September, 2009

Local 1208 Holds First Shop Steward Training at Smithfield in Tar Heel, N.C.


A few months after they ratified their first contract, fifty-one UFCW Local 1208 members interested in becoming shop stewards gathered this past weekend at the local union office in Lumberton, N.C., for their first-ever shop steward training.

The trainees, who all work at Smithfield’s Tar Heel facility, came together to learn about the role, rights and responsibilities of a shop steward. “It was very informative and now I know that I am better equipped to represent my co-workers,” said Terry Slaughter, who attended the training.

“Attendees were enthusiastic and hungry for knowledge on how to build their union,” said UFCW Local 1208 President Carl Green. “Many among them have already taken on informal leadership positions at the plant, talking to their co-workers about their contract.”

The training this past weekend, the first in a series, focused on group discussions and conveying information based on the new shop steward training module developed two years ago by the UFCW Organizing Department.

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Cargill acknowledges past wastewater violations
By Tom Johnston

Cargill Meat Solutions’ Fort Morgan, Colo., beef plant on Monday pleaded guilty to two wastewater permit violations that occurred in 2004 and 2005.

The company noted that the incidents were reported to the government by Cargill when they occurred.

Spokesman Mark Klein said in an e-mailed statement that the company expects the federal court to issue a penalty in the next 30 days, and it would likely include a fine and a compliance agreement.

“We are pleased that this matter is being resolved, and we are proud of a number of steps we have taken over the last five years to enhance our environmental performance,” Klein said.

Cargill violated its permit by discharging more than 2,875 pounds per day of total suspended solids and more than 400 coliform colonies per 100 milliliters, according to a report by the Associated Press, citing court documents.

Lawmaker seeks to prod bureacracy to move faster on key cause of refinery inferno

Savanna Morning News
By Larry Peterson

U.S. Rep. John Barrow wants faster action on combustible dust, which fueled last year’s deadly disaster at Imperial Sugar Co.’s local refinery.

The Savannah Democrat is reviving legislation to require the federal government to enact emergency standards concerning the hazard.

Barrow announced his move in the wake of last week’s final report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board on the Feb. 7, 2008, explosions and fire. The board blamed the 14 fatalities mostly on company officials, who it said long knew the dangers of sugar dust but didn’t eliminate them.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has begun a lengthy process that could lead to tough new rules on combustible dust.

Barrow and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., pushed a bill through the house to mandate new rules last year after OSHA balked at calls for it to do so. The bill called for both temporary emergency rules and permanent ones. It passed overwhelmingly in the House but stalled in the Senate.

Barrow and Miller reintroduced the measure this year, but shelved it when OSHA announced its rule-making effort.

But Barrow now says that will take too long.

To read more about the Imperial Sugar Co. refinery explosion, view hundreds of photos and videos, and see documents from the investigation, go to

“Given the continued threat of combustible-dust explosions and fires,” he said, “we need a temporary standard to prevent tragedies like the one we had at Imperial Sugar.

” … The hard reality is that it could be years at best before … regulations are in place. Meanwhile, the risk of another combustible-dust explosion or fire still exists.”

So Barrow is again pushing for the legislation, which would require OSHA to adopt emergency regulations.

The measure would tell OSHA to issue – within 90 days – an interim standard. It would require better housekeeping, engineering controls, worker training and a written combustible-dust safety program.

“People’s lives are at stake, and we can’t afford the time it will take for a permanent standard to work its way through the bureaucracy,” Barrow said.

Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, supports Barrow’s renewed effort.

“The chairman believes that there is still a real need to enact legislation in order to prevent these horrific explosions,” said Miller spokesman Aaron Albright. “A solid bipartisan majority of the House was on board already last Congress.”

Chris Crawford, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah, one of about two dozen Republicans to vote for the bill last year, said Kingston will do so again.

“You would think somewhere between the administration’s executive power and the legislation,” Kingston said in an e-mail, “we could come up with a balanced and workable solution for both the short and long term.” However, Albright acknowledged that, as was the case last year, the Senate could be a road block.

Georgia’s two U.S. senators supported the OSHA rule-making effort after the Chemical Safety Board issued its report last week.

But Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans, said in a joint statement Monday that they are wary about emergency rules.

Chambliss and Isakson agreed with board chairman John Bresland that emergency standards seldom withstand court scrutiny.

Bresland voiced that view last week when asked at a news conference why the board didn’t urge OSHA to adopt emergency rules.

“Moreover,” the senators said, “these temporary rules only add confusion to the regulatory process.”

They said they hope OSHA will “promulgate effective permanent standards as expeditiously as possible … to prevent future tragedies.”

Under the administration of President George W. Bush, the White House had said the president would veto the bill if it passed.

The Obama White House did not respond to requests earlier this year for comment on the Barrow-Miller bill.

OSHA spokesman Michael Wald said Monday that it is the agency’s policy not to comment on pending legislation.