Working People are the Real Leaders of American Progress

As the sun rose on Labor Day, a group of Union leaders, staff and family members gathered around the flag pole in front of our Union headquarters in Roseville.

We came to participate in an American ritual.

We saluted the flag of our country as it rose to meet the brightening sky.

In doing so, we also saluted the American worker.

It’s unfortunate how America’s history books have been edited to exclude the role of working men and women in making the nation great.  One assumes this was done to allow more room for the presidents, generals and industrialists who “led” us to our national destiny.

But I can’t help thinking about the tradesmen who were cut down by Redcoat bullets in the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Midwestern farm boys who died at Antietam, Shiloh and Gettysburg to cleanse our land of the stain of slavery.

Let’s not neglect the striking miners who battled Pinkerton agents sent to crush their hopes for a better life or the brave suffragettes and garment workers who marched for fairness and dignity.

In American history, it is often the working people who lead the “leaders” in building a better society.
Indeed, Union members literally built our country, paving the roads and constructing the buildings in which we live and work.  The story of America’s progress has many chapters to go, and working people are still writing the pages through their Union Movement. As a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers, you are helping write those pages.

We don’t have to go back far to see the contributions Labor has made to modern living standards.
This September, President Obama — at the urging of Unions — ordered all companies doing business with the federal government to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

In California, a new law protects grocery workers from being laid off just because their store was sold to another company (see story on page 5). This landmark law was enacted after the UFCW launched an intensive lobbying blitz in Sacramento.

Last year, UFCW 8-Golden State scored an important victory for Unions across the country when the United States Supreme Court upheld the rights ` of Union pickets on private property in California.

Strong new contracts with Safeway, Vons and Rite Aid

Not all of the battles were fought in the courts and Capitols in Sacramento and Washington.

This fall, our Northern California members at Safeway and Vons ratified a great new contract made possible by their Union Solidarity.

Members of UFCW 8-Golden State also made modern history when we stood in solidarity with our fellow UFCW Unions in Northern and Southern California to win strong new con tracts with Rite Aid.

The message of America’s Labor Movement is heard loud and clear in the stores, plants, distilleries and offices where our members work.

It is the message of Union Solidarity.

Solidarity has been the key to our success in winning better lives for ourselves, and it will be the key to protecting the gains we have made, now and in the future.

Solidarity Works!

Two Victorious Teams of Our Golden State

It’s time to make some noise!
Most of us are cheering the recent victory of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Golden State’s success has been a long time coming — 40 years since its last championship in 1975.
To make this moment even sweeter, the Warriors prevailed against a great Cleveland team led by a man widely acknowledged as the best basketball player of our time: LeBron James.

It hasn’t been long since the Warriors weren’t considered contenders, but their management and players worked hard on their basics and carefully built a team of winners.

Our Union team, the mighty UFCW 8-Golden State, has always been a winner, but we share some important qualities with the newly victorious basketball team.

Yes, we both have “Golden State” in our names. But we share something deeper as well — something at the core of the meaning of teamwork.

We call it “Solidarity.”

In everything we do, the team called UFCW 8-Golden State is committed to the success of everyone in the organization.

We succeed when each one of us does his or her part, bringing our individual gifts to promote the good of all.

Supermarket workers, drug store workers, meat processors, wine makers, distillers, office workers, pharmacists, medical workers — we use our diversity to build our collective strength.

In this way, we win with the best wages, benefits and workplace protections in the many industries we serve.

As do the Golden State Warriors, UFCW 8-Golden State has depth. We have our stars — the Stewards who inform and inspire their co-workers, the Organizers who recruit new talent, the District Union Representatives who make the big assists and the Officers who call the plays — but every player has a role in the team’s success.

To carry the ball, or rather the analogy, further, let’s look at the team the Warriors defeated for the NBA championship.

LeBron James performed incredibly well throughout the regular season and the playoffs. But his teammates, stricken by injuries, were unable to perform at their highest levels to help him win the title.
Even with “the best player in basketball,” the Cavaliers couldn’t reach the prize. A fully functioning team was needed.

The Golden State Warriors were fortunate in having team members like Stephen Curry who can sink three pointers and drive to the basket with consummate grace. But they also had patient and good-hearted “bench warmers” like Andre Iguodala who waited their turn and got the job done. Iguodala didn’t play a single game in the regular season, yet he performed at such an extraordinary level during the Championship games, he was awarded series MVP.

We never really know what some people are capable of until they’re given an opportunity to shine.
The Warriors were in the game together. And so are the members of UFCW 8-Golden State who show the world, each and every day...

Solidarity Works!

Engaging Young Workers: The Future Depends on Us

Do you remember the first person who talked to you about your Union?

Some of you may have to think back a few decades, while others may recall a conversation from a few weeks ago. Chances are you remember this person — a District Union Representative, a Steward or another co-worker, probably — with fondness and gratitude.

Typically, he or she was a kind, concerned and thoughtful individual who reached out to a young worker who felt a little lost and alone.

You may have been a high school student or a recent graduate, hired for the first time by a large company. Fortunately, there was someone who cared enough to speak with you about our Union and the great things it does for all of us.

I want you to become this someone for someone else.

Consider this: The United Food and Commercial Workers, which is the largest private-sector Labor Union in North America, also has the youngest membership.

Forty percent of us are under 30 — about 450,000 people who work in supermarkets, drug stores, food processing plants, medical facilities, offices and other work sites in the United States and Canada.

This is an important responsibility and also a great opportunity to participate in building a better future for working people.

People who were born in the last two decades of the 20th century, commonly known as Millennials, have had a tough go in this age of industrial decline and growing disparity between a tiny wealthy elite and everyone else.

America’s recovery from the economic shocks of the previous decade remains painfully slow and the jobs being created tend to be in the retail, food-service and health care sectors, where wages have been historically low.

The UFCW, therefore, stands as a great hope for millions of young people who are struggling to get a grip on the middle class and the American dream.

Our Union’s members, young and old, consistently earn better wages and benefits than their non-Union counterparts. What’s more, we represent industries with jobs which cannot be sent overseas.

Young people commonly take jobs at our stores with the intention of moving on after a short while. But in time many of them learn to appreciate their prospects for a satisfying career. They can thank our Union for negotiating the compensa tion packages and work rules to make this a viable option.

It’s crucial for all of us to get this message out to young workers in the general population, not only to improve their lot, but also to strengthen our Union’s ability to negotiate strong contracts.

At the same time, it is equally important to engage the young people who already belong to the UFCW, including UFCW 8-Golden State.

They are the future of our organization. The more they understand and appreciate the benefits of Union solidarity, the greater our ability to confront and overcome the challenges awaiting us.

Please do your part. Regardless of your own age, take the time to get to know the young people in your
workplace. Share with them the values you have learned about Union solidarity and its role in securing our rights, our wages and our benefits.

Let them know how much your Union membership means to you. Explain to them how your contract works and why it is so important.

Become a role model for Union activism.

The future doesn’t just depend on our youngest members. It depends on all of us, including you.

Solidarity Works!

Organizing for a New World

Building our Union is the key to fairness and respect
‘We have it in our power to make the world new again.” These words, written in 1776 by the patriot Thomas Paine, inspired the men and women of the American colonies to launch a new nation, changing the path of human history.

As he wrote these words in his fiery pamphlet titled Common Sense, Paine envisioned a country based on equality and mutual respect, where there would be no nobilities and all would be accountable to the same laws and rules.

America’s story since then has been, for the most part, about the epic, often blood-drenched struggle to achieve this Founder’s vision of equality and justice. We’ve made some good progress over the years, but every step was met by stubborn resistance from those who enjoyed the privileges of the status quo.
It is unfortunate how the nobility of the old monarchal system has been replaced by a new nobility consisting of a small number of super-wealthy families who pass their riches down from generation to generation.

One of these families is the Waltons, who are the main beneficiaries of the Walmart retail empire. This family controls a massive fortune equivalent to the wealth of 40 percent of the American population, and it is only getting richer through its ongoing exploitation of Walmart’s poorly compensated work force.
How is this different from the nobility Thomas Paine railed against in 1776? The more we look at the problem, we see more similarities than differences.

In our contemporary scene, there is only one force fighting for the “commoners” — those who aren’t born with the privileges of vast wealth, but do the real work of feeding, healing and clothing our nation.
This force for justice and fairness is the American Labor Movement. Through the Unions, millions of working Americans have banded together over the decades to win a better share of the wealth they have created at the places where they work.

Thanks to the Unions, America was able to create the largest middle class in world history. Along the way, they led the charge for regular days off, vacations and safety standards in the workplace.
As Union members, we are the stalwart fighters for the American dream of a fair economy working for all of us, not just a tiny elite segment of the population.

This goal isn’t just our hope — it’s our responsibility. In this way we honor the contributions of our predecessors and leave behind a better world for future generations. It may seem a daunting task, but we already know the key to success: growing our numbers.

Bigger Union, stronger voice

The bigger and stronger we are as a Union, the more influence we will have on the national stage. And we’ll use this influence to raise the standards for all working people.

How do we grow our Union? We do it through a process called “organizing.”

In the Labor Movement, we have two kinds of organizing: internal and external. Both are critically important.

Internal organizing is about cultivating Solidarity among the current membership. This is crucial to negotiating strong contracts with the employers. It involves encouraging our members to stand strong together and participate as active volunteers.

It starts with simple steps like showing our support for UFCW 8 at work and sharing our enthusiasm with our co-workers and management. In this way, the company will appreciate how its work force will refuse to be intimidated by unreasonable demands when bargaining time comes around.

External organizing involves helping non-Union workers understand how joining a Union will improve their lives through better wages, benefits and working conditions.

When more workers in more industries join our Union, we all get stronger, increasing our market share and gaining clout at the bargaining table.

UFCW 8-Golden State provides many opportunities for involvement in external organizing campaigns such as the California Labor Federation’s “All in to Win” coalition. You can also assist Walmart workers in their struggle for fair treatment by helping their OUR Walmart campaign. See the box at left for a list of some volunteering opportunities.

Through your active involvement in UFCW 8’s organizing efforts internal and external you’ll be doing your part to move America closer to the fair and just society our Founders envisioned in 1776.

Thank you for stepping forward to make our world new again. 

Thank you for proving, again and again ... Solidarity Works!