By: Bruce W. Both, President
I recently had the pleasure of representing UFCW Local 1500 as a Delegate to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s 7th Regular Convention. It is always an honor and privilege to speak to other UFCW Locals from around the country about our amazing 23, 000 members and their dedication to preserving the working class and Union solidarity. I let it be known, members of Local 1500 truly are the best of the best.
It was also exciting to hear UFCW International President Joseph Hansen speak about the positive advances the UFCW has made on fronts such as, campaigns to support Walmart and Tesco workers, political efforts being made to defeat anti-worker politicians, and the International’s ambitious goal to constantly modernize our social media and communication strategies so we may truly be one union with one voice.
Unfortunately, while in attendance at the convention it also became very clear to me that in addition to our many successes as a Union, our 1.3 million UFCW members face a very serious problem: The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as Obama-care.
When it comes to preserving comprehensive and affordable healthcare, never has a law with such good intentions produced such difficult challenges for our Local, our International, and millions of our brothers and sisters within the labor movement. Never before have I seen a piece of legislation that was believed to force irresponsible employers, like Walmart, to pay their fair share of rising healthcare costs have the inadvertent consequence of hurting the wallets and potentially health of millions of unionized workers.
Across the nation unions are struggling with ACA mandates that reduce part-time hours, shrink paychecks and force Unions to divert large percentages of employer budgets towards ACA compliance, leaving little room for benefit and wage increases.
The frustration among UFCW leadership is growing each day.
What makes the situation even more difficult is the constant changes to the law by various federal agencies. Just when health care experts think they finally understand the ACA, the federal government changes the rules again. It is like trying to shoot a moving target..
As you know, this problem is a very timely one for our union. Many of our major contracts covering thousands of members will expire this fall.
The one positive I can report to you regarding ACA is that all UFCW Locals, healthcare experts and political staffs are working united and fighting to overcome these challenges. We are using our powerful political clout to demand our Congressional leaders install smart amendments that protect our union to the law.
We have introduced the Part-Time Workers Bill of Rights in Congress. We’re also meeting with Federal agencies such as the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service encouraging them to interpret the ACA in a way that helps workers, not penalize them.
Although the ACA is law of the land, the UFCW is unified with many of our brothers and sisters in other Unions. Together we’re ensuring that it is corrected, improved and returned to its original purpose of making companies like Walmart pay their fair share. You have my commitment to keep you updated on these changes and to protect your healthcare benefits as best as I can under these difficult conditions.
I want to take this opportunity to express my pleasure in the UFCW International Union’s decision to rejoin the AFL-CIO. Even throughout the past eight-years while we were affiliated with Change to Win, New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and New York City Central Labor Council President Vinny Alverez would constantly extend a helping hand to our union whenever necessary. I look forward to strengthening that bond of solidarity now that we have come together in the best interest of working class families.
Lastly, I want to give my heartfelt congratulations to International President Joseph T. Hansen, Secretary-Treasurer Anthony M. Perrone, Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill, Director of Collective Bargaining William McDonough and Wayne Hanley, National President of the UFCW Canadian Division on their re-election to five-year terms to lead the UFCW into the future.
As a proud Vice President of UFCW Executive Board, I can tell you that the team led by President Joe Hansen is unmatched in the labor movement when it comes to experience, dedication and a true commitment to improving the lives of every UFCW member. It was a privilege to be re-elected as Vice President on their team and I look forward to a bright future for all of us.