Activist Protest Walmart on Black Friday For Better Wages (Somersworth, NH)

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On Friday November 29th millions of Americans went out well before dawn to try to save a few dollars on that hot new toy.  The annual event now known as ‘Black Friday,’ is the biggest annual revenue draw for retailers.  However not everyone who was out on Black Friday was out to shop.

Millions of low wage retail workers were forced to give up their holiday celebrations to go into work Thanksgiving night and work straight through the Black Friday madness.

Walmart the nations largest private employer has been leading the race to the bottom by paying most of the their workers just above minimum wage.  Walmart also does not guarantee that employees will get a full 40-hour workweek either.  These actions by Walmart’s corporate executives have fueled the union organizing efforts of OUR-Walmart.

Organization United for Respect (OUR-Walmart) is a grassroots coalition of workers and union organizers who are trying to help workers find their voice and speak out against their employer.  OUR-Walmart made national news on Black Friday last year when they held their first worker’s strikes.  The turn out was not as big as they hoped for but they made their point.

This year OUR-Walmart’s Black Friday protests were much bigger.  Thousands of protests were held nation wide.  Some were massive like the ones in White Plains New York where hundreds of people gathered to protest.  Others were small like the one in Somersworth New Hampshire where about twenty protesters showed up at the Walmart Supercenter.

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Image courtesy of Occupy Seacoast NH

In a recent interview, David Holt, a member of Occupy Seacoast NH, which organized the Somersworth protest, told me:

We came out to support Walmart workers who are not paid a living wage. We were also protesting Walmart as the poster child for corporate America, driving for profits for the wealthy in America despite the damage it is doing to hardworking Americans, the economy, and the planet.” 

While the group was small they were very diverse. “Attendees included members of the Occupy Seacoast NH group, UNH students who are part of the UNH Peace and Justice League, members of various unions, as well as several concerned citizens,” Holt explained.

David is not a Walmart employee, so I asked David why he chose to take part protesting Walmart?

“Just look at the news,” Holt said. “One Walmart store had a food drive for it’s own employees, they are also currently under investigation for bribery in Mexico, and have been tied in the past to a factory catastrophe in Bangladesh. The list of reasons to protest Walmart is almost limitless, they have caused countless small business to close including smaller chains and their sourcing practices are causing environmental damage all over the world.”

Workers deserve dignity and respect no matter where they work.  Walmart does not respect their workers.  They pay them the absolute minimum, provide no benefits, and do their best to avoid allowing workers to be ‘full time’.    I was very glad to see all of the news coverage and people who took a stand for workers on Black Friday, instead of feeding the corporate greed.

United Food And Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Joins AFL-CIO

UFCW Logo

UFCW Logo

(Chicago, Illinois) – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) affiliated with the AFL-CIO in a bold move toward a stronger, more unified labor movement.  UFCW President Joe Hansen, supported by a vote of the UFCW Executive Board, decided to add the 1.3 million private sector members to the AFL-CIO federation in order to build a stronger, more unified voice for the rights of workers.

UFCW International President Joe Hansen today released the following statement:

“We join the AFL-CIO because it is the right thing to do for UFCW members, giving them more power and influence. This is not about which building in Washington D.C. we call home — it is about fostering more opportunities for workers to have a true voice on the job. It is about joining forces to build a more united labor movement that can fight back against the corporate and political onslaught facing our members each and every day.

“Our affiliation with the Change to Win Federation (CTW) has been a rewarding one. The CTW’s Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) is leading some of the best campaigns to give workers rights and dignity. While no longer an affiliate of CTW, we continue our strong relationships with the Teamsters, SEIU and the Farmworkers.  We will remain active in the SOC and bring our AFL-CIO partners into collaboration with private-sector unions in an effort to build more power for workers.

“The need for unity became paramount after the 2010 elections.  The attacks on workers brought the UFCW into direct strategic partnership with the AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement.  Our shared campaign revealed a dynamic and revitalized AFL-CIO and made it clear that it was time for the UFCW to redouble our efforts to build a more robust and unified labor movement.

“I respect Rich Trumka’s bold leadership of the AFL-CIO and his strategic advocacy on key issues like the urgent need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, fix the Affordable Care Act so workers in multiemployer plans can keep the health care they currently have, and ensure the National Labor Relations Board protects workers’ rights. The UFCW is proud to affiliate with a transparent, strategic and innovative AFL-CIO an AFL-CIO committed to bringing a union voice on the job to millions of workers from coast to coast.”

Today’s announcement comes as the UFCW Executive Board meets in preparation for its 7th Regular Convention which calls to order Monday, August 12 in Chicago, Illinois.

UFCW delegates representing local unions in the U.S. and Canada will chart a course for the next five years and beyond that aims to raise standards and build power for workers in the grocery, retail and food manufacturing industries. Inspired by the theme, “Blue. Gold. Bold. Powerful Together,” UFCW delegates will deliberate on taking steps to strengthen the UFCW’s strong base of member activists who are the backbone of creative organizing campaigns, engaged bargaining programs and political activism.

**UPDATED**

(Below is the statement from Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO)

Today’s decision by the UFCW to unite with the broader labor movement is great news for workers living in the ‘new normal’ of the low wage economy—working women, young part time workers, retail workers, immigrant workers and so many more. A stronger, more unified grassroots movement of working men and women is exactly what’s needed to raise wages for workers and rebuild an American middle class. Together we are stronger—it’s as simple as that. Together working people have a stronger voice and the power to defend their rights on the job. Together we have a stronger voice in the global economy—the power to counter the excesses of CEOs and the ravages of inequality.

What’s exciting is that many workers are already speaking out and taking action to build power together, so UFCW’s affiliation to build a stronger movement couldn’t be more timely.

This is a bold, important step by the UFCW.  I have great respect for the members and leaders of UFCW— and especially for the innovative, courageous leadership of Joe Hansen.  I look forward to a strong partnership that can make a real and growing difference for today’s workers.

With This Decision I Thee Wed: Labor Celebrates The Death Of DOMA

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Discrimination comes in many forms. Some are discriminated based on their skin color, others are discriminated on the basis of their sex.  We all agree that discrimination is wrong.  Today our nation took a giant leap forward against the discrimination of the LBGT community.

“As the Supreme Court has clearly decided, DOMA was an unconstitutional law that discriminated against a group of Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation, denying them basic rights and protections that so many of us take for granted,” AFGE General Counsel David Borer said.

AFT President Randi Wiengarten highlighted the role that labor played her statement.

“We are a nation built on the belief of equality for all—that all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The court affirmed these basic values and recognized that laws such as DOMA deny gay and lesbian Americans these fundamental rights and betray our values as a nation.

“The AFT and the rest of the labor movement have a proud history of standing up for equality and justice and fighting discrimination in every part of our society—from the workplace to the ballot box to the individual rights and freedoms we cherish as a nation. We were proud to be a part of the amicus briefs filed challenging the constitutionality of both DOMA and Prop 8.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU highlighted the benefits of defeating DOMA in her statement.

“The Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision finding DOMA unconstitutional is a huge cause for celebration for gay and lesbian couples and for all Americans who care about equal justice under the law. This ruling means that gay and lesbian couples will have access to federal benefits and protections that they have been denied for too long, such as the right to access healthcare, pension and Social Security survivor benefits.”

Todays Supreme Court decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited the federal Government from recognizing the legal marriages of millions of gay couples.  This means that while some states are still trying to fight against the equal rights movement, the federal government will now except them with open arms.

Since the equal rights movement began members of the LBGT community have been fight at the state level to win the right to be married.  They have made great advances in these fights. Now nearly one-quarter our great country gives LBGT couple the freedom to marry.  Until today, the federal government rejected their marriage.  They could not file joint taxes, costing them thousands in extra taxes.  More importantly they could not receive the same benefits from their employers, as heterosexual couples.

Federal employees who are married to a spouse of the same sex have been directly harmed by DOMA, said Leisha Self, AFGE Legal Rights Attorney for the 14th District. In addition to disparate treatment with regard to federal taxes, federal employees have been barred from adding their same-sex spouses to their benefits, often forcing them to pay higher costs or receive less coverage for health insurance, vision and dental insurance and flexible spending accounts.

“Now that the Supreme Court has declared DOMA unconstitutional, we expect the federal government to move swiftly in changing its rules and regulations to ensure that all federal employees are afforded the same rights and benefits, regardless of whom they choose to marry,” Self said.

Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) showed his strong support for the LGBT community in this statement after the verdict was announced.

“The UFCW strongly supports full equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. That means equal rights in employment, immigration, and yes—marriage. The momentum for marriage equality is growing every day. The Supreme Court today restored it in California, Minnesota recently became the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions, and more are on the way. It is not a matter of if but when all Americans will have the freedom to marry. The UFCW looks forward to that day.”

Today’s verdict was also an enormous win for the state of California.   Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO recognized how important this decision is for workers in California and throughout the country.

“The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were radical and divisive laws that never should have been. Now, we can begin to fully clear the dark legal cloud that has hung over our nation. While justices ruled on the right side of history today, there is far more work to be done in the pursuit of equality. As a nation, we must continue to stand for what is right not only in freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples, but address other major issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers such as employment discrimination, health care access and more. We rejoice in today’s victory and are ready and willing to take on the challenges that still exist.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU comments on the impact of the SCOTUS rejecting Prop 8 in California.

“The Court’s decision to dismiss California’s Proposition 8 for lack of standing is another major victory for gay and lesbian couples and for equal rights. By affirming the lower court’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, now all Californians will have the right to marry whomever they choose.

“Despite this historic day for LGBT rights, we must remember that there is more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans. In 29 states a person can still be fired simply because of who he or she loves. Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is the next fight we must take on if we are truly going to ensure equality on the job for all Americans and we look forward to joining with our allies to end discrimination in the workplace.”

President Henry is correct, the fight is not over.  With only twelves states legally recognizing the freedom to marry, we have much work to do.  As usual, labor will be there to help push for equality for all workers, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Nation-wide People Come Out In Support Of Walmart Workers! (IMAGES)

Walmart Protest Image

I wanted share a few of the early images that are surfacing as the ‘Black Friday Boycott’ has begun.   There is no way of knowing how many people actually walked out or protested outside of their local Walmart but here are a few of the best images I have found so far. (Special thanks to all the sites where I borrowed images from)

From Occupy NH member MA

 

 

 

 

 

Other images from New Hampshire.  Occupy New Hampshire Seacoast had a handfull of protesters at the Somersworth Walmart.  See all of their uploaded images on their Facebook page


Protest against Walmart in Hyattsville, MD

One of many images from the South Central Federation of Labor 

Employee Walk-Outs in at Least Seven States (so far): Occupy Supports WalMart Workers.  Images from a post by Occupy Washington D.C

 

OLB-San Diego were out last night on I-15 with their new lighted letters.

Overpass Light Brigade – Portland Airport took out the message Burma Shave style last night.

Portland, OR

Framington, MA

Occupy Austin and OLB-Austin out tonight. Check out their angry smiley Wally icon!

 

United Food and Commercial Workers Locals Endorse Maggie Hassan

Maggie Hassan is on a roll and working to get labor on her side.  This morning it was announced that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)  have come out and endorsed Maggie for Governor.   Maggie Hassan for Governor released this statement:
United Food and Commercial Workers Locals Endorse Maggie Hassan 

MANCHESTER, NH – Democratic candidate for Governor Maggie Hassan has earned the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 1445 and 791.  To date, Hassan has earned the only labor endorsements in the campaign for governor. The Carpenters Local 118 and Iron Workers Local 7 have previously endorsed Hassan’s campaign. 

“UFCW is extremely pleased to announce our support for Maggie Hassan for Governor,” said Mark Govoni, Vice President and Political Director for UFCW Local 1445.  ”Maggie is a tremendous public servant with a strong record of supporting working families.  We know she will make an extraordinary Governor and are looking forward to helping her win this fall.” 

“I’m thrilled to have the endorsement of UFCW Locals 1445 and 791,” said Hassan.  ”We are building momentum every day and I’m so pleased to have them on board our growing campaign.”

What is it about Maggie’s campaign that is drawing the support from the labor unions?  If you think you know, leave a comment below!

Right to Work bill plays big (even though it is a lie)


The Right To Work issue will be all over the news in then next week. It is expected that Speaker O’Brien will attempt to override the Governor’s Veto of Right To Work (HB 474) on Wednesday. Not only is the the Veto override possible the Speaker using his position to open the NH House Floor to people who would not normally be allowed to speak. The Speaker has invited the Republican Primary Candidates to speak at the State House on Wednesday as well. I think I can even guess what will be said, Because they have all said it before!

Governor Romney will say: “If I were a voter, I’d encourage state representatives, state senators and the governor to do whatever is necessary to make New Hampshire a right-to-work state to create more jobs for the people of New Hampshire.” (1) Even though he never once pushed the idea of Right To Work as Governor of Massachusetts. Governor Romney has already pledged to pass legislation that would inhibit Unions from contributing to political campaigns (3).

Governor Perry will say: “Right to Work is not an anti-union bill, it is a pro-jobs bill. . . . And our friends who have chosen to be in unions, they’ll have more access to more jobs.” (3). Even though Right To Work does not create jobs, it has nothing with do job creation, and it will not allow Union members more access to jobs.

Congressman Paul will say: “Passing a National Right to Work law . . . will help shrink Big Government,” Paul wrote, followed by “I was very happy to see that the New Hampshire General Court is still battling for passage of a state Right to Work law (and) my hope is Right to Work will become reality in New Hampshire…” How is an anti-union bill going to shrink the Government. Simple, less Unions to protect the workers and that means it is easier to fire workers. Then after you fire all the workers you will have a smaller government.

Congresswoman Bachmann will say something like; I supported a National Right To Work bill before and I will do it again! (Bachmann supports RTW).

I will also bet that at least one of the GOP Candidates will say: (The Bureau of Labor Statistics says) “Right to Work states gained 3.6 million jobs during the past decade, while the other 28 lost 900,000 jobs.” (4)

What they are not telling you is that “More people might be working, opponents say, but they are working for lower wages and fewer benefits. According to an Economic Policy Institute paper from February, wages in states with Right to Work laws are 3.2 percent lower than in those without – even when adjusted for jobs and costs of living – and the rates of employer-sponsored health insurance and pension plans are lower as well (by 2.6 and 4.8 percentage points, respectively)(4).”
While I may not have any real clairvoyant skills I can read the writing on the wall. Speaker Bill O’Brien is bringing in the “Big Guns” to try to pass his anti-union anti-worker bill. By bringing in these people O’Brien will hopefully do two things: Inspire the other GOP members by making the feel in “ah” of the big boys and girls of the party. O’Briens hope is that these big names can sway the members of the GOP who are against HB 474. His other hope is that the House Democrats will be so disgusted with the GOP propaganda durning the session that they will leave (even temporarily) so he can call the vote.


I do not for a second think that the New Hampshire State Democrats are going to fall for these obvious games the Speaker is pulling. If you are one of the State Reps who oppose Right To Work, STAY STRONG! BE DILIGENT! Know that what you are doing is the best thing for New Hampshire. One last thing, BRING LOTS OF TUMS. My stomach is churning just thinking about it!

Congrats to the UFCW

Congratulations to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union on negotiating a good contract with Hormel.
“Our communities need good jobs with pay and benefits that can support a family,” said Vincent Perry, a four-year veteran at the Hormel plant in Algona, Iowa. “Good union contracts like ours help build more stable and secure communities.”


PRESS RELEASE
Sept. 15, 2011, 11:30 a.m. EDT

UFCW Members at Hormel Ratify New Contract

New Four-Year Agreement Preserves Past Gains, Sets New Standards for Workers in Meatpacking and Food Processing Industries

WASHINGTON, Sep 15, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union who work at Hormel Foods Corporation in five states, including Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia, voted this past Tuesday to accept a new four-year contract with the company.

The new collective bargaining agreement provides for, among many other significant gains, a substantial base wage increase of $1.50 over the term of the agreement, significant improvements in health care including 100 percent coverage for transplants and an increased allowance for hearing aids, improved retirement security including a 401(k) match increase from $300 to $500 and a pension increase to $27.
“The strong contract that we secured with Hormel is a pretty big deal,” said Dick Schuster, who has worked at the company’s Fremont, Neb. facility for the past 38 years. “At a time when pensions are under attack nationwide, we were able to bargain for significant improvements to our retirement security. Our contract is a testament to why sticking together and speaking with one voice benefits all workers.”
“Our communities need good jobs with pay and benefits that can support a family,” said Vincent Perry, a four-year veteran at the Hormel plant in Algona, Iowa. “Good union contracts like ours help build more stable and secure communities.”
Nationwide, the UFCW represents 8,000 Hormel workers. The current agreement covers about 4,000 workers at the company’s facilities in Austin, Minn.; Algona, Iowa; Fremont, Neb.; Beloit, Wis.; and Atlanta, Ga.
The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org .
SOURCE: United Food and Commercial Workers Union

UFCW Marc Goumbri, 202-257-8771