Amid contract dispute, union workers picket outside homes of General Mills leaders

On Monday, many of them hoped to show the plant’s management that they’re fed up. Members of Local 110 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said General Mills’ contract offer isn’t fair. Workers are looking to secure higher pay and hold on to their overtime and premium weekend pay, along with their healthcare and retirement benefits. Union members said more than 300 people picketed in different places around the Cedar Rapids area on Monday night, including a group of more than 50 workers, who chanted and held signs outside the home of General Mills’ plant manager in Robins. read more and see video at 9 ABC Iowa

As Housing Works Launches Union-Busting Campaign, Elected Officals Demand Workers' Concerns are Heard

Less Than a Week After 100+ Housing Works Workers Walked Out Over Workplace Concerns Over 50 Elected Officials Are Demanding a Real Neutrality Agreement Be Signed by Management   (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, a delegation of City & State elected officials delivered a letter signed by more than 50 elected officials to Housing Works management demanding they sign a neutrality agreement with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The delegation and sign-on letter comes less than a week after 100+ Workers across Housing Works’ New York City locations walked off the job to demand the non-profit hear their workplace concerns. During the walkout workers also attempted to deliver Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULPs) that they filed with the National Labor Relations Board to their employer. The union has been demanding management sign a neutrality agreement that ensures a fair unionization process free from pressure or coercion of any kind. After the walk-out workers returned to work later that day to make sure their clients’ care was not disrupted. NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, Assemblymember Gottfried (Health Committee Chair), Senator Robert Jackson, Senator Julia Salazar, Assemblymember Walter Mosley, Assemblymember Michael Blake, and Assemblymember Yuh-line Niou were joined by other representatives from the New York State Senate and Assembly, and the New York City Council, and representatives of the RWDSU to deliver the letter (attached). Jumaane D. Williams, NYC Public Advocate: “I'm disappointed to have learned an organization whose work and mission I've supported over the years has allowed a situation like this to not only manifest, but also fester. The very people charging these complaints are members of the community Housing Works is charged with serving. These workers have the right to unionize in the same way they have the right to healthcare and safe housing.  Unionizing for fair treatment is empowering, union busting is a shame. I'm calling on the leadership at Housing Works to do the right thing.” Corey Johnson, NYC Council Speaker: “I stand with workers and urge Housing Works to sign a neutrality agreement and respect your employee’s rights to form a union. Your work fighting HIV/AIDS and homelessness is inspiring. Your workers need to be able to exercise their rights in order to carry on the advocacy our city needs.” Richard N. Gottfried, NY State Assembly Health Committee Chair: “We support Housing Works, and we support the workers at Housing Works. People want to make a living and be treated with fairness and respect; that’s what having a union is all about.” Robert Jackson, NY State Senator, District 31: “I was disappointed to learn of the opposition of Housing Works management to unionization. The workers have expressed their issues and concerns with proceeding within the NLRB framework, and Housing Works has shamefully denied their request for a signed neutrality agreement. I hope Housing Works management has a change of heart and agrees to come to the table. I thank the RWDSU and the courageous rank-and-file workers of Housing Works who are engaging in this fight to exercise their rights to collectively bargain over their conditions of employment.” Yuh-Line Niou, NY State Assemblymember, District 65: “Refusing to sign a neutrality agreement sends a bad signal of union busting to the hard workers at Housing Works. The workers deserve to be able to exercise their right to join a union without pressure or coercion of any kind. We need a real, formal commitment for neutrality from Housing Works. No company should be actively working to prevent their workers from organizing and unionizing. Our workers deserve to have concerns regarding pay, benefits, workloads, and workplace protections addressed. If our workers decide a union process is the best way forward, then our workers should be free to do so.” Brian Grady, Housing Works – Downtown Brooklyn, Housing Coordinator: “I’ve been the Housing Coordinator at Housing Works for over a year and a half. I had high hopes for Housing Works but after working here for a while I’ve found that there is a high turnover because of many structural issues. Low pay, problems with paid time off, and the lack of a living wage at this job are demoralizing for us. With a union, we can fix Housing Works and make it a good place to work.” Maren Hurley, Housing Works – Midtown Manhattan, Reentry Group Facilitators with the SMART Department: “Our clients are concerned at the high turnover rates and the lack of response from management to both staff and clients on this and other concerns. Working for Housing Works is a constant ethical crisis, not only for our wellbeing but also that of our clients, that can and needs to change. We as reentry service providers recognize that we work in a para-military environment, however we do not consent to endangerment of our safety through mishandling of sexual harassment incidents, exposure to extreme temperatures and retaliation by leadership.” Adrian Downing-Espinal, Housing Works – Midtown Manhattan, Harm Reduction/Substance Use Councilor: “It’s demoralizing that an organization with Act Up roots, which is a model for radical organizing would be so against a grass roots union movement. It’s also shocking that it would do business with a ‘union avoidance’ law firm that is the antithesis of progressive values. I came to Housing Works because of the mission and the values of the organization. There is a solid core of workers who are committed to the Housing Works mission, but a lack of will from management to support us in our fight for a union voice.” Jessica Quashie, Housing Works – Former East New York, Care Navigator: “There are multiple instances where a Departmental Supervisor has made me feel uncomfortable. For instance, he has misgendered trans and gender-non-conforming colleagues of mine in my presence and frequently discusses workers genitals in relation to their gender. There have been several other unprofessional interactions with him that have made me feel uncomfortable working with him. When I reported these instances to my direct supervisor and asked not to have to interact with him at work, she said that she would take care of it. However, nothing has changed. I feel that a union is necessary at Housing Works to prevent this type of harassment from occurring and to deal with it in a concrete way in instances where it does. Going through my direct supervisor and the HR channels available to us is not working. We need an independent voice for the workers to protect us from abusive supervisors and make clear what kind of conduct is and is not appropriate in the workplace.” Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU): “When workers at Housing Works came to our union with their workplace concerns, I was shocked to hear some of the issues they face every day. That’s especially surprising at an organization that so many New Yorkers, myself included, so firmly believe in. It is clear that Housing Works has strayed very far away from its original progressive values in dealing with its workforce, and it’s deeply troubling. When attorneys, care navigators, housing coordinators, maintenance workers and social workers stand shoulder to shoulder they should be heard. The workers at Housing Works have bravely come forward with their stories and our union will support them every step of the way in their fight to form a union. “We presumed that a progressive non-profit like Housing Works would respect the right of their workers to join a union. Instead their progressive messaging is just a façade for the truth. Housing Works management is behaving just as anti-union as much of corporate America. In fact, H&M, ZARA and countless others have signed neutrality agreements that go far above and beyond what Housing Works is willing to do. Their refusal to sign a neutrality agreement and their hiring of a ‘union avoidance’ attorney demonstrates their true intent. Workers walked out today to make clear that they need change in their workplace. These workers will not be stopped, and our union will be there with them throughout.” More About the #FixHousingWorks Campaign:  For months, workers at Housing Works have raised serious concerns about their workplace environment to management. With conditions only worsening, workers believe that union representation is the best way for them to address their concerns. Workers have described unmanageable caseloads, lack of training, discrimination and harassment, and health and safety issues. Workers have raised concerns about pay and benefits, including that their health insurance doesn’t provide adequate coverage for workers transitioning genders. These workplace issues are central not just to employee welfare, but to client care as well.   Housing Works provides housing assistance, and health and wellness care to thousands of New Yorkers living with HIV+/AIDS, as well as raising funds for its work through a number of book, clothing, and furniture retail thrift stores. Workers believe in the mission of the organization and want the same standard of care for employees as it provides for clients. Workers are urging Housing Works to reach a formal neutrality agreement with the RWDSU so that they can exercise their right to join a union free from pressure or coercion of any kind. Unfortunately, the process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is all too often used by anti-union employers to keep workers from unionizing. Under the Trump administration, this problem has only gotten worse.  Housing Works actions have thus far shown an anti-union animus and a refusal to be neutral despite claiming otherwise. A signed agreement would show real commitment to neutrality and to an orderly and respectful process. Workers are urging the non-profit to live up to its progressive principles and reach such an agreement so that workers can fully exercise their rights. 

General Mills Union Could Call for Strike Next Week in Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS — Members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 110 will vote Wednesday on whether to call a strike at General Mills’ Cedar Rapids manufacturing facility for as early as next week. The union represents some 520 workers at the Cedar Rapids facility, at 4800 Edgewood Road SW. The bargaining unit members perform production, sanitation and maintenance work, according to a news release from the union.   read more about it in the Iowa Gazette  

Strike Looms for Workers at General Mills Cereal Company

(CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s (RWDSU) Local 110, announced that the workers at General Mills’ production facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa may go on Strike as early as next week.   At their last negotiations meeting, General Mills presented a “last, best and final” offer to workers. The offer did not include any real protections of a labor contract, and contains no significant raises, no maintenance of benefits over the term of the contract, and no other provisions that would support workers at the facility. The contract also seeks to install unfair scheduling practices, and third-party subcontracting that could move jobs from Cedar Rapids to non-union facilities nearby or abroad.     On October 3, 2019 workers voted to authorize a strike. When General Mills presented their “last, best and final” offer, it triggered a contract vote – which will take place on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. Workers will have no other choice than; either voting for an empty contract or going on strike.   Workers at General Mills voted to join the RWDSU on January 9, 2019. Winning the right to fair representation, a seat at the table and a real chance to stop the bleed out of their long-held benefits. Throughout the contract negotiations workers have been fighting for a voice and fair treatment in the workplace, as well as needed paid time off and fair wages. General Mills’ last offer provides almost nothing new for workers, potential job losses, and unfair scheduling practices which means the likelihood of a strike looms heavily.   “The best way for working people to protect themselves and their families is to join together in a union and to fight for a strong contract. The workers at General Mills are doing just that. These workers must not be treated as disposable by General Mills. The Company can, and must, do better. If workers are forced into this zero-sum game, they will stand strong. This is a workforce where many members have spent 20-30 plus years working at this iconic American brand and the fact that the company won’t recognize the hard work they do every day is outrageous,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).   “When we began contract negotiations, we looked forward to building a positive working relationship with General Mills that would lift up the hard work our members do every day. It is clear, however, that General Mills never shared this desire. Presenting a ‘last, best and final’ offer with countless loopholes that can harm workers is no contract offer at all. We hope that General Mills will rethink this empty contract and come back to the table so we can ensure they are part of the continuance of good paying full time jobs in Cedar Rapids for many years to come. If not, workers will have no choice but to go on strike, we don’t want that, General Mills can’t want that, and it will only hurt the Cedar Rapids economy,” said Roger Grobstich, Vice President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).   “I’ve worked at General Mills for over 38 years, I’ve stared them directly in the eyes through months of contract negotiations and I am stunned, to say the least, by their ‘last, best and final’ offer on our contract. I know everyone who works alongside me knows that representation from the union and a fair contract will change our future here. We will not back down. General Mills cannot get away with this, we are united and if we have to we will go on strike and shutdown this plant,” said Tim Sarver, General Mills worker.   RWDSU represents approximately 520 workers at the General Mills manufacturing facility in contract negotiations. The workers in the bargaining unit handle production, sanitation and maintenance at the facility. General Mills’ workers are members of Local 110 of the RWDSU, which also represents workers across town at the Quaker Oats facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and at Coles Quality Foods in North Liberty, Iowa.

Over 100 Workers At Housing Works Across The Five Boroughs Walked Out And Demanded Their Concerns Be Heard

Workers Delivered ULP Charges and Demanded Management Allow Workers to Organize Truly Free of Intimidation – HIV/AIDS Non-Profit Says It Prefers to Rely on Trump Labor Board to Oversee Process and Plans to Launch Union Busting Campaign (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, workers across Housing Works’ New York City locations walked off the job to demand the non-profit hear their workplace concerns. Over 100 workers gathered at Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza to speak out about the working conditions that they face throughout their organization and how they need to see change now. Workers also delivered Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULPs) that they filed this morning with the National Labor Relations Board to their employer (attached). The union has been demanding management sign a neutrality agreement that ensures a fair unionization process free from pressure or coercion of any kind. After the speak-out workers returned to work later that day to make sure their clients’ care was not disrupted. For months, workers at Housing Works have raised serious concerns about their workplace environment to management. With conditions only worsening, workers believe that union representation is the best way for them to address their concerns. Workers have described unmanageable caseloads, lack of training, discrimination and harassment, and health and safety issues. Workers have raised concerns about pay and benefits, including that their health insurance doesn’t provide adequate coverage for workers transitioning genders. These workplace issues are central not just to employee welfare, but to client care as well. Brian Grady, Housing Works – Downtown Brooklyn, Housing Coordinator: “I’ve been the Housing Coordinator at Housing Works for over a year and a half. I had high hopes for Housing Works but after working here for a while I’ve found that there is a high turnover because of many structural issues. Low pay, problems with paid time off, and the lack of a living wage at this job are demoralizing for us. With a union, we can fix Housing Works and make it a good place to work.” Maren Hurley, Housing Works – Midtown Manhattan, Reentry Group Facilitators with the SMART Department: “Our clients are concerned at the high turnover rates and the lack of response from management to both staff and clients on this and other concerns. Working for Housing Works is a constant ethical crisis, not only for our wellbeing but also that of our clients, that can and needs to change. We as reentry service providers recognize that we work in a para-military environment, however we do not consent to endangerment of our safety through mishandling of sexual harassment incidents, exposure to extreme temperatures and retaliation by leadership.” Adrian Downing-Espinal, Housing Works – Midtown Manhattan, Harm Reduction/Substance Use Councilor:“It’s demoralizing that an organization with Act Up roots, which is a model for radical organizing would be so against a grass roots union movement. It’s also shocking that it would do business with a ‘union avoidance’ law firm that is the antithesis of progressive values. I came to Housing Works because of the mission and the values of the organization. There is a solid core of workers who are committed to the Housing Works mission, but a lack of will from management to support us in our fight for a union voice.” Jessica Quashie, Housing Works – Former East New York, Care Navigator:“There are multiple instances where a Departmental Supervisor has made me feel uncomfortable. For instance, he has misgendered trans and gender-non-conforming colleagues of mine in my presence and frequently discusses workers genitals in relation to their gender. There have been several other unprofessional interactions with him that have made me feel uncomfortable working with him. When I reported these instances to my direct supervisor and asked not to have to interact with him at work, she said that she would take care of it. However, nothing has changed. I feel that a union is necessary at Housing Works to prevent this type of harassment from occurring and to deal with it in a concrete way in instances where it does. Going through my direct supervisor and the HR channels available to us is not working. We need an independent voice for the workers to protect us from abusive supervisors and make clear what kind of conduct is and is not appropriate in the workplace.” Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU):“When workers at Housing Works came to our union with their workplace concerns, I was shocked to hear some of the issues they face every day. That’s especially surprising at an organization that so many New Yorkers, myself included, so firmly believe in. It is clear that Housing Works has strayed very far away from its original progressive values in dealing with its workforce, and it’s deeply troubling. When attorneys, care navigators, housing coordinators, maintenance workers and social workers stand shoulder to shoulder they should be heard. The workers at Housing Works have bravely come forward with their stories today and our union will support them every step of the way in their fight to form a union. “We presumed that a progressive non-profit like Housing Works would respect the right of their workers to join a union. Instead their progressive messaging is just a façade for the truth. Housing Works management is behaving just as anti-union as much of corporate America. In fact, H&M, ZARA and countless others have signed neutrality agreements that go far above and beyond what Housing Works is willing to do. Their refusal to sign a neutrality agreement and their hiring of a ‘union avoidance’ attorney demonstrates their true intent. Workers walked out today to make clear that they need change in their workplace. These workers will not be stopped, and our union will be there with them throughout.”   More About Housing Works: Housing Works provides housing assistance, and health and wellness care to thousands of New Yorkers living with HIV+/AIDS, as well as raising funds for its work through a number of book, clothing, and furniture retail thrift stores. Workers believe in the mission of the organization and want the same standard of care for employees as it provides for clients. Workers are urging Housing Works to reach a formal neutrality agreement with the RWDSU so that they can exercise their right to join a union free from pressure or coercion of any kind. Unfortunately, the process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is all too often used by anti-union employers to keep workers from unionizing. Under the Trump administration, this problem has only gotten worse. Housing Works’ actions have thus far shown an anti-union animus and a refusal to be neutral despite claiming otherwise. A signed agreement would show real commitment to neutrality and to an orderly and respectful process. Workers are urging the non-profit to live up to its progressive principles and reach such an agreement so that workers can fully exercise their rights.   Follow news and updates on the #FixHousingWorks campaign: Website: www.housingworksunion.org  Instagram: @housingworksunion Twitter: @hworksunion

New York Times - Housing Works Is Cast in Unusual Role: Corporate Overlord

In today's New York Times, employees of the non-profit Housing Works talk about the challenges they face on the job and why they are standing together to form a union with RWDSU.   Read the NYT story here. And click here to visit the website for the campaign to #FixHousingWorks.

Take the UFCW OUTreach Online Survey!

UFCW OUTreach and the UCLA Labor Center are conducting a survey of members across the U.S. and Canada. We are examining workplace climate and equity for LGBTQ+ workers, as well as union organizing and member priorities. Take the Online Survey and enter to win a $50 Gift Card & an iPad! All UFCW Members Ages 18+ can Participate. The Survey is anonymous and takes about 10 minutes to complete. Participation in the survey is not required in order to participate in the raffle . Survey begins September 10, 2019 and will remain open until December 10, 2019! Need more details? Contact Saba Waheed: swaheed@UCLA.edu or (213) 480-4155 X214 or Jean Tong jean.tong@ufcw770.org (213) 590-7177. Continue reading

Apply For A Scholarship To Attend The Creating Change Conference

OUTreach, the UFCW constituency group for LGBTQ+ and allies, is offering scholarships to RWDSU members to attend the 2020 Creating Change Conference in Dallas, TX from January 15-19, 2020. The scholarship recipients will learn from a broad range of social justice issues and develop skills to bring back to their workplaces and local unions. Past session topics include labor, gender equality, community organizing, criminal justice, immigration and more. Click here to apply now. Continue reading

NYCOSH Releases Report On Adverse Working Conditions At Amazon's Staten Island Distribution Center

  (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released a report, “Time Off Task: Pressure, Pain, and Productivity at Amazon” that highlighted the company’s unhealthy workplace practices at their Staten Island, New York facility. “Amazon has a well-documented history of mistreating and dehumanizing its workers in the U.S. and around the world. NYCOSH’s report shows the impacts at just one facility, in just its first year of operating. Testing hundreds of thousands of workers physical limits across the country is the wrong approach to increasing productivity. Operating at speeds where ‘80% of workers feel pressured’ means Amazon needs to hire more workers, under more sustainable speeds that don’t put worker’s lives in jeopardy. Amazon needs to understand that human beings are not robots,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). You can read the full report here.

Workers At Valley View Manor Nursing Home In Norwich, NY, Unanimously Vote To Ratify Their First RWDSU Contract

(NORWICH, NEW YORK) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), announced that the workers at Valley View Manor Nursing Home (VVM) in Norwich, New York, voted unanimously to approve their first union contract. The negotiations committee worked tirelessly to secure a strong contract that ensures workers’ concerns will be heard. In order for workers to provide the best care for their patients they need to have fair scheduling, safe staffing levels and to be heard by management when they raise concerns about patient care. This first contract does that and so much more. “Workers at Valley View Manor showed 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). “It is clear that nursing home workers want change not just for themselves, but for their patients. The contract stipulations that workers at VVM secured helps accomplish both goals. It will make the nursing home not only a better place to work, but a better place to live.” Continue reading