Even today, women who work in middle-class jobs across America face pronounced barriers and gender discrimination in the workplace, as exemplified by the recent Demos report on gender inequality in retail wages. However, workplace inequality can manifest in other, more subtle ways – such as the manufacture of products containing Bisphenol-A, or BPA.
BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical, which alters hormone production and behavior, disrupting the body’s normal functions. In a 2012 six-year study, BPA was found to have a pronounced effect on women who work in the automotive plastics and the food packaging industries.
These women are five times more likely to have breast cancer than women who work in other industries.
BPA, which is found in the epoxy lining of the metal food can and released into the air during the food canning process, was banned by the FDA in the manufacture of baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging. Many private companies have taken further steps to remove BPA from products. However, BPA exposure is still a problem for thousands of manufacturing and packaging workers in America.
In order to address this problem, the UFCW has joined allies such as the Communications Workers of America, the United Steelworkers, and the United Automobile Workers in supporting the Ban Poisonous Additives Act, or the BPA Act.
The BPA Act would remove BPA from food packaging, encourage the development of safe alternatives, and ensure a thorough safety review of all currently used substances in food and beverage containers. It is currently in committee in the House, where it needs to be passed by the House and the Senate and approved by the President before it becomes a law.
This week, Thanksgiving is upon us, and it also happens to be International Food Workers Week. It’s a time when we should be celebrating and giving thanks to all, but especially to those that work to provide the food we feast on during this holiday.
Unfortunately, right now, “government officials are moving forward with plans to privatize some poultry inspections at chicken and turkey slaughter plants in a manner that could compromise worker and consumer safety”, reports an In These Times article. Rather than use government officials, some poultry companies will now conduct poultry inspections with individuals directly hired by them. Additionally, the speed of inspections will be allowed to increase, meaning slaughter line speeds will “be increased from 32 turkeys per minute to 55 birds per minute, with similar increases for other poultry. That’s too fast to do proper inspections for signs of disease or other health problems in the birds,” according to Ken Ward, a retired veteran of the USDA, “and could lead to unsafe food being shipped out to local supermarkets and butcher shops.”
This USDA pilot program “seems rigged to provide financial benefits to the producing companies while putting food safety at a lower priority” says one top lobbyist from a food safety advocacy group. He notes that in order to correct the problem, we must create new legislation to ensure food and worker safety is not ignored.
Over 65,000 UFCW members work in the meatpacking industry, including the poultry sector. If the plans go through, our members are at risk of ailments that have been associated with increased line speeds, including musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome. The UFCW is calling for further study on the worker safety elements of the USDA proposal before it goes forward.
“The hardworking people who produce our food should be protected from dangerous conditions that lead to avoidable injuries,” says another activist, Tom Fritzsche. “The current system may be profitable for the poultry companies, but it relies on systematic exploitation of workers. Now, regulators are about to make conditions even more hazardous.”
Last week, in a press conference, “former turkey plant worker Esmundo Juarez Carranza endorsed efforts to stop the USDA plan and issued a plea for better treatment of poultry workers. Carranza says he was unfairly fired from his job at a Cargill turkey slaughter facility in Springdale, Ark. after leaving his post on the production line to use the bathroom without first getting permission from supervisors.” Carranza and his coworkers “suffered from low pay, onerous working conditions and abusive managers. As the poultry producers strive to maintain fast line speeds, he says, they’re subjecting workers to tighter restrictions—and often disregarding the workers’ emotional and physical well-being.”
With a union, workers can stand together to fight for better working conditions at poultry plants. Workers like Esmundo Carranza don’t deserve to be treated like animals, simply because the company values profit over people. UFCW members are continuing to support legislation that will ensure safety first for the workers and protect consumers. Together, we can ensure food-workers are treated with the respect they deserve.
Three women a day are killed as a result of domestic violence. Every one out of five women are raped in their lifetime. These sobering statistics are why reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should be above petty politics. Unfortunately, House Republicans are casting aside their moral compass for their political one and women across the country are being left vulnerable.
The annual incidence of domestic violence has decreased by more than 53 percent since VAWA became law in 1994 and reporting by victims has also increased by 51 percent. This dramatic improvement helps explain why the VAWA has been reauthorized twice since 1994 without controversy.
The latest version of the bill, which has bipartisan support in the Senate from Democrats and Republicans, broadens the law by expanding its provisions to cover Native Americans, gays, and lesbians. The bill would also give more emphasis to sexual assault prevention and take steps to reduce the rape kit backlog.
While the bill is expected to pass in the Senate with bipartisan support, House Republicans are balking at the prospect of allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit domestic and sexual violence on reservations. Perhaps they should look at the statistics.
Compared with other groups, Native American women are more likely to be raped and abused. The National Congress of American Indians released findings that showed 39 percent of American Indian and Alaska native women will experience violence by a partner in their lifetimes.
Currently, non-Native Americans who abuse their spouses often go unpunished because federal authorities don’t have the resources to pursue misdemeanors committed on reservations.
At UFCW, we have a long, proud history of standing up for fair and equal treatment of all workers both inside and outside of the workplace. Expanding the VAWA to Native Americans, gays, and lesbians isn’t just an essential step towards ensuring the domestic abuse crisis in this country is met, it’s also the right and fair thing to do.
Moderate House Republicans should call on their leadership to pass the bipartisan Senate bill as soon as they are able. Lives are depending upon this bill getting off the back burner and passing. The battered and abused don’t have time for these political games.
WASHINGTON – The almost $600,000 settlement announced Monday between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and DeMoulas Super Markets Inc., commonly known as Market Basket, is a step forward for the safety of retail workers everywhere. The settlement requires safety fixes at all of the companys more than 60 stores across Massachusetts and New Hampshire, along with real safety programs for workers going forward.
Its critical that OSHA continues to take company-wide actions like these to protect workers, said Jackie Nowell, Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Occupational Safety and Health Office. Rather than addressing problems with employers like Market Basket piecemeal and leaving workers at risk OSHA can make real changes to systematic problems that occur across an entire company.
The enforcement action came after repeat safety violations by the company including two serious injuries to Market Basket workers in almost-identical falls from unguarded storage areas in two different stores. Workers at Market Basket dont have a union at their work, making it harder to stand up for safer stores.
This new enforcement program clearly shows that when OSHA finally gets tough with bad-actor employers, workers get better protection far faster than waiting on empty promises by corporate executives to comply with our basic safety laws, said Nowell. We hope the Obama Administration will continue using these new tools to give all workers especially the many retail workers who dont yet have a union a safe place to work.
(Washington, D.C.) — Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, today released the following statement after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) approved a final rule to modernize the union election process.
“”This NLRB rule is a modest but important first step toward ensuring a level playing field for workers in the union election process. Preventing unnecessary delays and frivolous litigation means less time for employers to intimidate, harass, and in some cases fire pro-union employees. Every worker has the right to decide whether he or she wants a union, free of interference.
“Now it is time for the Senate to confirm President Obama’s nominees to the NLRB. Leaving the Board short of a quorum in 2012 is unacceptable.”
Provision will compromise food safety by allowing states to forgo federal meat and poultry inspections
Washington, D.C. – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) joined forces with the American Federation of Government Employees today to oppose a provision in the House Farm Bill that will put consumers at risk of food borne illnesses and further subject food workers to unsanitary work conditions.
The provision will eliminate a 40-year-old protection in the federal meat and poultry inspection acts that bans state inspected meat and poultry from being sold in interstate commerce. The provision will also allow the vast majority of meat and poultry plants to forgo federal inspection in favor of more lax state inspections, which ultimately puts the health and safety of millions of consumers at risk.
“This amendment will weaken America’s food safety net, pure and simple,” said Michael J. Wilson, UFCW International Vice President and Director of Legislative and Political Action. “Anyone who pretends that state inspection is the same as federal inspection also believes in the Tooth Fairy. In addition, it will encourage thousands of facilities who are currently federally inspected to opt for a more ‘friendly’ state inspection. Like a tainted piece of meat, this provision deserves the stamp of rejection.”
For more than 100 years, the UFCW has been fighting to improve the working conditions of food workers and the safety of our food, and currently represents more than a quarter of a million workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries. In addition to protecting the rights of food workers, the UFCW is also a founding member of the Safe Food Coalition which consists of consumer groups, groups representing victims of food borne illnesses, and watchdog groups that are dedicated to reducing the incidence of food borne illnesses in the United States.
Washington, DC—The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) applauds and supports the ‘‘Protective Equipment for America’s Workers Act,’’ introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Act, also known as H.R. Bill 1327, sponsored by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), seeks to require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to complete its rulemaking on Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for workers. This Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule would require employers to pay the costs of protective clothing, lifelines, face shields, gloves and other equipment used by an estimated 20 million workers to protect them from job hazards.
For nearly eight years, OSHA has failed to issue a standard requiring employers to pay for PPE. The rule was first announced in 1997 and proposed in 1999 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a ruling by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission that OSHA’s existing PPE standard could not be interpreted to require employers to pay for protective equipment. In 1999, OSHA promised to issue the final PPE rule in July 2000. But it missed that deadline and has missed every self-imposed deadline since. The agency has failed to act in response to a 2003 petition by the AFL-CIO and UFCW and numerous requests by the Hispanic Congressional Caucus.
By OSHA’s own estimates, 400,000 workers have been injured and 50 have died due to the absence of this rule. The labor groups say that workers in some of America’s most dangerous industries, such as meatpacking, poultry and construction, and low-wage and immigrant workers who suffer high injury rates, are vulnerable to being forced by their employers to pay for their own safety gear because of OSHA’s failure to finish the PPE rule.
“”Nothing is standing in the way of OSHA issuing a final PPE rule to protect worker safety and health except the will to do so. It is long overdue that the agency takes action on protective equipment. The time has come to force OSHA to act,”” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President.