February 6, 2007
Jose Guardado, Meatpacking Worker and Union Activist
My name is Jose Guardado and I worked at the Nebraska Beef meatpacking plant in Omaha, Nebraska for 8 years. I worked on the kill floor where we faced more than 2500 steers each day.
I came to this country to follow the American dream. I thought that in the most powerful country in the world, workers were free to express themselves. I thought the laws protected workers who wanted to form a union. I was wrong. Instead, I found that when employers break every law, abuse workers and silence our voices, no one does anything to stop them.
My co-workers and I wanted a union at work to fight back against the dangerous working conditions, the lack of respect, and abusive treatment. We all signed cards showing our support for the UFCW.
The law wasn’t enough to stop Nebraska Beef from campaigning against us. The company terrified workers from standing up for their rights. They threatened to fire union supporters, threatened to call immigration and deport the Latinos and threatened to close the plant. They promised to slow down the line and treat everyone better. On the day of the elections, Nebraska Beef brought in a bunch of workers from another company plant to vote against the union.
Workers were scared. No one wanted to lose their job. The company won the vote by a small number. The line was sped back up and no one was given what was promised to them.
Then, Nebraska Beef began firing union supporters. I knew they were watching and waiting for me to make a mistake, so I was very careful. But the company fired me. My insurance was terminated weeks before they fired me and I had to pay $1,000 out of my own pocket for doctor’s visits and medicine. Meanwhile, they still took $20 out of the last three paychecks for health insurance that I didn’t have.
This company took away my livelihood and hurt my family just to keep us from organizing a union. Many other workers were fired or quit because they were so afraid.
Now, workers at Nebraska Beef still suffer the abuse and indignity that existed before the union campaign. Workers are still being threatened and fired. And, there is no way to ever have a fair election there.
We need this law to protect workers’ rights. We need this law to help workers who want to have safer working conditions and a better life with union representation.