Details Count Once Again in Marijuana Legalization Push

The legalization of cannabis in New York is once again on the agend for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and many state lawmakers. But even as the proposal is being pushed in part to aid a cash-strapped state by generating more revenue, the measure could once again face similar scrutiny over how it aids communities affect by stricter drug laws of the past.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday formally called for the inclusion of a marijuana legalization measure, pointing to the need to generate more cash for the state, but also as the criminal justice issue it has been considered for years by advocates. "This will raise revenue and will end the over criminalization of this product that has left so many communities of color over policed and over incarcerated," he said.  And progressives are going to be closely watching to ensure that is the case with whatever final measure is agreed to. A joint statement from the Rev. Al Sharpton, former Bernie Sanders campaign chair and Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum pointed to the need for an equitable distribution of revenue, workplace compensation and the right to join a union.  read the rest at NY1

RWDSU Commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This month, Americans everywhere salute the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Dr. King's legacy has special meaning. We take special pride that, in 1968, the RWDSU was the first union anywhere to negotiate a contract guaranteeing Dr. King's birthday as a paid holiday. The RWDSU was among the earliest supporters of Dr. King's grassroots drive to challenge racial injustice in the South.  In Chicago during the 1960s, RWDSU provided an important forum for Dr. King to speak out against poverty in America's cities.  Later, thousands of RWDSU members stood shoulder to shoulder with other Civil Rights Activists during the historic 1963 March on Washington. Dr. King saw the Civil Rights struggle and the labor movement as closely linked.  He was a constant ally of Union Activists and most have forgotten that Dr. King was in Tennessee to support a Living Wage for Sanitation Strikers on that terrible April day in 1968 when he was slain at the age of 39. Dr. King spoke about the importance of the labor movement on many occasions, some of which you can read about below. In reflecting on the life and work of Dr. King, the RWDSU recognizes the fight he began is not over until equality for all is a reality, and it is up to our generation of RWDSU members to complete his mission. Below is our 2021 commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (Click to enlarge)  


“The events that occurred in our nation’s capital yesterday should have horrified all people living in our country. The very act of storming the U.S. Capitol in the name of overturning this election directly undermines our democracy. At the same time, we are dismayed by the wholly inadequate response from law enforcement officials. “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a historic movement for racial justice grow in this country. Unfortunately, the response from the President, law enforcement, and the national guard at many Black Lives Matter rallies throughout our cities could not have been more different. It pains us to watch the security at the Capitol put up little to no resistance as they both let in and escorted out the people attempting this coup against our nation. We have to be clear - the probable reason that this coup attempt was not dealt with in the same way as the Black Lives Matter rallies was because the people attempting it were white and not seen as threatening. We must call this out and take a stand against the deep racism that allows a situation like this to take place. “It cannot be lost on us that Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to “take action” and “stand by” for January 6th as he continues to spread conspiracies and lies about the results of this election. In the labor movement, we’re used to employers using these same kinds of tactics to undermine workers’ rights and keep working people disempowered. As a union, we know how to overcome division and bring people from many different backgrounds together with a common goal for justice. Although Trump lost this election, we can’t expect this way of thinking to disappear once he is removed from office. We need to join together across race, gender, and class lines to push back against Trumpian logic and this rise of the far right. Our democracy depends on it,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).                                    # # # The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.

Housing Works employees join RWDSU

Housing Works employees gave themselves a late Christmas present last week. Employees at Housing Works, in a vote of 88% to 12%, agreed to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) after two years of organizing efforts. The vote was conducted via mail-in ballots that were sent to the Labor Board on Dec. 14. The union will now represent all 605 Housing Works employees in the five boroughs and help negotiate a contract with Housing Works this year. Workers at the bargaining table will reportedly deal with all issues involving health care, retail, social work and legal. Workers hope that their affiliation with RWDSU will help them fix issues that have exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve complained about long hours and low wages at the organizations’ thrift stores and bookshops around the city citing an average pay of $16 an hour during 16-hour days and six-day weeks. Read more at Amsterdam News  Continue reading


Cannabis Legalization Provides Opportunity for Working People  (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to legalize adult-use cannabis in New York ahead of his State of the State address. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents workers in the medical cannabis industry across New York State. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU and John Durso, President of Local 338 RWDSU issued the following joint statement:  “Legalizing adult use-cannabis will create incredible opportunities for New York’s communities at every level of the industry, from ownership to management to the workforce. It’s been estimated that our State has the potential to see 30,000 new jobs just from this industry and as a result, we must ensure that these are quality, union careers and that neighborhoods that have long been struggling have access to these jobs. As a labor union, a key component of the work that we do in advocating for working men and women is related to fighting for economic and social justice. Legalizing cannabis is a natural bridge for this work, and we appreciate that it’s one of Governor Cuomo’s priorities this year. We’re looking forward to working with Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to ensure that 2021 is the year New York legalizes adult-use cannabis,” said John R. Durso, President of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).    

NYC Housing Works employees overwhelmingly vote to unionize

After two years in the trenches, and a tense confrontation last year with their employer, Housing Works staffers across New York City have voted to unionize. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union announced on Dec. 23 that the nonprofit’s workers voted 88% to 12% to join the national union, which represents 100,000 workers across the country. The holiday vote was the largest union election in New York state this year, union officials said. “These workers experienced a needlessly long fight to unionize their workplace. Their tenacity, and fortitude never wavered in this unnecessarily long process, which was stalled by their employer at every turn,” said union president Stuart Appelbaum. Read more at NY Daily News 

Housing Works Employees Vote to Join RWDSU

Housing Works employees voted by an overwhelming margin to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) on Dec. 23, representing a major victory for workers at a non-profit organization that serves individuals living with HIV/AIDS and experiencing homelessness. Employees voted 88 percent to 12 percent to join RWDSU in a lopsided vote that sent a strong message to Housing Works CEO Charles King and his management team, which has mounted resistance to the organizing effort. According to RWDSU, contract negotiations will kick off next year. Workers covered under the bargaining unit include case workers, social workers, healthcare and retail employees, and maintenance and legal staffers. “We’re proud to finally and officially welcome the 605 workers employed by Housing Works into our union,” RWDSU’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, said in a written statement. “Workers experienced a needlessly long fight to unionize their workplace. Their tenacity and fortitude never wavered in this unnecessarily long process, which was stalled by their employer at every turn.” The vote came more than a year after workers stormed off the job last October and marched to Brooklyn Borough Hall, where employees — backed by RWDSU — aired out their concerns about low pay, poor healthcare coverage, high caseloads, and other issues at Housing Works, which also operates thrift shops in multiple locations around the city. More here at Brooklyn Paper


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 23, 2020 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259   HOUSING WORKS EMPLOYEES VOTE TO JOIN THE RETAIL, WHOLESALE AND DEPARTMENT STORE UNION Workers Secure Right to a Union After 2-Year Battle (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s (RWDSU), announced that by a vote of 88% to 12%, workers across all Housing Works locations voted to join the RWDSU. After two years of organizing, these 605 workers have finally achieved their right to fair representation, a seat at the table and a real chance to fix issues at Housing Works – which have only become more pronounced during the pandemic. “We’re proud to finally and officially welcome the 605 workers employed by Housing Works into our union. These workers experienced a needlessly long fight to unionize their workplace. Their tenacity, and fortitude never wavered in this unnecessarily long process, which was stalled by their employer at every turn. Together, they are ready to win a strong contract that will only enhance their ability to care for the Housing Works community. The results of this union election continue to show that the best way for working people to protect themselves and their families is to join together in a union,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The vote to unionize by workers at Housing Works was conducted by mail-in vote, with ballots having been due at the Labor Board by December 14, 2020 for tabulation. The RWDSU will represent the 605 workers at the non-profit organization in contract negotiations, which will commence in 2021. The workers in the bargaining unit handle maintenance, legal, casework, social work, healthcare and retail at Housing Works facilities across New York.   # # # The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.  

Video Tribute to RWDSU Civil Rights Trailblazer Henry Jenkins

Link to video on YouTube: Henry Jenkins, who passed in November, 2011, left behind a vibrant legacy of helping countless thousands of working families build better lives for themselves. His life’s work spans decades and influenced generations in the south. And while Jenkins found his home in the labor movement which he loved, his commitment to justice went beyond even his union activism, embracing the civil rights movement that changed America forever. It is no exaggeration to say that Henry Jenkins put his life at risk to help others as he fought for economic justice in the south in the 1960s and beyond. His lifetime of commitment to the labor movement began when Jenkins was just a teenager when he went to work at the Ward Baking Company in Birmingham, Alabama in 1948. There he helped make breads and cakes in an environment so hot that at the end of the day there wasn’t a dry spot on his body. It was hard work, but it was also a union job, and Jenkins quickly came to appreciate the difference it made – a difference that was especially poignant in the deep south still caught in the chokehold of Jim Crow and segregation. Jenkins’ membership in the RWDSU helped ensure that he was entitled to fair wages, good benefits, and vacation time, things that many other southern workers – African American or otherwise – didn’t enjoy at the time. Jenkins has said that most importantly, union membership brought equality and fair treatment on the job. It was an equality that he and his African-American co-workers had yet to enjoy outside of work, during an era where disenfranchisement was still the norm. Jenkins immediately got involved in the union and became a shop steward, and then moved on to become an organizer, spreading the seed of union activism throughout Alabama. During the time Jenkins and his fellow organizers were bringing an RWDSU voice to workers in Selma, Montgomery, and other cities and towns throughout the south, the civil rights movement was blossoming as a new generation of Americans declared they’d had enough of the old ways. And the burgeoning civil rights movement and the labor movement often crossed paths. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., viewed the labor movement as an important component of civil justice and racial equality, and he worked side by side with unionists in the South. In 1965, Jenkins himself personally delivered tents and other supplies to marchers along the route of the landmark Selma to Montgomery marches that proved to be a pivotal event in the civil rights movement. Fighting for Change, Never Backing Down The violence and intimidation that sadly marked the civil rights movement also crossed over into the labor activism in the south that Jenkins had dedicated himself to. In 1964, while driving through Montgomery to speak with workers at Whitfield Foods who wanted to join the RWDSU, Jenkins’ 1962 Ford came under fire, and he found himself with a bullet hole in his windshield. He had been targeted by the Klan and harassed by crooked police officers. He received threatening phone calls at home in the middle of the night, from the same types of scared people who saw that their world of inequality, segregation, and bigotry was coming to end. But like the civil rights activists who would change the South, Jenkins never gave up and he never backed down. His courage helped bring a union voice to thousands of workers in Alabama who needed a union to help them stand up for themselves. In 1979, Jenkins was elected president of the Alabama and Mid-South Council, serving until earlier this year when he announced his retirement. Jenkins also served as an RWDSU Vice-President and Regional Director, and as a UFCW International Vice President. During Jenkins’ tenure as council president, the RWDSU continued to bring a voice to working people in the south, extending far beyond Birmingham, Alabama, where Jenkins started out. Thanks to a culture of activism and organizing that was the hallmark of Jenkins’ leadership, the Alabama and Mid-South Council flourished. Facing the Challenges of Post-Civil Rights Movement South Jenkins’ tenure was characterized by a growth in RWDSU membership for poultry workers, who work demanding jobs in sometimes brutal conditions. As the poultry industry has grown and changed, so have the need for worker protections, and the RWDSU was there to bring a union voice where it was needed most. Jenkins became an outspoken advocate for the rights of immigrant workers. He likened the terrible treatment of immigrant workers to the viscous bigotry suffered by African Americans and fought for their equal treatment. Jenkins never really stopped working – up until his recent illness, he could still be spotted at the Alabama and Mid-South Council offices, offering advice and assistance to the new generation of union activists who he had inspired. While he will not be given the opportunity to enjoy a lengthy retirement, those who knew him say he was truly happiest doing what he had spent most of his life doing: helping bring tremendous positive change to the lives of working people.


(NEWARK, NJ) –  Today, in response to the committee passages of the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act A4/S3295, Charles N. Hall Jr., President of Local 108 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following statement: “We are pleased to see that the agreement between the Governor and legislative leadership on economic recovery and tax incentives reform includes labor harmony provisions. Good high-paying jobs for our members are a win for our union and a win for New Jersey. We support this legislation and urge it's swift passage.”