Defend Right of North Carolina Farm Workers to Organize

International Union and Foodworkers (IUF)

 Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)

farm workers nc

Following a series of recent farm worker wins in the Southern United States, farmers elected to the North Carolina State Legislature are trying to use their legislative power to stop workers on their own farms from organizing for better wages and working conditions.

On June 28, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Farm Bill S615 with no debate. The bill aims to stop the progress that farmworkers are achieving by making it illegal for farmers to deduct dues from union members as well as making it more difficult for farmworkers to win union contracts.

US farmworkers are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act and other worker protections like minimum wage, child labor, and workers compensation laws, among others. However, through the efforts of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), farmworkers have won union contracts that include wage increases, job security, and improved working conditions. This bill aims to roll back this progress.

CLICK HERE to join FLOC and the IUF in calling on North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to veto the bill. Your message will be sent by email to the Governor and delivered as part of a signed petition.

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North American IUF Affiliates rally at Mondelez shareholder meeting

IUF Global Mondelez Union Network

mondelez

On May 17, members from North American IUF affiliates BCTGM and UFCW rallied in advance of the Mondelez shareholder meeting in Lincolnshire, Illinois to show their commitment to defending quality employment at the company they have helped to build. Over 18 labour organizations were present to express their support; Letters of solidarity from IUF affiliates were also read out to rally participants.

A smaller group of IUF affiliates who attended the shareholder meeting spoke out against the destructive direction in which management has taken the company, urging a more long-term and sustainable strategy for the future. This group supported the shareholder resolution submitted by the national trade union center AFL-CIO calling for measures to mitigate the impact of any future plant closures, an experience all too familiar to Mondelez workers in the US and around the world.

Mondelez recently moved over 500 production jobs from the Nabisco factory in Chicago to Salinas,Mexico.
See more photos of the event here.

Guatemala: Coke Union STECSA and Coke Bottler FEMSA sign new collective bargaining agreement

from the Coca-Cola Workers Alliance

IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide)

Stecsa2016

[Ed. note – Paul Garver:  This may sound like a routine story abut a contract settlement between a local union and management.  Except for one thing.  The initial creation of the STECSA union in Guatemala City in the 1970s cost the lives of several assassinated Guatemalan union leaders, plus a large-scale protracted global labor solidarity campaign.  Nearly forty years later Coke unions around the world remain engaged in a global coordination through the IUF that has resulted in a flexible and evolving framework of contention and dialogue with the giant corporate Coca-Cola empire.  The Guatemala Coke union has always remained on the IUFs global labor solidarity agenda.  In this case therefore what seems on the surface to be a routine event is actually a further manifestation of a heroic history of workers’ struggle.]

On the night of March 3, after 14 months of difficult negotiations and a suspension of nearly five months of negotiations, the Union of Workers of Embotelladora Central SA (STECSA) and Coca Cola FEMSA reached an agreement and signed the new collective bargaining agreement that will be valid for two years.

On March 2, the two negotiating committees signed an agreement that actually gave way to the completion of this difficult negotiation.

“Solving the conflict and finalizing the negotiation were the most important targets for the new Board of STECSA” Carlos Luch, the General Secretary of STECSA told the IUF Latin America region.

The agreement allowed us to ensure a retroactive wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2015 and provided a wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2016.

This percentage applies to all items that have economic impact, in that case also with retroactive effect from 1 March 2015.

“While we are not entirely satisfied with the salary adjustment reached, we believe that the agreement consolidates job stability in Central Bottling Company S.A. (Coca Cola FEMSA) and maintains the structure of our collective agreement unchanged guaranteeing the acquired rights” Luch added.

STECSA General Secretary thanked the members for their unconditional support given throughout the duration of the negotiations, and called on them “to continue with that commitment and conviction of struggle.”

He also urged all members to remain alerted “to defend the gains that were achieved through the struggle”.

IUF and Danone Sign Global Agreement to Promote Formal Employment

IUF Press Release

Geneva, March 15, 2016
The IUF and the French-based food products transnational Danone today signed a ground-breaking Agreement on Sustainable Employment and Access to Rights built around a joint commitment to promote “permanent, direct employment as an essential foundation for a sustainable business anchored in respect for human rights.”

With this Agreement, Danone and the IUF establish a framework to bring about continuous progress in limiting or reducing precarious forms of employment through a process of monitoring and negotiation.

The Agreement affirms the essential contribution of permanent direct employment to successful business performance and a positive social footprint in Danone workplaces and beyond, grounded in respect for human rights. It details the specific ways in which “fixed-term contracts and outsourced employment relationships may have the effect of depriving workers of the protections and the rights they are due”, and aims to ensure that employment on fixed-term contracts is limited to where it can be clearly identified as temporary and non-recurring. Local management and trade unions, according to the agreement, are to jointly identify the circumstances where fixed-term employment and/or the outsourcing of services may be introduced by mutual agreement, and will regularly review developments in order to limit these forms of employment.

Danone will promote the application of the Agreement at operations in which the company has minority ownership and at Danone Group suppliers. Danone and the IUF will actively encourage local unions and management to engage in the implementation process and will monitor progress through a regular review process at global level.

“Workers and their trade unions have become increasingly concerned by the multiple barriers to the effective exercise of rights posed by fixed-term and outsourced employment relationships,” says IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald. “With this agreement, the IUF and Danone have succeeded in establishing a framework and a practical basis for negotiating concrete solutions which will facilitate workers’ full access to the rights set out in international Conventions and standards. We now look forward to the implementation process.”

 [Ed. note -Paul Garver:  Over nearly three decades, the IUF [during which period I worked for the IUF for 15 years] and Danone have agreed to a series of global framework agreements, of which this is the latest and perhaps the most ambitious.    Workers in almost all  countries have demanded employment security protection with benefits guaranteed by a union contract. However direct permanent employment has been steadily eroded by the growth of outsourced, temporary, fixed-term or other forms of “precarious” employment.  As in the case of all global labor-management framework agreements, actual implementation of workers’ rights at the local factory and office levels and effective extension of these rights to those who work at company suppliers and those companies in which Danone has only minority ownership may require more decades].

New Zealand Fast Food Workers Win Minimum Hours Guarantee

by Mike Treen, National Director, Unite

indonesia fast food nz

[Ed. note: Fast food industry workers in New Zealand have been organized by the Unite union for over a decade. Their relative strength has enabled their union to play an active role in the international campaigns to organize the fast food industry, both giving support to the Fight for $15 in the USA and receiving support from fast food workers in other countries through the IUF for their own campaigns. The photo shows a support demonstration from workers in Indonesia.-pg]

Workers in the fast food industry in New Zealand scored a spectacular victory over what has been dubbed “zero hour contracts” during a collective agreement bargaining round over the course of March and April this year.

The campaign played out over the national media as well as on picket lines. The victory was seen by many observers as the product of a determined fight by a valiant group of workers and their union, Unite. It was a morale boost for all working people after what has seemed like a period of retreat for working class struggle in recent years.

Workers in the fast food industry have long identified “zero hour contracts” as the central problem they face. These are contracts that don’t guarantee any hours per week, meanwhile workers are expected to work any shifts rostered within the workers “availability”. Managers have power to use and abuse the rostering system to reward and punish, without any real means of holding them to account.

This year, all the collective agreements with the major fast food companies (McDonald’s, Burger King, Restaurant Brands) expired on March 31. We were already in dispute with Wendy’s, as their agreement remains unresolved from last year. Unite Union was determined to end the system of zero hours and get guaranteed hours included in the new collective agreements. We had no illusions that this was going to be easy. We knew this would be a tough battle and we needed to prepare for that reality if we were to have a chance of success. At organising meetings I would sometimes use a phrase that appealed: “If you want peace, prepare for war”. I was told later it is taken from a Latin adage: “Si vis pacem, para bellum”. Whoever coined the phrase, it is a wise strategy.

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Historic Victory of Guatemala Coca-Cola Workers

from the Coca-Cola Workers Alliance

IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide)

Guatemala workers have proudly featured in the history of struggle between IUF members and The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) going back to the 1980’s. Until recently of the three Coca-Cola bottling plants in the country, only one had built solid recognition from FEMSA, the Coca-Cola Latin American bottler. The other two plants were owned and operated by the Schutt family and workers there faced hostility and repression when exercising their basic rights. One of these two plants was unionised but under constant pressure and the other was non-union with all efforts to offer union membership to workers there met with forceful hostility from management.

In 2008 within the ongoing international negotiating forum (the “Atlanta process”) that the IUF secured in 2005 when finally recognized by TCCC, the IUF made clear to TCCC that operating in this environment workers at the two Schutt’s owned plants would be faced with a constant struggle to defend their rights at one plant and secure union membership rights at the other. Following protracted discussions, TCCC purchased the two plants in 2012. With support of the team engaged with TCCC in the “Atlanta process” workers employed at what both became TCCC owned facilities were finally able to exercise their rights to form and join a union.

In the most recently unionised plant, the IUF-affiliated SITRAABASA signed a first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with FEMSA on January 10, 2015. In the second Coca-Cola acquired plant a new CBA will shortly follow. This will mean that all Coca-Cola workers in Guatemala have union rights and will be protected by a negotiated collective agreement.

IUF general secretary Ron Oswald commented, “This is testament to the determination and the courage of our members in Guatemala to fully secure and exercise their rights. The IUF is proud of our members and of their struggle as well as the role played by both FESTRAS and FELATRAC the Latin American Federation of Coca-Cola Workers.” Oswald went on to explain, “Built on the determination of our members in Guatemala, the framework within which this success was achieved was largely negotiated through the “Atlanta process”, a direct and permanent international union and company engagement. This process included a late August 2014 meeting in Guatemala involving TCCC local and international leadership, our Guatemala affiliates and the IUF international and regional leaderships. Just as in Pakistan previously, the Atlanta process has helped us secure 100% union membership in Coca-Cola bottling operations in Guatemala and a guarantee that all Coca-Cola bottling workers in Guatemala can now exercise their internationally recognized human right to be a union member.”

[Ed. note – Paul Garver – The victory of the Coca-Cola workers in Guatemala is truly a historic one.  In the late 1970s several union leaders at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City were assassinated during the struggle to organize a union.  It required two international solidarity campaigns coordinated by the IUF before Coca-Cola intervened to replace successive murderous and/or corrupt owners of their franchised plant with one who recognized and negotiated with the union in the early 1980s.  It has taken thirty more years to extend effective union recognition to the other two Coke bottling plants in Guatemala outside the capital city.  The struggles of Coke workers not only in Guatemala but in many other countries around the globe forced the Coca-Cola Company to formalize its engagement with the global union IUF in the “Atlanta process” cited by IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald cited above.  This permanent engagement has facilitated union organization and collective bargaining at Coke facilities in scores of countries around the world.  I was very fortunate to have been able to personally participate in this process between 2000 and 2005 as an IUF staffer, and congratulate the Guatemalan workers and the IUF for this latest breakthrough advance for the global working class struggle.]

Hotel Housekeepers Join Global Campaign

by Paul Garver

PakistanGHSKC

In Lahore, Pakistan, 55 housekeepers make up 600 rooms at the five star Pearl Continental Hotel. Only 17 of the 55 housekeepers are permanent. Only one of the 17 permanent workers is a women and another 12 women are employed on a precarious basis.

During their shift housekeepers are only allowed a 30 minute “free lunch”. It is the only break in 10 hours. While working 10 hour shifts alone every day, handling loaded trolleys weighing in excess of 50 kilograms, women housekeepers face a range of serious health, safety and security issues. Even after working for 5 to 10 years the legal minimum wage of PKR 12,000 (USD 117) per month is the maximum wage for precarious women housekeepers.

On learning about the IUF’s Global Housekeeping Campaign for housekeepers’ dignity, a woman housekeeper said: “After learning about the IUF Global Campaign for Housekeepers I now believe as housekeepers we will be able to live a better and decent life too.”

Hidden within magnificent luxury hotels as well as more modest establishments throughout the world,
housekeepers are the foundation of the hospitality business. Yet for all the skill and hard work they bring to guests and employers, their contribution is scandalously undervalued. Housekeepers are now challenging their invisible status, speaking out against abusive working conditions and calling on the global hotel industry to recognize their contribution and their rights. From December 3-10, hotel housekeepers in more than 25 countries around the world are holding a Global Week of Action to highlight their situation and to demand a safe, secure working environment from a global industry which rests on their efforts. “The campaign puts the reality of the sector up front, on the table”, tells Kelly from Argentina, who has
been working as a housekeeper for 18 years.

Housekeepers perform exhausting daily tasks for low pay and little or no employment
security. The vast majority are women, often migrants. Their vulnerability exposes
them to a multitude of health, safety and security risks: risks to their bodies from
repetitive, heavy tasks, sexual abuse, exploitation by unscrupulous employers who
often fiercely resist union organization, outsourcing schemes that shield employers
from responsibility and further degrade working conditions and insufficient or totally
lacking legal and social security. Few guests would imagine that housekeepers have
one of the highest rates of work-related injuries and sickness of any occupational
group. “I am already stressed before I start working, since I don’t know how many
rooms and beds are expected to be cleaned”, reports Sofie from Sweden, 29 years
old. I never know if I have time to take my break because I can only get to it all if I
skip my break.”

The week of activities, organized through the IUF’s ‘Make up my workplace!’
campaign for healthy, safe and dignified working conditions for housekeepers will
culminate in an international press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil on December
12th, where images from the week will be displayed and housekeepers will tell their
stories of work and struggle.

“The campaign has made me aware that the pain I feel in my body is not a personal matter but a workplace issue”, says a South African housekeeper. Their hopes and their determination to fight for change are echoed by housekeepers around the world. “The hotel companies want to deliver five-star service with two star jobs. At my hotel, we all got together and joined the union and that has made all the difference. Room attendants need to stand together around the world so that, together, we can fulfil our dreams for ourselves and our families”, says Josie, 37, from Canada.

Housekeepers at American five-star hotels face the same challenges. Housekeepers at the Harvard University-owned Doubletree Suites hotel recently went on strike for union recognition and the right to bargain for better conditions.