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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.

This Special Election Could Change the Future of Kentucky

A special election in northeastern Kentucky could impact countless working families throughout the state

Kentucky's House District 98

Kentucky’s House District 98

On March 8, Kentucky is holding a special election for the state’s House District 98, located in the northeastern part of the state.

Lew Nicholls (right), seen here with Kroger shop steward DJ Rhymer, is running for office in Kentucky House District 98 and strongly opposes "right to work" legislation.

Lew Nicholls (right), seen here with Kroger shop steward DJ Rhymer, is running for office in Kentucky House District 98 and strongly opposes “right to work” legislation.

The district includes Ashland and Russell, home to two Kroger stores where several hundred of our members live and work. The results of the election could have a major impact on our members and all hardworking families in Kentucky.

With a Republican governor in office, if the GOP is able to take control of the House, the state could be at risk of passing “right to work” legislation that could devastate our members and all hardworking families in Kentucky.

That’s why we’re calling on our members to support former judge and democratic candidate, Lew Nicholls, who is running for the seat against Republican candidate Tony Quillen.  Nicholls is an outspoken opponent of so-called “right to work” legislation, the anti-worker bill backed by the infamous Koch brothers.

The seat was previously held by Representative Tonya Pullin, who resigned after accepting a position as administrative law judge in December.  The vacancy has thrust the district into the forefront of a battle between parties for control of the state legislature.

While Republican candidate Tony Quillen has claimed he opposes “right to work,” there is a strong risk that his party could push through the bill even without his support.

Get Registered. Make A Plan. Vote On March 8.

We encourage all of our members in northeastern Kentucky to vote in this critical election.

Find your polling place from the Kentucky State Board of Elections and make a plan to vote on Tuesday, March 8.

Not registered to vote? You can learn how to register on the Kentucky State Board of Elections website.

“Right to Work” Rammed Down Throat Of West Virginia Workers

2016 Elections Are Opportunity to Reverse This Travesty

20160200-RTW is WrongLast week, the West Virginia legislature voted to override Governor Tomblin’s veto to pass a “right to work” law. The state is now the 26th in the nation to enact such legislation, despite a lack of bipartisan support and public polls demonstrating widespread opposition to the bill.

“Every West Virginia State Legislator who supported passing this bill should be ashamed of themselves,” said Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400. “Bills like this bring lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces to every state where it is passed. This unfair law is nothing but a special-interest scam to lower the wages of workers so corporations can enjoy larger profits.”

Unlike many states, West Virginia only requires a simple majority to override a veto, so the GOP-led legislature was able to force the legislation through by a narrow margin. The override in the state Senate took place through a narrow, party-line 18-16 vote. Though several GOP lawmakers in the House broke with their party to uphold the governor’s veto, it was still overridden by a 54-43 margin. The legislation is set to take affect July 1, 2016.

Though supporters spread the myth that the bill will be a boon to economic development in West Virginia, which is among the lowest-wage states in the country, there is no evidence to suggest that’s the case— seven of the 10 states with the nation’s highest unemployment have “right to work” laws..  “The real goal behind Right to Work is to weaken unions, pure and simple,” explained Kenny Perdue, president of West Virginia AFL-CIO.

This anti-union bias was exposed in one legislator’s mind-bogglingly ignorant comment on the senate floor. “People who support right to work are out working, the free riders are right up there,” said Senator Karnes as he pointed to the union members in attendance.

The passage of “right to work” makes 2016 an even more important election year in a state where all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for re-election.

Local 400 members were a constant presence in the state capitol to urge legislators to oppose "right to work."

Local 400 members were a constant presence in the state capitol to urge legislators to oppose “right to work.”

Local 400 members have already helped dozens of co-workers register to vote in an effort to encourage higher turnout in November. “We will continue to hold our elected leaders accountable to our members and voters,” vowed President Federici. “We will fight every single day to help hardworking people push beyond the limits of this legislation to find the better life that they deserve.”

Live in West Virginia? You can register to vote online through the Secretary of State’s website, or download a blank voter registration form to mail or deliver in-person.

UFCW Local 400 Condemns Passage of “Right to Work” in West Virginia

Not in my stateCHARLESTON, WV – In a partisan vote, today the the West Virginia legislature voted to override Governor Tomblin’s veto of the “Workplace Freedom Act,” commonly known as “right to work.”

Mark Federici, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, issued the following statement:

“Every West Virginia State Legislator who supported passing this bill should be ashamed of themselves.

“Bills like this bring lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces to every place that it is passed. It is a sweetheart deal for corporations that’s going to be paid for by everyday West Virginia families.

“The bottom line is ‘right to work’ will make it much more difficult for hardworking men and women to earn better wages, secure family-supporting benefits, or ensure proper safety in the workplace.

“This unfair law is nothing but a special-interest scam to lower the wages of workers so that corporations can enjoy larger profits. The UFCW Local 400 union family understands that people deserve better than partisan bills backed by out-of-state billionaires.

“We will continue to hold our elected leaders accountable to our members and voters. We will fight every single day to help hardworking people push beyond the limits of this legislation to find the better life that they deserve.”

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How You Can Help Stop “Right To Work” Before It’s Too Late

Bill T., Greg C. & Dave M. know "right to work" is WRONG for West Virginia.

Bill T., Greg C. & Dave M. know “right to work” is WRONG for West Virginia.

Last week, the West Virginia state legislature passed the deceptive, controversial “right to work” bill in a partisan vote. Instead of listening to hardworking men and women that live, work, and vote in West Virginia, the state legislature chose to bow to pressure from outside special interest groups backed by the infamous, billionaire Koch brothers.

But the fight is not over. We can still defeat this dangerous, detrimental bill before it’s too late.

Any day now, Governor Tomlin is expected to veto the bill and the legislature will hold a vote on whether or not to override the veto. We only need a few more votes to defeat the veto override!

Here’s how you can help:

Call A Legislator: 1-855-781-9909

Public pressure has already worked. Ten legislators broke with their party to oppose “right to work.”

We only need a few more votes. Your legislators just need to hear from you!

Call toll-free to speak with a legislator NOW: 1-855-781-9909

Attend A Rally This Week

Kathy says "I've worked hard for what I have - and I VOTE!"

Kathy says “I’ve worked hard for what I have – and I VOTE!”

Beaver, WV: Wednesday, February 10th

Rally from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the intersection of Rt. 307 & 904 Ritter Drive, Beaver WV 25813 (in front of National City Bank)

Parkersburg, WV: Friday, February 12

Rally from noon to 2:00pm at Lakeview Shopping Center, 100 Lakeview Center, Parkersburg, WV.

Contact: Andrew Stump 304-991-6890

Morgantown, WV: Friday, February 12

Rally from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the Mountainlair on the WVU Campus.

Contact: Scott DeWitt 304-216-9947

 

Kroger Employee Union Condemns Passage of “Workplace Freedom Act”

UFCW Local 400 decries attack on working families in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV – Today, the West Virginia House of Delegates voted 54-46 to approve the Workplace Freedom Act, commonly known as “right to work.”

Mark Federici, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, issued the following statement regarding today’s vote:

“Today’s partisan vote by the West Virginia state legislature is a major step backward for working families in West Virginia.

“Our members spent weeks placing calls to delegates and lobbying legislators in both chambers to oppose the bill. We even delivered more than 500 handwritten letters to legislators gathered from members in Kroger stores across the state urging them to oppose ‘right to work.’

“But instead of listening to hardworking men and women that live, work, and vote in West Virginia, the legislature instead chose to bow to pressure from outside special interest groups backed by the infamous, billionaire Koch brothers.

“As a union with members in ‘right-to-work’ states, we know all too well the harm of this anti-worker legislation. Just over the mountains in Virginia, our members already suffer the everyday consequences of ‘right to work’ legislation.

“Our members in Virginia earn as much as $2 less per hour, pay up to five times more out-of-pocket for benefits, and earn up to one week less vacation each year than their brothers and sisters in West Virginia – even working for the same company, doing the same job, with the same experience. The difference? Virginia is a ‘right-to-work’ state.

“This bill has nothing to do with ‘workplace freedom’ and everything to do with diminishing the power of working people to negotiate for a better life. The bottom line is “right to work” will make it much more difficult for hardworking men and women to earn better wages, secure family-supporting benefits, or ensure proper safety in the workplace.

“We look forward to Governor Tomblin’s veto of this dangerous, deceptive legislation, and we will continue to hold our elected leaders accountable to voters and uphold the veto when the bill inevitably returns to the legislature.”

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Help Defeat “Right To Work” (For Less) In West Virginia

Not in my stateIn the coming days the West Virginia legislature will be taking a vote on a confusing, controversial bill misleadingly called “Right To Work.”

Call our toll-free hotline NOW to be connected with a legislator in West Virginia and tell him/her to OPPOSE “Right to work.”

CALL TOLL FREE NOW
1-855-781-9909

This harmful bill could lead to much more dangerous workplaces, hurt our families’ pensions and could take upwards of $6,000 per year out of our paychecks. Radical, anti-worker billionaires from outside West Virginia claim that this terrible law will help create jobs, but 6 out of 10 states with the highest unemployment have “Right to Work.”

Our members in Virginia already know the dangers of “Right to Work.” This legislation means smaller paychecks and less power at the bargaining table to get the wages and benefits our families need.

Learn more about the dangers of “Right To Work” at WVworkers.com or follow #WVworkers on Twitter.

We Defeated “Right to Work” in West Virginia! — For Now

wvrtwmarkleaders

Photo by Leslie Bond, UFCW Local 23.

For the first time in 84 years that the Republican Party holds the majority of seats in both houses of the West Virginia legislature. Low turnout last November by Democrats in the state, along with money from wealthy out of state corporations and donors like the Koch brothers pouring into the state combined to bring anti-worker forces into power.

Despite their money coming from groups who want to weaken the power of workers and take money out of our pockets, these candidates did not run on an anti-worker agenda. If you look at what they were saying during the election, they were not talking about passing “right to work”, repealing the prevailing wage, bringing charter schools, or weakening safety protections for coal miners. But when they got into power, those things topped their agenda.

Our members in Virginia know what “right to work” is really about. It gives people no rights and no work. It only undermines the power of working people and hurts their ability to win strong collective bargaining agreements.

We decided early that we are not going to let “right to work” come to West Virginia. We pulled six strong members out of their stores to help lead the fight, Tami Faulknier, Mike Belcher, Tim Belcher, Andy Keeney, Larry Southern, and Randy McCray. Our lead lobbyist, Sterling Ball, was at the state capitol every day, joined whenever possible by our West Virginia Regional Director Chuck Miller, our President Mark Federici, and members from around the state. We talked to every elected official who would listen. We met early on with the state AFL-CIO and other allies to build a strong coalition to fight back. Our leadership on the issue was noticed.

On February 18, we brought nearly 100 shop stewards, along with members of UFCW Local 23 and the Chemical Workers Council, to the state capitol in a massive show of force and lobby day.

We continued the fight through the end of the legislative session, educating members in the stores, getting them to make phone calls, write letters, and volunteer to fight back. We turned out in force, along with Local 23, to the massive Mountaineer Workers Rising Rally on March 7 at the state capitol. You can watch us making noise below.

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Joined by labor leaders from across the state and across the country, and 7,000 workers from across the state, President Mark Federici fired up the crowd and gave us the final push of momentum to defeat both “right to work” and charter schools this year. A bill that weakens the prevailing wage rules was passed and some coal mine safety rules were rolled back. Most importantly: The out-of-state anti-work forces did not achieve their goals, the workers’ and their unwire hustle in making their voices heard combatted them.

Congratulations to our West Virginia members who fought hard and won the first battle, but the war on workers in West Virginia continues, and we will continue to take the lead in fighting back.
What to get involved in the next round of making our voices heard? Email Local 400 Deputy Director of Campaigns.