Grand Rapids Workers Elect Union Representation
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Yesterday, 106 workers at Valley City Linen voted for representation with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in an effort to improve working conditions at the commercial laundry. The vote ends workers’ three-month union organizing campaign.
“When management refused to address workers’ concerns regarding safety and other conditions at Valley City Linen, a group of workers decided it was time to unionize,” Chad Pemberton, an organizer for UFCW Statewide Community Development, said. “Support for the union grew quickly and the workers were very united. Even after the company launched an anti-union campaign, complete with high-priced union busters, workers remained strong in their support of a better work life through unionizing.”
Lack of proper safety equipment and procedures was a top issue leading to the union campaign.
“Workers’ stories about the conditions at the plant were really quite shocking. We thought it was bad they didn’t have heat or air conditioning, but it got worse,” Pemberton said. “Workers told us they sort through contaminated hospital linens without proper gloves or aprons and, in one part of the plant, the company provides one hard hat for 20 workers to share. We also heard several stories where the company left workers injured on-the-job to fend for themselves, never even mentioning they qualified for Workers’ Compensation.”
Workers also cited low wages, insignificant raises and unaffordable health insurance as reasons they supported the union.
“Workers told us they didn’t think it was right that many of them barely make over minimum wage, even after many years on the job,” Pemberton said. “They were also insulted by the company’s last raise for the highest performers — a $5 gift card.”
Negotiations over a first contract should begin in the next few weeks.
“We look forward to meeting the company at the bargaining table and negotiating a fair and just contract for Valley City Linen workers,” Pemberton said.
UFCW Statewide Community Development is a joint project of UFCW Locals 951 and 876 devoted to community activism, including union organizing. Approximately 46,000 workers belong to the UFCW in Michigan, working for a variety of retailers including Meijer, Kroger, and Rite Aid, along with numerous other companies in a variety of industries including food processing, automotive supply, and health care.
SOURCE United Food and Commercial Workers Michigan