UFCW Expected To Rejoin AFL-CIO in August


Mike Elk reports in In These Times that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union will rejoin the AFL-CIO.

High-level sources within the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions tell Working In These Times that the 1.3-million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is in talks to rejoin the labor federation. These sources say that UFCW leaders have pledged their support for returning to the AFL-CIO and will ask members to vote on the question at the annual UFCW convention in Chicago this August. With the leadership backing reunification, the UFCW membership is expected to approve the motion.

In 2005, the UFCW and several other large unions—the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters, the Laborers’ UnionUnite Here and the United Farm Workers of America—split off from the AFL-CIO to form a rival federation, Change to Win. At the time, the unions said they were departing in order to explore new ways of organizing. Continue reading

As Obamacare insurance exchanges near launch, labor braces for impact

by Don McIntosh

wikimedia.org creative commons

wikimedia.org creative commons

Organized labor — entirely left out of the legislation that became known as Obamacare — has spent years behind the scenes patiently pleading withthe Obama Administration to be allowed to benefit from the law’s implementation. Now, four months before the law’s mandated state insurance exchanges launch, it appears that while some union members will benefit,many others may actually be harmed.

The state-by-state health insurance exchanges, which launch Oct. 1, 2013, are the linchpin of Obamacare’s plan to cover the uninsured. The exchanges will benefit a minority of low-wage union members who don’t currently have employer-provided health insurance. But they may harm many other union members who are covered through union-affiliated multi-employer health trusts — which are prevalent in construction and in low-wage industries like grocery and janitorial.

The harm would come chiefly because union members and their employers won’t have access to individual subsidies, or to small-employer tax credits, for insurance purchased on the exchanges. But their nonunion competitors will.

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How Unions Are Getting Their Groove Back

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Yesterday—April 24th—was a red-letter day in the annals of worker mobilization in post-collective-bargaining America. In Chicago, hundreds of fast-food and retail employees who work in the Loop and along the Magnificent Mile called a one-day strike and demonstrated for a raise to $15-an-hour and the right to form a union. At more than 150 Wal-Mart stores across the nation, workers and community activists called on the chain to regularize employees’ work schedules. And under pressure from an AFL-CIO-backed campaign of working-class voters who primarily aren’t union members, the county supervisors of New Mexico’s Bernalillo County voted to raise the local minimum wage.

The Chicago demonstration, which began in the dawn’s early light of 5:30 a.m., included workers at McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Subway, as well as Macy’s, Sears, and Victoria’s Secret, all of whom make the state minimum wage ($8.25) or just slightly more. Roughly one-third of the jobs in Chicago are low-wage, and more than half of the city’s low-wage workers are older than 30. The demonstration was organized by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, which formed to demand a living wage for the city’s retail and fast-food workers.

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Whither Change to Win?

by Steve Early

Steve Early

Most six-year-olds like to have a big birthday bash, with lots of games, presents, balloons, sugary cake, and as much noise as possible.

But Change to Win, the new kid on labor’s block born in 2005, has opted for a quieter approach, much in contrast with the celebratory and self-aggrandizing scene at its festive founding convention in St Louis. On that occasion, CTW founders like Tom Woodruff, currently its executive director, talked about spending $750 million a year on new organizing drives similar to those launched by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s. Then UNITE-HERE President Bruce Raynor (recently drummed out of SEIU for alleged expense account fiddling) gave a radical-sounding speech calling for the imprisonment of corporate bosses who stole workers’ pension fund money.

Six years after these rhetorical fireworks, only four of the seven unions that broke away from the AFL-CIO to form CTW remain in the latter camp. The union coalition that sociologist Ruth Milkman (and others) once touted as “labor’s best hope—maybe its only hope—for revitalization” is rarely seen or heard from. At the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) convention in Las Vegas in late June, leaders of the two largest CTW affiliates—James Hoffa, president of the host union, and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)—lathered much praise on each other. But neither ever mentioned the words “Change to Win,” in 40 minutes worth of speechifying about the close working relationship between SEIU and the IBT.

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Detroit-area progressives push back

by Eric Ebel

The progressive Democratic community of the Detroit metro area met to answer the Tea Baggers at a “Call for Action” rally on the evening of February 18. Some 325 people attended the rally, which was held in the United Food and Commercial Workers hall in Madison Heights and sponsored by a wide spectrum of groups, from DSA on the left to Organizing for America, a political arm of the Obama administration, on the “right.” John Freeman, the moderator, made a point of singling out the DSA to praise for its support.

The rally concentrated on five policy areas: immigration reform, clean energy, peace, health-care reform, and jobs. In addition to representatives of the groups pushing these reforms — among them DSA members Al Fishman and Dave Ivers — the rally was addressed by two members of Congress, Reps. Sander Levin (our senator’s older brother) and John Conyers.

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First Contract at Smithfield Tar Heel Plant

paul-garver-edited by Paul Garver

It took nearly two decades of struggle, but the 5000 workers at Smithfield’s plant in Tar Heel NC finally are covered by a UFCW union contract. The UFCW achieved this monumental victory at the world’s largest pork processing plant by overcoming ferocious management resistance that included intimidation of union supporters, ICE raids against immigrant workers, and the filing of RICO Suits against the UFCW and Jobs with Justice to try to derail an innovative corporate and consumer campaign. Unionized workers at Smithfield operations in France, Poland and Brazil had joined UFCW represented workers in the USA in supporting the Tar Heel organizing drive.

Details of the Tar Heel settlement are contained in a July 1 UFCW press release. David Bacon wrote an analysis of how the UFCW won its organizing election victory at Smithfield that appeared earlier on Talking Union.

Harold Meyerson: Never Ending Labor Wars

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson brings us up-to-date of the wars between SEIU and UNITE HERE on the American Prospect website. After noting that both John Wilhelm of UNITE HERE and Andy Stern of SEIU (joined by Bruce Raynor and Edgar Romney of the UNITE HERE breakaway United Workers) had made favorable reference to an arbitration proposal by UFCW President Joe Hansen, Meyerson asks if there is a basis for an end to the fued might be at hand.

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