September 25, 2003

Immigrant Workers Stand Up for a Voice on the Job

 On the eve of the historic national Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride arriving in Omaha, a group of 250 mostly immigrant workers at the Casa de Oro plant stood up for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 271.  In an election Tuesday, September 23, 2003, workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of UFCW representation.
 “”Workers communicate in at least four languages—English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Bosnian—but spoke with one unified voice yesterday when they stood up for more secure benefits, improved safety at the plant, and the respect and dignity that come with union representation,”” said Donna McDonald, President of UFCW Local 271.
 Casa de Oro, owned by ConAgra, waged a strong anti-union campaign in an attempt to intimidate workers from standing up for the UFCW.  Workers overcame the fear tactics by connecting with UFCW Local 271 members from nearby meat packing plants meeting who met with workers in their homes to share their experiences.
 The UFCW Local 271 has worked closely with Omaha Together, One Community (OTOC) to build community support for worker organizing efforts—a partnership that has led to organization and a union contract to immigrant workers three Omaha area plants.
 UFCW contracts for immigrant workers have produced tangible improvements in workers’ lives including wage increases and affordable, family health insurance.  Union contracts also:
>  protect immigrant workers from unfair firings;
>  protect workers from discrimination based immigration status; and
>  provide workers with representation and impartial arbitration to protect their rights.
 The contracts also establish multi-cultural funds that provide resources for programs such as safety training in Spanish and English as a second language classes.
 The Casa de Oro workers with their union, UFCW Local 271, are looking forward to sitting down with management and working toward a contract as soon as possible.