair contract that protects our health plan, improves our wages, secures our retirement, and works to address other workplace issues will require members all around the Sound to take action together. That is nothing new to most members who joined together during the 2010 negotiations at levels of unity that had not been seen in decades. 

Planning for these important negotiations has been underway for many months. Research with members to identify concerns and priorities included Steward trainings and a poll of members in December. Also many thousands of members have filled out online and paper pre-bargaining surveys. All the research will help inform the development of proposals as we go into negotiations.

The 2013 negotiations will require the collective action of all members to achieve a fair contract. Certainly the actions taken during the 2010 negotiations set a great foundation for us to continue our unified work. Our successful passage of the Seattle Paid Sick Days law and the 2013 efforts to push that policy state wide is one good example of expanding our rights beyond the negotiations table and our contract.

The kick-off in late February with leaders from stores across the region will get things going and then the union-member bargaining team made up of workers from different stores and different departments will meet in early March. Negotiations are planned to get underway later that month. 

Members Stand Up for Their Rights...

Protecting Our Jobs — All for One, One for All

Meet Joan Harp, long-time union Steward at Harrison Medical Center in Silverdale who works in environmental services. She had never been disciplined, but when her manager and Human Resources called her into a meeting, she knew she had the right to have representation with her and asked for it. Then to her surprise she was issued a 5-day suspension and final written notification for policy/procedure violation and behavior/conduct infraction. Quickly Joan and her union representative went to work investigating the hospital’s claims. In the end, after meeting with Human Resources, her suspension was over turned, the discipline was removed from her file and Joan was paid for her lost wages.


Staffing Matters

Michelle Gilmore is a Respiratory Therapist and Steward at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. Every 12 weeks her co-workers had been filling out “Personal Acquisition Report” forms asking for positions to be posted so that people working full-time or part-time, but classified incorrectly, could get benefits. After significant documentation, four new positions were finally added and now these new employees have the opportunity to earn all of the benefits as union members and a contract. HR explained that this new “staff restructuring” was because of the union. Michelle felt, “That’s right. We have a union. That is why we got four more positions added and the Respiratory Therapists who have been working consistently full-time or part-time are now benefited employees.” If you see staffing issues in your workplaces, contact your Steward or union Rep.


Back To Work

Sometimes justice takes a while. Shekinah McCallister was terminated over a year ago from The Markets - a smaller grocery store chain in the Northwestern part of the state. The posted schedule had a change one day at the end of the week from her usual schedule and she had mis-read it and arrived at her usual time instead. Her employer decided this was a no call no show. Shekinah had no previous absence issues so she called her union Rep and filed a grievance. Our union felt termination was too harsh a discipline for a first time no call no show offense given the particulars of her case. The case went to arbitration late last year. Shekinah won and was reinstated back to work.  


Stewards Standing Up

When Macy’s union Steward Louisa Swenson was asked by a co-worker to represent them in a meeting with loss prevention, she was there. Louisa did her research and went to the meeting. She did her job as a union Steward and made clarifying statements about the member’s responses to questions. The loss prevention manager told Louisa she was not allowed to talk during the interview, and could only take notes as a witness. Louisa explained as a Steward in this meeting she was not subordinate to the manager and if not allowed to provide representation to the member the interview would have to cease until UFCW 21 staff could be present. The Human Resources manager then ended the interview and Macy’s decided not to continue the investigation, and no further action was taken with the investigation. Knowing your rights and standing up for them can make all the difference.


There Should Be A Law

People that work in health care need uninterrupted meal and rest breaks to ensure patient safety. The problem is, they don’t get them. Efforts are being made again this year to change that. Two UFCW 21 members from Seattle Children’s Hospital testified to legislators in Olympia about the importance of these proposals for new laws. Donna Rosenberg, a Respiratory Therapist, talked about how hard it was to get a break because there just isn’t enough staff to cover the work. Donna Dupras, a Respiratory Therapist, spoke about how mandatory overtime has become common practice in her department as well as many others throughout the hospital and how unsafe this situation is for the patients. In the same hearing, hospital officials testified that these kinds of changes would be too expensive for their bottom line. Having the courage to speak up for change when it is needed is part of protecting our rights and making laws better. 

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.

5,000 Providence Health Care Workers Unite

UFCW 21 now represents more health care providers in the Providence system than any other union. Members are working together all across Washington spanning seven different Providence hospitals and medical centers in Olympia, Spokane, Walla Walla, Centralia, Chewelah, Colville and Everett.

Walmart Black Friday Action

Walmart workers went on one-day strikes around Thanksgiving to protest attempts to silence or retaliate against those who spoke out about problems in the workplace. Thousands of courageous workers, along with tens of thousands of community supporters marched in front of Walmarts across the nation. Over 2,000 news stories (including local actions covered on KOMO 4, KIRO 7, KING 5 and KCPQ 13 TV and papers from Mt Vernon to Port Angeles) helped spread the word.

On the front cover: 

Lynn Abbott-Muramoto from Macy’s in Northgate at sick leave hearing in Olympia.

On February 4, over 100 UFCW 21 members and supporters packed into a hearing room in Olympia to support paid sick days for all workers in the state. Security needed to direct the overflowing crowd to another room in the building. Members from grocery stores, retail and health care workplaces testified side by side, that no one should have to choose between coming to work sick or staying home and missing a day’s pay or fearing discipline. The proposed law is based on what UFCW 21 helped pass in 2011 in Seattle.

Jeannette Randall who works at Safeway in SeaTac (pictured lower right) and Linda Fuller who works in the Lab at Group Health in Olympia (pictured lower left) were two UFCW 21 members who testified.

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