The Voice Newsletter Summer 2013
Brothers and sisters welcome to the newest issue of the voice. In this issue we’re pleased to give you part two of the interview with Rhonda Nelson.
Also, security has been getting out of hand lately. The best ways of dealing with them are laid out in the Security versus Insecurity article. They have been planting money and gift cards in the store, desperately trying to set up and entrap members. Our lawyers are currently investigating the legality of their actions. In the mean time, stay sharp and know that we all have each other’s backs.
Rhonda Nelson Interview, Part Two
By Erik Christianson
Rhonda Nelson is the International Chair of the UFCW Women’s Network and the Recorder/Trustee of UFCW Local 1500. The UFCW Women’s Network works to encourage and motivate UFCW women to become active in their local unions so they can contribute toward building and strengthening the UFCW.
She began her career in the Labor Movement in 1970 as a rank and file member of UFCW 876 working for Revco Drugstores in Detroit, Michigan. Within the UFCW she’s held many posts including: Vice President of Local 1500, organizer, union representative and field director. She is also actively involved in many community organizations.
Most recently, she was in San Francisco to receive the International Women’s Labor Leadership Award at an event hosted by Instituto Laboral de la Raza for its 2013 National Labor-Community Awards.
What do you see as some of the strengths of the labor movement?
The strength of the labor movement, I believe, is twofold. First it lies within its core principles which are to protect workers by fighting for fair wages, safe working conditions and other terms and conditions of employment. As long as you have unfairness in the workplace, there will always be a need for unions because unions provide the best hope for workers.
Our strength also lies within our members. Mobilizing members around particular issues shows the power and strength of the labor movement and therefore it has helped provide the necessary leverage to change and determine the outcome of a particular situation.
What do see as your greatest accomplishment in your labor work?
If I had to choose then I would pick two things. First, it would be an incident that took place approximately twelve years ago, when my local union was involved in major contract negotiations with three of our major supermarket employers. Negotiations were moving very slow, and we had a strike authorization meeting scheduled later that evening with our members from one of the companies. Earlier that day I, spoke with my boss who, as usual, had challenged and reminded me that we were in the middle of contract negotiations and things were too quiet in the field. Shortly thereafter I made a visit to one of the stores to remind members to attend the meeting and to perform a store safety inspection. In my possession I had a camera, which we would sometimes use to help capture pictures of any safety violations. Halfway during my store visit I came across several violations and a vendor packing out dairy products, which was a violation of the collective bargaining agreement, and summoned management. The company had requested that I put away the camera or leave the store which I refused to do both. The company contacted the police and they asked that I leave the store. I refused citing that under the collective bargaining agreement I had every right to be there to enforce the CBA, that there were safety and contract violations and that the company had violated the collective bargaining agreement. I also realized that members were watching and leaving could be taken as a sign of weakness, especially when you’re in the middle of negotiations, so despite failed attempts to convince me to leave; I was arrested for trespassing, handcuffed and taken out of the store while screaming “look at what they’ve done to your union rep for enforcing your rights under your union contract.” After being booked, fingerprinted and my mug shot taken, I arrived at the contract update/strike authorization meeting and was overwhelmed by the number of members who were there. Apparently word of my arrest had traveled throughout the company and members were very upset and there to show their support and of course strike authorization was granted unanimously. The next day contract negotiations took a complete turn for the best, and while I knew that my arrest had a direct impact on negotiations, it was good hearing my boss say several weeks later “We didn’t want your head to swell but your arrest certainly changed the tone of the contract negotiations.”
Secondly, raising money for breast cancer has always been a charity close to my heart because of its impact on women, especially because my niece died from breast cancer at a very early age. Each year, with the support of the membership, employers, and local union staff, I have helped raised awareness and hundreds of thousands of dollars to help find ways to end this dreadful disease.
Lastly, upon trying to find ways to increase member participation and recognizing that there were issues and concerns affecting women and their families such as child and elder care, sexual harassment, domestic and workplace violence, stress, women’s health care and balancing work and family, I decided to begin a women’s committee within my local union. After visiting various workplace locations to encourage participation, approximately a month later I scheduled the first meeting. Nervous about the turnout, over 85 women attended the meeting that evening. Not only did I surprise myself but certainly my boss and many staff members as well.
From a social justice perspective, what do you believe unions could do going forward to be stronger and more engaged with their members?
First, President Barack Obama has proven that in order to create change in America, that it was necessary to build coalitions between the various religious, women, community, civil rights and labor organizations. Labor
must continue to further reach out into the larger community to build alliances with other like-minded organizations in order to help change and improve our communities which our members are a part of.
Many unions, as well as my own, have joined forces with a number of social justice organizations on a number of actions. As you know, together, with the Occupy movement, we woke up a sleeping dog in our fight for economic justice. We helped sponsor the New York Wage Theft law, a law that seriously increase fines and penalties on employers who do not pay their workers according to the law, worked with Our Walmart and others to hold WalMart and other multinational corporations that buy garments from Bangladeshi suppliers accountable for the treatment and conditions of workers. We also continue to fight for equal pay to help close the gender wage gap for millions of women, worked hard to raise New York State minimum wage, which will benefit millions of working families, we have successfully helped keep WalMart out of New York City, and we continue to raise our voices through rallies and lobbying efforts, by urging members of Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million Americans living in and contributing to the U.S.
Second, create a more diverse and inclusive union. Lastly, we need to tell our story to help move us forward. Labor unions have always played a key role in the struggle for social justice; we need to sustain a movement within the structure of unions, aimed at educating our members about the history of the labor movement.
Security or Insecurity: The War on Us!
by Erik Christianson
In the last few months security has been going a bit overboard. They’ve been pulling members into some pretty relentless interrogation sessions. The only reason they are able to interrogate one of our brothers and sisters is that members aren’t always aware of their
rights. You do not have to submit to interrogation! Unfortunately, our members have been submitting themselves to some rather nasty sessions with security simply because they either aren’t sure of their rights or are afraid to speak up for themselves. This is why we need to be an educated work force.
If you are pulled into security and they begin to ask you questions all you have to do is let them know that you are invoking your Weingarten Rights and that you have nothing to say without your union representative present. At this point, the meeting should end and the employee will either be returned to work or suspended and a meeting rescheduled with the Union and the employee.
They’ll probably tell you that you have nothing to be concerned about and say they just want to ask you a few questions. After stating that you want your rep, you don’t have to say another word. Let them do the talking.
While they talk they will usually start out as your friend. They’ll explain to you how they are watching out for you and maybe ask if there is an issue they can help you out with. They are not your friends! They do not have you best interest in mind! They will not help you out!
When members believe that and start talking they usually talk themselves into trouble. If you’ve ever gone fishing you’ll have a better understanding of what they are trying to do. When you fish, if you can’t catch anything in one spot you move around with the hope of finding a better spot. When they’re talking to you like they are your friend they’re fishing. They probably have nothing on you, just too much time on their hands. Again, don’t say anything after you’ve asked for your union rep.
Then they may try and persuade you to keep talking by saying that it’s late at night and no rep is available. That’s fine, what happens after that is that you repeat that you want your union rep present. They’ll probably send you home on a suspension. That’s fine, you still have your job and they have nothing to use against you. No matter what they do to try and persuade you to keep talking, don’t! You’ve invoked your Weingarten Right to have a union representative present. You’ve done all you have to.
At this point if you’re still in the room with them they might switch from playing good cop to bad cop. Now they will most likely try and scare you. They could say we have video of you doing something; well they have to show that to the Union, not you, don’t take the bait. Honesty and integrity always doesn’t count for Macy’s when it comes to the behavior of some its officers. They don’t care about your best interest and will use anything you say against you and possibly against other members, too. Don’t let them. Silence is your friend in this scenario. Let them play their hand and give them nothing. They have to ask if they can audio tape the meeting, but they will have another agent write down what is said in the meeting regardless.
Better yet, if you have a pen and paper handy document everything they say to you while you are honoring your silence. If you are uncomfortable or afraid, channel that energy into the paper. By documenting their words you’ll be making them uncomfortable, because they don’t want to be held accountable for their behavior.
Remember, unlike non-union stores you have rights! Don’t let those rights be violated. Invoke your Weingarten Rights and wait for your union rep.
The best part is that if you go home on suspension and we clear you of whatever it is they are trying to nail on you you’ll get paid for the time you weren’t able to work.
By Greg McInnis, Chef Shop Steward
Disclaimer: This article is only meant for discussion and food for thought, not a step by step process (please consult Banks and or a CRP, Certified Retirement Plainer).
First of all a 401K by definition is a saving plan that allows employees to contribute a fixed amount of income to a retirement account and to defer taxes until withdrawal.
Along with a 401K there is Social Security. You as a U.S. worker may not want to depend solely on either program.
There are two ways to enroll in a 401k either pre-tax and or post tax. 401K gains value by employer/employee contributions and by earning from investments, interest, dividends or capital gains. The combined interest along with delayed taxation over a long period of time is the major benefit of a 401K.
For pre-tax contributions, the employee does not pay federal income tax on 401K. For after-tax contributions there may be considerable tax hit.
Another benefit of a 401k is the company match (which is variable and or may change at a given time).
Every month we’re featuring members from Macy’s with short bios and pictures. Any and all are welcomed and encouraged to participate.
My name is Jean-Pierre Bitchoka.
I have worked in the men’s Lacoste department, at the San Francisco men’s store since May 2004.
What I enjoy the most working in this store is meeting customers from all over the world. I think in the past nine years, I have interacted with people from every corner of the planet.
Being a member of UFCW5, gives me a sense of security. It is like having a big family that will always have my back.
Outside of Macy’s, I am an International Studies graduate student at the University of San Francisco. I love to be involved in community service, and social justice related activities. For the past three summers, I have travelled to Central America and Africa to volunteer for various causes.
My name is Julie Fisher.
Twenty Eight years at Macy’s and one of my early jobs was as a bookkeeper on the 8th floor. From there arrived on the selling floor – starting with Handbags next Men’s Dress Furnishings followed by Men’s Sportcoats and Trousers. Currently, I work in the Fine Rug Gallery (7th floor) of Macy’s Union Square store. As I have moved from department to department , I have been welcomed by and learned from my co-workers. Many warm and lasting friendships have started at work and continue to this day.
Being a member of UFCW has provided the opportunity to have Seniority, to bid on different positions, to be involved with contract negotiations and to meet many of our workers both in the store and at our union gatherings.
The chance to be part of some great community building has happened as well – serving as the UFCW5 delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, being a member of Jobs with Justice and of the SF Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Group.
During leisure time some favorite pursuits are bird watching, reading, and enjoying time outside in our wonderful bay area.
With the approach of our next contract, we may have many concerns and challenges as we prepare for negotiations. Working together, voicing our ideas, and supporting each other will move us closer to a contract that benefits all of us. We work hard and contribute to the success of this company. We deserve to receive our fair share.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walk
by Katie Johnston Membership Services
Join Us In Raising Funds to Cure Blood Cancer
Tuesday September 17, 2013 05:00 PM PDT
AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA
For all of our family, friends, and coworkers who have selflessly suffered with this disease I’m asking members to please show support, donate, and join me as we walk for this cause. We’d like to have a huge turnout for this important event. (Please, see the enclosed flyer for more information.)
LGBT Pride/UFCW 5 Representing 2013
A final note: I resigned my position at Macy’s, though I’m staying on with the UFCW5 as an associate member and look forward to continuing The Voice.
Yours in solidarity,
For comments, questions, and contributions please contact Erik Christianson at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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