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UFCW Applauds Congressional Action to Protect Good Jobs in U.S. Food Industry

By March 6, 2020March 13th, 2020No Comments

Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union announced its support of the Food Worker Pay Standards Act which was introduced by U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02). The bill would ensure that the federal government only purchases food produced by workers who earn fair pay and benefits.

“The Food Worker Pay Standards Act is a strong investment in American workers in our country’s meatpacking and food processing industries,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “By setting high standards for companies that receive billions of taxpayer dollars in federal contracts, Congress is sending a powerful message that these jobs need to be good jobs that put food safety and workers first. As the largest union representing America’s food workers, UFCW is proud to support this legislation. We urge Congress to stand up for good jobs in this industry by passing this bill and sending it to the president’s desk for his signature.”

Workers in the food processing industry are disproportionately workers of color, and the time is long overdue to protect their dangerous jobs with federal guardrails. This bill will signal to food processing companies nationwide that the federal government is only willing to work with businesses that put workers first. Anything less will not be funded by the American people.“The federal government should not be in the business of rewarding companies with taxpayer-funded contracts if they don’t pay or protect their workers adequately,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “Workers in the food processing industry are disproportionately workers of color, and the time is long overdue to protect their dangerous jobs with federal guardrails. This bill will signal to food processing companies nationwide that the federal government is only willing to work with businesses that put workers first. Anything less will not be funded by the American people.

Background:

Through contracts, grants, loans, loan guarantees, and tax breaks the federal government funds work performed by millions of people.

  • About 40 percent of the government’s discretionary spending goes to contracts for goods and services covering everything from school lunches to military equipment.
  • In fiscal year 2018, the federal government spent more than $550 billion on these contracts and $1.1 billion of those tax dollars went to purchase meat, poultry, and fish.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) supports using federal purchasing power to guarantee the federal government only does business with high-road companies that respect workers’ rights, pay living wages, provide a safe workplace, and treat their workers with dignity.

The Food Worker Pay Standards Act will:

  • Ensure that workers who process meat, poultry, or processed food purchased by the federal government are compensated at or above the prevailing rate for such workers in their locality and
  • Ensure that the prevailing wage rate for meat, poultry, and processed foods workers is not less than the wages and benefits agreed to in collective bargaining agreements in those industries.

Tens of millions of Americans—around 22 percent of the workforce—are employed by companies that have at least one federal contract. It is essential to ensure that the men and women who work for federal contractors receive fair wages and work in safe and healthy environments.

Federal, state, and local governments contract for billions of dollars in food services each year. In FY 2018, the federal government spent $1.1 billion dollars on meat, poultry, and fish.

Food processing is a high hazard industry and workplace safety is a key concern.  Meat and poultry slaughter and processing workers face many job risks that can lead to severe injury, illness, and death.

  • Poultry workers are at twice the risk of being injured on the job, suffer illnesses at a rate that is seven times as high, and have among the highest number of amputations compared to other workers.
  • Meatpacking workers are injured at 2.4 times the rate of other industries.
  • These injuries result in lost time or restrictions at three times the rate of other industries and they face illness rates at 17 times the rate of other industries.

The Food Worker Pay Standards Act will make our food safer. Unionized food processing plants are more likely to have robust health and safety programs which help reduce workplace injuries and illnesses and empower workers to report food safety issues. The UFCW and Tyson’s Foods have negotiated an industry-leading food safety program.

In addition to support from UFCW, this legislation is also endorsed by the AFL-CIO as well as the Bakery, Confectionery, and Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers (BCTGM) union.

This legislation is co-sponsored by Anthony Brown (D-MD), André Carson (D-IN), Danny Davis (D-IL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Jesus “Chuy” García (D-IL), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Norma Torres (D-CA), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Trone (D-MD), Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Source: UFCW International