News and Updates
Packing and Processing
November 29, 2016
On Nov. 10, Quaker Oats workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who are members of RWDSU/UFCW Local 110, ratified a new contract.
The new three-year agreement includes a $1,500 signing bonus and yearly wage increases. The contract also calls for improvements to the vacation eligibilities, implements day-at-a-time vacation usage, and includes a vacation bonus for members with over 25 years of service.
The contract also restricts the company from requiring overtime on weekends, and improves the new hire progression rates so that some employees will receive wage increases from $1.91 an hour to $2.46 an hour depending on their time in the progression right away. Improvements were also made to the Short Term Disability Benefits and the Shoe and Clothing Allowances, and to the Perfect Attendance bonus.
November 29, 2016
On Nov. 19, 2,500 workers at the National Beef plant in Dodge City, Kansas, ratified a new contract. The workers are members of UFCW Local 2.
The new five-year contract includes significant wage increases, improved health benefits, and an improved bidding system for jobs. The new contract also establishes a union office inside the plant.
“UFCW Local 2 is working hard to enhance the lives of meatpacking workers in southwest Kansas,” said UFCW Local 2 President Martin Rosas. “We’re very proud of this contract and the workers we represent.”
November 2, 2016
Last month, 56 workers at the Hale & Hearty commissary in Brooklyn, N.Y., banded together for a better life by joining UFCW Local 1500. Hale & Hearty is a New York-based counter-serve chain that’s well known for its soups.
Donald Torres, who has worked at the Hale & Hearty factory for two years said, “We all just felt that we deserved better. We want to have a voice and to build a better life working here.”
Tony Speelman, president UFCW Local 1500, said “I want to congratulate the hard-working men and women at Hale & Hearty for joining us at Local 1500. Our entire union is proud of them and admires their courage. We look forward to building a relationship with Hale & Hearty, and working together to find ways to benefit workers and the company together.”
“By working together we will improve their lives and make Hale & Hearty into a better and more successful company. This cannot be done alone, it will be a joint labor-management effort and we look forward to beginning that relationship,” Speelman concluded.
September 28, 2016
Sixteen Aramark workers at Beaver Area School District Food Services in Beaver, Pa., voted overwhelmingly to join UFCW Local 23 on Sept. 15. Aramark is a global food service, facilities, and uniform services provider.
These new members stood up to Aramark’s anti-union campaign, including captive audience meetings and literature that used intimidating language, and formed their union. Issues of concern to the workers included the need for respect on the job, fair wages, seniority rights, proper staffing, and retirement benefits.
“Workers are winning,” said UFCW Local 23 Organizer Julie Curry.
“These workers know that if they work together, they can make their jobs great jobs,” said UFCW Local 23 Director of Organizing Richard Granger. “We’re glad they’ve joined the Local 23 family and we’ll be working with them as they make the change they want to see.”
August 10, 2016
On July 28, 75 workers at CTI Foods in King of Prussia, Pa., ratified their first union contract. The CTI workers produce food for fast food restaurants and are members of UFCW Local 1776.
“We feel more united now; we have a better bond,” said Shop Steward Kyle Pendleton, who has worked at CTI Foods for 19 years and was instrumental during the organizing and negotiation process. “The company is working with us now and having a contract has made the company better.”
The new three-year contract guarantees health insurance, safety and labor-management meetings, as well as pay increases. For some workers, this will be the first raise they’ve received in years.
“I would like to congratulate the CTI workers on their first UFCW contract,” said UFCW Local 1776 President Wendell W. Young, IV. “This is a huge win for them and their families.”
July 22, 2016
Adapted from DOL Blog
For some workers, a simple trip to the bathroom could result in the loss of a job.
Poultry-processing workers are sometimes disciplined for taking bathroom breaks while at work because there is no one available to fill in for them if they step away from the production line. Some workers have reported that they wear diapers and restrict liquid intake in an effort to avoid using the bathroom.
No one should have to work under these conditions. All workers have a right to a safe workplace, and that includes access to readily available sanitary restroom facilities on the job.
Luckily, there are very clear standards on this issue: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide all workers with sanitary restrooms and prompt access to the facilities when needed. Further, employers may not impose unreasonable restrictions on employee use of toilet facilities. These standards are intended to ensure that workers do not suffer adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not sanitary or are not available when needed.
Poultry processing is one of the most dangerous industries in the United States, and readily accessible restrooms is only one of many problems that workers in this industry face. OSHA has found workers exposed to serious hazards in poultry processing plants, including exposure to dangerous chemicals and biological hazards, high noise levels,unsafe equipment, and slippery floors.
Poultry workers are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries on the job as other private industry workers and almost seven times more likely to contract a work-related illness. They are also at particularly high risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders from the repetitive motions they perform on the job, with workers twice as likely to have a severe wrist injury and seven times as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than the average U.S. worker.
These injuries and illnesses must stop. To protect workers in poultry plants, OSHA launched regional emphasis programs targeting these facilities throughout the Midwest, Southern, and Southeast states. Their goal is to reduce injuries and illnesses through outreach and enforcement activities, such as training sessions, public service announcements and targeted, comprehensive safety and health inspections.
With UFCW representation, these workers also have better odds because they have a voice on the job, and can speak up when they see unsafe conditions without fear of retribution. We often work with OSHA to ensure our poultry workers continue to work at safe jobs.
Learn more about their work to protect poultry processing workers.
May 18, 2016
On May 12, nearly 450 workers at the Mission Foods plant in Mountain Top, Pa., voted to join UFCW Local 1776. Mission Foods workers make a full line of Mexican food products, including tortillas, wraps and salsas used in restaurants and sold in supermarkets on several continents.
“This is one of the greatest moments of my life knowing that we are not going to fend for ourselves anymore, but have representation,” said Nadia Vlavonou, a Mission Foods employee.
“I applaud the workers at Mission Foods for making the decision for union representation on the job,” said Wendell Young, IV, president of UFCW Local 1776. “Having a union will help these workers feel safe and secure on the job – something all workers should feel when they show up and work hard every day.”
The workers’ victory was the successful conclusion of a months-long campaign designed to give a voice to the Mission Foods workers in Mountain Top. This campaign is a piece of the bigger picture that aims to raise wages and benefits for all workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries.
“The goal is to better the lives of working people throughout the country. The Mission Foods workers are a great example of what standing together and making a well informed decision can achieve. These workers will inspire others to speak out for better working conditions and respect,” said Young.
“This is a victory for all of us,” said Benito Tapia, a Mission Foods employee.
The Mission Foods workers will join thousands of UFCW Local 1776 packinghouse and food processing workers in Pennsylvania at plants such as Empire Kosher Poultry in Mifflintown, Cargill in Hazelton, JBS in Souderton and Citterio USA in Freeland.
May 13, 2016
Oxfam reports unionized poultry workers have better workplace protection; non-unionized poultry workers in Pampers
– Yesterday’s Washington Post Wonk Blog post “I had to wear Pampers’: The cruel reality the people who bring you cheap chicken allegedly endure,” highlighted inhuman working conditions within the poultry industry, as documented by a new Oxfam report.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), represents thousands of workers in the poultry industry. UFCWreleased the following statement today in response to the story and subsequent news coverage:
“The indignity with which poultry workers are being treated in America has to stop. Workers need to know they have a right to organize and that organized workers have more opportunities to protect themselves from this type of abuse.
“The headline is salacious, but the heart of the matter is that unionized workers can speak freely about dangerous working conditions without fear of retaliation. This leads to a healthier and more productive work environment and a safer product for consumers.”
From the Oxfam Report No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry (page 3):
In the course of hundreds of interviews, only a handful of workers reported that their bathroom needs are respected. These exceptions are primarily in plants that have unions, which offer important protections, inform workers of their rights, and ensure they have a voice on the job. Unionized workers report that they feel comfortable leaving or stopping the line when their requests are denied for too long. Roughly a third of the poultry workforce is unionized, leaving most workers without these crucial protections.
The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.
May 11, 2016
On May 5, the hard-working men and women at a ConAgra plant in Indianapolis voted to join the UFCW union family and become part of UFCW Local 700.
Nearly 300 workers make Marie Callendar’s pies at the plant, which was formerly owned by another company and purchased by ConAgra about three years ago. Organizers handbilled the plant and learned about the issues most important to this diverse group of workers, including better pay, fair treatment, and respect on the job. UFCW Local 700 represents about 300 workers making Reddi-Wip and margarine at a ConAgra plant less than three miles away from the newly organized facility. At the union plant, workers earn higher wages, have better benefits, and have job security through their union contract.
“We can now join our sister plant with the right to negotiate for a brighter future,” said Kenny Green, a lead organizing committee member. “By forming our union, we’re standing up for better wages and benefits, and most importantly, a voice on the job.”
May 4, 2016
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The workers at the Viscofan plant in Danville, Illinois, deserve safe jobs, they say in a newly launched petition to The Viscofan Group Chairman Jose Domingo de Ampuero y Osma. The workers, who are members of UFCW Local 686, and their families shouldn’t have to worry whether their loved ones will come home in one piece when they return from work each day.
After a successful year, Viscofan has seen positive growth, which is centered on the work done by these members and others in North America. But as company sales and profits increase, the workers say they are being hurt by the plant. The Danville plant had 18 violations of U.S. health and safety law in the last seven years, yet Viscofan has refused union proposals to improve the safety of their workplace.
These Local 686 members are now asking supporters to sign their petition that says the company’s success shouldn’t come at the expense of the health and safety of its workers. The Viscofan plant is an integral part of the Danville community and its workers count on the good, safe, family-supporting jobs it provides. They are asking the company to send its negotiators back to the table with an edict to make the plant safer, the community stronger, and share in the success. Click here to sign the petition.