Bangladesh Accord Swells to Over 100 Brands

GENEVA, February 14, 2018—Global unions IndustriALL and UNI are announcing today a major milestone for the 2018 Transition Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh: the number brand signatories has swelled past 100. As of today, 101 brands have signed the 2018 Transition Accord, which goes into effect when the 2013 Bangladesh Accord expires in May. The 2018 agreement currently covers more than 1,200 factories and at least 2 million workers. With new brands signing daily, these number are growing rapidly. An updated list of signatories can be found here: “The brands that have signed the 2018 Transition Accord are showing a commitment to transparency and to the safety of Bangladeshi workers,” said Valter Sanches, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union. “The Accord’s legally-binding framework is the only credible way to guarantee that life-threatening fire and structural hazards are remediated in a timely manner in ready-made garment and textile factories.” “We were confident that the vast majority of 2013 signatories would sign the 2018 Transition Accord and now that we have broken 100 signatories, we are almost there,” said Christy Hoffman, Deputy General Secretary of UNI Global Union.  “We’ve made improvements to the industry and turning away now simply doesn’t make sense. It is also important to make these advancements in worker safety sustainable through functioning Health and Safety Committees and the Transition Accord will put a priority on this work.” Speaking at the UNI Commerce Executive meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, Stuart Appelbaum, the President of UNI Commerce and of RWDSU (UFCW) commented: “We are all proud to see so much progress with the Transition Accord, which breaks new ground in protecting freedom of association and continues the original Accord’s key focus on ensuring safety at work. It sends a strong message to employers all over the world that we are serious about changing the rules of the supply chain.” IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Jenny Holdcroft added, “The recent legal victory on behalf of Bangladeshi garment workers shows the power of the Accord in action. The Accord It is a legally binding commitment to make factories safe, and it has the power to fundamentally change the way garments and textiles are produced.” Last month, IndustriALL and UNI reached a US$2.3 million settlement under the 2013 Accord with a multinational apparel brand to remedy life-threatening workplace hazards. It was the second settlement of its kind, and one of the largest payments made by a brand to remedy workplace dangers in its supply chain. More about the Bangladesh Accord The Bangladesh Accord, which covers 2.5 million workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry, was established by IndustriALL and UNI in 2013 following the Rana Plaza disaster that killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured more than 2,000. It is the first agreement with a legally-binding mandate requiring fashion brands to require their contractors to eliminate fire, structural, and electrical safety issues. Accord inspectors have so far carried out inspections on more than 1,800 factories supplying over 200 brands, identifying over 118,500 fire, electrical, and structural hazards. Eighty-three percent of workplace dangers identified in the Accord’s original round of inspections have been remediated, and 500 Accord factories have completed 90 percent or more of the necessary fixes. The 2018 Transition Accord was signed in June of last year. The legally-binding document goes into effect when the original agreement expires in May and extends the Accord’s protections until 31 May 2021, unless a joint monitoring committee—comprised of Accord brand signatories, Accord trade union signatories, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Government of Bangladesh) unanimously agrees that a set of rigorous conditions for a handover to a national regulatory body have been met prior to then.  

RWDSU Backs Dettelbach for Ohio AG

The RWDSU, along with numerous UFCW locals and other unions in Ohio, has officially endorsed Steve Dettelbach for Ohio Attorney General. “The time has come for Ohio to have an Attorney General who puts people before politics. Steve has spent his career fighting for justice for working people, no matter who they work for, Steve is not afraid to stand up to business owners who hurt working people - no matter what,” said RWDSU Regional Director Rick Marshall. “We will fight for him to win this election, because we know he will fight for us as Attorney General,” Marshall added.

RWDSU Members Defeat Poultry Line Speed Increase

RWDSU Members in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia Worked Tirelessly to Ensure their Health and Safety Came First, Signing Thousands of Postcards and Delivering Them in Person to the USDA to Defeat a Life-Threatening Request by the National Chicken Council   Today, President Stuart Appelbaum of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) congratulated the Mid-South Council and the Southeast Council of the RWDSU on their work in defeating a proposal by the National Chicken Council (NCC) to the USDA that would have put poultry workers at increased risk for injury and potentially endanger the general public from food inspection failures. Members of the two councils who work throughout the southern United States in large poultry plants leafletted their workplaces, called fellow members, and went door-to-door to get postcards signed against the egregious proposal by the NCC. Members of the Mid-South Council attempted to deliver the petitions in person to the USDA in December, but we’re denied in person delivery, watched what happened:   “I am proud of the work of the Mid-South Council and the Southeast Council of the RWDSU. Their efforts brought a real challenge to the National Chicken Council, and under a presidential administration that has shown no understanding of the issues working people face – and they won,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “Many of RWDSU’s 25,000 members across the south went door-to-door, made phone calls, and spoke directly with fellow members at worksites to sign the postcards. I am proud of how effective the councils of the RWDSU were in the face of grave odds, they defeated a proposal that would have put not just their own lives at risk, but the lives of every American that eats chicken. Individual poultry plants will now have the opportunity to petition the USDA for speed increases and I know our members will continue to work tirelessly to defeat any proposal that puts their health and safety below corporate greed.”   “If you’ve ever been to or worked in a poultry plant you know firsthand the dangers workers face every day, working shoulder to shoulder, wrist to wrist, the proposal to increase line speeds would have irreparably injured so many workers – today is a huge victory for our members and all poultry workers – we faced Goliath and won,” said John Whitaker, Executive Vice President and Regional Director of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).   “We represent 10,000 plus members that work in poultry plants throughout the south, but there are so many others without union representation, many of whom are immigrants and do not have documentation. The current presidential administration has forgotten working people, union and non-union, documented and undocumented, but today, we showed that when we stand for our values, and we stand for working people and we can and will be heard in Washington, D.C. I am proud of the work of our members to defeat this horrific proposal and we will continue to fight against any proposal that will increase the speeds,” said Randy Hadley, President of the Mid-South Council of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).   “Workers in the south are a force to be reckoned with. Today’s victory is no small measure of the power of RWDSU members. Increasing the line speeds would have hurt thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of poultry workers across the country – not to mention poultry consumers, our members stopped this proposal in it’s tracks. When we work together we can win together, we stood for our values, we stood for what is right and we won, not just for our members, but for all working people,” said Edgar Fields, President of the Southeast Council of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Union Membership Rises, But Rate Still Low

The number of Americans who belong to a labor union rose by about a quarter of a million in 2017, though the overall percentage of the workforce represented by a union remained at an all-time low. New figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday show 10.7 percent of American workers are members of a labor union, unchanged from a year before. That share represents 14.8 million, up 262,000 from 2016. The share did not change despite the increase because the economy added so many new jobs over the course of the year. Read more about it at The HIll

RWDSU Endorses Cuomo for Gov.

STATEMENT FROM STUART APPELBAUM: RETAIL, WHOLESALE AND DEPARTMENT STORE UNION ENDORSES ANDREW CUOMO FOR GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK RWDSU, First Union to Endorse Governor Cuomo’s Third Term   NEW YORK, NY – Today, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), announced the union’s endorsement of Governor Andrew Cuomo in his bid for a third term. The RWDSU is the first union to announce support for the Governor, and was the first to support him in his first campaign for Governor, and also first in his race for Attorney General.   “The RWDSU is proud to endorse Andrew Cuomo for a third term as Governor of the State of New York.   “At a time when we have serious concerns about what is going on in Washington, DC, Governor Cuomo has proven that you can govern effectively, and advance progressive change in a unifying manner.   “Not only has he ended the dysfunction that he found upon taking office, making government work again, and has improved our state’s infrastructure rebuilding bridges and airports, but he has also achieved progressive goals that many mistakenly believed might be unachievable.      “After a Democratic controlled state senate failed to enact marriage equality, Governor Cuomo worked with a Republican state senate to make same sex marriage the law of New York before the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit.   “Look at the minimum wage – we were the first in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage, and to do it in a bi-partisan way. This has been, and continues to be, a major progressive goal.   “And he has established paid family leave, proposed statewide scheduling reforms to protect workers and their families, and has called for a review of the sub-minimum wage that tipped workers – including car wash workers – receive.   “As a progressive union, we have a shared vision with Governor Cuomo. Not only has he articulated our agenda, he has accomplished progressive reform. It is not enough to articulate an agenda, you need to have the ability to achieve it and make it real. He has done that.   “The RWDSU was the first union to have endorsed Andrew Cuomo when he ran for Attorney General. In that role, He fought wage theft and injustices committed against working people and the people of this state.    “We urged him to run for Governor in 2009, before he declared.   “And we today endorse Andrew Cuomo for the fourth time - this time for a third term for governor. At a time when New York needs to show the country an alternative way, Andrew Cuomo has become our standard bearer.   “Two good terms deserve a third,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Retail Workers Feel Disruption From Changing Shopper Habits

NEW YORK (AP) — With new options and conveniences, there’s never been a better time for shoppers. As for workers ... well, not always. The retail industry is being radically reshaped by technology, and nobody feels that disruption more starkly than 16 million American shelf stockers, salespeople, cashiers and others. The shifts are driven, like much in retail, by the Amazon effect — the explosion of online shopping and the related changes in consumer behavior and preferences. As mundane tasks like checkout and inventory are automated, employees are trying to deliver the kind of customer service the internet can’t match. Read more here at AP

RWDSU Backs Mayer for Senate

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on Monday endorsed Democratic Senate candidate Shelley Mayer, who is seeking the open seat in Westchester Count that’s become a centerpiece for control of the chamber. “Shelley Mayer is a proven advocate for working people. Her years in the New York Assembly have shown that she won’t rest until workers get the justice they need. We are proud to support her campaign for the State Senate today,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU president. “Shelly stood with members of the RWDSU when A&P went bankrupt; she has stood with us to improve wages and working conditions for workers time and time again – and now we stand with her as she announces her run for the State Senate in New York. We know she will bring her strong values – values that put working people first – to the Senate, and we will work hard to ensure she is elected.” Mayer, a Yonkers Democrat, is competing for the nod to run in a special election to fill the seat, vacated by Westchester County Executive George Latimer. Also vying for the seat include People for Bernie co-founder Kat Brezler and Bedford Supervisor Chris Burdick. A special election is yet to be called. “I am proud to receive the support of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union,” Mayer said. “I am committed to being a State Senator that our workers can rely on to fight for the issues that matter most – stronger schools, better wages, and better jobs. Together, we can create the necessary, progressive changes to make our community and New York stronger.”

Labor leaders talk 2017, Trump and the future

The year 2017 was a tough year for labor unions and union advocates, but those on the front lines championed accomplishments despite what the year offered them. As the United States approaches the end of Year 1 of President Donald Trump, labors leaders such as Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Applebaum told the AmNews that their push back against his vision showed their resolve. “Despite Washington’s despicable treatment of working people, this year, the needs of workers were heard in New York by both City Hall and in Albany,” said Applebaum in a statement to the AmNews. “New York City workers saw an end to on-call scheduling in an outright ban signed into law by the mayor, and the governor called for hearings to expand on-call regulations across the state, which we anticipate will be implemented swiftly. We end the year on a high note with an initiative just announced by the governor to end the egregious wage theft issues that affect workers who are paid under the tip-credit system.” read the whole story at Amsterdam News

RWDSU Congratulates Corey Johnson as Next NYC Speaker

"The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union congratulates Corey Johnson on what appears to be his likely selection as the next Speaker of the city council. Especially with all that is going on in Washington, DC, it’s time for New Yorkers to unite and coalesce around our new Speaker-to-be. "We have known Corey well over the years.  On two separate occasions , Corey worked for the RWDSU. And he opened his campaign headquarters in the RWDSU’s offices when he first ran for city council. More importantly, we have worked closely with Corey Johnson on important legislation which has benefitted the working people of this city - most recently his bill which successfully limits the use of on-call scheduling in this city. "We believe that Corey Johnson will make an excellent speaker," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). 

Cuomo Calls for Hearings on Tip Credit

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday he wants to evaluate and possibly end minimum wage tip credits in New York. The governor announced he has ordered the state Department of Labor to hold public hearings next year to solicit input from workers and employers on the tipped wages credit, which allows owners of businesses such as restaurants, car washes and nail salons to pay workers less than the legal minimum wage. The review of the state’s minimum wage tip credits will be included in Cuomo’s State of the State address on Jan. 3, the governor said Sunday on “The Cats Roundtable” radio show with supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis. “No worker should earn below the minimum wage — ever,” said Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “We have been working for years to improve conditions for carwash workers. Today, Governor Cuomo recognized that this abhorrent loophole has left immigrant workers susceptible to wage theft.” Read the full story at Newsday