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Executive Assistant’s Report

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RICHARD BARRERA
Executive Assistant

UFCW Local 135: Training Members to Organize

In June, we kicked off our Member Organizing program, launching with an initial focus on winning our current contract fight with Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons.

The point of these training sessions is to develop a core of members to lead, recruit and develop more leaders at their work sites and to communicate with community groups and organizations, as well as the press.

We are one of the strongest Unions in the city, maybe even the state as demonstrated by the overwhelming strike vote.

The importance of the strike vote is that it has given UFCW leverage at the bargaining table. These sessions will enable members to be confident and comfortable explaining what this fight is really about to co-workers and the public and inspiring others to join.

Our long-term goal is to build the Member Organizer program beyond this current contract fight so that our members lead all of our efforts to win contract fights with currently unionized business and to organize new workplaces where workers don’t yet belong to a powerful union.

We are the largest local union in San Diego – our strength must come from our members stepping up and being prepared to engage co-workers and the community to support our fight.
Strength and solidarity has to come from you, our members. And we need your strength to show management that we’re not going to budge. We will stand strong for a fair contract. It’s what we deserve.

Member Organizer trainings (including dinner) are being held every-other Thursday evening for the foreseeable future.

At the first meeting on June 23, we went through the history of the Labor Movement, focusing on how we have a strong middle class when unions are strong. When big employers are able to weaken unions, all of the benefits of the economy go to the people at the top, while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet.

This fight is really 100 years old – the middle class has been systematically dismantled, and the money and power in our communities is going straight to the top to the corporate bosses while average working people are struggling to make ends meet.

Corporate gains, profits, productivity at Albertsons/Vons and Ralphs have continued to steadily increase while wages for workers in the stores have stayed flat or in some cases, even decreased. Last year the 20,000 workers from Southern California Albertsons made less combined than the top six executives, which contributes to the hollowing out of our middle class members.

Creating leaders within our membership is a huge leap toward fighting back against the overpaid executives in our industry and taking back our middle class. We need all the leaders we can get.

During Member Organizing training, members have conversations with each other, and stories emerge about hard-working grocery workers who struggle to pay their bills. We discuss how a grocery job once was a prized job that offered a pathway to the middle class. But today, young grocery workers are forced to live with their parents and struggle to afford college. When the older workers started in these jobs, they had no problem getting out from under their parents with a home of their own.

Our first training session ended with participants committing to engage their co-workers in tabling outside of stores. They were successful in getting nearly 300 members out on June 25 and 27.
On July 7 and July 21, we focused on Media and Communications training to get our members comfortable with speaking to organizations, to the press and on Twitter to tell their stories about how hard it is to make ends meet. We focused on principles of communications and how they apply to our members.

We also began recording video of our members telling their stories. These videos will be edited and posted on our website and shared on Facebook and Twitter in the coming weeks.

There is a chain of events that takes place when you’re out there in front of the cameras, telling your stories. The more often people hear how our workers can’t make ends meet, the more they come to understand and support us, and the more pressure there is for Fortune 500 companies to do the right thing by treating their employees well.

We hope you will join us in future Member Organizing trainings. We have some great topics coming up. Let’s organize ourselves to be prepared to fight.

The more engaged our members are, and the public is – the more powerful the union is at the bargaining table.

The next training will be held on September 8 here at the Union hall from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Check the website at ufcw135.org/events.