April 27, 2007

Townsends Workers Put Focus on Wage and Hour Irregularities


(Siler City, NC) — Townsends workers fighting for better conditions at the Siler City and Pittsboro, North Carolina, poultry plants have begun investigating widespread worker claims of underpayment for time worked and other violations of federal wage and hour laws.  Townsends workers have been working to organize a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

During the ongoing union organizing campaign, workers have regularly complained about Townsends changing clocks in the factory, forcing the workers to pay for necessary equipment, and not paying for worked time.  Many workers believe Townsends does this because they don’t think the immigrant workforce will complain.

“The law is clear – employers like Townsends are required to pay workers for all the time they work. That includes the time it takes putting on and taking off required safety equipment.  Townsends seems to believe workers at their plants in Siler City and Pittsboro should provide their labor as a gift to the company. They deserve to be paid for all of their work—including any unpaid work they’ve already performed—and it’s one of the reasons the workers are forming a union,” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the union’s Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division.

Pittsboro employee Samuel Tapia Alavarado said, “We work hard. We deserve to be paid and treated fairly at Townsends.   They deduct work supplies from our checks. They do not even pay us for our prep time. It is time for Townsends to stop treating us like second class citizens.  We are forming a union to improve conditions for all immigrants and all workers in the polleras.”

UFCW will be supporting the May 1 immigrant rights rally in Raleigh-Durham.  Last year, workers and immigrants marched on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform.  “Abuse of immigrant workers is a practice many employers use to lower working standards for all workers in numerous economic sectors, including the poultry sector,” said Lauritsen. “And it’s one of the prime reasons the UFCW supports comprehensive immigration reform.”

Townsends worker Paulo Faustino agrees: “The abuses to immigrant workers in the polleras must stop. With a union we will have the legal power to win improvements and changes.  We deserve to be treated and paid fairly. We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by what the company says. It is our right to take a stand to improve conditions for all immigrants and all workers in the polleras. That’s why we are forming a union with UFCW.”

“Workers at Townsends deserve the chance to have a voice on the job for improved safety, living wages and respect for all workers.  The UFCW intends to make that happen,” continued Lauritsen.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) represent 1.3 million workers across North America.  UFCW members work in poultry and meatpacking plants, food processing facilities, retail stores and supermarkets. The UFCW is about workers helping workers achieve better wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. Despite the challenges of soaring health care premiums, costly prescription medications, retirement insecurity, and economic instability, the UFCW is a powerful voice for working men and women, leading efforts to protect and improve the livelihoods of all workers.