UFCW Fights to Improve the Pay and Quality of Life for the Workers Who Bring Value to Retailers and Customers
By: Chris Curry -- The members of the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union play an often-overlooked role in our daily lives.
Take Super Bowl Sunday for instance. UFCW members work in the industries that provide some of the most popular items on the menus at parties across the country: Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, the Heinz Ketchup for those hot dogs, the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing for the chicken wings, and they even sell the avocados for the guacamole. The Jim Beam for the whiskey and Cokes came from a distillery whose workers are represented by the UFCW, and members made the leather for the footballs used in the game.
“Our members are behind the scenes in all these daily interactions and moments in people’s lives, from the Super Bowl to Christmas,” UFCW Communications Director Erikka Knuti said.
The union is in the midst of a public campaign to tell the story of how its 1.3 million members work hard on a daily basis to benefit the grocery stores, retail shops, and packing plants where they work — as well as the customers of those businesses. The goal is to spur investment in the workforce by showing their value.
The UFCW formed in 1979 as a partnership of unions that have represented retail clerks, meat packers, butchers, barbers, beauticians, and other trades since the late 19th century. Their shared mission was to improve the pay, benefits, and working conditions of their members. That remains the priority today as corporations, and even consumers, often overlook the low pay, unpredictable scheduling, and long hours that workers often face.
“We’ve had a conversation about what sustainable farming is and what is most humane for the chickens, but we haven’t had that conversation about the people that are processing the chicken and selling it to you in the grocery store,” Erikka said. “That’s kind of odd. People will pay a little bit more for cage-free eggs. Will they pay a little bit more for a living wage for the person who is selling you the cage-free eggs?”
The UFCW is also shining a light on the contributions of members to show their value as professionals.
That public outreach campaign includes a “How-To” video series on the UFCW website where members — from butchers to florists — can share their professional knowledge and advice. Erikka said that as automation threatens jobs, it is particularly important to show how professionals can enhance the customer experience and offer expertise that helps businesses boost sales.