Master Food Employees Join RWDSU Local 338

Workers at Master Food, a supermarket store in Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York, have joined RWDSU Local 338 and ratified a new contract that drastically improves wages and benefits. The successful organizing campaign comes in the wake of a lawsuit settlement that will see the Master Food workers receive $300,000 as a result of stolen wages. Click here to read the full story!

Queens car wash workers walk off the job, say they’ve been harassed by employer after voting to unionize in April

Sixteen workers at a Queens car wash walked off the job Saturday to protest what they claim has been systematic harassment at the hands of their employers.

The workers at Jomar Car Wash in Flushing voted to unionize in April and believe they are being targeted as punishment.

“They try to intimidate us and we’re tired of it,” said Guillermo Anzures, 35, who claimed he was shoved by his boss.

“We are striking to show our bosses they can’t treat us this way — to show them they can’t get away with these injustices,” Anzures said.

The car wash workers, who were joined by members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union, stormed out at 11 a.m., bringing the busy car wash to a halt. They marched on Main St. chanting, “Ole, ole.”

“They cut our hours, throw out our personal belongings and treat us like animals,” said Miguel Portillo, 25.

The car wash’s management has denied the accusations.

Only six car washes in the city are unionized.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Vice President of the NYS AFL-CIO, whose union has negotiated contracts that include the strong scheduling protections nonunion low-wage workers were calling for at the march, had this to say:

“Walmart’s way of doing business is the wrong way for New York. Our union contracts with Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and H&M prove that companies do not need to treat their employees as disposable commodities to be profitable. People in New York are struggling to survive. They need good jobs that won’t keep them in poverty. It’s time to bring an end to Walmart’s low wages and erratic part-time scheduling that are so common in nonunion retail jobs today.”

Statement on Living Wage Agreement

"The RWDSU and all of our partners have been proud to be part of a diverse coalition fighting for living wages. And today I am so very proud to say that we have taken an important step in that fight. Together with the faith community, unions, immigrants’ rights organizations, LGBTQ groups, women’s groups, anti-hunger groups, civil rights leaders, and many others we built a strong movement for economic justice – a movement that today can celebrate a real victory for working people in this city."

Read the full statement.

Big Wage Increases at Del Monte

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RWDSU Local 17 members at Del Monte Foods in Mendota, Illinois, will see wages increase almost 15 percent over the life of their new five-year contract. The contract for over 100 members also freezes health insurance premiums for the first three years, and dental insurance for entire length of the pact.

The members work at a distribution and labeling center for Del Monte food products.

A Higher Minimum Wage in New York

"Raising the minimum wage is morally right and economically smart. When workers earn more, they spend more, generating demand for new goods and services that help create more jobs. When workers are stronger, so are businesses and so are the communities in which we all live and work. If the recent living wage victory in New York City is any indication, this is another campaign that will succeed," writes RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum on raising the minimum wage in New York. Read the full column in the New York Amsterdam News. Find out what New Yorkers have to say from NY1’s The Call.

RWDSU Honors the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On January 16, Americans everywhere salute the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For RWDSU members Dr. King’s legacy has special meaning. We take special pride that, in 1968, the RWDSU was the first union anywhere to negotiate a contract guaranteeing Dr. King’s birthday as a paid holiday.

Our union was among the earliest supporters of Dr. King’s grassroots drive to challenge racial injustice in the South. In Chicago, we provided an important forum for Dr. King to speak out against poverty in America’s cities. Later, thousands of RWDSU members stood shoulder to shoulder with other civil rights activists during the historic 1963 March on Washington. Read more.

When Speaker Christine Quinn presented her compromised version of the Living Wage Bill last week, we immediately wondered how it would affect retail-clothing workers, #47 on the Voice’s list of the 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers.

We got in touch with Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Via an email Q&A, we asked Appelbaum all of the questions we had about the proposed bill, from how many people it would affect, to if (after Quinn’s compromise) it would actually help employees of tenants of city subsidized projects.

Click here to read the full story by Steven Thrasher .

“Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has become something of an organized-labor star by employing the old-school approach of unifying workers in distrust of rapacious managers in new ways. And his successes have come in unlikely places: vulnerable, often immigrant workers in low-skill, itinerant jobs. He recently organized the workers at five New York City carwashes and at a poultry plant in Alabama, a state particularly allergic to unions. “We don’t argue to owners, ‘We’re doing this for your sake,’ ” he said. “We’re not going to be the ones who say, ‘We think you have to cut back on things to make your stockholders more profitable.’”

Unlike factory workers, Appelbaum’s members don’t have any incentive to cozy up to management. They work in what economists call the nontradable sector: jobs that can’t be moved easily to a low-wage country. Low-skill workers in nontradable jobs actually have one small but important organizing advantage. U.S. cars can be made in Mexico, after all, but they have to be washed here. As a result, unions are seeking growth in other nontradable fields, like carpentry, plumbing and transit drivers. The top prize is a group that comprises the single largest number of jobs that must be done on American soil: Walmart workers.”

NEWARK — New Jersey Labor Unions are splitting tickets in the heated battle for the 10th Congressional District seat.

Donald Payne Jr. today picked up the endorsement of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 108 which represents 5,000 retail workers. The announcement comes just a day after Ron C. Rice picked up a valuable nod from the Communications Workers of America, the state’s biggest union representing 70,000 members.

“Our members heard directly from all the candidates, and Ron clearly stood out. He has been a dedicated leader in our community who has taken tough stands for working people and has stayed true to progressive values,” said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA’s state director in a statement. “In Congress we know that Ron Rice will continue to fight every day for New Jersey and stand up to the corporate special interests who have too much power in Washington.”

SEIU Local 617 President Rahaman Muhammad is also supporting Rice, and the statewide union is expected to make an endorsement this week.

Muhammad said many of the 10th District candidates have good labor credentials, but Rice has the best.

"I’m supporting Ron Rice because he has the most progressive record," Muhammad said. "But they all have good labor records."

Still, labor is not going solely for Rice. Payne has picked up the endorsements of the Teamsters and today of the retail workers.

"Donald M. Payne Jr. has long been a champion of the many progressive causes that matter to working families in this Congressional district," said RWDSU Local 108 President Charles N. Hall Jr. "Just as Don has been on the ground supporting our community, we will be on the ground doing everything we can to ensure his victory."

On Thursday, May 24, Rutgers’ WRNU Radio show, “All Politics are Local” will host the only debate in the race with Payne, Rice, State Sen. Nia Gill and Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith at 6 p.m. at the Newark campus’ Paul Robeson Center.

Also running are Dennis Flynn and Cathy Wright. The Democratic primary will be held June 5.

RWDSU Statement on Living Wage Vote/Campaign Finale

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum made the following remarks today at a noon press conference at City Hall before the New York City Council’s afternoon vote on living wage legislation:

Good afternoon. I’m Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). I want to thank everyone for being here for this historic occasion, especially the members of the Living Wage NYC Coalition and the many elected officials who are with us today and helped get us to this point. We could not have done it without Speaker Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and so many City Council members, especially Oliver Koppell, Annabel Palma, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, and Tish James.

Over the past two years, thousands of New Yorkers have come together to support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, living wage legislation that the City Council will pass this afternoon.

We built a citywide movement for living wage jobs, and this landmark legislation is the result of that movement.

Civil rights organizations, churches, LGBTQ groups, immigrant groups, labor unions, businesses and so many others all played important roles and share in this victory. What started as a campaign became a visible and vocal movement—a movement focused on putting a stop to a policy that has been hazardous to our economic health: city government enabling a select group of companies and developers to get richer from taxpayer subsidies, while allowing greater income inequality and poverty to take hold as a result. It’s no coincidence that a record number of New Yorkers applied for food stamps during the same mayoral administration that allowed the top 1 percent to hoard 44 percent of all income in the city. After billions spent on so-called job creation and economic development, New Yorkers are not better off: More poverty-wage jobs have been created at the bottom as profits swell at the top. A dark legacy if ever there was one.

It is economically and morally wrong to perpetuate this costly failure. We live in a city of many, not a plutocracy of few. The RWDSU, working with the Living Wage NYC campaign and the City Council, is proud to have championed legislation that will deliver real reform by investing taxpayer money more wisely in higher-wage jobs that lift us all up. Smart, democratic investment is the core of the Fair Wage for New Yorkers Act, it is the basis for a wage-led recovery for our economy and it rests on a principle of fairness that resonates across the political spectrum.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 74 % of New York City voters across parties support the living wage bill, with even 60% of Republicans saying it is government’s responsibility to ensure that workers earn a decent wage. So the legislation that has moved through the Council reflects the consensus of ideologically diverse New Yorkers—what this city values and believes in.

This is serious stuff: landmark living wage legislation that will raise wages for thousands of jobs in the coming years, because it will affect projects overseen by the largest urban economic development agency in the United States. Over time, as the living wage requirement is shown to be effective and beneficial in practice, it should bolster and strengthen other wage-focused campaigns. We need the vitality and strength of this living wage movement to live on and have a longer life, an afterlife far beyond today: we must channel the living wage movement into new and unprecedented efforts to reduce inequality and poverty, and to rebuild the city’s middle class after years of decline. We must fight those battles on all available fronts.

We must fight to ensure that all working people are treated with dignity, justice and respect.

Thank you.

RWDSU Slams Walmart's Reported Bribery, Calls for Immediate Investigation into Walmart

RWDSU Slams Walmart’s Reported Bribery in Mexico, Connects it to Duplicitous New York City Campaign of “Philanthropy” and “Lobbying”, and Calls for Immediate Investigation into Walmart

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW, made the following statement today:

The front page story in Sunday’s New York Times documenting Walmart’s brazen efforts to bribe its way into Mexico has immediate implications for New York City. Bribery is Walmart’s growth strategy: the company spread money around in order to accelerate its entrance into Mexico and flouted laws, regulations, and public procedures. Something similar has happened here: Walmart has spent millions on “philanthropy” and “lobbying” to enter New York City in the past couple of years. These so-called donations and contributions have been the core of Walmart’s campaign to break into this coveted urban market. Walmart has used private meetings to make its pitch to real-estate developers and other power brokers, after refusing to attend City Council hearings and community board meetings where it knew its record as the great destroyer of good jobs and communities would be scrutinized in public. Walmart’s campaign to enter the five boroughs has stalled in recent months as opposition has grown, but New Yorkers have a right to know what Walmart has done-and spent-to buy its way into the city. How many checks were cut that have yet to be disclosed?

RWDSU calls on Walmart and the Walton Family to reveal all the spending attached to its current campaign to enter New York City, and asks local government to investigate Walmart’s financial records in New York more closely in light of today’s disturbing New York Times story.

New York, NY - Hundreds of Bloomingdale’s workers in New York City have taken to the streets to demand a better contract with the company.

Mark Spellman was among the workers rallying outside Bloomingdale’s flagship store on Third Avenue today.

Union officials representing some 2,000 Bloomingdale’s employees say they are in negotiations with the company on a new four-year contract, but a large bridge divides the two sides when it comes to wages and health care.

Many employees say they are barely making ends meet as it is, and having to pay more for their health care would be disastrous for them. Union officials say Bloomingdale’s sales have been particularly strong according to numbers released by parent company Macy’s Inc., and they’d like to see some of that profit trickle down to the workers.

Bloomingdale’s Workers to Rally for a Fair Contract in Front of Iconic Department Store

Strong Company Profits and Sales to be Highlighted by Workers Seeking New Four-Year Contract

*Bloomingdale’s Workers will be joined by union leaders, elected officials and other allies*

April 18, 11:00 a.m., Bloomingdale’s flagship 59th Street store, 1000 3rd Avenue (between 59th and 60th Street), New York, NY

WHAT: Workers at the Bloomingdale’s flagship 59th Street store will rally for a new contract. They will be joined by union leaders, elected officials, and supporters. RWDSU Local 3, the union representing 2,000 workers at the store, is in negotiations with the company for a new four-year contract. In 2011, Macy’s Inc., which owns Bloomingdale’s, saw its profits and sales increase significantly, exceeding the expectations of company management. Sales at Bloomingdale’s have been particularly strong, according to Macy’s Inc. CEO Terry Lundgren, who saw his pay jump nearly 23 percent last year to $14.5 million.

WHO: Bloomingdale’s 59th Street store workers, elected officials and union leaders, including Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU, UFCW), and Cassandra Berrocal, President, Local 3 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU, UFCW).

WHERE: Bloomingdale’s flagship store, 1000 3rd Avenue (between 59th and 60th Street), New York, NY

WHEN: Wednesday, April 18, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

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About Local 3 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
Local 3 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU/UFCW) represents more than 2,000 sales clerks, shelf stockers and clerical workers at Bloomingdale’s flagship 59th Street store in New York City, with extended protection to workers at the Bloomingdale’s SoHo store. To learn more, visit http://www.local3rwdsu.org and connect with the union on Facebook for the latest news, updates, and calls to action.

Labor Leaders Walk-Through at Bloomingdale’s to Show Support for RWDSU Local 3 Members

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Several city and state labor leaders is set to participate in a walk-through at Bloomingdale’s flagship store on Third Avenue in Manhattan on Wednesday, April 11, to speak with RWDSU Local 3 members who work at the store. Local 3 is currently in negotiations with the company for a new contract for the 2,000 employees who work there. The walk-through is scheduled for 3 pm.

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez, and UFCW Region One Director and Vice President Richard Whalen will join Local 3 President Cassandra Berrocal and Local 3 leadership and RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum for tomorrow’s event.

“New York’s Labor leaders are coming together to show that a fair contract for Bloomingdale’s isn’t just a priority for RWDSU Local 3 members and the UFCW, but also for organized labor throughout the entire city and state,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.

As Local 3 members stand strong for a new contract, Bloomingdale’s and its owner, Macy’s Inc., are enjoying brisk sales and growing profits. News sources say Bloomingdale’s generated more than $600 million in sales in 2010, and Macy’s Inc. saw its profits grow 48 percent last year.

“Macy’s, Inc. and Bloomingdale’s are enjoying a period of financial success, and Bloomingdale’s workers deserve to be compensated fairly,” Appelbaum added.

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