News and Updates
Packing and Processing
June 27, 2014
Workers at a Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Lumber Bridge, NC, are uniting together and organizing themselves into a union in order to ably negotiate fair wages, benefits, and better working conditions. With the help of activists from UFCW Local 1208, the group has shown substantial progress in garnering support from coworkers, with at least 700 workers (out of 2000 workers at the plant) expressing support for a union.
Workers like Jasmine Isom, a Mountaire Farms worker and mother, have reported being subjected to extreme heat on the job, discrimination, intimidation, low wages, and denied access to emergency health care following on-the-job injuries. The poor working conditions are a major factor in the need for workers to join together to improve conditions at the poultry plant.
Local 1208 President Keith Ludlum, who helped organize his co-workers into a union in the nearby Smithfield Processing Plant, noted that it took 16 years to organize within the Smithfield plant and committed to doing “whatever it takes” to fight for workers.
The right to form a union is critical to ensuring that workers have a voice on the job, and utilizing that right is the best way for many to ensure they get fair pay and just treatment while at work. The Mountaire workers in Lumber Bridge are the latest newcomers to the millions of workers across the country that are seeking for and finding that voice.
May 15, 2014
More than 30 QSI Contract Sanitation workers came together for a union voice on the job and voted to join the RWDSU Southeast Council. The workers in Buena Vista, Georgia, work sanitation inside a Tyson poultry plant. Workers at QSI Contract Sanitation say they needed a voice on the job to address the lack of a grievance procedure and improve their jobs at the plant.
“Every one of us voted to join the RWDSU. We are looking forward to seeing improved working conditions and higher wages in the near future,” said Leon Burke, a five-year employee at QSI.
The poultry processing workers at the Tyson plant are already members of the RWDSU and played a critical role in assisting QSI Contract Sanitation workers win a union voice. After speaking with their RWDSU co-workers, QSI workers realized the only way they could resolve the lack of a grievance procedure and improve their jobs was by joining a union and negotiating a union contract.
“We couldn’t have done this without the support of the RWDSU Tyson steward leadership and members,” Burke continued.
May 7, 2014
Worthington MN: Workers at the JBS pork processing facility in Worthington, Minnesota have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. More than 1,800 union workers are employed at the facility slaughtering hogs and processing and packaging pork products and belong to UFCW Local 1161. Workers have been at the bargaining table with the company negotiating a new union contract for ten months. The company has made no offer of any wage increases, and has repeatedly proposed a health care plan that could drastically increase out-of-pocket costs for workers, while reducing coverage.
Over the last few years, JBS’s union workers across the country have negotiated with the company to keep labor costs down, making it possible for the company to thrive. Together, workers and the company have kept health care costs steady and cost-effective.
“Today, JBS is a successful, profitable, multi-national corporation that’s earning profits hand over fist,” said Mike Potter, President of UFCW Local 1161. “Working people in the plants made this success possible. Yet, the company is demanding that workers accept deep cuts to their health care coverage. Their proposed health care plan is so bad, and so potentially expensive, it could mean bankruptcy for workers who become seriously ill, or decide to have a baby. There is simply no economic need to threaten the livelihoods of these workers – the only reason for this is greed,” Potter said.
“I’ve worked at JBS for 23 years,” said Lisa Mejia who operates a whizard knife on the cut floor and is on the union’s bargaining committee. “This has always been a good job, and workers have always been able to sit down and negotiate decent wages and benefits that mean we can have a good life. But now the company is asking us to make too big a sacrifice – one that puts our families at risk. It’s just not right, and it will negatively affect hundreds of families in Worthington and across the area.”
The UFCW represents JBS workers at several other locations around the country. Workers are also at the bargaining table in Greely, Colorado; Souderton, Pennsylvania; Grand Island Nebraska where the company is proposing similar cuts to health care. Workers in Louisville, Kentucky; and Omaha Nebraska will begin negotiations in the next two months. If Worthington workers go on strike, and the dispute spreads to these other locations it could affect more than 10,000 workers.
April 28, 2014
Today on April 28—Workers’ Memorial Day—the UFCW will join workers in the U.S. and around the world to honor the thousands of workers who have been killed on the job and the millions of workers who have suffered from injuries, sickness or diseases in their places of work.
While decades of struggle by workers and their unions have resulted in significant improvements in working conditions, too many workers here in the U.S. and around the world are suffering or dying on the job. Last April, our sisters and brothers who worked at the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh were told to report to work in a building that had severe structural cracks and over 1,100 workers lost their lives when the building collapsed. A year later, thousands of workers in Bangladesh continue to work in dangerous conditions and for meager wages, and survivors of the Rana Plaza tragedy are still suffering from their injuries and loss of income. Here in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4,000 workers lost their lives on the job in 2012 alone.
Workers everywhere deserve a safe place to work, and those corporations that exploit workers for profit and put them in danger must be held accountable. As we observe Workers’ Memorial Day, the UFCW takes to heart the words of activist Mother Jones to “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living” by reaffirming our dedication to supporting workers here in the U.S. and around the world who are fighting to uphold their basic rights – including safe jobs, workplace fairness and collective bargaining.
March 6, 2014
Local 1208, which is largely made up of Smithfield Foods workers in Tar Heel, North Carolina, recently hosted a rally as part of a “Poultry Worker Appreciation Day“. The event was created to bring awareness to the need for improved working conditions and living wages for the workers at the Mountaire Farms plant, which processes chicken.
About 65 Local 1208 members served baked beans and chicken to the plant workers, staying from 4 a.m. on Wednesday until around 2:30 a.m. the following morning, to make sure they were present for all of the workers’ shift changes. The UFCW members, wearing their UFCW gold, held signs to support the plant workers, demanding equal rights, and calling for more reasonable work-weeks.
Local 1208 Secretary-treasurer Terry Slaughter, who was present at the rally, said that “the workers are the ones that put chicken on our tables and get the poultry orders out. It is hard to feed your family on $9 an hour. These employees need more money and more respect for the job that they do.”
Standing in solidarity with the plant workers, the UFCW is supporting these workers, who have begun trying to organize and join a union. In fact, more than 400 of Mountaire’s 2,000 workers have signed union cards, indicating such interest.
“We’re trying to get management to show more appreciation for their employees … all the things that a job is supposed to show employees,” Slaughter said.
Yesterday, attorneys with Local 1208 filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board in Winston-Salem, N.C. The union is asking for an immediate injunction to stop severe and widespread violations of federal labor law.
“We are tired of the treatment and low pay we endure daily at Mountaire,” said Jasmine Isom, who has worked there for three years. “We work hard full time jobs and $10.00 an hour is not enough to raise our families on.”
The charges, which you can learn more about on Local 1208’s facebook page, say that Mountaire Farms has been disciplining employees for their union activity, threatening to have employees arrested, engaging in surveillance and coercion, interrogating employees, threatening termination and change in personal working conditions if employees support the union – all in violation of workers’ legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
“The Mountaire workers are standing up to this company and saying we will not be abused and disrespected any longer. We stand proudly with these workers,” said Keith Ludlum, President of Local 1208. “Anytime Mountaire violates the rights of workers we will hold them accountable.”
February 10, 2014
November 21, 2013
Immigrant Farmworkers, Labor Leaders and Immigration Advocates to the Republican House: “Do Your Jobs” on Immigration
Advocates Deliver Immigrant Processed Turkeys, Merlot and Fact Sheets to Speaker Boehner, Steve King and Other Key GOP Members; Remind Them Who’s Working Hard for America While They’re Taking More Days Off
Washington, DC – While Congress has been busy voting to repeal Obamacare forty-seven times, blaming the President for [insert anything here], taking 198 days off (including 32 of the final 40 days in 2013 as of today), complaining about having to read too many pages of legislation, and whining about “not having enough time” to do anything productive in 2013, millions of immigrant workers have been working day in and day out to help put Thanksgiving dinner on the tables of millions of Americans.
Today, immigrant farmworkers, labor leaders and immigration advocates launched the “Do Your Jobs” campaign as a reminder to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and the rest of the House Republican caucus about who is actually working hard for America and who needs to step it up.
According to Esther Lopez, Director of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s (UFCW) Civil Rights and Community Action Department, “At the UFCW, we are proud to put food on America’s table, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year. Our members work hard—often in difficult conditions—to provide an excellent product for their customers and communities. UFCW members are doing their jobs. It is time for Congress to do the same. Give us a vote on comprehensive immigration reform.”
As a send-off to Congress before they take their two-week Thanksgiving break, advocates delivered turkeys processed by immigrants to Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA), Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and other targeted Republican Members to remind them about the back-breaking work immigrants and others do in America every single day (see below for a full list of Members of Congress who received deliveries).
As a special touch, Boehner received an immigrant-harvested bottle of merlot wine (his favorite). Volunteers from each organization also handed out fact sheets to key Members of Congress, outlining the hard work that immigrants do to harvest produce, process meats, prepare foods, clean houses, and complete the numerous other jobs necessary to set our nation’s Thanksgiving tables while Members of Congress enjoy their two-week break (see the fact sheet here).
Giev Kashkooli, National Vice President of United Farm Workers (UFW) delivered turkeys and wine alongside two immigrant grape growers from the Yakima Valley in Washington, providing a face behind the hard work that goes into providing Speaker Boehner with the wine he adores.
As one of the growers, Adelaida Mendoza, UFW member from Mabton, Washington, said at today’s press conference, “It takes a lot of hard work to produce the grapes that make Merlot wine. From January when we begin to prune the vines early in the morning in 20 degree weather through the harvest season in the summer heat when poisonous snakes are regular visitors at our feet to now when we prepare the ground for the next year, the work is difficult. Now, we ask Speaker Boehner and the Republican House Leaders to Do Your Job. How can Speaker Boehner let Republicans take 32 of the next 40 days off when our country needs immigration reform?”
Added Maria Ramirez, UFW member and immigrant grape harvester from Benton, Washington, “Our work is difficult but we love doing this work producing wine that so many Americans enjoy. I am here today because the struggle that our families have to win a new immigration process is so important. We have done our job so others can enjoy wine. Now, we want Speaker Boehner and Republican leaders to do their job.”
Thus far, instead of actually doing something to address immigration (an issue that’s been debated for decades), Speaker Boehner has found nearly every excuse in the book to avoid actually doing his job by tackling this issue and the many others he’s left on the table. The only immigration vote the Speaker found time to schedule this year was on a Rep. Steve King (R-IA) amendment to deport DREAMers and others, yet so far he hasn’t found the 20 minutes needed to vote on an immigration proposal that the vast majority of Americans support.
“Immigrants show up for work and do their jobs. House members show up at the Capitol but do not do their jobs. Instead, they play politics with our lives,” said Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota. “If House members do not pass commonsense immigration reform with a path to citizenship, they will suffer the consequences next November. It’s as simple as that. The House can act today or face the consequences tomorrow.”
Donations were also made in the name of the Republican Members who did not receive turkeys today as well as the immigrant workers who produced these products to a local area food bank.
Said Andrea Zuniga, Legislative Representative of the AFL-CIO, “Each day Speaker Boehner delays immigration reform workers pay the price with stolen wages, unsafe working conditions and threats of deportation if they try to organize. Many of these workers will not have the luxury of spending Thanksgiving with their families- they will be working extra shifts to make ends meet or praying for family members that have been deported. It’s time for Speaker Boehner to give us a vote and fix our broken immigration system in a manner that protects all workers.”
“Immigrant workers spend hours preparing and harvesting the food that we eat every day. While Speaker Boehner and other House Republicans are enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with their families, immigrants are facing permanent separation from their families—all because the House Republican leadership will not act. Our message is simple: do the right thing. Pass immigration reform to let these hardworking immigrants become hardworking Americans, said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.
This new campaign is follow-up to the “Take Our Jobs” campaign of 2010 where United Farm Workers invited American workers to step into the shoes of an immigrant farmworker. Stephen Colbert and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) took up the offer and witnessed firsthand the difficulties of doing this backbreaking labor. As millions of immigrants continue their hard work to contribute to our country, we’re just asking that Congress do the same.
In August, leaders from UFW, America’s Voice and United We Dream responded to comments from Steve King about DREAMers having “calves the size of cantaloupes” by delivering sweet American-grown and immigrant harvested cantaloupes to all the 224 Members who voted in favor of Steve King’s amendment to deport DREAMers. Just as House leadership gave Steve King his vote, leaders demanded that Speaker Boehner schedule their vote on citizenship as well.
List of Members’ Offices Receiving Deliveries:
Receiving Turkey, Merlot and Fact Sheets:
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
Receiving Turkeys and Fact Sheets:
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA)
Receiving Fact Sheets and a Donation to a Local Food Back in theirs and an Immigrant Workers Name:
Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY)
Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY)
Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV)
Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA)
Rep. Scot Tipton (R-CO)
Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL)
November 20, 2013
This work, about 200 workers in a JBS rendering plant in Souderton, Pa., overwhelmingly voted for a union voice on the job with UFCW Local 1776.
“I have been a driver at JBS for three years and one reason why I wanted a union was to have better health insurance for my family. When it came time to vote, I stood with my co-workers and voted union ‘yes’,” said JBS worker Tony Serra.
The workers began campaigning to join a union at the beginning of this year. During the campaign, UFCW Locals 23, 204, 1994, and 1208 sent member activists to help UFCW Local 1776 members and JBS workers to handbill, hold worker-to-worker and member-to-worker meetings, and perform home calls to show solidarity and have a successful election. Many of the workers have been part of a union before and understand the power that workers have when they stand together.
Contract negotiations are set to begin immediately in order to run parallel with negotiations for the UFCW Local 1776 JBS beef plant workers. Respect on the job and protecting healthcare benefits are top priorities for workers.
October 31, 2013
Gluten is found in many staple foods of our western diet, and for people who have Celiac Disease (that’s one out of every 133 people in the US) and gluten-allergies, it may sometimes be difficult to find a large variety of foods that they enjoy.
But did you know that UFCW Local 1776 members make over 40 different Wise Chips products that are gluten free? Now you can enjoy a range of yummy snacks that are gluten-free AND union-made, so you can support your health and your union at the same time!
Check out the list of products and nutritional info for more details.
October 9, 2013
Washington, DC—Four UFCW activists were among those arrested yesterday outside the U.S. Capitol while protesting the failure of House Republican leaders to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The march, which included tens of thousands of people from across the country, followed over 180 similar actions in 40 states this weekend.
“Today we sent a message to House Republicans loud and clear,” UFCW President Joe Hansen said. “First and foremost, open this government. Secondly, once it is open, give us a vote on comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”
In an op-ed in the Huffington Post last week, Hansen laid out the case for reform. “We want to give aspiring citizens an opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” he said. “We want full rights and protections for immigrant workers. We want fairness and justice. We want an immigration policy that reflects our values. Speaker Boehner, we want a vote.”
The UFCW activists who were arrested spoke about the power of civil disobedience and the importance of standing together for comprehensive immigration reform.
Efrain Aguilera of UFCW Local 5 in San Jose, CA said: “I’m a Hispanic born in Michoacán, Mexico who came to this country legally but without knowing a word of English. The immigrant community has to struggle to find work and when it does, they face humiliation because of being undocumented and live in fear of being deported and separated from their families. Getting arrested for civil disobedience is the least I can do to support this great cause. We need comprehensive immigration reform now so that more than 11 million undocumented immigrants can get out of the shadows, work legally, pay taxes and stop being treated like second class citizens.”
Rigo Valdez of UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles, CA said: “I was arrested today to stand up for the workers who cannot stand up for themselves. In twenty years of organizing, I have witnessed exploitation of workers because of their immigration status. We can no longer allow the abuse of any workers in our country, and must fight and demand that all of us are treated with dignity and according to our rights. Comprehensive immigration reform is not only morally right, but necessary to guarantee the long term economic and social health of our nation. If our lawmakers will not act, then we will.”
Celestino Rivera of UFCW Local 540 in Dallas, TX said: “I was arrested today because I stand with America’s meatpacking and food processing workers to demand that Congress fix our broken immigration system. I have witnessed the price of keeping working families in the shadows. All workers should be able to exercise their fundamental rights on the job, regardless of immigration status. Now is the time for reform that preserves and protects these rights.”
Idalid Guerrero of UFCW Local 540 in Dallas, TX said: “I came to Washington today as both a worker and a mother. I know firsthand that women bear a huge burden because of our broken immigration system. We deserve reform that is humane and just and keeps families together. I was arrested in solidarity with all immigrant women who are calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform now.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.