United Food and Commercial Workers

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union strives to improve and protect the rights of workers by fighting for competitive wages, health care reform, retirement security, safe working conditions, and the right to unionize.

The Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union and the Retail Clerks International Union merged in 1979 to form the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). By merging with several smaller unions between 1980 and 1998, the UFCW expanded its membership to represent over one million workers, becoming the second-largest union by membership affiliated with the AFL-CIO until 2005. On July 29 of that year, the UFCW disaffiliated with the AFL-CIO to help form the Change to Win coalition with six other unions. As a member of this coalition, the UFCW provides a powerful voice in the effort to rebuild the American labor movement and restore the proper balance between working America and corporate America.United Food and Commercial Workers

The UFCW works in a wide range of industries that include the health care, poultry, food processing, meatpacking, manufacturing, retail food, textile, and chemical trades. The UFCW’s membership has grown to over 1.4 million. It is the largest union of young workers in America, with more than 40 percent of its workers under the age of thirty. The UFCW works to improve the lives and livelihoods of workers, their families, and their communities. Specific goals of the UFCW are to achieve better wages, affordable health care, retirement security, and safer working conditions and to provide an independent voice in the workplace. On average, the added pay and benefits received by UFCW members are eighteen times more than the cost of their union dues. UFCW members in the retail food industry earn over 30 percent more in wages than their nonunion counterparts.

Since September 19, 2007, the UFCW has been involved in food security issues in New York, organizing grocery store workers and assisting in the development of new food policies that help ensure the availability of safe, fresh, nutritious, and affordable food for all people in the state. To ensure food access, the UFCW has encouraged the preservation and development of supermarkets in low-income communities and partnerships between supermarkets, local food manufacturers, regional farms, and urban agriculture to create more local jobs and increase the sale of locally produced foods in New York.

The UFCW is actively involved in reforming Wal-Mart’s business practices throughout the United States and Canada to provide competitive wages, better working conditions, and affordable health care for Wal-Mart workers. At the heart of these battles is UFCW’s commitment to preserve the values and standard of living for hardworking, middle-class workers and to preserve a land where hard work is respected and those who do the work are protected.

Further Reading

  • Chaison, Gary N. Unions in America. London: Sage, 2005.
  • Dannin, Ellen. Taking Back the Workers’ Law: How to Fight the Assault on Labor Rights. Ithaca, N.Y.: ILR Press, 2006.
  • Midkiff, Ken. The Meat You Eat: How Corporate Farming Has Endangered America’s Food Supply. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004.

Fast-food restaurants

Food-processing industries

Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company

Labor history

Labor strikes

Meatpacking industry

Poultry industry

Restaurant industry