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September 19, 2011

Workers Settle Lawsuit With Tyson Foods

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 17,000 Tyson poultry workers in 41 plants in 12 states settled a $32 million dollar lawsuit in a 12-year struggle to get paid for work already performed. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), as the leading union for meatpacking and food processing workers, initiated the suit against Tyson and played a critical role in obtaining justice for Tyson poultry workers and thousands of UFCW members affected by the suit. On Thursday, the United States District Court in Georgia approved the settlement.

“Every American deserves to get paid for the work they do,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “We’re changing the way meatpackers do business and making them pay thousands of workers correctly.”

The lawsuit charged Tyson with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Meatpacking and food processing workers wear specialized protective gear while they work to protect both themselves and the food we eat. Before these UFCW-initiated lawsuits began, meatpacking companies didn’t pay workers for time spent taking the gear on and off, adding up to thousands of dollars of lost pay over years of work.

“We’ve already made a change in the way meatpackers pay their workers,” said Hansen. “While this settlement is long overdue, our efforts have ensured that thousands of workers have been paid correctly for years now.”

The lawsuit will result in payments, averaging around $1,000 per worker, to current and former Tyson workers across the country. These payments will inject much-needed money into America’s rural economy and reward a hard-working and dedicated group of poultry workers. The affected Tyson poultry workers work at plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

This lawsuit and the new pay practices in the meatpacking industry are just one way union workers raise standards for every worker in their industry, regardless of their union status.

April 8, 2008

UFCW Steward Aims to Strengthen Membership in America’s Heartland

Luis Rosiles, a Tyson Foods worker and steward for Local 1546, has found his calling as an organizer in training for the UFCW’s Heartland Campaign.  Rosiles is part of a coordinated effort to target thousands of non-union packing and processing workers in the Midwest who need a voice on the job.  The new campaign is serving as a training ground for organizers like Rosiles, and the UFCW hopes to use the Heartland Campaign as a model for other UFCW organizers across the country.

Rosiles is on leave from his job as a worker at the Tyson Foods plant in Joslin, Illinois, where he served as a steward for Local 1546.  As a steward, Rosiles served as a significant link and conduit of information between union leadership and the workers at the Tyson Foods plant in Joslin, and had the advantage of knowing many of his fellow workers.  His new role as an organizer in the state of Nebraska presents the challenge of meeting and connecting with workers he has never met before and who may not be familiar with the benefits of joining a union.

“Some have a little bit of knowledge, some don’t,” said Rosiles.  “That’s what drives me—winning campaigns and helping people be united at work.

The changing demographics of the packing and processing industries have also posed a challenge for Rosiles, and many of the plants that he is working with in Nebraska have attracted immigrant workers from around the world.  Many of the immigrant workers he has approached are afraid of losing their jobs or unsure of their rights as workers in the U.S.  To counter that fear and uncertainty, Rosiles and other organizers have made a point to connect with workers outside of the workplace by visiting their places of worship and even their homes to show that the union is part of the larger community.

Rosiles believes that his experience as a steward has helped him hone his skills as an organizer, and encourages other UFCW stewards to get involved with organizing campaigns such as the Heartland Campaign in the Midwest.

“We need more leadership and people getting involved in plants,” said Rosiles.  “That’s what makes a union strong.”

For more information about the UFCW’s effort to provide workers with better wages and benefits in America’s Heartland and around the country, visit www.fairnessforfoodworkers.org.