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.”