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    News and Updates


November 7, 2011


(Dodge City, Kan.) – A majority of the 2,500 workers at National Beef’s Dodge City, Kansas beef slaughter and processing facility voted to join UFCW District Local 2, in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, on Thursday and Friday, November 3 and 4, 2011.

The workers’ campaign began when several National Beef workers contacted the UFCW seeking a union voice on the job. At that time, National Beef and the UFCW agreed on a fair and balanced process that allowed employees to vote on whether or not they wanted union representation. UFCW represents the workers at a neighboring Cargill beef slaughter and processing plant in Dodge City.

“Helping to organize my co-workers into a union was a life changing journey,” said Rebecca McGary, a worker in the fabrication department at National Beef.

“We know that workers at Cargill, just down the street from National Beef, have had a contract with Local 2 for many years – and that means they have always had a say in their wages, benefits and working conditions,” said Ramon Prieto who works on the kill floor at National Beef and who took a leading role in organizing his co-workers. “That’s why I voted to join the UFCW, so that we all will have a chance to negotiate benefits and salaries, job security, and a better life for our families.”

The National Beef workers are the latest in a series of meatpacking workers to join the UFCW at locations across the country. On October 19, approximately 1,000 workers at a JBS beef kill facility in Plainwell, Michigan joined UFCW Local 951. On October 25, 125 workers at a Farmland Foods facility in Carroll, Iowa joined UFCW Local 440. And in late September, 300 workers at Nebraska Prime in Hastings, Nebraska joined UFCW Local 293.

April 15, 2008


Albert Lea, MN-Three hundred workers in Cargill Meat Solutions’ Albert Lea plant (formerly Schweigert Foods) have ratified a new contract which delivers wage increases, establishes a defined benefit pension plan, and makes tremendous improvements in health care-at a significant savings for workers. The workers are members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 6 and work at the meat processing plant making lunch meats, bratwursts, chicken tenders and chicken wings among other products. A majority voted to ratify the contract on Sunday, April 13, 2008.

The new contract:

–Delivers wage increases including $1.40/hr increase over the next four years-including $0.50 on January 5, 2009. The increase will bring the base rate to $13.20 by the end of the contract.

-Vastly improves health care, dental care, and prescription drug coverage. The 2008 Cargill plan will reduce individual and family deductibles; reduce the amount paid for coinsurance; reduce co-pays for preventive care; reduce co-pays for and office visits for primary care physicians and specialists; reduce the amount paid for emergency room care; lower the maximum for out of pocket expenses; eliminate the deductible and reduces co-pays for prescription drugs; and enhances the affordable family dental plan.

–Improves retirement security by establishing a new defined benefit pension plan. The plan ensures a guaranteed income of $22.50 per month, per year of service for retirees. In 2011, that amount will increase to $25.00 per month per year. Employees will still be able to make contributions to their existing 401(k) plan.

“”We are very pleased with this contract,”” says Pat Neilon, President of UFCW Local 6. “”We were able to negotiate an enormously better health plan, with significant cost savings for our members. And, the new defined benefit pension plan will be better for our members because it guarantees income in retirement and it doesn’t take any money out of workers’ pockets.”” Previously, Cargill workers could choose to contribute to a 401(k) plan with 2% company match, but only a quarter of employees took advantage of the plan.

“”With the union, we were able to negotiate a pension plan-which is especially good for the younger folks who have a chance to put a lot of years in-and you don’t have to fund it yourself out of your paycheck,”” said Richard Peterson, a 30-year employee of the Albert Lea plant. “”Not too many companies offer a pension anymore. But the pension is guaranteed and I think that’s a big deal.””

November 13, 2007

Meatpacking Corporate Power Threatens Jobs and Communities

(Washington, DC) – Today, the nation’s largest meatpacking worker union announced its support for an effort to ban meatpacking corporations from owning livestock   The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) supports a key provision of the Farm Bill (S.2302) that would preserve the structure that keeps food production a stable industry in America’s heartland and protect jobs for hundreds of thousands of workers in the U.S.

A handful of meatpacking corporations dominate the beef and pork industries.  Meatpacking companies have used the changing landscape to own as much livestock as possible.  As a result, farmers have lost business.  In the pork industry, when meatpackers own the hogs from birth to slaughter they can move livestock and production to wherever they can find the cheapest land and labor.

Workers, communities and the environment have paid the price for these disruptions.  Giant hog feedlots with lagoons of hog waste sprung up overnight and overwhelmed the environment and water tables in parts of the country where hog production didn’t exist thirty years ago. Giant processing plants were built near the feedlots to employ a workforce that is beholden to the industry.   Workers at processing plants located in places like Iowa and South Dakota lost their jobs when plants were shuttered and never reopened.

Left unchecked and unregulated, every meatpacking producer will attempt to operate the same way – moving livestock and production to maximize profits, no matter how many jobs and local economies are destroyed in the process.  UFCW’s experience is that meatpacking corporations which own livestock push down wage and benefits levels for all workers in the industry.

U.S. Senators are considering a provision, Section 10207. Prohibition on Packers Owning, Feeding, or Controlling Livestock as part of the 2007 Farm Bill.  This provision would preserve the open market approach to meat production and protect workers and communities from further disruption and exploitation at the hands of giant meatpacking companies.  The UFCW joins more than 200 organizations, including the National Farmers’ Union, in supporting the ban on packer ownership of livestock.

In a full-page ad in today’s issue of Roll Call, UFCW members pointed out that when meatpacking companies own all levels of production, the stability of processing jobs are at risk.

The UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers in the meat packing and food processing industries, including workers at Hormel, Tyson, Cargill and Smithfield Foods.