News and Updates
Packing and Processing
January 2, 2018
On Dec. 21, the UFCW called on the National Chicken Council (NCC), the voice of the poultry industry, to set higher industry standards and stop the use of incarcerated and exploited labor by their member companies. In a letter to the NCC, UFCW International President Marc Perrone called on the NCC to take the lead in establishing a clear industry standard and give consumers confidence that their chicken is produced without these inhumane practices.
“This is not responsible or moral behavior,” said Perrone in the letter, “and as a leading voice of the poultry industry, it would make a difference if the National Chicken Council condemned these practices publicly and insisted on all of your member companies to do the same by agreeing to a code of conduct that puts an end to this reprehensible behavior.”
While more than 70,000 hard-working members of the UFCW family work in the poultry industry and earn better wages and benefits, the conditions in nonunion plants are far worse. A recent Oxfam report highlighted the struggles faced by nonunion poultry workers, including wearing diapers at work because they are routinely denied bathroom breaks. In addition, the industry has repeated problems with the use of incarcerated labor, underage workers and workers with disabilities being paid less than a minimum wage.
“The fact that some of your member companies have continued to operate in such an irresponsible manner is bringing shame upon the entire poultry industry and devaluing the skilled work of hundreds of thousands of hard-working men and women,” said Perrone. “This disgraceful practice also damages the reputation of responsible companies and our members who have good jobs working in poultry plants.”
You can read the entire letter here.
December 11, 2017
On Dec. 7, UFCW International President Marc Perrone issued a statement in response to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding safety and health in the poultry industry. This report confirms that the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t consider worker safety when allowing new and dangerous chemicals to be used in poultry plants, and that OSHA can’t or won’t adequately protect poultry workers from injury. The GAO also found a pattern of poultry companies repeatedly denying access to federal safety and health inspectors, leaving workers in at least 15 plants across the South working in potentially dangerous environments.
This report supports findings by Oxfam that poultry workers struggle to get adequate bathroom breaks, even to the point of endangering their health. Other GAO reports in 2005 and 2016 also found significant problems with safety and health in the poultry industry.
Perrone’s statement reads as follows:
“The hard-working people who work in poultry plants have some of the most dangerous and physically demanding jobs in America. This report sadly confirms that many of these skilled professionals who keep our food safe are struggling to keep themselves safe at work. They have earned and deserve better.
“The dangers endured by poultry workers that are highlighted in this report also underscore why a recent request by the National Chicken Council to increase line speeds defies common sense and is being clearly driven by greed. We urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take this report seriously and reject that request so that poultry workers and the food we all consume can be kept safe.”
December 4, 2017
UFCW International President Marc Perrone called on lawmakers to protect U.S. jobs, as well as the safety of our food supply, by opposing Agricultural Guestworker Act (AGA) of 2017 (H.R. 4092) in an op-ed for The Washington Examiner on Dec. 4.
The following are excerpts from the op-ed:
The AGA is a direct threat to America’s hard-working families, the incomes they depend on, and the food we all eat. This is not hyperbole. If the AGA becomes law, it will allow 450,000 foreign visa holders to work in agricultural and meat processing jobs that are currently held by hard-working American men and women. The impacts of this bill, particularly upon the hundreds of thousands of people employed by the meat and poultry industry, would be devastating.
This bad bill does more than just hurt American jobs and workers – it also puts our food supply at risk. While we may not see food processing workers do their jobs, the truth is that they are highly trained professionals who perform dangerous and highly skilled work. These professionals serve as a much needed layer of protection for consumers when it comes to food safety because they know to quickly spot meat that is low quality or diseased.
Like any high skilled and vital profession, current salaries reflect the quality and importance of this workforce, with wages as high as $23 per hour. By allowing untrained workers or guestworkers to hold these important jobs for as little as $10.88 per hour, the AGA will effectively drive down wages and destroy hundreds of thousands of good jobs in the process.
At a time when we need to strengthen American jobs and make our food safer, the AGA would also allow guestworkers to stay for up to three years. That isn’t a guestworker – that’s a long-term employee and further shows how this bill is designed to both exploit foreign workers and replace American workers at the same time.
Click here to read the full op-ed.
October 23, 2017
Recently, 800 workers at Seaboard Triumph Foods in Sioux City, Iowa, voted to join UFCW Local 222. Seaboard Triumph Foods is a new, state of the art pork slaughter and processing plant, which opened this September. In the near future, the company will add a second shift, which will increase the size of the unit to over 2,000 workers.
Because the UFCW represents other Seaboard plants in Oklahoma and Missouri and has established good labor-management relations, we were able to work out an election agreement with the company, which included card check recognition. Staff from Region 6 and our FPPM Division were able to sign up a majority of the workforce in two and a half days.
“Packing house workers deserve decent wages, benefits, and safe working conditions provided by union representation and a union contract,” said UFCW Local 222 President Dan Risner. “We welcome Seaboard Triumph Foods workers into our UFCW Local 222 family!”
“I would like to recognize UFCW Local 2 President Martin Rosas for his assistance in helping us organize this plant,” said Tish Ramirez, director of Region 6. “Because of his working relationship with the company, we were able to reach an agreement that led to a voice at work for working men and women at Seaboard Triumph. The efforts of Local 222, Region 6 and the FPPM Division collectively continue to grow and build a stronger UFCW.”
October 16, 2017
On Oct. 11, UFCW International President Marc Perrone sent a letter to the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture explaining why a recent petition by the National Chicken Council to eliminate line speeds at poultry plants poses a dangerous risk to American families.
“This petition, submitted to you in early September, would allow select poultry plants to run their lines with no speed limits, endangering both workers and consumers. Even more troubling is that this petition essentially requests that USDA create this new “no speed limit” rule behind closed doors with no opportunity for notice and comment by the public as the regulatory process requires,” Perrone wrote.
President Perrone’s entire letter can be read below.
Dear Madam Acting Deputy Undersecretary Rottenberg:
With the health and safety of over 250,000 thousand hard-working poultry workers in mind, 70,000 of whom are members of our union family, we write to urge you to reject a petition submitted by the National Chicken Council (NCC) to run food processing lines with no speed limits.
This petition, submitted to you in early September, would allow select poultry plants to run their lines with no speed limits, endangering both workers and consumers. Even more troubling is that this petition essentially requests that USDA create this new “no speed limit” rule behind closed doors with no opportunity for notice and comment by the public as the regulatory process requires.
As you must know, poultry workers hold some of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in America. The implications of this rule change are striking, for example:
- Industry statistics show poultry workers are at twice the risk of being injured on the job compared to other workers and suffer illnesses at a rate that is seven times as high.
- A 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office showed that forcing lines to move faster will expose poultry workers to higher rates of injuries and illnesses.
- Increased line speeds will also make it harder for both federal inspectors and quality control workers to properly check birds for contamination that could make consumers sick.
Given the facts noted above, the petition from the NCC clearly poses a dangerous risk to American families.
When the USDA chose not to raise line speed limits for poultry plants in 2014, there was large public interest in the open and transparent process (which we participated in) that ensured all perspectives on this proposed modification were heard – including those of the NCC. A wide array of people and interests, from workers on poultry lines to experts across the country, agreed then as they do now that faster line speeds will make this industry dramatically less safe, both for workers and consumers.
For the sake of keeping hard-working families safe – whether they’re preparing, buying, or eating chicken – the USDA must reject this petition.
Anthony “Marc” Perrone
August 14, 2017
The over 700 Cargill workers at the Hazleton plant are members of UFCW Local 1776 and produce beef products for sale at supermarkets. The center, which will be managed by Marathon Health, will provide convenient access to high quality care and preventative screenings for UFCW Local 1776 members and their families.
“With partnerships like these, Cargill, Marathon Health and Local 1776 are leading the way for meaningful change in the lives of workers,” said UFCW Local 1776 President Wendell W. Young, IV. “We are proud to have negotiated this benefit for members who work at Cargill, and look forward to using this program as a model for our members who work in other facilities, as well.”
August 7, 2017
The five-year contract includes a ratification bonus, yearly wage increases, and continued 100 percent employer paid health care over the life of the agreement.
April 17, 2017
On April 11, members of UFCW Local 655 who work at Holten Meat in Sauget, Ill., ratified an industry-leading new contract by an overwhelming margin. The new three-year contract resolves many of the work-life issues that forced Holten Meat employees to make the difficult decision to go on strike on March 18.
“Today is victory for our hard-working members who love their jobs, but love their families more. This union contract will not only make Holten Meat a better place to work in Sauget, it will make Holten Meat a better company,” said UFCW Local 655 President David Cook. “Make no mistake, we want Holten Meat to succeed, and that is why this contract is so important—it recognizes that no company succeeds in the absence of its hard-working employees and members. Best of all, UFCW members at Holten Meat now have a better contract that lets them not only support their families, but advance their careers at work.”
The new contract lets experienced members have more control over their lives and move to the shifts they need to spend more quality time with their families. The contract also allows members to advance their careers, and establishes a new labor and management committee at Holten Meat that will regularly meet to solve problems in the workplace cooperatively.
“We stood together and spoke out because we believe that our lives matter. None of us should have to choose between spending time with our family and doing our job—we should be able to do both,” said Trinetta Kitchen, a seven-year veteran of the production line at Holten Meat. “This contract will not only help ensure we can earn a better life, it recognizes our hard work and will make Holten Meat a better and more successful company.”
March 21, 2017
On March 18, members of UFCW Local 655 who work at Holten Meat in Sauget, Ill., rejected a contract offer that asked them to work harder for less, and made the difficult decision to authorize a strike.
No matter where our members live or the local they are part of, our union family is stronger when we stand together. Our members who work at Holten Meat have made it clear that a work-life balance is not only important, it’s worth fighting for.
“The issue for our members is about quality of life. It’s about having more control over their lives,” said UFCW Local 655 President Dave Cook.
UFCW Local 655 has been negotiating with Holten Meat over this contract for more than four months. While many workers are satisfied with the wages and benefits the company offers, they’ve become frustrated with schedules that make them choose between working and spending time with their families.
Why is this an issue worth standing up for? Today, a veteran employee who works on the night shift at Holten Meat is unable to use his or her seniority to transfer into an open day shift position. Instead, Holten Meat will frequently hire new employees to fill the open day shifts, making our most committed and dedicated members work schedules that sacrifice time from family.
Members are also being asked to split their days off, meaning they have to spend part of the weekend at work and away from their families for no extra pay.
As we all know, our hard-working members can relate to what’s happening at Holten Meat. The dedicated members who work simply want the better life they’ve earned, and supporting a family shouldn’t mean that you never get to see them.
“Give these hard-working men and women the contract they have earned and deserve,” Cook said. “It’s that simple.”
December 6, 2016
On Nov. 30, members of UFCW Local 435 who work at the JBS plant in Hyrum, Utah, ratified a new union contract by an overwhelming majority. The new five-year contract includes substantial wage increases, improved bidding (promotion) language, a sustainable health care package, and grade increases.
This contract includes the largest wage increases members in this plant have ever won, and would not have been possible without the recent membership growth, as well as a committee that was willing to fight for a good contract.
“I thought this process would be done in one day,” said Taner Atwood, a JBS worker and member of UFCW Local 435 who was new to the bargaining committee. “I did not know there was so much involved in negotiations. It took longer than expected, but a good contract is worth the wait. The members look forward to working together to grow and build the union.”