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STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM ON TRUMP INVOKING THE DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT MANDATING POULTRY AND MEAT PROCESSORS REMAIN OPEN
“We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork and poultry products. When poultry plants shut down, it's for deep cleaning and to save workers' lives. If the administration had developed meaningful safety requirements early on as they should have and still must do, this would not even have become an issue. Employers and government must do better. If they want to keep the meat and poultry supply chain healthy, they need to make sure that workers are safe and healthy,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
The chairman of the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork says America’s food supply chain is “breaking” under the strain of the COVID-19 outbreak. In a full-page ad which appeared today in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, John Tyson said his company is meeting the challenges but the nation’s food supply is vulnerable as meat processing plants are shuttered by the pandemic, and farmers are forced to thin herds that they can’t sell. read more here
Truck drivers and warehouse workers at Cort Furniture Rental in New Jersey had spent months trying to unionize in the hopes of securing higher wages and better benefits. By early this year, they thought they were on the cusp of success. But when the coronavirus arrived, Cort, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, laid off its truck drivers and replaced them with contractors, workers said. The union-organizing plans were dashed. “They fired us because we tried to start a union,” said Julio Perez, who worked in Cort’s warehouse in North Bergen, N.J. Read the story at NY Times here
RWDSU: ESSENTIAL INDUSTRIES AND OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTED TOO LATE TO SAVE WORKERS LIVES -- RWDSU MEMBERS TO BE HONORED ON WORKERS MEMORIAL DAY
(NEW YORK, NY) – Today, on the eve of Workers Memorial Day, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents thousands of essential and frontline workers across the United States, called out multiple industries for their slow response to COVID-19. The RWDSU has lost 15 members to COVID-19, who worked for employers whose actions were too little and too late to stop the spread of the virus at the workplace. The union also holds OSHA and the CDC responsible - timely and appropriate action could have helped save the lives of RWDSU members. The union has produced a video honoring all the RWDSU members who have lost their lives to COVID-19 available here. A statement from Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU on the slow response by employers and the Federal Government’ OSHA and CDC agencies follows: “Our employers from industry to industry have not been doing enough to protect our members; and OSHA and the CDC as well have failed working people during the COVID-19 pandemic. On this Workers Memorial Day we are honoring the lives of too many workers we’ve lost to COVID-19. “Our members are scared to go to work; yet they do it because they need to provide for their families. But they shouldn’t be expected to be putting their lives on the line when they show up for work - they never signed up for that. “OSHA has received thousands of requests for enforcement from workers fearful about their workplace exposure to the COVID-19 virus and the failures of their employers. Too many employers have failed to provide necessary personal protective equipment, implement social distancing, expand worksite sanitation and other protective measures. OSHA has not provided any effective response to these requests. Only this past weekend has it even issued guidance for workers in meat processing facilities. As a result workers have and will continue to die. The voluntary guidelines it has issued are insufficient. They have no teeth and employers can, and have, ignored them. These guidelines should be mandatory and enforceable. The agency should issue an Emergency Temporary Standard covering the COVID-19 pandemic, which could actually help workers. “Above all else, OSHA has failed to require that employers implement COVID-19 risk reduction guidelines issued by the CDC. And in addition to its failure to enforce protections, OSHA has actually eased requirements for employers to report work related illness related to the pandemic. “Sadly, today we are honoring RWDSU members who have lost their lives to COVID-19. We can think of no better way to honor them than by demanding that employers and government do more to protect workers. Employers must act now, and treat workers with the dignity and respect they deserve by providing every possible protection so they can continue working safely through this crisis.” More information on the staggering delays in the RWDSU’s essential workers’ industries: In the poultry industry the RWDSU has been calling on employers to implement critical standards to protect workers’ safety and to secure the food supply chain. After that initial set of demands on the industry was made by the RWDSU, some companies have begun to: arrange regular calls with union representatives, provide personal protective equipment (PPE); and additional partitions and social distancing measures have also begun to take effect as well. Action by the entire poultry industry has been too little too late for workers, and workers will continue to die from COVID-19 unless significant improvements are made across the industry. Related Press Releases: Poultry Industry's Delayed Response to COVID-19 Death Toll Grows in Camilla, Georgia at Tyson Koch Foods Refuses to Meet with RWDSU In the food processing industry In response to repeated delays in providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers at Kraft Heinz Company (Kraft Heinz), and lack of real negotiations around hazard pay and quarantine procedures, RWDSU Local 705 said enough is enough for our members at Kraft Heinz in Holland, Michigan. Most outrageously, despite the fact that COVID-19 has been spreading across our nation for weeks, workers at this facility only just started to receive PPE late last week. Related Press Release: Kraft Heinz Company Fails Workers in Michigan - RWDSU Demands Better In nursing homes our members still don’t have the PPE they need to protect themselves and vulnerable residents. RWDSU locals across the country have been demanding that the owners provide staff with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), which is critical for the safety of staff, residents and the communities they operate in. It is unfathomable that in the midst of unprecedented health risks created by COVID-19 pandemic, our nursing homes have by and large yet to provide acceptable PPE to workers, which could help stop the spread of COVID-19. Access to respirator masks would protect residents, workers and the community from the pandemic’s full scale effects. Related Press Release: Valley View Manor Workers Demand PPE Before It’s Too Late In grocery stores and pharmacies our members thankfully have had gloves and time available to clean their hands as much as they need to throughout this crisis. And most of our stores, but not all, put up sneeze guards and spaced out registers early on. However, in the early days of the pandemic the CDC was too slow to issue guidelines that mandated workers and customers wear masks. The delay cost a member his life in New York. We have actively pushed for Executive Orders to mandate masks and face coverings for shoppers and we have been successful at doing so in states where we have many grocery and pharmacy workers on the front lines, most recently in New York. Shame on the CDC for acting too slowly - and as a result too many of our members went to work for too long fearful of exposure. RWDSU Members who have lost their lives to COVID-19: VIDEO: Commemorating RWDSU members who have died of COVID-19 Enrique Almoite was a member of RWDSU Local 262 for 17 years, working in Housekeeping at West Caldwell Care Center in West Caldwell, New Jersey. He passed away on April 3, 2020. Nora Aragon was a 5-year member of RWDSU Local 262, she worked as a Line Operator at Flexion in Newark, New Jersey. She passed away due to COVID-19 on April 23, 2020. Yanic Balthazar was a cook at the SUNY Old Westbury campus and a member of RWDSU Local 1102 since 2007. She passed away on April 1, 2020. She leaves behind two daughters, and a son who worked for SUNY Old Westbury for a year. Manuel Chavez, who went by the nickname Victor, was a member of RWDSU Local 338. He worked at Zabar’s for 32 years in “The Mezzanine” section. Victor passed away on April 2, 2020. Jamie Fernando worked in the Luggage Department at Macy’s on 34th Street. He passed away on April 3, 2020. He was a member of RWDSU Local 1-S for 26 years, working his way through various departments at Macy’s. Devoted to his church, Jamie died at the age of 62. Manuel Garcia was a food service worker for SCCC/Aramark at the Suffolk County Community College Brentwood Campus. He had been a member of RWDSU Local 1102 since 2017 when he started work at SCCC/Aramark. He leaves behind his 3-year-old daughter, his mother and a sister. Annie Grant was a member of Local 938 of the RWDSU Southeast Council. For 13 years, Ms. Grant worked at the Tyson plant in Camilla, Georgia. She passed on April 7, 2020 due to the coronavirus. Erlinda Guevara was a 23 year member of RWDSU Local 1102 at Autronics in Central Islip, Long Island. She started at the company in 1996 as a molding operator. Guevara passed away Sunday, April 19, 2020. She left behind a husband, three daughters and three sons. Maurillo Guzman was a member of RWDSU Local 1102 RWDSU from Queens, New York. He started working for Gate Gourmet at LaGuardia airport in 2003 as a dish room attendant. He was loved and respected by all. Maurillo passed away due to the coronavirus on April 4, 2020 and is survived by his wife. Mary Holt worked the poultry line at the Camilla, Georgia Tyson plant for 27 years. She was a member of the RWDSU Southeast Council. She passed away April 6, 2020 from COVID-19 complications. Ana Valerio was a member of RWDSU Local 1-S, working full-time for 19 years at the Macy’s Herald Square store in the Receiving Department. She enjoyed travel and was known for her generosity, kindness and gift giving. She died on April 3, 2020. Wilfredo Ramirez was a 5-year member of RWDSU Local 262, working as a Machine Operator at Flexon in Newark, New Jersey. He died on April 16, 2020. Richard Weber Jr. worked full-time in the Suit Department at the Macy’s Herald Square flagship store. A member of RWDSU Local 1-S, Richard had 10 years of service with the company. He had a law degree and a love for the fashion industry. He passed away on March 18, 2020. He was 57 years old. Elose Willis served as Secretary of Local 938, representing poultry workers at Tyson in Camilla, Georgia. She was a proud and committed member of the RWDSU and worked at the facility for 35 years. She passed away due to COVID-19 on April 1, 2020. Willy Zumaran from Queens, New York was a member of RWDSU Local 1102. For 16 years Willy worked as a cook for Gate Gourmet at LaGuardia airport. He passed away from COVID-19 in April, 2020. The RWDSU updates the list of members who have passed to COVID-19 here.
(NEW YORK, NY) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents 6,300 workers at Macy’s Inc.’s department stores, including workers at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s flagship stores in Manhattan, demanded the company extend the current contracts for workers while the nation weathers the COVID-19 pandemic. After repeated exchanges to extend the two contracts with Local 1-S and Local 3 of the RWDSU six-months to a year each, Macy’s Inc. has thus far refused to even consider it. RWDSU Local 1-S’s contract is set to expire on May 1, 2020; the local represents 4,300 workers across four Macy’s stores in the New York region. The union, which also represents 2,000 workers at Bloomingdale’s flagship store who are members of Local 3 of the RWDSU, has also offered to postpone those negotiations as well, which are slated for 2021 (because Macy’s has said it wasn’t capable of negotiating both contracts in the same year). “Macy’s is insisting on holding contract negotiations in the midst of Governor Cuomo’s ‘stay at home’ order. Yes, the contract between Macy’s and its workers’ union is expiring soon. The stores are closed, nobody is working, and neither party has any clue what the future will hold. How do you negotiate in good faith when the company is unable to tell you when each store will reopen or how it will reopen, or for what hours and with what staffing needs? It makes no logical sense for negotiations to move forward at this time – period,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “Macy’s suggestion to have the three dozen members of the union’s negotiating committee travel from all over New York City to Manhattan for face-to-face negotiations at the beginning of May - in defiance of Governor Cuomo’s ‘stay at home’ order is outrageous. To negotiate now is Macy’s attempt to take advantage of the crisis for its own ends, and it’s baseless given there are so many unknowns, shame on Macy’s,” said Angella Harding, President of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “Bloomingdale’s workers are offering to delay our negotiations an entire year to support our brothers and sisters at Macy’s – the least you can do is work with us. We are all adapting to our new reality as New York responds to this crisis. Bloomingdale’s/Macy’s Inc. needs to adapt to this reality now as well. Just as Macy’s Inc. shouldn’t be promising a fireworks show that encourages New Yorkers to gather in crowds to enjoy it, Macy’s also shouldn’t pretend that it’s business as usual when it comes to these negotiations. This 'pause' is for everybody Macy’s Inc., even you,” said Cassandra A. Berrocal, President of Local 3 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
“Macy’s should not be spending millions on fireworks displays while its own workforce is out of work. They are putting New Yorkers at risk in order to create a nationally televised commercial for themselves, and using our city as a backdrop. If they really cared about New Yorkers, they would be spending that money on healthcare coverage for the hard-working employees that made them successful for decades,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
(NEW YORK, NY) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents thousands of poultry processing workers across the southern United States, called on Koch Foods to do better by their workers and demanded that they come to the table and negotiate health and safety terms to be followed during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as critical “essential” pay. Over the past month, the RWDSU has been calling on the poultry industry employers to implement critical standards to protect workers’ safety and to secure the food supply chain. (Press release on the RWDSU’s demands on the industry is available here). After that initial set of demands on the industry was made by the RWDSU some companies have begun to; arrange daily calls with union representatives, provide personal protective equipment (PPE); and additional partitions and social distancing measures also have begun to take effect as well. Action by the entire poultry industry has been too little too late for workers, and workers will continue to die from COVID-19 unless staggering improvements are made across the industry. Koch Foods though has taken a clear anti-worker and anti-human stance through it all and has refused to substantively meet or report to the union their health and safety measures, or on the numbers of positive cases or quarantines of members exposed to COVID-19. Save for one phone call, to just one of two of the RWDSU’s regional councils, which represents workers at Koch Foods, the company has refused to answer questions from the union as to the current status of their facilities. The last straw with Koch Foods came late yesterday when they canceled a scheduled call less than 24-hours before it was to take place between them and the RWDSU. The RWDSU represents thousands of Koch Foods poultry processing workers at four of their facilities, which are located in Montgomery, Gadsden and Ashland, Alabama; and in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia. In response, the RWDSU’s Regional Council Presidents, who represent workers in poultry processing across the south issued statements calling on Koch Foods to meet and negotiate around the staggering health and safety issues RWDSU members are facing: “Our members are scared, they’re terrified that the one job they have that’s keeping their families afloat right now may make them or their families sick or worse kill them. The fact that Koch Foods won't make time to talk to us is disgraceful and inexcusable. The executives of Koch Foods are safe at home with their families, while our members' lives are on the line, it makes me sick. There is so much that food processing companies need to be doing right now to protect their essential workers and America’s food supply. Koch Foods must implement critical health and safety measures now to protect our members, and we demand you speak with us to ensure our members concerns are heard,” said Randy Hadley, President of the Mid-South Council of the RWDSU, which represents 15,000 workers across the southern United States, in food processing, distribution, and healthcare. “I have one question for Koch Foods, do you think our members planned to die going to work in your facility? You’ve said you don’t have time to talk about what’s happening in the plant. Well let me tell you, our members don’t have any more time to waste not knowing if they are safe at work or not. We will not stand to be ignored, our members' lives are at stake here, and they cannot be ignored. You must communicate with us so we can truly talk about how members will be protected during this national crisis while performing the critical and essential work they do. Our members need proper PPE, proper protective barriers, critical social distancing measures, and ‘essential’ pay for the work they are carrying out feeding America during a global pandemic. Koch Foods must work with us to share information so that our members can go to work knowing that every possible effort has been made to protect them,” said Edgar Fields, President of the Southeast Council of the RWDSU, which represents 10,000 workers across the southeastern United States, many in food processing and distribution.
KRAFT HEINZ WORKERS DESERVE BETTER - THEY’RE FEEDING AMERICA, THEY NEED TO BE PROTECTED, AND THEY NEED THE CRITICAL ESSENTIAL PAY THEY DESERVE
(HOLLAND, MI) – In response to repeated delays in providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers at Kraft Heinz Company (Kraft Heinz), and lack of real negotiations around essential pay and quarantine procedures, Local 705 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following statement on behalf of the workers they represent at Kraft Heinz in Holland, Michigan. “Our members are putting their own lives on the line to keep us safe and fed. They deserve more than just our thanks and gratitude in these challenging times - they are essential workers and deserve essential pay. They are shouldering extra burdens, taking extra risks and experiencing incredible stress - none of which were supposed to be part of their jobs. Not only should they be compensated for this critical essential work they are providing our country right now, but our members shouldn’t be expected to use their vacation days when they have to be quarantined because they have been in contact while at work with someone who has the virus. That’s just wrong. “RWDSU Local 705 was told that the local plant could not offer any pay or benefits above what Kraft Heinz Company issued in their national COVID-19 letter for our members at the facility in Holland, Michigan. The letter dictated the terms under which they would operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not only too little too late, but plainly it provides insufficient protections, quarantine procedures, and necessary essential pay for our members. “Most outrageously, despite the fact that COVID-19 has been spreading across our nation for weeks, workers at this facility still don’t have the proper PPE they need. Weeks ago workers were promised masks, and they’re still yet to arrive, despite promises from management day after day that they would. “Our members are putting food on America’s tables during a national crisis. They are ensuring that the little comfort iconic Kraft Heinz brands bring to America’s families continues to be available. Our members more than deserve essential pay, but it cannot be tied to their attendance. Tying extra pay to attendance encourages workers to come to work when they are sick. They deserve so much more from the multi-billion dollar company for putting their lives on the line. “Kraft Heinz, the nation's leading food processor, can and must do better for its workers. Our union and our members won't stand to be treated as disposable at a time when they have never been more critical and essential,” said Michael Flanery, Vice President and Regional Director of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Local 705 of the RWDSU, demands Kraft Heinz Company negotiate with the union over the terms under which members will work during COVID-19 and initially demands that the company: Immediately repeal any and all essential pay requirements tied to attendance. As America’s leading food processor Kraft Heinz needs to provide workers with critical essential pay that will make a real impact on workers' lives and their families. A multi-billion dollar revenue generating company can and must do better; Provide proper PPE to workers, including masks swiftly. The fact that we are over a month into the COVID-19 pandemic and workers still don’t have masks is inexcusable; Pay workers fully for needed quarantine time. Requiring workers to use their hard earned vacation time is inexcusable, especially when they have been exposed to the virus while at work while performing critically needed essential work during a global pandemic. The terms laid out by Kraft Heinz Company in their initial national letter to the RWDSU have done little to stem workers' concerns of the spread of COVID-19 at their facility. While the company has shut down portions of their lines twice for confirmed and pending COVID-19 cases, and provided additional cleaning both during the shutdowns and throughout normal operations, without the proper PPE cases will continue to spread throughout the facility. Some workers remain on quarantine and are scared waiting for test results, and workers who contracted the virus at work are scared for their families, yet our members continue to provide essential food for Americans.
(NEW YORK, NY) – Amazon warehouse workers across the country will call out today for the third time due to the company’s lack of safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following statement: “Today’s actions show just how dangerous it is to work at Amazon. Workers have been desperately asking that Amazon do more to protect their health and safety at work. But instead of addressing their concerns Amazon has instead lashed out at worker leaders. This must stop. No worker should be subjected to unsafe conditions at work. And no worker should be retaliated against for standing up for their rights. Amazon continues to prioritize maximizing its enormous profits even over its employees’ safety - and that is unacceptable. Enough is enough Amazon. Do right by your workers, your customers and our communities.”