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Pickets protest UNFI treatment of workers

Picket lines marched outside the annual meeting of United Natural Foods Inc. Wednesday to protest alleged mistreatment of workers who have opted to join the teamsters union at a distribution facility in Moreno Valley, Calif.

The protesters “put management on notice” that continued worker abuse and intimidation will not be tolerated, according to a press release issued by the teamsters, whose members participated in the protests.

Representatives of UNFI, based in Providence, R.I.,  could not be reached for comment. The annual meeting was held in Sacramento, Calif., the home city for Tony’s Fine Foods, a specialty foods distributor UNFI acquired in May.

According to the teamstrs, UNFI has “intimidated, threatened and fired workers” at the Moreno Valley facility for trying to join a union, even though the union was federally certified in November as the union for truck drivers at the warehouse.

Steve Vairma, teamsters warehouse division director, said in a statement “UNFI runs roughshod over its employees’ fundamental freedom of association and their protected concerted activity and bargaining rights.”


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Organizing director for Teamsters Local 63 in Covina, Calif., Randy Korgan, said in a statement, “It seems that whether 35% or 65% of a group of workers at a UNFI warehouse or truck yard join together as a union, UNFI management shows them zero respect and treats them all with the same level of contempt and denial and heavy-handed tactics.” 

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Chilean truckers block roads, ports to protest lengthy inspections

Chilean truckers block roads, ports to protest lengthy inspections

Chilean truck drivers held a road and port-blocking protest last Friday to draw attention to lengthy inspections and a host of other problems and demand a rapid government response, strike organizers said.

The protesters, who began demonstrating on Thursday, said they are being hard hit by lengthy phytosanitary and cargo inspections at ports, the high price of fuel, assaults and arson attacks on trucks in the south-central region on Araucania, and what they term the government’s apathy toward these problems.

Truckers are being “mistreated” by shipping companies and terminal operators at the ports, according to Juan Araya, president of the National Truck Owners’ Confederation.

In Temuco, capital of the Araucania region, truckers blocked some roads and rode their vehicles in a single file with horns blaring. Some of the vehicles carried the charred chassis of burned trucks, which organizers said now number 120.

The protest began Thursday at the central Chilean ports of San Antonio and Valparaiso and spread later to the northern ports of Iquique and Antofagasta, to the central region of Maule, and to ports in the southern region of Bio Bio.

It will last all day on Friday.

Jose Egido, head of the truckers’ union in Valparaiso, told Cooperativa radio that the decision to protest was made after two years of fruitless talks with the authorities.

Under the current system, “the driver has to be practically enclosed in his cab for 24-48 hours, without hardly being able to go to the restroom, eat anything or be a little more at ease while they’re carrying out the inspections,” he said.

Strike organizers said their next protest will be open-ended if their demands are not met.


Publication date: 10/21/2014

AU: Ag groups come out in protest against changes to agricultural levies

AU: Ag groups come out in protest against changes to agricultural levies

Agricultural groups have come out swinging in a ferocious public campaign aimed at blocking “political intervention” on changes to agricultural levies.

A dis-allowance motion by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm that aims to reverse increases to the onion, mango and mushroom levies has angered key industry players, including the National Farmers Federation (NFF).

According to the Across Agriculture Group (AAG), which is convened periodically to lobby collectively on issues affecting grower levies, the new Senator’s disallowance motion could potentially destroy Australia’s agricultural levy system.

The AAG was recently convened by the Australian Lot Feeders Association’s Dougal Gordon and involves 17 other groups, including Grain Producers Australia and pork, dairy, rice, cotton and mushroom peak bodies.

They’ve defended the Australian agricultural levy system as being world-leading and accused Senator Leyonhjelm of being driven by an ideological opposition to levies.

At a public protest held in Tasmania on Thursday, industry groups demanded the ALP, Greens and Palmer United Party support agriculture by publicly stating they’ll vote against the dis-allowance motion in the federal Senate on August 26

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie who firstly argued strongly in support of blocking increases to marketing and research levies for mushrooms now says she’ll vote against a dis-allowance motion moved by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm to stop increases in levies for mushrooms, mangoes and onions.

Ms Lambie attended the rally in Tasmania today.

“It became clear to me after many local phone calls late last night that Tasmanian Primary Industries and rural workers would be better off if the levy increases were allowed to stand,” she said.

Former Onions Australia chairman Brian Bonde is a strong supporter of the levy system.

He said that it underpinned Australia’s agricultural research and development, marketing, plant and animal health systems that had made it one of the leading agricultural producers of the world.

“The onion, mango and mushroom industries have joined in a bid to fight off Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm’s motion to disallow the regulations implementing the industry-supported changes to the levies,” Mr Bonde said.

“The motion has been tabled, notwithstanding the industries conducting a rigorous five year process of consultation, investing grower funds and conducting AEC independent ballots.”

Mr Bonde said that the industries welcomed support from The Greens, who had publicly stated their support for the levies system, as well as from Opposition Agriculture Spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, who said that levies were an important aspect of agricultural industries.

Robert Gray, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Mango Industry Association, said that the mango levy is essential to the future of the industry. “During the 2012 / 2013 mango season, there was a significant incidence of an issue called Resin Canal Discolouration. While this issue only affects the appearance of a mango it can drastically reduce the price a mango is sold for, hurting growers back pockets. The industry recognised that this was a serious issue, and during the 2013 / 2014 season, used funds from the mango levy to initiate a research project to assess the issue and look at possible causes,” he said.

Mango levies receive widespread support from the industry and are recognised as being vital to the growth and prosperity of the Australian mango industry. Levies fund research and development, biosecurity measures, are used to work toward market access for mango exports, and marketing programs that ensure ongoing demand for the popular fruit.

“The levy system allows our industry to invest in issues that could cause significant damage to our growers if not addressed. The issue of Resin Canal Discolouration is just an example that paints a picture of the need for the levy system. Without the compulsory levy, the industry would have little or no options to deal with issues like this.

“If the Senate vote to disallow the levy is successful, it could put the whole levy system in disarray. The levies in question were passed by a majority of mango growers. The final decision should rest with the growers as they pay the levy and will be most affected by the dis-allowance,” Mr Gray said.

Publication date: 8/21/2014

Whole Foods Sale of Rabbit Meat Sparks Weekend Protest Plan

Animal advocacy groups are planning to protest this weekend at Whole Foods Markets nationwide to oppose the retail sale of rabbit meat and to “politely” remind customers via handouts that rabbits are friendly animals often kept as pets.

“Rabbits are the 3rd most popular furry companion in the US and have unique personalities, just like dogs and cats,” a leaflet from House Rabbit Society states. “They enjoy running, jumping, snuggling with other rabbits, and form deep bonds with their humans.”

The advocacy groups will be asking customers to fill out comment cards opposing the sale of rabbit meat at Whole Foods and to let store managers know how they feel about the issue. In addition, a petition is posted claiming more than 10,000 signatures of people who are against the company’s retail sale of rabbit meat.

A Whole Foods spokesman said the company recently began a pilot program of selling rabbit meat at certain stores in northern California, the mid-Atlantic states, the Midwest, the Northeast, the South and the Pacific Northwest because of ongoing customer demand.

Stressing what it calls “a resurgence” of including rabbit meat in the American diet, Whole Foods notes that it’s a more sustainable and leaner protein option since six pounds of rabbit meat can be produced using the same amount of food and water it would take to produce one pound of beef.

The company has also made efforts to ensure that its suppliers provide improved conditions for rabbits raised for meat destined for retail sale in its stores.

“To meet our customers’ requests for rabbit, we needed our own set of animal welfare standards. These animal welfare standards are a direct result of a rigorous four-year process to address the welfare issues in rabbit production,” Mike Silverman told Huffington Post.

Concerns about how rabbits are raised for food led to a company statement released in May setting out how newly devised animal-welfare standards were being met, noting that the company’s supplier had “set up several innovative family farms that are meeting those standards” and adding that the program was being tested in a limited number of stores in northern California and the Washington, D.C., metro area.

“It was important to us to provide rabbits that were raised in better conditions than what the industry offered,” the statement reads, calling most current rabbit production conditions “grim.”

Whole Foods Market’s stated animal-welfare standards for rabbits are designed to:

  • Take into account the fact that rabbits socialize in groups. While most rabbits raised for meat are kept in cages, we require group pens on solid floors with plenty of dry bedding, additional places to hide and climb, and room to forage, groom, hop, socialize and play.
  • Require that our rabbits have continuous access to drinking water, feed, roughage, gnawing blocks, tunnels and places for seclusion.
  • Ensure injured animals are treated.
  • Allow the mother rabbit time to nurse and recover before being re-bred, as rabbits are famous for their prolific breeding.

Whole Foods Market is reportedly under investor pressure to step up its game in the increasingly crowded organic food sector. The company has reduced its revenue forecast four times in the past nine months and now faces competition from retail giants Walmart and Kroger, which have recently launched into organics and offer cheaper prices and many more outlets than Whole Foods.

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South Korean farmers protest China FTA in Seoul

South Korean farmers protest China FTA in Seoul

Thousands of South Korean farmers rallied in Seoul on Thursday, protesting Chinese demands for more access to the local agricultural market as part of a planned free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea.

About 5,000 farmers who grow chilli peppers, onions, and garlic gathered in Seoul’s financial district of Yeouido, protesting China’s reported move to ask for greater access for its agricultural products at the next round of negotiations for a bilateral FTA.

The 12th round of FTA talks between the two countries will be held in Daegu, 300 kilometres south of Seoul, next week, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

“It is reported that China will demand the removal of tariffs on chilli peppers, garlic, and onions while reducing the number of agricultural products in the proposed market opening at the 12th round of the FTA talks,” the farmers said.

The farmers, who travelled by bus and plane to take part in Thursday’s rally, demanded that vegetables used for seasoning be excluded from the negotiations and that a special law be enacted to prevent illegal distribution of imported vegetables.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at their summit in Seoul last week to make efforts for an early conclusion of their FTA talks, setting a goal of this year.

The South Korea-China FTA negotiations began in May 2012.

The countries agreed late last year to liberalize their markets for about 90 percent of all products traded between them but have since hit a stumbling block, partly over which products will be excluded from the proposed market opening.


Publication date: 7/11/2014

Wal-Mart Opens 24 Stores Amid Union Protest

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores here said it opened 24 new locations across the country on Wednesday, including 12 Neighborhood Market stores and 12 new, relocated or expanded supercenters.


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Half of the new Neighborhood Market stores are located in California, with stores opening Wednesday in Vacaville, San Diego, Vallejo, Pleasanton and Torrance.

Union members and sympathizers were scheduled to hold a rally outside the Pleasanton Neighborhood Market Wednesday to “welcome the company” to the Northern California city.

According to a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the rally included “a broad coalition of concerned community, labor and political groups,” in order to “highlight the vast number of abuses perpetrated by Wal-Mart on the communities in which they locate.”

Other Neighborhood Markets opened in Vancouver, Wash.; Omaha, Neb.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Conway, Ark.; Pinellas Park, Fla., and Cary, N.C.

New supercenters opened Wednesday in Tacoma, Wash.; Lincoln, Neb.; Ocala, Fla.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Greenville, N.C. In addition, newly relocated supercenters opened in Murphy, Texas; New Roads, La.; Fall River, Mass.; and Yucca Valley, Calif. Expansions were unveiled in Sellinsgrove, Pa.; Beaver Creek, Ohio; East Syracuse, N.Y.

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