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:  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: [email protected] or (213) 480-4155 X214 or Jean Tong [email protected] (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 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

Workers At Diversicare In Selma, AL, Vote To Join RWDSU

  Employees at Selma, Alabama Health Care Facility Want Better Care for Their Patients and Better Treatment for Themselves and Their Co-Workers   (MOBILE, AL) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), announced that workers at the Diversicare facility in Selma, Alabama, voted overwhelmingly to join the RWDSU Mid-South Council. Employees worked tirelessly to win their organizing drive as they look to address numerous issues at work that have resulted in patients at the facility not receiving the best care possible. Employees at Divsersicare spoke of being overworked, not receiving enough paid time off and vacation time, understaffing, and difficulty in being heard by management when it came to workplace issues. 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. Continue reading

How the Iowa Caucus Disenfranchises Voters

How the Iowa Caucus Disenfranchises Voters Democrats want to make voting more inclusive. In Iowa, they’re struggling. Sonya Sayers, a 56-year-old Democrat from Des Moines, Iowa, has encouraged her friends to vote in every caucus and general election for as long as she can remember. But she hasn’t always done so herself. Back in 2016, when she worked the late shift at a local fast-food restaurant, Sayers often didn’t get off until midnight, long after the caucus was over. She doesn’t work nights anymore, but she’s still not sure she’ll make it to the caucus this coming February. Read it here at The Atlantic

RWDSU Joins Inditex and UNI Global Union In Celebrating The Tenth Anniversary Of The Company's Global Framework Agreement

Today, Inditex and UNI Global Union, a federation of 20 million service workers including retail workers from more than 150 countries, celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Global Framework Union. The Union was entered into by the two entities in 2009. During an event that took place at the Madrid head offices of the Economic and Social Council, the executive chairman of Inditex, Pablo Isla, and the general secretary of UNI Global Union, Christy Hoffman, reviewed the key milestones that have taken place during the collaboration between the Group and the union federation. The general secretaries of CCOO, José Maria Martínez, and of UGT, Miguel Ángel Cilleros, and the president of the US Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Stuart Appelbaum, presented a case study looking at how the agreement was successfully applied in the US. They all agreed on the importance of the role of the local unions in adapting the principles enshrined in a global agreement for each market. José Maria Martínez of CCOO said, “We are commemorating an agreement that has been good for the interests of Inditex and good for the interests of the men and women working for it in its various operating markets. But that is not all. We can also reaffirm that dialogue - at the national and global levels - between enterprises and unions is the best way of tackling management-employee relations in an economy in the throes of transformation”. The spokesperson for UGT said that “application of the Inditex-UNI Global Union agreement in all of the Group's stores and chains in the US has helped other American firms to see that employee unionisation, a stable labour relations framework and fair working conditions are compatible with concepts such as corporate competitiveness, profitability and growth”. Lastly, the president of the RWDSU said that “New York Zara workers saw the power of this global agreement first hand. They set a positive trend for workers in the industry across the U.S. – and they did so with a fair process that other companies should learn from and follow. The agreement has changed thousands of worker lives, improving their jobs, their wages, and their benefits, but it has also changed the retail industry”. Continue reading