(MOBILE, AL) – Today, the Fresenius Global Union Alliance (the Alliance), representing more than 50 unions around the world, announced a series of “Solidarity Days” to expose workers’ rights abuses at the German healthcare giant Fresenius, a global kidney dialysis company. The actions come in the wake of the Alliance’s demand that the company sign a Global Agreement on labor standards. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), represents workers at two Fresenius facilities in Alabama, and is in the process of organizing other Alabama facilities and several other states. The Alliance is calling for Fresenius to enter into a global agreement to address its track record of failing to follow international labor standards in several countries, including the United States where labor law has long paled in comparison to the global standard. In the United States, Fresenius has a long history of using third party consultants to stop employees from forming a union at its clinics. The company has paid out more than $400,000 to union busters, who often use fear tactics and other questionable methods to stop organizing efforts. U.S. workers have been forced to attend anti-union indoctrination sessions, and others report “one on one” interactions to pressure them from supporting a union. In April, the RWDSU announced that the union was able to secure a strong contract for workers that protects the technicians that provide critical care to patients in Mobile, Alabama. The contract set a scheduling protection precedent, which has brought stability to both workers and patients’ lives. At the time of the contract announcement the union stated that “the contract should set a standard not just for the global employer, but the industry,” – now the Fresenius Global Union Alliance seeks to ensure the company’s labor standards are the same across the world by demanding the company sign a global agreement. “The healthcare workers at Fresenius had one goal in seeking a union contract, care for their patients – they won – and now it’s time to ensure those standards extend to all Fresenius workers across the globe,” Randy Hadley, President of the Mid-South Council of the RWDSU said. “Together in global solidarity I know we can continue to spread the strong provisions in our first contract to so many other facilities where critical care like this is given to so many suffering from kidney disease and health issues. Fresenius needs to sign the Global Agreement now.” “We began this fight because we have seen a downward trend in our workplace and felt that no one was listening. Fresenius needs to respect our desires to organize a union and gain a collective voice to ensure that our patients lives and those that care for those patients are the top priority for Fresenius going forward,” said Samantha Anderson, RWDSU member and Fresenius worker in Alabama. As part of the announcement of the “Solidarity Days” by the Alliance, the Mid-South Council of the RWDSU is launching an informational website where the public will be able to sign up for updates on the treatment of workers at Fresenius. The website www.ChangeDialysis.org, will also provide information for workers seeking fair labor standards in their workplaces, as well as ways for patients and their family members to get involved in supporting workers. The RWDSU represents healthcare workers across the U.S. in Alabama, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida. This announcement comes among a string of organizing and contract wins in the South for the RWDSU this year. The union continues to win organizing campaigns in Right-to-Work states, bringing a union voice for workers in previously vehemently anti-union workplaces. In May 2019, more than 50 representatives of employees and trade unions from Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia met in Frankfurt to launch the Fresenius Global Union Alliance. The Alliance is coordinated by global unions PSI and UNI. The unions seek a global agreement with the company covering its 280,000 workers in 100 countries.
The new issue of the RWDSU Record spotlights strong new contracts, including a great new agreement for 1,800 Tyson poultry workers in Georgia. The RWDSU's efforts to organize workers and create better jobs in the growing Cannabis industry are also highlighted. Read it here
From New York City to Nashville to cities throughout the country, RWDSU celebrated Labor Day with fellow union members. RWDSU Local 1-S, Local 3, Local 670, Local 1102 and Local 338 marched up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. And the Nashville Tennessee District Council celebrated with a rally that featured a unity labor quilt in downtown Nashville. Continue reading
The following editorial appears in the newest Amsterdam News newspaper: CEOs sing a new tune, but action must follow STUART APPELBAUM President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union | 8/29/2019, 2:39 p.m. Business Roundtable—a lobbying organization made up of almost 200 chief executives from Apple, Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, and many more of the world’s largest companies—released a statement in August that purports to change the role of corporations in our society. The new stated goal, according to the report, is that corporations should promote “an economy that serves all Americans.” On the surface, it’s a welcome about-face from the “free-market” corporate identity established in the late 1960s where profit and “shareholder primacy” were the sole, overpowering motivation for corporate America. Since then, profits have driven everything for corporations—at the expense of workers, communities and the environment. The results have had a staggering effect; over the past five decades, the top 1 percent of American earners has nearly doubled their share of national income. The real value of American wages has flatlined, failing to keep up with increased productivity. And pay for top CEOs is now hundreds of times that of the pay of their employees. So, it’s good to see some of the world’s richest CEOs declare they are now dedicated to compensating employees fairly and providing them with important benefits while supporting communities and embracing environmentally friendly practices. It’s refreshing to see corporate America declare its dedication to diversity and inclusion and treating workers with dignity and respect. This is language that American workers, and the labor movement, agree with. We all know, however that talk is different than action. What the Business Roundtable didn’t say was specifically how corporate America is going to change. Income inequality was not addressed in the statement; neither was obscene CEO pay, nor changes in the way companies and management approach labor relations and politics. Since the late 1960s, when corporate America embraced a draconian free-market, profit-first ethos, union membership has fallen at a steady rate. So too has worker pay and benefits. This is no accident. Corporations have consistently used all of the resources at their disposal to fight workers’ wishes to organize, and to politically hurt unions. With few exceptions, corporations have done everything they can over the past 50 years to ensure that workers lose their union voice—the very “dignity and respect” they now claim to support. At the RWDSU, we’ve seen the difference it can make when companies stop spending money and resources to intimidate workers and prevent them from joining unions. Through global framework agreements, we’ve seen workers at fast fashion chains H&M and Zara join our union over the past decade, choosing a collective voice to make their jobs and their lives better. When companies agree not to fight their workers by bringing in expensive union-busting “consultants” and don’t intimidate or threaten their employees, workers choose the dignity and respect afforded by union membership. The statement by the Business Roundtable is a step in the right direction; but so far, it counts only as good PR. American corporations need to lead the way by ending their half-century war against unions and their own workers. That’s how true change will be achieved. That’s how America’s corporations can live up to their new stated purpose. Stuart Appelbaum serves as president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Website: www.rwdsu.org; Twitter: @sappelbaum
A federal judge has ordered Mountain View Care & Rehab Center in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to reinstate Yolanda Ramos, after the RWDSU filed a complaint in June alleging she was illegally fired for supporting the union. Workers at Mountain View joined the RWDSU last year, saying they wanted to make improvements in their benefits and have a voice in negotiating their working conditions. U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani also ordered the facility to halt intimidating actions like interrogating employees or retaliating against them for supporting the union. “The interrogation and discharge of Ramos has had a chilling effect on the organizing efforts of the union and has intimidated and restrained other employees from exercising their right to form a labor organization,” Mariani said.
Employees at both New York City Pleasure Chest retail location have ratified their first ever union contract. The RWDSU members become only the second group of adult toy workers in the nation to win the protections and benefits of a union contract, along with their fellow RWDSU members at Babeland stores, also in New York. Highlights include guaranteed raises in every year of the contract, accrued vacation time for part-time workers (previously only full-timers accrued vacation time), significant improvements in safety protocols and procedures for workers who are threatened or harassed by members of the public, including the right to close the store and remain on paid-time until the threatening individual(s) have left the premises. This part of the contract addresses one of the main issues brought up by Pleasure Chest workers during their organizing campaign; it’s a unique line of work, and comes with unique challenges. The agreement also creates minimum staffing requirements for busier times, and new trainings for management and staff, including a boundary/ safety/ security training for conflict de-escalation and reimbursement for self-defense classes. The contract also contains strong language around non-discrimination and respect for workers’ gender identity/expression and pronouns.
Gillen is the Right Leader for Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead NEW YORK, NY – Today, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU, UFCW), announced the union’s endorsement of Laura Gillen for re-election as Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead. “Since taking office, Laura Gillen has diligently ensured that the town’s hard-working people are put first in decision making. Supervisor Gillen has taken great strides to reverse decades long financial harm to workers; and the RWDSU stands with her to continue her work as Supervisor in her re-election campaign,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU, UFCW). Continue reading
In July, members at RWDSU Local 125 in St. Joseph, Missouri, have overwhelmingly approved a new five-year contract with their employer, National Beef Leathers, where 400 RWDSU members process cow hide into blue leather, which is then sold to vendors who turn it into everything from shoes to car seat covers. The contract increases wages $2.20 an hour over the term on just the General Wage Increase, but half of the plant will also be able to increase wages in the Maintenance, Environmental and Loft Departments anywhere from $1.00-$5.00 an hour on a pay for skill program that the member wishes to achieve. Longevity pay increases based on a member gaining five years seniority and again at 10 years seniority also were made. The members also will receive a $1,000 signing bonus. Numerous improvements in language as well in seniority and funeral leave. The agreement also created eights new positions that will be known as a Flex Employee in the Production Department (that will be a basic relief person in that department). The Union was able to maintain the Company’s medical insurance with little change in the plan starting in January of 2021 with little premium increases to the member. The Bargaining Committee was made up of Travis Garton, Local 125 President, Bobby Mendoza Chief Steward at National Beef, Darvin Waitkoss, Ed Burdette, Ernie Turner, Rashiene Stewart. They were assisted by Dennis Williams Sr. Business Representative for the Central States Council and RWDSU Representative Roger Grobstich.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to our brothers and sisters at 32BJ on the loss of President Hector Figueroa. Hector was a champion for workers, standing on the front lines of many critical fights. From the Fight for $15 to the Fast Food Workers campaign, he made a difference for working people. Hector has left a strong legacy of tenacious warriors who will continue his legacy for generations of workers to come. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at 32BJ and with Hector’s family,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
“Amazon has a well-documented history of mistreating and dehumanizing its workers in the U.S. and around the world. The stress can be particularly hard on any day, and especially during Prime Day events. But, this year, the toll on Amazon’s workers will be considerably worse. Prime Day has been expanded to two-days and earlier this year Amazon announced a new policy of one-day shipping that effectively doubles the pace of its workers. Amazon fulfillment workers were already facing speeds of 200-300 orders per hour in 12-hour shifts before the new policy. They were struggling to maintain that pace, even before the one-day shipping policy was announced. Testing hundreds of thousands of workers physical limits as though they were trained triathletes is the wrong approach. Operating at these speeds for this duration 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).