Joseph T. Hansen doesn’t shy away from a challenge.
And good thing, because Hansen and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union are up against the largest food retailer in the country.
Wal-Mart Stores, in UFCW’s view, has “led the race to the bottom for workers with low wages and no benefits,” Hansen said.
Along with the group OURWalmart, UFCW has held demonstrations against the Bentonville behemoth’s working conditions. Last month, Hansen said that more than 100 Wal-Mart employees walked off the job to go protest at the annual shareholders’ meeting.
On June 5, an Arkansas court issued a restraining order against UFCW and OURWalmart members prohibiting them — except for Wal-Mart employees — from entering Wal-Mart property unless they are shopping.
Hansen intends to test this injunction, arguing that UFCW’s ability to talk to Wal-Mart workers is a freedom of speech issue.
“We think there’s going to be some public figures that are going to walk into a Walmart store with the UFCW gold shirt on, and we will see what happens to them,” he said.
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Uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act has also posed a challenge for UFCW as the group negotiates future contracts.
“We don’t know exactly where we are. We’re not happy with the stuff we’ve been hearing so far. And it’s going to be a struggle,” he said.
“There are certainly parts of the act that we think are very, very good.”
UFCW lobbied members of Congress, the White House and the departments of Labor, and Health and Human Services to include the current subsidies for the Taft-Hartley Act insurance plans in the Affordable Care Act.
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“And the way the ACA stands right now, the insurance companies are going to profit greatly and meanwhile the Taft-Hartley plans, which are nonprofit and low-cost quality providers of health care to millions, are kind of left out in the cold.”
With the Pension Protection Act expiring in 2014, UFCW is also continuing to work with employers on pension reform. Hansen said the Joint Labor Management Committee endorsed a report by the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans.
“What we are trying to do is to create a defined benefit pension plan — not a bailout; we don’t want a bailout at all. We want to have a better structured plan — maybe not some of the plans that got into trouble; their assumptions were too optimistic,” he said.
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