United Food and Commercial Workers

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is a labor union representing approximately 1.3 million workers in the United States and Canada in many industries, including health care, meatpacking, poultry and food processing, manufacturing, textile and chemical trades, and retail food. UFCW is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, where it is the second largest union by membership, and with the Canadian Labour Congress, where it is also one of the largest unions.



The UFCW was created through the merger of the meat cutters and retail clerks unions in 1979. The UFCW expanded by merging with several smaller unions between 1980 and 1998.

2003 California grocery strike

On October 11, 2003, the UFCW declared a strike on Vons (owned by Safeway Inc.), in Southern California, because of drastic changes in the new proposed labor contract. These changes included cuts in health care and pension benefits, and the creation of a two-tier wage. The day following the strike, Albertsons and Ralphs (owned by Kroger) locked out their Southern California employees. The UFCW and the companies reached an agreement on February 26, 2004, at about 5:30pm. Similar strikes, lockouts, and tense negotiations have followed across the country: in northern California, western Washington, Colorado, and Ohio.

UFCW and Wal-Mart

The UFCW has accused Wal-Mart, with its non-unionized workforce of treating its workers poorly and of driving down employment standards in the retail sector. To counter this, the union has been trying to organize the chain.

The union's attempt at organizing Wal-Mart has been unsuccessful in the U.S.A. Its only victory, at a meat-cutting department in Texas, was short-lived as the company got rid of that department nationwide soon after.

In Canada, however, UFCW managed to win union recognition at two stores in Quebec. The first, in Jonquière, closed in February 2005 after the company claimed the store was losing money and union demands would have made continued operation untenable; disputing this, union officials have claimed the closure sacrificed the store to make a point to other potential organizers. At the second, in Saint-Hyacinthe, the company is currently appealing a provincial decision to unionize the store.

The union has also applied for recognition at a dozen other Wal-Marts. These applications are pending in various provincial Labour Relation Boards.

League of Independent Workers of the San Joaquin Valley

In 2003, workers at Foster Farms plants around Livingston, California voted to leave UFCW Local 1288. In 2004, these workers founded the League of Independent Workers of the San Joaquin Valley.

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