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Congratulations to ABC Drawing Winner, Ashley Owens

Local 400 member Ashley Owens from Safeway #4205 in Washington, DC is the most recent winner of our Active Ballot Club drawing! Congratulations, Ashley!

All across the country, corporations and the ultra-wealthy are funneling unprecedented amounts of money into our political system. Their goal is to create an unbalanced and unfair economy where wages are as low as possible and profits replace respect for the workers that created them.

The UFCW Active Ballot Club (ABC) seeks to level the playing field. By bringing together thousands of workers, our political concerns can be amplified to a decibel that is impossible to ignore. ABC supports pro-worker candidates and incumbents from all political parties and is the prominent political action committee dedicated to the interests of UFCW members nationwide.

By joining ABC, active members are automatically entered to win a monthly drawing. Learn more about the UFCW Active Ballot Club and talk to your rep about signing up today!

Local 400 Members Speak Out on Capitol Hill

Local 400 members and staff pause for a photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as part of the first-ever Local 400 Lobby Day on March 23, 2017.

Local 400 Members Descend on Capitol to Urge Opposition to “Right to Work,” Immigration Raids, Trumpcare

Sometimes it seems like members of congress don’t listen to us. They don’t seem to understand the needs of ordinary, hardworking men and women who just want a better life. All too often, it appears that they’re too busy listening to corporate lobbyists and special interest groups instead of the voters who elect them.

On Thursday, March 23, members of Local 400 decided to do something about it. More than 35 members of Local 400 descended on Capitol Hill to meet with their senators and representatives in congress as part of our first-ever lobby day.

While the House was poised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw 24 million Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, Local 400 activists met with their members of Congress, urging them to oppose this bill (also known as Trumpcare), oppose national “right to work” legislation, and oppose immigration raids on workplaces.

“You are the most important people here today,” Local 400 Mark P. Federici told the member lobbyists before they fanned out across Capitol Hill to meet with their senators and representatives. “You own these buildings. You own these offices. The people you’re meeting with work for us.

“Some people would rather we be quiet,” Federici said. “That’s not what we do. Real people speaking to real power is a uniquely American experience. We deserve to have our voices heard. If it wasn’t for us, nobody would be talking about wages, health care, pensions, and working conditions.”

The members had three central messages for the senators and representatives they met with.

1) Oppose “Right to Work”

Republicans in Congress have introduced national “right to work” legislation that would drive down wages and benefits for working Americans. In the states that have enacted “right to work” laws, including Virginia, earn about $6,000 less per year than those in other states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These laws undermine union members’ bargaining power by letting freeloaders benefit from the dues of their co-workers.

“Sooner or later, everyone needs help,” said Charlene Haley, a shop steward who works at Safeway in Fairfax, Virginia. “And then you have to represent them, even if they haven’t contributed anything. It happens all the time.

“When an employee gets in trouble, I coach them what to say and that’s usually enough so they can keep their job,” she said. “Afterward, they join Local 400 because they understand the value of union membership. But it shouldn’t have to come to that.”

“‘Right to work’ laws are unfair to our members, drain our resources, and push down wages,” Federici said. “That’s why we demand that our representatives join us in leading the fight to defeat this legislation in Congress.”

2) Oppose Trumpcare

While Local 400 members were meeting with their elected officials, the U.S. House was considering the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare), legislation that would undo the Affordable Care Act, take health care coverage away from 24 million Americans, and give massive tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy.

Isoline Pistolessi, a shop steward at Kaiser Permanente’s Falls Church Care Center who just won Kaiser’s National Extraordinary Nurse Award, has seen first-hand the impact of the Affordable Care Act and fears what would happen under Trumpcare. “I’ve seen patients who just got health insurance for the first time; that’s what enabled them to come in and get care. We can’t take that away from them.

“We need to make health care more affordable, not less,” Pistolessi said. “But this bill will send premiums sky-high, especially for older people. That means if we’re ready to retire before we’re eligible for Medicare, we won’t be able to afford health insurance.

“As someone who provides medical care, I’m especially concerned about the impact of this bill on emergency rooms, hospitals and urgent care centers that have to treat everyone who comes in the door, whether they have insurance or not,” she added. “With 24 million people losing insurance, that’s going to be a real problem.”

Taralyn Pike, a shop steward at Giant #748 in Arlington, expressed her concern about Trumpcare’s huge cuts to Medicaid. “My son has had strep throat six times over the last six months,” she said. “He’s on Medicaid. If not for that, I don’t know what I’d do.”

“This bill won’t fix anything that’s a problem with the Affordable Care Act,” said Local 400 Chief of Staff Mike Wilson. “It’s a handout for wealthy people. It transfers wealth from the poor and middle class to the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent. And it makes insurance a lot more expensive.”

In a number of recent collective bargaining agreements, health care for Local 400 retirees has shifted to the state insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, supported by stipends from employers and federal premium subsidies. But Trumpcare could upend that.  “This bill will make it tougher for older people to afford health care,” Federici said. “We represent lots of retirees. I shudder to think about how they will get their health insurance if this bill passes.”

3) Oppose Immigration Raids

The UFCW has bitter experience with immigration raids. In 2006, a series of raids at six Swift & Company meatpacking plants in the central U.S. resulted in UFCW members—including U.S. citizens and green card-holders—being rounded up, detained and criminalized. The rhetoric and policies of the Trump Administration raise the threat that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could launch a new round of raids at UFCW workplaces, and Local 400 members urged their elected officials to oppose any such efforts.

Isoline Pistolessi offered personal testimony about why raids are so wrong. “My family came to this country from the Dominican Republic when I was six years old,” she said. “My father was going to be assassinated and came here as a political exile. Before we left, our neighbors were raided and it was very scary—I could hear the screaming. No one should ever have to go through that—especially here in the U.S.

“I became a U.S. citizen eight years ago,” she noted. “I had to work really hard to get my citizenship. We need to make it possible for others to follow the same path.”

“You walk into any grocery store in our area and it’s like Ellis Island,” Federici said. “We’re proud of that. Our workplaces—and especially our union—offer opportunity for those who come to America to seek a better life. We don’t want to see any ICE raids. And we want our members of Congress to have our backs if any do occur.”

Following the meetings, the members were energized by the supportive response they received from most of the senators, representatives and staff they met with. Many in attendance said they gained a lot from the experience and they would speak to their sisters and brothers about the key issues before Congress and the importance of activism.

“I would definitely do this again!” said Charlene Haley as the group wrapped up for the day.

“Bad things happen when good people stand back,” Federici said. “But good things happen when we speak out and fight back. That’s a lesson we all gained today.”

Check out photos from the Local 400 Lobby Day on Facebook.

New Law Guarantees Eight Weeks of Paid Leave for New Parents in D.C.

Photo via Pexels

Starting in 2020, D.C. workers can take up to two weeks of paid sick leave, six weeks paid time off to care for sick loved ones and eight weeks of paid time off for new parents

In a landmark victory for workers in the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia has enacted universal paid leave legislation, providing one of the nation’s most progressive packages of family and medical leave benefits.

The Universal Paid Leave Act provides that workers can take up to two weeks of paid leave to treat their own personal health issues and up to six weeks of paid leave to support a loved one who is seriously ill or dying. New parents will have the right to take up to eight weeks of paid leave, making D.C. the first jurisdiction in the country to provide equal parental leave to all mothers and fathers, regardless of whether they are adoptive, foster or birth parents.

It covers anyone who works in D.C.’s private and nonprofit sectors, including part-time workers, tipped workers, and self-employed residents. It is funded by a 0.62 percent payroll tax on employers. The law provides for the payroll tax collection to begin in 2019 and eligible employees will begin receiving the benefit in 2020.

The D.C. Council passed the measure by a 9 to 4 vote in December, and Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to veto the legislation in February. As with all laws in the District, the bill now goes to Congress for review and is expected to become law in early April.

The overwhelmingly popular legislation was supported by about 80% of District residents. Washington, D.C., now joins California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island in mandating paid leave. Only 12 percent of Americans have access to paid family leave from their employer, and unlike almost every other nation in the world, the United States does not provide any form of paid time off for new mothers.

“No one should ever have to choose between a paycheck and their family,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “Thanks to the D.C. City Council, most workers in the nation’s capital won’t have to make that horrible choice anymore. They will be able to take care of themselves when they’re sick and take care of their loved ones without sacrificing their ability to feed their families and pay the rent or mortgage. We congratulate all nine Council Members who had the courage to do the right thing in the face of fierce business opposition.”

“Passage of the Universal Paid Leave Act demonstrates the power of families who united across the District around the shared need for vital benefits,” said Local 400’s Dyana Forester, who lives in Ward 7, and helped organize a broad-based coalition of more than 200 organizations that led to victory.

The Universal Paid Leave Act was introduced by Councilmembers Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) and David Grosso (I-At Large). Also voting for it were Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Robert White (D-At Large) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large).

April 29: March for Climate, Justice and Jobs

Learn more about the People’s Climate March at peoplesclimate.org

Join Local 400 for the People’s Climate March on April 29th in Washington, DC

Climate change is already causing major problems. We see it in record high temperatures, increasingly severe weather, and rising sea levels. And unless we take bold action now, it will only get worse, ultimately threatening human survival.

That alone is reason enough to combat the root causes of climate change. Unfortunately, too many elected leaders are ignoring the facts, and in many cases, they’re making matters worse.

At Local 400, we know we can’t ignore the facts. Our members will be directly impacted by effects of climate change. Across the globe, research suggests climate change will hurt working families the most. It will impose the greatest hardships on lower-income and working class communities because they are especially vulnerable to flooding, toxic air and water, and other environmental problems. And it will devastate our economy, causing massive job losses.

That’s why Local 400 is proudly joining many other labor unions in the April 29th People’s Climate March on Washington.

“It’s no accident that the Trump Administration and congressional extremists are undoing policies to fight climate change and undermining workers’ rights at the very same time,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “Their agenda is to enrich big business and the wealthiest Americans at the expense of working families. They’re putting everyone from Big Oil to union-busting employers first and the interests of hardworking Local 400 members last.

“So we must join together with every individual and organization committed to social, environmental and economic justice to resist Trump’s anti-worker agenda,” Federici said. “That’s what the People’s Climate March is all about. I encourage all our members to join us on April 29th.

The march’s agenda includes support for a $15 minimum wage, a demand for a “just transition” for workers negatively impacted by the shift to clean and renewable energy, and a call for bold investments in communities threatened by climate change.

Join us on April 29th in Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March. Learn more at peoplesclimate.org and help the spread the word with these helpful resources.

Jibril Wallace: Fighting for Paid Leave

Jibril Wallace has been working at the same Safeway in Washington, D.C. for 28 years, since she was a teenager helping her mother pay the bills. Now her income helps support her two children, ages 18 and 8. Through the years, Jibril moved up from courtesy clerk to food clerk to file maintenance manager, overseeing pricing and tagging. And for much of that time, she had no paid sick days.

“When you were sick, or the kids were sick, you went to work,” Jibril said. “You found a relative who worked in government and had sick leave if you could. Or I’d do the overnight shift and their dad would stay with them, and I’d be there during the day.”

When asked how she managed being sick herself, Jibril said, “I’m not quite sure what that is—you still had to go to work.” For a long time she could get only part-time hours—and part-timers had to be out three days before being paid for any illness. “Your body is giving you a sign that you need to rest,” she explained. “But you’d just medicate yourself, go in and pray you’ll feel better. I had to support myself.”

Jibril described the reckoning she’d go through, imagining the loss of eight hours pay. “I’d already be thinking to next Thursday, what did I have to be planning for financially,” she said. Because hours can fluctuate so much, many employees have to arrange before and after-school care.  Eight hours represents the weekly payment for that care.

But since the District of Columbia’s paid sick days law was expanded to include part-time workers, Jibril has a new peace of mind. “It’s very relieving to know if your kid or you yourself are sick, there will still hours on your check,” she said.

As a Local 400 leader and activist, Jibril makes sure to stay informed and to keep her co-workers informed about their rights. “Management is not going to tell you,” she said. “They tried to play around with it, but it got big, you’d hear it on the news.”

When a manager tried to deny one employee his sick time, Jibril straightened him out. “It’s not coming out of your pocket,” she told him. “It’s the law now.” Jibril is also alerting Safeway workers in Montgomery County, where a strong, comprehensive paid sick days law is now in effect.

Still, workers often aren’t aware of their rights. Jibril described a night stocker who got an infection after having a tooth pulled. “She sent me a picture of how swollen her face was and said she’d been told not to call out.” Jibril told her to take paid sick days. The woman was able to heal and come back to work.

“It’s awesome to know you have that cushion,” Jibril said, “especially when you’re part time. Everybody gets sick, or has a parent or kid who’s sick. This really helps out.”

Original post by Family Values At Work

D.C. Council Advances Expansive Family and Medical Leave Rules

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The Council of the District of Columbia not only moved the Universal Paid Leave bill forward on Dec. 6, but restored medical leave to the program. The proposal now includes eight weeks of parental leave, six weeks of family leave and two weeks of medical leave, making it one of the nation’s most generous packages of family and medical leave benefits.

“Today’s vote demonstrates the power of families who united across the District around the shared need for vital benefits,” said Ward 7 resident Dyana Forester of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, which represents grocery and retail workers, many of whom are workers of color. “Now it’s up to the council and mayor to take the final step to make it a reality.”

The final vote on paid family leave is scheduled for Dec. 20. Mayor Muriel Bowser has still not indicated if she will ultimately support the bill, despite the backing over 80% of Washington, D.C., residents.

Read the details of the paid family leave bill.

Originally posted by Chris Garlock at AFL-CIO

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

CONTACT: Ari Schwartz DC Jobs With Justice; ari@dcjwj.org 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.”

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You can find Chairman Mendelson’s statement here.

District of Columbia Set to Enact $15 Minimum Wage

20160427-DC Wilson Building Letter Delivery (iPhone) - 16

Nation’s capital will join Seattle and San Francisco to become third major city to enact $15 minimum wage

On Tuesday, July 21, the District of Columbia City Council passed historic legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour in a major victory for the “Fight For $15” movement. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has pledged to sign the bill, which will make the nation’s capital the third major city to pass a $15 minimum wage, along with Seattle and San Francisco.

The $15 hourly wage could impact as many as 114,000 working people in the District, or around 14 percent of the city’s workforce, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute.

On July 1st, the city’s minimum wage will increase from $10.50/hour to $11.50/hour under previous legislation championed by Local 400 and others. The new bill will provide annual increases to the minimum wage beginning in 2017 until it reaches $15/hour in 2020. After that, it will be adjusted for inflation each year.

Yearly Minimum Wage Increases in Washington, D.C.

July 2016 – $11.50

July 2017 – $12.50

July 2018 – $13.25

July 2019 – $14.00

July 2020 – $15.00

Local 400 has been leading the Fight for $15 in the District of Columbia and other states where our members live and work. But while we praise the D.C. Council members and Mayor Bowser for enacting the $15 minimum wage, we’ve also called on them to take two other steps essential to improve the lives of D.C. workers:

Pass Just Hours legislation (also known as the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act) to guarantee stable hours and predictable scheduling for  men and women working in chain restaurants and retail stores in the District.

Pass the Universal Paid Leave Act to help low-wage workers safeguard themselves and their families in the event they are without income for an extended period.

“While wage increases are a crucial and necessary step, wages alone are not enough to give every hardworking District resident a fair shot at a better life,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “We look forward to seeing the Council demonstrate this same leadership in passing Just Hours legislation, which will guarantee District workers won’t struggle with too few hours on too short notice, as well as Paid Family Leave, which will bring the U.S. up to speed with other developed nations by providing reasonable accommodations to workers who choose to start a family.

“It’s important that all workers earn the income that would allow them to support a family—and that their jobs provide the predictability and flexibility that allow them to actually raise a family,” Federici said. “That’s why paid leave and fair scheduling practices are so essential—because parents must be empowered to both provide for and be present for their children.”

Take Action

Do you live or work in Washington, D.C.?

Call the city council at (202) 724-8000 and Mayor Muriel Bowser at (202) 727-2643 and urge them to pass the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act and the Universal Paid Leave Act.

For the latest information on each bill, visit dcjusthours.org and dcpaidfamilyleave.org.