Press Release


Bernie Sanders Workers Become First Presidential Campaign Staff to Ratify Union Contract

Bernie 2020 staff union

Jonathan Williams, Communications Director, UFCW Local 400,

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 8, 2019) — In a groundbreaking development, Bernie Sanders campaign workers — now proud UFCW Local 400 union members — ratified the first collective bargaining agreement by a presidential campaign.

In taking this historic step forward, they are also revolutionizing the nature of presidential campaign work, which has traditionally been known for its 24/7 demands and difficult working conditions.

Their contract sets new standards for their field, doing so in a way that will dramatically improve their quality of life without hindering the Bernie 2020 campaign’s ability to compete for votes and delegates.

“I am so proud to be taking this historical step of becoming the first-ever presidential campaign with a unionized workforce,” said Krista Harness, a Senior Development Manager who served on the bargaining committee that led negotiations on behalf of the union. “I know that our newly ratified union contract will make our workplace more equitable, fair and resilient, and our overall campaign will be much stronger with the protections we were able to win for the workers.”

“What this union pulled off will change the way presidential campaigns are run in this country,” said Bianca Márquez, a member of the campaign’s digital team. “Representing a talented and diverse group of campaign staffers at the bargaining table and in a contract was no easy task, but we came together in support of one common goal: achieving the best contract possible and setting a new standard for the industry. As a member of the bargaining committee for the Bernie 2020 staff union, I could not be more proud of what we collectively accomplished.”

“Political campaigns are cause-driven and because there is always more work that can be done, staffers are typically worked to the bone,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. Even political work must be subject to minimum standards. I congratulate our members on the Bernie Sanders campaign for making their own revolution.”

For many employees, this was their first experience forming a union at their workplace.

“You feel more at ease knowing you’re backed up by the strength of the union,” explained Reg Ledesma, an intern at the DC campaign headquarters who served on the bargaining committee. “This has been the first union I’ve been a part of, and I’m proud to be part of a historical moment!”

Working long hours is not unusual in the hectic campaign environment, and all too often employees are disincentivized from taking time off even when they need it. To address this challenge, the collective bargaining agreement establishes a clear but flexible workweek, as well as days off each month where the employee is not on call. It provides breaks throughout the day, including meal breaks, as well as mandatory time off between particularly long shifts. The negotiated agreement also doubled paid vacation time from 10 to 20 days per year.

The contract sets clearly defined wages and benefits along with the opportunity for employees to earn performance raises. Field organizers, who will eventually constitute the vast majority of campaign staff, will have 100 percent of their health care premiums paid for by the campaign. And interns in the national headquarters will make a minimum of $20/hour along with full medical benefits. All hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay. In addition to health insurance, the contract provides broad coverage for mental health care services.

And in keeping with Senator Sanders’ emphasis on fighting income inequality, the contract puts a cap on management pay proportional to union employees’ salaries. Pay transparency provisions and a pay equity review process are also established for employees who feel they are being unfairly underpaid.

The first-of-its-kind agreement also includes robust anti-discrimination provisions as well as comprehensive protections for immigrant and transgender workers. And it establishes employee-led Labor Committees to address ongoing working conditions and other issues with management.

All of this was made possible due to the adoption of fair labor practices by the Bernie 2020 campaign. On February 26th, the campaign agreed to remain neutral in the organizing campaign and to recognize Local 400 if a majority of workers signed union cards. This milestone was reached on March 15th, making it the first presidential campaign staff in history to unionize. Contract negotiations commenced shortly afterward, led by a committee of staff from the campaign. Negotiations were productive and the collective bargaining agreement was ratified on May 2nd by a majority vote of union employees.

“This was a model experience in every respect,” Federici said. “First, Senator Sanders walked the talk on unions, agreeing to a truly democratic process — neutrality and card check — that every responsible employer should embrace. And then, the campaign engaged in good faith bargaining, recognizing that it’s in their own interest to have well-treated employees empowered to operate at the top of their games. I urge every other campaign to follow their lead.”

John Marzabadi, who works on the advance team and served on the bargaining committee, echoed the call for other campaigns to organize. “I’m very proud of what our bargaining committee has accomplished to improve the working conditions and overall welfare of our campaign staff. In my view, the most worker-friendly campaign in the race ought to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Our contract sets the standard for others to not only follow, but to expand upon and I encourage fellow campaign workers to organize and collectively bargain for their rights.”


The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Bernie Sanders Campaign Workers Join UFCW Local 400

* Updated 7:16 p.m. ET, March 15, 2019, with quotes from campaign staff. *

Jonathan Williams, Communications Director, UFCW Local 400, 301-577-6687

First U.S. Presidential Campaign in History to Be Organized

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 15 — Workers on the Bernie Sanders Campaign today made themselves the first presidential campaign employees in history to win union representation, as a majority signed cards joining United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400.

This victory resulted from the Bernie 2020 Campaign’s decision to stay neutral in the employees’ organizing drive and its agreement to recognize UFCW Local 400 when a majority of workers signed union cards. As a result, all campaign employees below the rank of deputy director are now represented by UFCW Local 400 and negotiations for their first collective bargaining agreement will begin as soon as possible.

“Our union makes this campaign strong, and its workers even stronger,” said John Marzabadi, a current campaign staffer in the D.C. office and former UFCW Local 262 member. “I’m excited to be part of this historic, pro-worker campaign and encourage other campaigns to organize as well!”

“I come from working class family with a single mom. Union membership goes back to my great grandfather who worked on the Altoona railroad his entire life. He never finished high school, but because of the union, he was able to provide for his family. For myself to finally have the chance to be in a union is a true blessing,” said Julia Griffin, who works on the campaign’s communications and digital team. “It’s really beautiful to have such solidarity with folks from all different backgrounds and job roles. When workers organize we all benefit, and I can’t wait to see how the campaign benefits from this as well.”

“Today, we made history and did what no other presidential campaign has done before. We are so proud to join Local 400 alongside our union brothers and sisters in the struggle for security, justice and dignity,” said Christian Bowe, a campaign staff member who works on digital communications. “Senator Sanders has been fighting for workers unlike anyone in American politics for his entire life and our campaign is committed to leading the effort to revitalize, grow and empower the labor movement like none other and that begins with our own workers. Together, we are building an unprecedented and historic grassroots campaign that will not only defeat union busters like Donald Trump but transform this country to work for all of us.”

On February 26th, the Bernie 2020 Campaign and UFCW Local 400 signed a card check and neutrality agreement. By March 15th, a majority of the campaign’s 44 bargaining unit-eligible employees had signed union cards — counted and certified by Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, Deputy Director and Rabbi in Residence at Jews United for Justice, as designated by the agreement — triggering recognition and a countdown to the launch of negotiations. Over the course of the campaign, the bargaining unit could potentially grow to more than 1,000 members.

“First, I want to congratulate the Bernie 2020 campaign workers for making history and empowering themselves to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions with a strong voice in the workplace,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “I also congratulate Senator Sanders for not only talking the talk but actually walking the walk when it comes to his commitment to uphold the right of every worker to bargain collectively.

“We expect this will mean pay parity and transparency on the campaign, with no gender bias or harassment, and equal treatment for every worker, whether they’re in Washington, D.C., Iowa, New Hampshire or anywhere else,” he said.

“I hope this breakthrough serves as a model for other presidential campaigns, as well as party committees and candidates for other offices,” Federici added. “While political campaigns aren’t the easiest work environment, every worker has the right to respect and dignity. And when candidates who claim to support the labor movement practice what they preach, that sends a powerful message that, if elected, they will deliver on their promises to strengthen union rights and level the playing field between workers and employers.”

While this is the first presidential campaign to organize, the 2018 candidacy of Randy Bryce (D) is believed to be the first federal electoral campaign to achieve union representation. Employees of the Vermont and Idaho Democratic parties are also unionized, among others.

While this is the first political campaign represented by UFCW Local 400, the union represents a wide variety of employees in a diverse array of fields, ranging from grocery store clerks to nurses, from retail and food processing workers to police officers. The Local’s reputation for effective, tenacious and professional representation, and its strategy of empowering members was cited by Sanders campaign workers as the reason why they chose to affiliate.


The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

UFCW Local 400 & CASA in Action Call on Governor Northam to Resign Immediately

February 1, 2019

Jonathan Williams, Communications Director, UFCW Local 400 – – 202.316.0235

UFCW Local 400 & CASA in Action Call on Governor Northam to Resign Immediately

RICHMOND, VA (February 1, 2019) – After a photograph from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced showing a man in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another man in blackface, two of Virginia’s largest membership organizations who had previously endorsed Mr. Northam have called on the governor to resign.

Mark Federici, President of Local 400 of the United Food & Commercial Workers union (UFCW), issued the following statement on behalf of the union:

“This racist, despicable behavior is reprehensible no matter who does it and no matter when it is done. There is simply no place for blackface or the Ku Klux Klan in Virginia, let alone in the governor’s mansion.

“Mr. Northam has much work to do to reconcile his relationship with our members, our community, and all citizens of the Commonwealth. Remaining in the governor’s office is simply incompatible with that undertaking.

“We hereby rescind our past endorsement of Gov. Northam and call on him to resign from office immediately.”

Luis Aguilar of CASA in Action, Virginia’s largest immigrant rights organization, issued the following statement:

“Our members – people on the frontlines of the battle for human rights – deserve representation that honors their fundamental dignity.  It is almost impossible to identify images more damaging to the soul than those in Ralph Northam’s yearbook. He has apologized and said he is a changed person. But it doesn’t mean he is an appropriate governor. In an era in which the White House is occupied by a white supremacist, we ask that Governor Northam heal this grave wound to the African-American community and more broadly all People of Color, by resigning.”


UFCW Local 400 represents thousands of members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries. In Virginia, the union represents primarily grocery clerks at Giant Food, Safeway, Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, and Kroger grocery stores, as well as factory workers in food processing, Chesapeake Bay fisherman, and many others.

With 97,000+ lifetime members, CASA in Action is the largest electoral organization fighting for immigrant rights in the Mid-Atlantic region.

UFCW Local 400 Endorses Sydney Harrison for Prince George’s County Council

United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 has endorsed Sydney Harrison for Prince George’s County Council representing District 9. President Mark Federici issued the following statement regarding the endorsement:

“Syndney Harrison shares our commitment to raising the minimum wage to $15 for all hard-working families in Prince George’s County. We are proud to lend our support to Mr. Harrison and we look forward to his leadership on the council.”

Dyana Forester, UFCW Local 400 Political & Community Affairs Director, added the following:

“It has come to our attention that another candidate, Tamara Davis Brown,  mistakenly included our logo on some of her campaign materials, but to be clear, Local 400 did not make any endorsement in the primary.”

UFCW Local 400 is one of the largest private sector labor unions in the region. In Prince George’s County, the union has approximately 4,800 active members predominantly working in Safeway and Giant Food grocery stores.

Local 400 Endorses Donna Edwards for Prince George’s County Executive

Local 400 joins three other local labor unions to endorse former Congresswoman

Today, a coalition of four labor unions jointly announced their endorsement of former Congresswoman Donna Edwards for Prince George’s County Executive, including UFCW Local 400, UNITE HERE Local 25, LIUNA Mid-Atlantic, and UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO. Together, the organizations represent more than 10,000 workers in the county.

“We are proud to once again lend our support to Donna Edwards,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici. “Donna stays true to her progressive values, even when the odds are stacked against her. These days, Donna is just the kind of champion we need. In Congress, she consistently fought to bring better opportunities to working families. But beyond fighting for strong policies, Donna understands the importance of bringing every aspect of the community together to get things done. As executive, we know she will bring much-needed opportunities to the hardworking men and women of Prince George’s County.”

“The members of UNITE HERE Local 25 proudly endorse Donna Edwards,” said Linda Martin, President of UNITE HERE Local 25. “As hotel workers, our priority is to ensure that our next County Executive is a true champion of working people, and there is no better champion than Donna. She stood with Local 25 members when we organized at the Gaylord hotel in National Harbor, and her unblemished record of supporting unions and progressive policies is exactly what Prince George’s County needs as we look to the future. Local 25 understands that for Prince George’s County to fulfill its potential, we need a County Executive with a fresh vision who puts people before special interests and developers. Donna is that person.”

“She has remained a champion for working people throughout her career,” said Dennis Martire, Vice President and Regional Manager of LiUNA Mid-Atlantic. “She fights for working families every day, and that is why LiUNA proudly stands with Donna Edwards.”

“Donna Edwards has defended our community as a member of Congress, an organizer and a non-profit leader,” said Gino Renne, President of UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO. “It is because of Donna’s fearless integrity that she will bring our community together to ensure government is transparent and accountable to the people and ensures that our economy benefits Prince George’s working families.”

Maryland Primary Elections: Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Maryland Primary elections are on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Make a plan to vote on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

Not registered to vote in Maryland? Click here to register online through the Maryland State Board of Elections website.

How Candidates Are  Recommended

Local 400 recommends candidates for office only after an exhaustive process of getting to know them, analyzing their records, and reviewing their positions on issues impacting our members’ lives. These issues include jobs, the economy, workers’ rights, health care, retirement security, workers’ compensation and education. We recommend those candidates judged to have your best interests in mind.

In order to decide on a candidate to endorse, we:

  1. Review the voting records of incumbents on labor issues.
  2. Participate in the AFL-CIO interview process and schedule one-on-one interviews between Local 400 and many of the candidates.
  3. Discuss with other union members and leaders the interviews and the written questionnaires candidates submit.
  4. Make recommendations to the executive boards of the relevant area labor councils.
  5. Participate in state AFL-CIO meetings, where delegates from Local 400 and other unions vote to give labor’s recommendation to a limited number of candidates.
  6. After acceptance, these recommendations are communicated to Local 400 members.

Community Organizations & Labor Leaders Call on Chairman Mendelson to Renounce “Moratorium”

CONTACT: Ari Schwartz DC Jobs With Justice; or 202-674-3228

On the eve of a Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress, D.C. Council Chairman shockingly announces refusal to consider further progressive legislation.

Washington, D.C. – Community organizations and labor unions applaud the news that the Universal Paid Leave Act will move to a vote in the D.C. Council on December 6th and look forward to it passing by the end of the year. But in announcing a revised proposal of the legislation on Tuesday, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson buried a brief and shocking statement at the end of his press release. Seemingly to placate businesses that “may be unhappy that this bill establishes a new tax on them,” the Chairman said he will “support a two-year moratorium on the adoption of similar bills, such as mandating scheduling requirements or nurse staffing ratios in hospitals.”

Various community organizations and labor unions that advocate for and represent working people across the District were stunned and deeply concerned to see the Chairman make such an unprecedented statement.

Elizabeth Falcon, Executive Director of DC Jobs With Justice, called Chairman Mendelson’s statement “the opposite of the leadership we need in this new era.” She said, “The Council will improve the lives of thousands of District residents when it passes Paid Family Leave. But that alone is not enough to have a good life in the District. Workers already face barriers to enough work, dignified working conditions, and opportunities for real careers. And what new issues will emerge over the next two years? Abandoning the Council’s responsibility to ensure those basic needs is shocking to us.”

Kimberly Mitchell, a Ward 7 resident and retail worker, said, “My bills don’t stop for two years. My family’s needs don’t stop for two years. My neighbors can’t stop worrying about being pushed out for two years. Why should the Chairman stop doing his job for two years?”

Jacob Feinspan, Executive Director of Jews United for Justice and a key advocate of the paid family leave bill, said, “we were disappointed that Mr. Mendelson introduced a revised paid family leave bill that falls far short of the real needs of District residents by cutting out medical leave, and it is further troubling that he would threaten to prevent future action on commonsense measures to help the District’s working families.”

Carlos Jimenez, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, said the Metro Council is “extremely concerned that there has been a reference to a moratorium on future economic legislation that would benefit working families, including discussions on safe staffing ratios and fair scheduling practices.” However, “today we’re focused on winning passage of paid leave. Skyrocketing inequality and new threats from the incoming administration mean our elected officials must do even more for working people, not less. Paid Family Leave is a huge step forward, but the Council’s work does not end there.”

Carol Joyner, Director for the Labor Project for Working Families, said, “We live a “tale of two cities” reality in DC and a moratorium on improvements to job quality only legislates that reality.  UPLA as currently proposed already has significant concessions to big business: most notably, the lack of coverage for one’s own medical care and the narrow definition of family. These concessions along with a moratorium will only exacerbate the race and ethnic disparities in our city.”

Valerie Ervin of the Working Families Party underscored the need to double down and not back away from fighting for a more inclusive and just Washington, D.C. “Now more than ever we need the chairman and the D.C. Council to lead by example. In the era of Trump, when working people will come under an unprecedented assault, we cannot afford to leave families behind. We must reject the Chairman’s zero sum mentality and recognize that we can only thrive as a community when everyone has a chance to succeed.”

Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values at Work, said, “While we commend Chair Mendelson and the DC Council for the introduction of UPLA, we are deeply concerned to hear the Chair call for a moratorium on other actions that will help the District’s overworked, underpaid residents. Paid family and medical leave is critical for all workers, as are predictable schedules, fair wages, and high quality health care. The District has an opportunity to be a leader in the nation for all workers, especially the most disenfranchised. We need a Council that will be there for all DC residents, regardless of their ward, wealth, or working status.”

Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400, said, “Day in and day out, the men and women of UFCW Local 400 work hard to meet the needs of shoppers in the District’s grocery and retail stores. It’s deeply disappointing to learn that the Chairman of the D.C. Council refuses to work just as hard to meet their needs.”

Reverend Graylan S. Hagler of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ said, “On the eve of a new administration that promises to champion countless attacks on hardworking families, it’s utterly shocking that the chairman would promise to halt all progressive legislation in the District for the first two years of the Trump presidency.”


You can find Chairman Mendelson’s statement here.

UFCW Local 400 Endorses Levar Stoney for Richmond Mayor

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jonathan Williams, Communications Manager,

Union of food and grocery workers weighs in on mayoral race

RICHMOND, VA – Local 400 of the United Food & Commercial Workers union (UFCW) announced its endorsement today of Levar Stoney for mayor of Richmond.

“Mr. Stoney understands the challenges facing hard-working families today. He is committed to upholding and improving working standards, not undermining them. He knows the working people of Richmond need to be at the table, not on the chopping block. We believe Mr. Stoney will bring a fresh approach to city hall and we look forward to his much-needed leadership,” said Mark Federici, president of UFCW Local 400.



Take Action Virginia Endorses LuAnn Bennett and Hillary Clinton

September 21, 2016


WOODBRIDGE, VA – Take Action Virginia, an alliance of community and labor organizations focused on improving the lives of working and immigrant families, announced today its endorsement of LuAnn Bennett for Congress and Hillary Clinton for President, two candidates who vow to work toward a more progressive agenda in Virginia and nationwide.

In Virginia’s District 10, Take Action is supporting LuAnn Bennett in light of her unwavering support of comprehensive immigration reform. Bennett has said that if elected, she would be in favor of a comprehensive, bipartisan approach to immigration legislation.
We believe Bennett is the kind of fair candidate Virginia’s District 10 deserves.

A cosmopolitan, racially diverse district deserves a candidate who supports raising the minimum wage and investing in badly needed infrastructure and transportation projects, has supported a woman’s right to choose, and equal pay. As opposed to her opponent Rep. Barbara Comstock who has repeatedly sided with the far right-wing of Republicans in the House, Bennett has stood with working moms and favors access to quality health care.

Comstock has also refused to condemn Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump for this attack on Mexican immigrants, an American born judge of Latino descent, and a Muslim Gold Star family.

“Comstock has refused to condemn Donald Trump for his racist attacks, to us, not surprisingly given that Trump has hosted fundraisers to support her candidacy,” said CASA in Action President Gustavo Torres. “Comstock shares many of the beliefs Donald Trump shares and we think they both would be very dangerous for this country.”

Bennett has repeatedly stated she will work to end the partisan Washington gridlock that has stalled progress in such important issues as infrastructure repair and job creation.
Virginia’s 10th congressional district includes all of Clarke CountyFrederick County, and Loudoun County, and the cities of ManassasManassas Park, and Winchester, with portions of Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

Take Action is also endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. Clinton has promised she will make immigration reform one of her top priorities if she is elected. We are encouraged that she listed immigration reform as her number one task during her first 100 days in office.

“If Congress won’t act, I’ll defend President Obama’s executive actions and I’ll go even further to keep families together. I’ll end family detention centers, and help more people become naturalized.”

Clinton has fought for quality, affordable care for more than 25 years and has vowed to defend the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, she plans to crack down on drug companies that charge outrageous prices, slow the growth of out-of-pocket costs and provide new credit to those facing high health expenses.  She is a pro-choice candidate who has promised to protect Planned Parenthood.

“We believe that Hillary Clinton is the right choice for Virginia and the right choice for the United States,” said Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400.


Take Action Virginia is an electoral collaboration of community and labor organizations that share concerns about issues impacting working families in Virginia.  Our members are SEIU 32BJ, SEIU Virginia 512, CASA in Action,LiUNA! Mid-Atlantic, NAKASEC Action Fund, UNITE HERE Local 23, UNITE HERE Local 25, and UFCW Local 400.

Workers at Nation’s Only Lipton Tea Factory Vote to Unionize

Lipton workers announced the victory at a press conference outside the plant on Monday, August 29. They were joined by several supporters, including Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas, Doris Course-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO, and Renee Browder, Financial Secretary Treasurer of ATU Local 1177.

Lipton workers announced the victory at a press conference outside the plant on Monday, August 29. They were joined by several supporters, including Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas, Doris Course-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO, and Renee Browder, Financial Secretary Treasurer of ATU Local 1177.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Jonathan Williams, UFCW Local 400,

Hundreds of workers in southeast Virginia manufacturing plant vote to unionize with UFCW Local 400

SUFFOLK, VA – Last week, nearly 200 workers at the Lipton plant voted to unionize with Local 400 of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).

“I woke up this morning feeling wonderful,” said Lisa Gayle, who’s been with the company for 14 years. “As a unified group, now we can make Lipton the best place it can be. I’m so excited!”

The Lipton plant has operated in Suffolk, Virginia for more than 60 years and produces nearly all of the Lipton tea sold in North America. More than 200 employees currently work at the plant, but that number could as much as double in the coming months as the company expands its workforce.

“I couldn’t be happier to welcome such a wonderful group of people into the UFCW family,” said Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400. “Their courage, commitment and tireless efforts bolstered my faith in the power of working people to stand up for themselves and improve the lives of all hardworking men and women.”

On Monday morning, the workers held a press conference outside the plant to announce the victory.

“For the last ten years, we’ve seen our benefits decline. By standing together as one, as a union, we hope we can stop the bleeding now before it’s too late,” explained Alvin Brown, an Operations Technician who celebrated his 21st year with the company on Monday.

“I’m so proud of all of us for coming together and standing as one,” said Rodney Hart, who has worked at the company for 24 years. “We come a long way in a few weeks, and now we have to stand as one and support each other in order for our union and our company to be the best at what we do.”

The workers were joined by several supporters, including Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas, who represents the district where the plant is located.

“I just wanted to say how proud I am of what you’ve accomplished here,” Senator Lucas told the workers in attendance. “It takes a lot of hard work and courage to do what you’ve done and I know our district is better off for it. I know you’ve worked hard to make Lipton the success it is today. Congratulations on taking the bold step to form a union and stand up for your rights at work.”

“Welcome to the union family,” said Doris Course-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO, who also attended the event. “You may not know this, but you’re not alone. You have union brothers and sisters throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia behind you today.”

Renee Browder, Financial Secretary Treasurer of ATU Local 1177, the union of transit workers throughout the region, echoed the sentiment. “Unions are all about unity – not just unity with your brothers and sisters at work, but unity with everyone that works hard for a living. When we stand together, we all do better.”

Earlier this year, 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 before doing it again. The widespread practice of forcing employees to work overtime was known as “drafting” and went on for years. The workers claimed they needed the guarantees and protections of a union contract to ensure fair treatment and accountability from plant management, including putting an end to involuntary overtime drafting.

“We just want a voice. 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 at the plant who recently marked his 25th year with the company. “Now, we’re looking forward to having a seat at the table and negotiating a fair contract with Unilever.”

Following last week’s vote, the workers will now collectively negotiate their first union contract with Unilever, the parent company of Lipton, which could cover several aspects of employment, including wages, benefits, safety measures, and workplace policies.

“I have such a wonderful group of coworkers,” explained Anita Anderson, who has worked at the plant for 10 years. Like many of her coworkers, she’s looking forward to the next step in the process. “Whether you voted for the union or not, whether you’re a worker or a manager, now it’s time to move forward, together. Let’s let our unity and smiles warm the hearts of many. Working together is the only way we will ensure we have a fair contract that treats us all as equals.”

With the support of their union, UFCW Local 400, the workers will begin the bargaining process by surveying coworkers to gather input on their first contract, then forming a committee of employees to negotiate with management. Once negotiators reach a tentative agreement with the company, the proposal will be presented to the entire workforce for a ratification vote. The contract will take effect once ratified by a majority of the workers.

Last week’s vote by a majority of workers at Lipton means the employees will soon collectively negotiate a union contract, which will apply to all employees once ratified, but does not require the workers to join the union to receive the full benefits and protections of the contract. Because of the state’s so-called “right to work” law, union representatives in Virginia are required to provide their services for free to all workers, even if the employee is not a member of the union and does not contribute to covering the costs of union representation.

“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.”

While many companies notoriously fight tooth and nail to prevent their employees from exercising their right to form a union, Unilever’s own Human Rights Report states the company is “committed to the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.” In a letter to employees earlier this year, Lipton factory director Katie Ingersoll emphasized the company’s commitment to “remain neutral when it comes to employee’s right to organize.”

“We must commend Lipton and Unilever for upholding their commitment and honoring their employee’s right to organize,” said Tiffany Flowers, Director of Organizing at UFCW Local 400. “Too many companies intimidate, threaten, or even outright fire workers who dare to exercise their right to have a voice on the job. We’re happy to say that wasn’t the case here.”


Kroger Associates Plan Noon Rally to Call for $15 Minimum Wage

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jonathan Williams, UFCW Local 400,

In just ten days, more than 1,000 Kroger employees sign petition supporting $15 minimum wage

100+ expected to attend rally to deliver signatures to store managers today at noon


At noon today, more than 100 Kroger workers and union activists will host a rally to deliver petitions calling for a $15 minimum wage to managers at a Kroger store in Portsmouth.

The petition spread like wildfire among employees at Kroger stores in Richmond-Tidewater the region. In just ten days, at least 1,000 store associates in the area signed a petition calling on the company to provide a wage floor of $15 an hour.


100+ Kroger associates and union activists expected to attend


The workers claim they simply can’t afford to survive on the company’s current pay, but with $2.4 billion in profits last year alone, many employees feel Kroger could easily afford to pay them higher wages. Last month, Rodney McMullen, the CEO of Kroger, was rewarded a 17 percent pay raise by the company’s board of directors. His total compensation jumped from $9.2 million to a staggering $11.2 million.

“If Kroger can afford to give the CEO a raise worth millions of dollars, it can afford to pay me enough to raise my child,” said Dakayla Williams, a single mother who has worked as a cashier at the Kroger Marketplace in Portsmouth for two years.

The workers launched the petition shortly after the District of Columbia city council passed legislation to raise the minimum wage in the nation’s capital to $15 an hour by 2020. Los Angeles, Seattle and New York have passed similar legislation.

Currently, Kroger hires new workers at less than $10 an hour and most are part-time positions. However, many workers report they are unable to make ends meet on Kroger wages. In Portsmouth, a single adult working full-time must earn at least $12.68 an hour to afford basic costs of living, according to researchers at MIT. That figure jumps to over $20 an hour if the worker has just one child – more than double the starting pay at Kroger.


12:00 p.m. Noon, Wednesday, June 29


Kroger Marketplace, 1301 Frederick Blvd, Portsmouth, VA 23707


Protesters carrying signs, chanting, drumming

Picket line

Potential confrontation with store management


The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.