December 11, 2010

Stewards: Keeping Our Food Supply Safe


Food workers across the country are on the front lines of food safety. The work we do every day determines whether or not the country’s food supply will be safe. That is a responsibility we take seriously as UFCW stewards. The fact is, union plants are safer plants, and safer plants produce safer food. Having a voice on the job, and having stewards in the workplace, assures that we produce only the safest food.
Our union contract means we can speak out if we see something going wrong or jeopardizing food quality, without having to fear negative consequences – so only the highest quality food leaves our plants. It also means we can slow down the breakneck pace of production, and ensure proper staffing – factors that reduce on-the-job injuries and even further improve food safety. Workers who don’t have a union sadly do not have those same assurances.
“I see it as our duty to speak up if we see something going wrong in the plant. If we don’t make food safety our number one priority, everyone suffers. Bad food puts our families, and everyone’s families at risk. It also put our jobs on the line. If the public turns against our industry, it’s our jobs that get destroyed,” said Joel Elder, a UFCW Local 38 steward who has worked at ConAgra for 22 years.
It’s our responsibility as stewards to make sure that our coworkers feel comfortable enough at work to come forward and speak up if they see something unsafe going on. We must, above all, see to it that all of our brothers and sisters in the industry understand the high stakes of food safety and take seriously their active role in ensuring the quality of food we produce.
As stewards, as leaders, our responsibilities don’t end at the plant gates. The UFCW is leading our industry in pushing for food safety legislation at the federal level and at home in our states. We have to be active in that process so our lawmakers know we stand behind stronger food safety laws. Because we know that union plants produce safer food, we should also be involved in organizing more workplaces throughout our industry. The more food workers that come together in our union, the more power we can build at the bargaining table and the more leverage we will have to push for stronger food safety legislation. That will make food safer for all Americans. That’s something we can make happen by getting involved in organizing with our union.
“I’m proud to be part of a union that takes leadership in our industry, a union that looks out not only for those of us in the plant, but for everyone in our communities by making sure our food is safe,” said Elder. “One of the best ways I know to keep working to make our food even safer is to reach out to our colleagues in non-union plants and show them everything they have to gain by joining together with us in the UFCW.”
To learn more about how our union is working to ensure worker safety and food safety, visit