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How Increasing Poultry Line Speeds Could Make Chicken Unsafe to Eat

Oxfam estimates that each person eats 89 pounds of chicken a year – which means as a country, we’re eating close to 9 billion birds per year. It’s a major, multi-billion dollar industry that supplies us with chicken nuggets, wings, and the foundation for so many of our favorite, home-cooked meals.

It’s easy to cook, it’s affordable, and a mainstay in the meals American families share with one another.

But jobs inside poultry plants are some of the most dangerous and difficult in America. The National Chicken Council, which is the poultry industry’s main trade association and functions to represent its interests to Congress and other federal agencies, wants to do away with a key protection to keep workers safe on the job: line speeds.

Three Things You Should Know About Poultry Line Speeds

1.) By law, most poultry plants can run their processing lines at 140 birds per minute. That’s already insanely fast.

Federal law currently sets the line speed maximum at 140 birds per minute at most poultry facilities. To give you a sense of what that translates to in real life, that’s just a hair faster than the tempo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” except where each beat is a chicken.

On the line itself, one employee can process more than 14,000 chickens each day. Depending on the job, each worker can process around 35-45 birds per minute – which rounds out to about 2,000 chickens per hour or nearly one chicken every two seconds.

Some plants are even allowed to operate at 175 BPM (for background on why some plants are allowed to be faster than others and for more examples of songs that match different line speeds, check out this great article from The New Food Economy). There are few things that we do each and every day that can even compare to that level of repetition.

2.) As line speed increases, safety decreases. And they want to eliminate line speeds entirely.

While there’s currently a speed limit in poultry plants, the National Chicken Council wants to eliminate them entirely.

As line speeds increase, so does the risk of injury—including serious and bloody cuts and amputations.

But faster line speeds also mean less time for federal meat inspectors and quality control workers to do their jobs and ensure the chicken you’re eating is safe to consume.

Want a better idea how fast poultry lines could move if they eliminate line speed limits? Here’s what 200 BMP sounds like, which is how fast Germany already allows their plants to run (with negative side effects, as explained in #3):

3.) Faster line speed also means inspectors have less time to watch out for food safety issues. That should make anyone feel queasy. 

If current line speeds are eliminated, federal inspectors who are tasked with spotting contaminated birds may be forced to examine more than two per second for abscesses, tumors, or other diseases.

The National Chicken Council argues that increased line speeds will help modernize the system, and keep up with international competitors.

But countries which allow faster line speeds have more issues with food safety. Germany allows line speeds up to 200 BPM and their poultry meat is found to have higher levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination.

Retired USDA food safety inspector Phyllis McKelvey spoke out about the dangers of increasing line speed in an interview with NPR earlier this year:

“These machines will pull the viscera, which is the guts of the chicken. And a lot of times the guts hang on their prongs and those machines just get covered up in guts, which is slinging manure all over the product,” she says.

In the live hang section, McKelvey said equipment failures would also occur in the stun bath, where birds are shocked with electricity. That would send fully conscious birds to a machine that would sever their necks.

“If the line is going too fast you have a lot of birds that don’t get stunned,” she says. “So you’ve got some birds going into the scald vats, alive.”

The USDA describes the new inspection system as more science-based in that it requires that all poultry facilities perform their own microbiological testing along with two federal inspectors. This leaves one inspector to view the carcasses.

But with fewer inspectors, McKelvey argues, plants are relying on more chemicals like peracetic acid or food bleach to reduce the chance of food contamination.

“And if they don’t have a proper air system, these chemicals are causing people to sneeze and cough. And even at that rate it gets so bad we’d have to shut the line down,” McKelvey says.

Here’s how you can take action to keep poultry workers safe on the job and chicken safe on your plate:

The USDA is currently accepting public comments on increasing line speed limits in poultry plants. Click here to submit your comment by December 13 and tell them we deserve safe food, and America’s poultry workers deserve safe workplaces. Tell the USDA today and to reject the National Chicken Council’s petition and keep safe line speed limits in poultry plants.

Originally posted on UFCW.org

Hundreds of Kroger Workers Hold Rallies for Fourth Week In A Row

Hundreds of Kroger workers held rallies at five Kroger stores this evening, marking the fourth straight week of actions calling on the grocery giant to negotiate a fair contract with 4,200 store associates in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

The workers called on Kroger to fully fund our health care benefits. Approximately 2,000 workers who rely on the health care benefits provided by our union contract with Kroger are at risk of losing their benefits if the company fails to adequately fund our health plan.

Take Action To Save Our Health Care!

Join us for our next day of action on Friday, November 3, from 4pm to 6pm at a Kroger store near you.

Please plan to join us at one of the locations listed below. (Please note the Morgantown location has changed to Clarksburg).

Ashland, KY
711 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Ashland, KY 41101

Belpre, OH
1008 Washington Blvd, Belpre, OH 45714

Beckley, WV
133 Beckley Crossing Shopping Ctr, Beckley, WV 25801

Charleston, WV
1100 Fledderjohn Rd, Charleston, WV 25314

Clarksburg, WV  **new location**
Kroger #773,198 Emily Dr, Clarksburg, WV 26301

 

Photo Gallery

 

Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our next union contract with Kroger, we are 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 WV to 698-329.

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698329.

 

Kroger Wants To Put Your Healthcare at Risk!

DON’T TRUST KROGER WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE!

Kroger’s latest proposal is a disaster for our healthcare. Here are the facts:

  • Contract would expire in only 28 months
  • Your healthcare fund could be completely depleted in 28 months
  • Cost increases to retirees

Take action to save our healthcare! Join us on Friday, November 3 and let‘s show Kroger we will do whatever it takes save our healthcare.

Take Action to Save Our Healthcare!
Friday, November 3rd

All actions take place 4:00pm – 6:00pm at each of these stores:

Ashland, KY
711 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Ashland, KY 41101

Belpre, OH
1008 Washington Blvd, Belpre, OH 45714

Beckley, WV
133 Beckley Crossing Shopping Ctr, Beckley, WV 25801

Charleston, WV
1100 Fledderjohn Rd, Charleston, WV 25314

Clarksburg, WV  **new location**
Kroger #773,198 Emily Dr, Clarksburg, WV 26301
** Please note the Morgantown location has changed to Clarksburg **

 

Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our next union contract with Kroger, we are 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 WV to 698-329.

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698329.

 

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Our Actions Are Having An Impact – Keep the Pressure On Kroger!

Today, we received the clearest indication yet that our actions and solidarity are having an impact on our contract negotiations with Kroger. This morning, after weeks of insisting on huge cost increases to our premiums, copays, and other out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, Kroger finally put forth a proposal that is closer to maintaining our current healthcare benefits. Despite their claims, we are not there yet and do not have a fair deal we can recommend. We have stood strong and moved them away from their most outrageous healthcare proposals, but we must keep the pressure on to prevent any substantial cuts to our healthcare and to get the fair contract we deserve.

We know our actions are having an impact. Now is the time to keep the pressure on. Join us for our next day of action on Thursday, October 26. Make a plan to attend the action closest to you and spread the word to your friends and family using our website BetterKroger.org.

Your participation is making a difference. It is more important than ever for everyone to take action to keep the pressure on Kroger and to stay focused on our goal – to get a fair deal with no substantial changes to our health insurance. As negotiations continue, we will continue to keep you updated every step of the way. Thank you for all your support.

 

Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our next union contract with Kroger, we are 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 WV to 698-329.

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698329.

 

Print the Flier (PDF)

Huge Issues at Stake In Virginia Elections – Vote November 7th!

Local 400 members in Virginia—and all the commonwealth’s working families—have much at stake in the Tuesday, November 7th elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and the House of Delegates.

The Local 400-led Fight for $15 in Richmond has been blocked until now by anti-worker members of the General Assembly, but if opponents of the $15/hour minimum wage are defeated and control of the House shifts to pro-worker forces, victory will be within reach.

Another vitally important issue is whether Medicaid will be expanded—just as Maryland, the District of Columbia and West Virginia have done—to cover 400,000 uninsured Virginians living between 100 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level.

In all the key races, the choices could not be more clear. Local 400 recommends Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for governor, Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor, and Attorney General Mark Herring for re-election in the statewide contests.

“Ralph Northam will be on our side as governor, just as he has been throughout his career as a state senator and lieutenant governor,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “He’ll fight for higher wages and better jobs, expand Medicaid, and look out for the interest of working families. By contrast, his opponent is a longtime lobbyist who’s made millions representing corporate, anti-worker interests—and who would continue to do their bidding in Richmond.”

Northam is a veteran Army doctor, pediatric neurologist, and volunteer medical director for a pediatric hospice care facility who moved into public service a decade ago with a focus on improving Virginian’s health and economy. His opponent, Ed Gillespie, has represented companies like the corrupt Enron and Bank of America, which sold defective mortgages that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

In addition to wages and health, another key issue in this campaign is redistricting. Today, Virginia is carved into congressional and state legislative districts that minimize the votes of workers and people of color, and rig the outcome in favor of anti-worker forces. If pro-worker forces can keep the governorship and take control of the General Assembly, Virginia can have fair representation again, one that reflects the true will of the commonwealth’s voters.

“I urge our members to volunteer in our efforts to go door to door and operate phone banks, as we spread the word about how much this election matters to Virginia’s working families,” Federici said. “And above all, please vote on November 7th.”

VOTE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7TH!

Recommended Candidates

Governor

Ralph Northam

Lieutenant Governor

Justin Fairfax

Attorney General

Mark Herring

Virginia House of Delegates

2nd–Jennifer Foy

12th–Chris Hurst

13th–Danica Roem

21st–Kelly Fowler

31st–Elizabeth Guzman

32nd–David Reid

34th–Kathleen Murphy

42nd–Kathy Tran

50th–Lee Carter

51st–Hala Ayala

67th–Karrie Delaney

87th–John Bell

93rd–Mike Mullin

94th–Shelly Simonds

100th–Willie Randall

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 Virginia, 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.

Please note that for offices not listed above, Local 400 has made no recommendation.

Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. If you cannot cast your ballot on election day, please apply for an absentee ballot no later than 5:00 p.m., October 31st by visiting the Virginia Department of Elections website.

Take Action For A Fair Contract – Thursday, October 19th

Negotiations with Kroger on our next union contract have stalled. We’ve made it clear to Kroger that we are not going to allow them to continue to stall the process. In order to get them to move, we must show them that we are willing to do whatever it takes to get a fair contract.

Join us on Thursday, October 19 to take action for a fair contract! We’re hosting simultaneous actions at five stores throughout the region from 4pm to 6pm.

Take Action For A Fair Contract – Thursday, October 19th

All actions take place 4:00pm – 6:00pm at each of these stores:
Kroger #790                133 Beckley Crossing Shopping Ctr, Beckley, WV 25801 
Kroger #785                1100 Fledderjohn Rd, Charleston, WV 25314
Kroger #783                711 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Ashland, KY 41101
Kroger #799                1008 Washington Blvd, Belpre, OH 45714
Kroger #813                500 Suncrest Towne Centre Dr, Morgantown, WV 26505

Our past actions have gotten the company’s attention, but now it is time to show Kroger how serious we are. On October 19th, we need to be bigger and louder. We need to show Kroger that we won’t stop until we get a fair deal.

It is very important that you participate in every action you can. Let customers know how they can support us. Bring your coworkers, family members, and friends to the actions on the October 19th. We will not stop until we move Kroger to a fair deal.

 

Sign Up for Text Alerts

As we negotiate our next union contract with Kroger, we are 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 WV to 698-329.

Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698329.

 

Print the Flier (PDF)

Victory! All Courtesy Clerks Promoted at Kroger Store in Lynchburg

Member activism and the hard work of Local 400 shop steward Mary Little won a landmark victory at a Kroger store—all courtesy clerks were promoted to front end clerks, gaining raises, benefits, holiday pay and paid vacations in the process.

In fact, all Local 400 members working at Kroger under the Roanoke and West Virginia contracts have the power to make the same gains at their stores if management regularly assigns courtesy clerks tasks beyond the scope of their position, such as stocking shelves or providing break relief for cashiers.

Thanks to tough negotiating by Kroger members, the current contracts inRoanoke and West Virginia state clearly that if management at any store misuses courtesy clerks in this way three times, all courtesy clerks are promoted and the position is eliminated. It doesn’t matter how far apart the violations happen or whether they involve different managers or courtesy clerks—it’s “three strikes and you’re out!”

At Kroger #408 on Boonsboro Road in Lynchburg, Mary Little uncovered three such violations. They took place this fall, involving two courtesy clerks and two store managers.

“I saw that one courtesy clerk was manning the register,” Mary said. “I made sure what his classification was, and then I snapped a picture. They asked me what was going on and I explained why I did it. The courtesy clerk said he’d been working as a cashier for a while. I took it to the store manager; he blamed it on the courtesy clerk and said he’d deal with it. But he didn’t. Because several weeks later, I caught the same violation.

“A few weeks after that, I caught a different courtesy clerk working as a cashier and she told me she’d been doing it for almost a year,” Mary recalled. “Management did promote her and gave her back pay, which was good. She was very grateful, said she’d put her back pay in the bank and would use it toward college.

“Most important, this was the third violation,” she said. “So my representative and I put the wheels in motion to enforce the contract.” On January 6, 2017, Kroger confirmed the workers’ victory in a letter, stating:

A copy of the statement signed by Kroger announcing that all courtesy clerks at a store in Lynchburg would be promoted and the courtesy clerk job classification would be eliminated at the store entirely.

Store 408 will no longer hire associates into the Courtesy Clerk classification. All associates currently classified as a Courtesy Clerk will be reclassified as a Front End Clerk effective Sunday, January 8, 2016. All future associates being hired for the courtesy clerk position will now be hired and classified as a Front End Clerk for the duration of the existing contract.

This was a huge achievement, but Mary isn’t resting on her laurels. She travels to other Krogers on her two days off.  “I’m going to go to every shop steward,” she said. “I’m going to talk to them, hand them the playbook on how to do this, and tell them how we did it at our store. I’ll coach them, because all courtesy clerks deserve the same raises and benefits as the rest of us.

It’s not that hard to do,” Mary explained. “You just have to be focused and you have to pay attention to your surroundings. You can do your work and also look out for people at the same time. You have to know who your courtesy clerks are. Communication is the number one thing.”

“This is one area where it’s relatively easy for members to make a difference and improve the lives of their brothers and sisters,” said Local 400 representative Philip Frisina, who serves Kroger #408 and other stores in the region. “The process is so simple. If you see a courtesy clerk given non-courtesy clerk tasks, take photos, document the violation, and contact your representative. That’s all it took to get our members the promotions they deserved at this store, and that’s all it will take at any other store. The power is in our members’ hands.”

Under the Kroger collective bargaining agreements in West Virginia and in the Roanoke region, after the first written complaint, the store must stop assigning improper tasks to courtesy clerks. After the second written complaint, any affected courtesy clerks must start getting paid at the part-time clerk hourly rate effective immediately upon the date the written complaint is received. And after the third written complaint, the courtesy clerk classification is eliminated at the store.

“I believe everyone should be treated equally,” Mary said. “Courtesy clerks have a hard job. They’re out there in the snow and sleet pushing carts and I always thought it was wrong for Kroger not to give them benefits. They are my co-workers and my friends, and I’m going to do whatever I can to help them out. If I can make a difference in one person’s life, I’m all for it.

“It’s a wonderful thing that we did,” Mary emphasized, “and I’m just going to do everything I can to get every shop steward on board so we can get all of these courtesy clerks what they deserve.”

How YOU Can Take Action

If you work as a courtesy clerk, or if you see a courtesy clerk at your store doing work he or she shouldn’t have to do, you should file a written complaint. Remember, if this happens three times at your store, the courtesy clerk “classification” will be eliminated at your store and courtesy clerks will be promoted.

Here’s how you can make a difference:

  1. Ask your rep for a copy of the Courtesy Clerk Playbook – inside you’ll find all documentation and forms you need to properly file a complaint with your store manager.
  2. Take a photo of the courtesy clerk performing duties outside the scope of his/her job.
  3. Take a photo of the schedule for that day.
  4. Fill out a Notice of Complaint form and take a photo of the complaint after you’ve filled it out. The form can be found in the Courtesy Clerk Playbook.
  5. Give the completed Notice of Complaint to your store manager.
  6. Fill out an Incident Report form to document the violation. Write down anything the manager said after you delivered the complaint. Note the date, time, name of the courtesy clerk, and the name of the person you believe assigned the courtesy clerk improper duties. Take a photo of the form after you’ve filled it out.
  7. Send everything to Local 400 for our records, including the photos described above to:

Alan Hanson, UFCW Local 400
ahanson@local400.org
(301) 256-6405

Join Us to March Against Trump’s Anti-Worker Agenda (UPDATED)

The inauguration of the most unpopular President-elect in modern history is only a week away and union members will be joining with countless other organizations to say no to Donald Trump’s anti-worker agenda.

Labor union members, leaders and organizers will be participating in two marches to show our opposition to Trump’s proposed attacks on working men and women. Join us!

Friday, January 20, 2017 – Festival of Resistance: March Against Trump

12:00 p.m. Noon

Join the labor contingent on the east side of Columbus Circle, Washington, D.C.

DC-area labor union members, leaders, organizers, and staff are mobilizing for the Festival of Resistance, a march from Columbus Circle to McPherson Square, on January 20th. We’re calling on all union members – wherever you’re from – to join us!

Union members are encouraged to wear their union’s shirts/colors and to meet on the east side of Columbus Circle no later than 11:45 a.m. The march will kick off around 12:00pm (noon).

This march, part of DisruptJ20, will be fully permitted and fun! There will be families, marching bands, puppets, and other displays that show the diversity and power of the resistance to Trump.

It’s critical that organized labor participate forcefully in these early days of the resistance, as basic worker and union protections will be among the first to be attacked.

Interested in doing more? Want to take direct action on January 20th? We’re doing that, too. Check out: https://www.facebook.com/events/764142167083262/ for details.

 

Saturday, January 21, 2017 – Women’s March on Washington

8:30 a.m.

UPDATED LOCATION: Join the labor contingent at Garfield Park (3rd St SE and G St SE) near Capitol South Metro.

Join thousands of women on January 21 to send a message to the new administration and to the world that we will do everything possible to defend and protect women’s rights to defend and protect women’s rights!

Those unable to attend the D.C. march, please click on the link below to find a march near you in both the U.S. and Canada.

https://www.womenmarch.org/

Stay in a Fair Hotel This Holiday Season and Support Working Families

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The holiday season is one of the most travel-intense parts of the year, and many people will be visiting and sharing valuable time with loved ones. Your ability to travel and participate in these holiday traditions is, in many ways, a product of the hard work of people who have their own families and holiday traditions to try to enjoy. With our decisions each year, we can go a long way toward not only helping ourselves, but helping those around us, too. One key way to do this is to make sure that when you spend your money, it goes to responsible companies that do the right thing on behalf of their workers.

Lucky for holiday travelers, UNITE HERE has done the work to make sure you know which hotels are a good way to spend your money in support of working families. Their Fair Hotel Program is an easy way to make a real difference in the lives of the working people who make beds, prepare meals, clean rooms and do the other things that make your hotel experience a good one. When you use the Fair Hotel Program, not only do you make sure that working people can support their families, you help show that hotels that do the right thing can be prosperous hotels.

There are fair hotels in cities throughout the United States and Canada, across brands and price ranges. You can find a Fair Hotel online, with its iPhone app (search “FairHotel”) or with its Android app (search “FairHotel”).

Originally posted by Kenneth Quinnell at AFL-CIO

How To Report Scheduling Violations at Giant & Safeway

Report scheduling violations at ufcw400.org/1pm

Report scheduling violations at ufcw400.org/1pm

Is management violating your union contract?

We all know how hectic life can get. Between work, family, and other obligations, your time is precious. That’s why our union contracts with Giant & Safeway outline strict rules for managers who assign schedules at your store.

Unfortunately, all too often, managers ignore these rules and fail to post schedules on time or make changes to your shift without informing you properly. This not only makes it harder for you to plan your week, but it is a serious violation of our union contract.

Examples of scheduling violations:

Schedule is posted any time after 1:00 pm on Friday.

Schedule is incomplete when posted.

Schedule is changed without individually notifying employees.

Manager posts a sign telling employees to check schedule for changes instead of informing each employee individually.

Schedule does not list employees in order of seniority.

Report Scheduling Violations at Giant & Safeway

You can help us to ensure managers post schedules properly by reporting scheduling violations using the form below. We will file grievances to make sure every reported violation is addressed so you know your schedule and you can get back to what matters: planning your life on your time.