May 30, 2007
(Windom, Minn.) – Meatpacking workers at PM Beef stood strong against employer intimidation to vote in favor of representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1161 on Friday, May 25, 2007. The 500 PM Beef workers, who work in a full-scale cattle slaughtering and processing plant, sought out a voice on the job to address basic worker needs on the job – protection from dangerously fast line speeds and access to bathroom breaks.
“The PM beef workers fought hard for the opportunity to have a voice on the job. Their victory is significant considering how difficult it is for workers to organize in the face of employer intimidation,” said Kevin Williamson, UFCW International Vice President and Director, Region 6.
The majority Latino workforce withstood a heavy-handed anti-worker campaign by the company. Using hired gun lawyers, PM Beef pulled workers from the processing line to hold mandatory meetings with supervisors. Workers were subjected to one-on-one meetings with plant management for a month leading up to the election date.
According to American Rights at Work, more than 78 percent of workers face these kinds of captive audience meetings when organizing a union. Employers like PM Beef use the forced meetings to question workers about how they plan to vote, spread misinformation about the union and make workers fearful for speaking out in support of union representation.
What are rarely addressed in captive audience meetings are real solutions to the problems that inspired workers to organize. At PM Beef, that included the company’s policy of requiring workers to pay for their own knives when one broke or became unusable on the line.
“Workers withstood one-on-one meetings with bosses to maintain their solidarity and courage to vote together for UFCW representation,” said Williamson. “Their successful campaign will inspire other area meatpacking and other processing workers to stand up for respect and dignity on the job.”
The UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers in the meatpacking, poultry and food processing industries and has been on the frontlines of advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform (www.ufcw.org/issues/immigration).