Unions: Now More Than Ever!

Much of the current issue of Voice of Action is dedicated to coverage of UFCW 8’s Stewards Convention on April 4 in Sacramento.

That date is significant because it coincided with the National Day of Action called by Labor Unions across the country to protest the current onslaught of legislative attacks against working people and their right to organize themselves.

The date also marked the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was gunned down while he was in Memphis to support striking municipal sanitation workers.

As working Americans (and working people around the world in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria) stand together to fight for their rights, we remember the legacy of those who came before us in the Union Movement and the message of unity — of solidarity — they taught.

This message is at the core of everything we do at UFCW 8, and it is especially important in this critical year of negotiations with the super - market employers throughout California.

To share this message with our Stewards, we hung a banner in our Convention hall to tell the story of the 8 Chopsticks. That banner is reproduced in the current Voice of Action.

The legend of the 8 Chopsticks, which was shared with me by my father, is told in many cultures. The bundle of sticks tied together for strength was a symbol of the ancient Roman Republic. And the founders of the American

Republic adopted it as the symbol to represent our nation’s motto, E Pluribus Unum— “From Many Comes One.”

The bundle of sticks appears on the wall behind the podium of the Uni ted States House of Representatives. It’s also on the arm rests where the statue of Abraham Lincoln sits in the Lincoln Memorial.

I believe it was Lincoln who said “An enemy of labor is an enemy to America.”

Our Declaration of Independence, the proposition of creating “a more perfect Union,” led to the Constitution and the right for people to assem ble, or dare I say to organize; the right to free speech, or dare I say to protest and bargain; and the freedom of the press, or dare I say to handbill in opposition to tyrannical power.

These are the things that make this country strong and our Union strong. And they are inseparable.

From the moment 13 colonies banded together and began their journey to create “a more perfect Union,” our country has been all about people working together to solve problems and fight for their rights, all the while respecting the individual’s quest for personal fulfillment — the pursuit of happiness.

Unions exist so that individuals will be better able to earn a good living, support their families, educate themselves and their children, have some time and resources to pursue their hopes and dreams and, after a lifetime of hard work, retire with dignity.

The citizens of our nation are being subjected to a corporate-funded campaign designed to discredit Unions. But Unions are the essence of Americanism. Our country itself is a Union!

Just think of what Unions have achieved for the benefit of all Americans who work for a living. Unions are responsible for Social Security, the minimum wage, Medicare, fair employment and housing practices, occupational safety and health standards, family leave and more.

Vacations and weekends? Overtime pay? Americans can thank Unions for these things, too.

We have our Union to thank!

Americans who are Union members have even more reason to be thankful. When we become ill, we don’t have to worry about filing for bankruptcy or how we are going to pay for our treatment while we’re fighting for our health or even our lives. We have our Union to thank for that!

When we retire after a career of hard work, we can enjoy our families and our hobbies without worrying about keeping a roof over our heads. We have our Union to thank for that!

When we are treated unjustly on the job, we get our day in court in the way of a grievance and arbitration procedure. We have our Union to thank for that!

We have legally binding documents that require our employers to compensate us fairly and treat us with dignity and respect. We have our Union to thank for that!

These are the practices and institutions that build a civilized, compassionate society in which all people — not just the rich and influential, but all people — have dignity. All of these things exist because people banded together to form the Labor Movement for the common good, demand ing their fair share of the American Dream.

The task falls upon all of us to counter the distortions and lies that told about us. We must speak truth to the power of billionaires and wealthy corporations who seek to manipulate the system for their own benefit.

We need to share the fundamental American truth that Solidarity Works!

We need Unions — now more than ever!UFCW 8-Golden State

Balancing Act


This year’s supermarket contract negotiations in California are expected to be difficult and contentious, with many of our challenges beyond the control of unions or employers.

 This is a big year for UFCW 8 and for all Retail Food workers in California.

The contract that determined the wages, benefits and working conditions of supermarket workers in Southern California — including UFCW 8 members in Mono, Inyo and Kern Counties — expired on March 6 and a new agreement is being negotiated to replace it. In the meantime, those members will continue working under the terms of their old contract as long as an extension agreement with the employers remains in place.

All Local Unions who were party to the previous collective bargaining agreement in Southern California — including UFCW 8 — have agreed to bargain as a multi-Union bargaining unit.

Later this year, UFCW 8 and other Local Unions in Northern California will sit down with the supermarket companies to negotiate new agreements for the rest of the state.

Our Union has negotiated scores of contracts over the years, but it is becoming evident that the negotiations of 20ll will be among the most challenging in our history.

Several factors are contributing to the difficulties that are complicating super market negotiations around the country. These factors include:
  • Spiraling health care costs;
  • Changes imposed by health care reform legislation on medical plans;
  • The significant increases in pension contributions required to offset losses incurred during the economic downturn of 2008;
  • Encroachment by non-Union employers on the market share of Union companies;
  • Current unemployment rates
All of these factors present enormous challenges to reaching satisfactory agreements in this year’s negotiations.

Our bargaining teams will be working tirelessly to find solutions to these challenges, many of which are the result of reckless behavior by Wall Street bankers and the extraordinary injustices that played out in the aftermath of the economic collapse.

Our government awarded bailouts to the very individuals who caused the problems and, adding insult to injury, it turned its back on ordinary working people, leaving them to languish.

The effect on suffering working families who do not have unions fighting for their interests is devastating.

Our Union has been working with the employers to man age our pension funds correctly. We constantly create new ways to maintain the best health care plans in the country while being responsible about maintaining their costs.

We now have health care reform that adds to the costs of Union-negotiated plans, as well as pension regulations that increase the strain on Union employers. Meanwhile, the employers’ non-Union competitors are still thumbing their noses at the retirement needs of working people.

As a result, Unions and employers are left to wrangle in contentious negotiations over problems that, in many cases, are no fault of either the Unions or the companies.

This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time that we face difficult challenges, but I am certain of one thing: If we remain united and work together to protect the sanctity of our collective bargaining agreements, we will achieve a balance between our nation’s economic uncertainty, our members’ needs, the employers’ demands and government’s regulations.

And remember, Solidarity does work!