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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.