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Lipton Shop Stewards Wanted

The shop steward is a key “link” in our union.

Apply by Friday, August 11, 2017

Being a shop steward means stepping up to play a key role in building our union. While not always an easy job, the role of a steward can be deeply rewarding—and something to be proud of.

The shop steward is a key “link” in our union. As a steward, you will lead your coworkers in enforcing their contract and defending their rights daily. Being on the shop floor makes you a first responder in understanding your coworkers’ concerns and priorities, organizing with them to take action, and educating them about their rights on the job. Apply to be a shop steward today!

In the meantime, four members have stepped up to the plate to serve as interim shop stewards while we process applications. You can pick up and turn in applications from one of the interim shop stewards below. Applications are due by Friday, August 11, 2017.

How to Apply:

Four members have stepped up to the plate to serve as interim shop stewards while we process applications. You can pick up and turn in an application from one of the interim shop stewards below. Applications are due by Friday, August 11, 2017.

Interim Shop Stewards:

A-Shift:   Paul Garrison

B-Shift: Anita Anderson

C-Shift: Terrell Owens

D-Shift: Corey Hicks

Lipton Tea Workers Vote Overwhelmingly to Ratify First Union Contract

Check out more photos from the day on the Local 400 Facebook page.

Workers from the nation’s only Lipton tea plant voted overwhelmingly to approve their first union contract at a mass meeting in Suffolk on Monday, July 24, 2017.

This represents the first time in the history of the plant when workers were given the opportunity to vote on the terms and conditions of their employment.

“It was a long process, but we couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” said Anita Anderson, an Operator at Lipton for 11 years.

The contract covers 240 employees at the facility and includes significant improvements to working conditions and healthcare benefits. The union deal will result in many workers saving more than $4,000 a year on healthcare costs while greatly improving coverage.

“Our new healthcare plan is a huge weight off my shoulders. Personally, I take medication every day and I can’t go without my health insurance. But I’m also a dad, and saving $4,000 a year goes a long way for me and my family,” said Terrell Owens, who has worked as an operating technician at Lipton for the past nine years.

Last Spring, several people working at the Lipton facility reached out to the UFCW to explore the possibility of forming a union at the plant. At the time, many workers were required to work up to 12-hour shifts for as many as 13 days in a row with only one day off in between. The widespread practice of forcing employees to work overtime was known as “drafting” and went on for several years.

“A lot of us missed a lot of quality time with our families because of our forced commitment to the company – times that we will never get back,” said Robert Davis, a maintenance technician who has worked at the plant for more than 25 years.

The union contract places strict limits on when management can require employees to work overtime. The agreement provides workers with four days per year to opt out of mandatory overtime, in addition to two weekends off each month in which they can’t be forced to work overtime.

In an election last August, a majority of workers at Lipton voted to unionize with Local 400. Negotiations on the first collective bargaining agreement at Lipton began last Fall. A team of eight Lipton employees served as the union’s bargaining committee and lead negotiations with Lipton representatives that resulted in the contract ratified today.

“For the last ten years, we saw so many of our benefits taken away,” said Paul Garrison, a 16-year mechanic. “But now that we have a union, we’re getting them back again.”

Philip Surace, a mechanic at Lipton, said his first experience with a union was when he called UFCW Local 400 last Spring. “I didn’t know much about unions, but I knew something had to be done. Enough was enough. I was looking for help and the union sent people right away.” Philip quickly pulled together a meeting with his coworkers to learn about their rights to form a union. “Two months later, we had our union. I would encourage anyone who wants to make their workplace better to do the same thing we did.”

“As a longtime Virginia resident, I know all too well how decades of regressive legislation and outdated federal labor law have stacked the deck against workers, particularly in the South,” explained Local 400 President Mark Federci. “This unfortunate reality only makes me more proud of what the workers at Lipton have accomplished.”

Lipton is owned by Unilever, a British-Dutch multinational corporation jointly headquartered in London, U.K. and Rotterdam, Netherlands. The Lipton plant in Suffolk has operated for more than 60 years and produces nearly all of the Lipton tea sold in North America.

Check out photos from the ratification vote on Facebook.

Lipton Update: Tentative Agreement Reached!

CORRECTION: Contract Ratification Vote July 24*

Contract Negotiations Update #8

On August 26, 2016 we took a leap of faith together and decided that it was time to have a union. We joined the campaign at different times and for different reasons but our collective goal has always been the same: building a better Lipton, together. We have had months of long, difficult negotiations, full of tough decisions, but we are thrilled to announce that we just completed our final bargaining session and have a tentative agreement that we are unanimously recommending for ratification!

We are close to our first collective bargaining agreement, the final step will be voting, and like our decision to have the union, it will be up to all of us.

BE THERE TO VOTE: MONDAY, JULY 24
Registration: 9:00 a.m.
Meeting: 10:00 a.m.
Hilton Garden Inn, 100 East Constance Rd, Suffolk, VA

*CORRECTION: A previous announcement stated voting would take place over two days, July 23-24, but since then, Lipton unilaterally decided on their own to close the plant. The vote will now take place at a single meeting on July 24 so everyone can participate in the same meeting and vote at the same time.

Only Lipton employees who have completed and submitted a union membership application will be allowed to attend the meeting and vote, so if you haven’t filled one out yet, do it now! We will mail entry cards to those who have filled out and submitted their application, but you will still be allowed to enter and vote if you fill one out any time before the meetings. We will answer any questions and/or get an application to you, but we aren’t permitted to share details about the tentative agreement until the meeting.

Sincerely, Your Negotiating Committee

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Never Miss An Update: Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our first union contract with Lipton, we’re committed to keeping you informed every step of the way. By signing up for text alerts, you’ll get the latest updates immediately!

To sign up, just text LIPTON to 698-329. 

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698-329.

 

Lipton Contract Negotiations Continue July 10-11

Contract Negotiations Update #7

After several long days of talks, we’ve wrapped up with Lipton contract negotiations for the week. We’re back at it July 10-11.

Never Miss An Update: Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our first union contract with Lipton, we’re committed to keeping you informed every step of the way. By signing up for text alerts, you’ll get the latest updates immediately!

To sign up, just text LIPTON to 698-329. 

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698-329.

 

Lipton Contract Negotiations Resume June 7

Contract Negotiations Update #6

We have a philosophy as your negotiating committee: all or none of us. Unity and solidarity are how achieve every improvement in our workplace. By sticking together as a union family, we can get the better lives we deserve.

This is our guiding principle as we work towards the best contract possible. We are here to get the best deal for all of us – not some of us. Our goal is to make a positive impact for all of our coworkers.

This week, one of our core team members was unable to participate in negotiations due to business needs at the plant. But we will not be divided. Rather than allow business needs to split up our team, we chose to postpone negotiations.

We will continue bargaining with the company on June 7 when our entire team can participate.

April 25 & 26: Lipton Union Membership Meetings

This week, we’re holding union membership meetings for all Lipton employees. These meetings are an opportunity to ask questions about the contract negotiations, bring new issues to our attention, and learn more about the union.

Join us for one of the meetings this week. You only have to attend one meeting. All meetings will take place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Suffolk.

Lipton Union Membership Meetings
Hilton Garden Inn, 100 E Constance Rd, Suffolk, VA 23434

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
or
7:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
or
7:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact any member of the bargaining committee, or call Kayla Mock at 571-435-1817.

Lipton Contract Negotiations Advancing Steadily

Contract Negotiations Update #5

Bargaining Sessions Scheduled Through June

As this round of contract negotiations comes to a close, we continue to be proud of everything we have accomplished at the bargaining table.

This process is long and tedious, and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through all of the very important issues that affect our work lives at Lipton. We know everyone is anxious to see what has been achieved and we are excited to share the details with you once we have gotten through these negotiations. We continue to make progress on nearly every front and we are confident you will be pleased with the outcome.

Even before our settling first contract, we have already gained so much by standing united. For the first time, we have a voice at Lipton. Already, we are helping shape the policies and procedures that impact us at work. We are now able to sit down together and freely discuss how employees would like to see things work at Lipton. We were able to hold the line on rising healthcare costs, and if we are disciplined, now we have the right to representation in meetings with management.

We are proud of the work we do, the tea we make, and the things we can accomplish when we stand together. We are confident the contract we are building will be a foundation for sustainable lives and futures at Lipton Tea.

In the meantime, don’t forget to join us for one of our upcoming membership meetings. We’ll see you there!

April 25 & April 26: Membership Meetings
Hilton Garden Inn, in the Chuckatuck Room
100 E Constance Rd, Suffolk, VA 23434
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. or 7:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.

Sincerely,
Your Negotiating Committee

Never Miss An Update: Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our first union contract with Lipton, we’re committed to keeping you informed every step of the way. By signing up for text alerts, you’ll get the latest updates immediately!

To sign up, just text LIPTON to 698-329. 

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698-329.

Print the Flier (PDF)

Lipton Contract Negotiations Moving Forward Steadily

Contract Negotiations Update #4

Hello all!

We were back at bargaining this week. After three more days of negotiations, we are excited to say we are still making progress. We know it seems like things have been slow-moving, but we want to make sure that we leave nothing on the table. And, as we know, every little thing counts! We know everyone is anxious to hear what’s been going on, and we understand.

Don’t lose hope! We started this strong together, and we will end this strong by continuing to stand together. As we all know, united we bargain!

While we continue contract negotiations, we will keep you updated as much as we can. In the meantime, please make a plan to join us for an upcoming membership meetings:

April 25 & April 26: Membership Meetings
Hilton Garden Inn, in the Chuckatuck Room
100 E Constance Rd, Suffolk, VA 23434
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. or 7:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.

For the latest updates, be sure to sign up for text alerts. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact any member of the bargaining committee, or call Kayla Mock at 571-435-1817.

Sincerely,
Your Negotiating Committee
Corey Hicks, Ricky Gregory, Juanita Hart, Paul Garrison, and Philip Surace

Never Miss An Update: Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our first union contract with Lipton, we’re committed to keeping you informed every step of the way. By signing up for text alerts, you’ll get the latest updates immediately!

To sign up, just text LIPTON to 698-329. 

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698-329.

Print the Flier (PDF)

Lipton Contract Negotiations Proceeding Well

Contract Negotiations Update #3

Mark Your Calendars: Lipton Union Membership Meetings April 25 & 26

After another two days of negotiations with Lipton this week, we are all in high spirits. We still have a few remaining issues to work out, but we have made significant progress on a number of fronts.

We are excited to share a contract proposal with you once this process is complete. At this moment, we are confident you won’t be disappointed with the outcome. While the process has been slow, we have made definite progress. We have scheduled a round of negotiations with Lipton next week, March 22-24, as well as another round in early April.

Please save the date for our next Lipton union membership meetings, April 25 & 26. We’ll announce the times and locations as soon as possible. These meetings are an opportunity to ask questions about the contract negotiations, bring new issues to our attention, and learn more about the union.

As we move forward, we’ll continue to update you every step of the way. In the meantime, please reach out to us any time. Your voice matters. We welcome your input and we’re more than happy to answer your questions. Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,
Your Negotiating Committee
Corey Hicks, Ricky Gregory, Juanita Hart, Paul Garrison, and Philip Surace

Never Miss An Update: Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our first union contract with Lipton, we’re committed to keeping you informed every step of the way. By signing up for text alerts, you’ll get the latest updates immediately!

To sign up, just text LIPTON to 698-329. 

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698-329.

Print the Flier (PDF)

Anita Anderson: Organizing for a Better Life

Anita Anderson (front row, third from the left) celebrates with her coworkers at Lipton after winning a union election in August 2016.

For Anita Anderson, working as an operator/trainer at the Lipton Tea factory in Suffolk, Va., could not have been more stressful. For two full years, she and her co-workers were forced to put in 12-hour shifts for 13 consecutive days before they could get a single day off.

“We were off only two days out of every 30,” she said, due to the company policy known as “drafting.” “There wasn’t enough time to be with our families or see our children, and we knew that families would be torn apart if it kept up. And people were getting hurt because they were too tired. Back strains, hand lacerations, slips and falls were common. One injury is one injury too many.

“Making matters worse, if we spoke up, we were reminded that our jobs were voluntary and if we didn’t like how things were or if we were unhappy, we had the option to leave, as in QUIT,” she added. “This left several employees feeling unappreciated and it definitely sent us the message that management was unbothered by our feelings.”

Anita was also frustrated by minimal cost-of-living pay increases and rising health care costs. But then, a co-worker suggested they join Local 400. “When he approached me, I was excited about it, I wanted to know more about it,” she said. Before being hired by Lipton 11 years ago, Anita worked at the Newport News shipyard where she was a union member, so she knew what union representation could do for them.

Anita and her co-workers started meeting in a parking lot at a restaurant near the plant, and soon they met with Local 400 organizer Kayla Mock. “We felt that for the first time, someone was listening to us,” Anita recalled. “We took our union cards to work with us and spoke to our co-workers about why they should sign. Then, workers from other plants came down to stand with us.”

A pivotal moment in the campaign was when Anita and her co-workers spoke by telephone with Chicago Hellman’s workers, who are members of UFCW. Hellman’s and Lipton are both owned by Unilever, an international conglomerate. “We got to ask about their pay, benefits and working conditions. And we learned that what they have is much better than what we’ve gotten until now. As soon as we showed our co-workers the difference, cards started coming in left and right.”

Another key development happened in June 2016, when Lipton hired a new plant manager, who stopped the drafting policy. “This was a very good thing,” Anita said, “But we also saw clearly that our efforts to get a union were at least part of the reason why they decided to do this.”

In late July, the Lipton workers filed an application for a union election, and the date was set for August 26th—which also happens to be Anita’s birthday. Throughout election day, Anita recalled, “I was in the room with the judge representing the government. I wasn’t allowed to hold a conversation, but I couldn’t sit still, either. I was so anxious and so excited. Then, after the polls closed, as we tallied the vote and saw the yes votes pile up, I was literally screaming inside because I knew we had won. That night, it felt so good. We walked away knowing we finally had a voice. We let management know you can’t keep treating us any way you want, can’t keep taking away our benefits, can’t do drafting anymore.”

Anita and her coworkers wore “No Forced Overtime” stickers while negotiating their first union contract with Lipton.

In the wake of their remarkable victory, Lipton workers are now in the process of negotiating their first contract, and Anita is an alternate on the Bargaining Committee. While no outcome is guaranteed, she said she’d like to see “Better health coverage. Every year our health care costs go way up, but we’re only getting basic cost-of-living increases. We’re the driving force making Lipton money. The corporation says we’re doing well and always in the green. They should reward us for that. We don’t want to see forced overtime come back either.”

A resident of Chesapeake, Va., and the mother of two children and two stepchildren ranging in age from 19 to 27, Anita said that since she joined Local 400, “I am learning more and more about my workplace rights. I can ask a co-worker to be present at a meeting. And management can’t put something in my personnel file without them notifying me—something they did all the time before.

“Being a Local 400 member means I don’t have to take everything the company says or does to me,” she said. “I don’t have to sit back and let them treat me any way they want. I can go to management and voice my opinion and even if they try to turn a deaf ear, someone is there to listen and to act.”