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Eastland Food Workers Join Local 328

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On May 20, the hard-working men and women at Eastland Food Products Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island, took a major step to address workplace issues by voting 74-37 to join UFCW Local 328. Despite the anti-union tactics of management, they remained united and proved once again that when workers choose to stand together, they can be resilient no matter the opposition they may face.

UFCW Local 328 staff were first introduced to the Eastland Food workers when they were invited to attend a delegation led by the workers. The objective of this delegation was to demand that management address the allegations of sexual harassment at the plant. Workers and union organizers continued to meet to address the major issues and working conditions at the plant, including workers who were only earning minimum wage, the lack of paid vacations, sick days or holidays, a lack of adequate break time for 17-hour long shifts, and allegations of wage theft.

After learning their rights, the process, and the benefits of organizing, workers began to sign authorization cards and shortly thereafter a petition for a union election was filed. During the days before the election, workers displayed great solidarity by leading another delegation where they were joined by community and labor allies to demand that management respect their rights to form their union and to end the intimidation. This event empowered the majority of the workers to wear their ‘union yes’ shirts to work just days before the election.

“I am very pleased and excited for the folks at Eastland Food,” said UFCW Local 328 President Tim Melia.  “I am also very proud of the strength and unity that they displayed during this most recent organizing campaign.  We look forward to negotiating a fair contract on their behalf, as well as welcoming them into the UFCW family.”

Mission Foods Workers Choose UFCW Representation with Local 1776

missionOn May 12, nearly 450 workers at the Mission Foods plant in Mountain Top, Pa., voted to join UFCW Local 1776. Mission Foods workers make a full line of Mexican food products, including tortillas, wraps and salsas used in restaurants and sold in supermarkets on several continents.

“This is one of the greatest moments of my life knowing that we are not going to fend for ourselves anymore, but have representation,” said Nadia Vlavonou, a Mission Foods employee.

“I applaud the workers at Mission Foods for making the decision for union representation on the job,” said Wendell Young, IV, president of UFCW Local 1776. “Having a union will help these workers feel safe and secure on the job – something all workers should feel when they show up and work hard every day.”

The workers’ victory was the successful conclusion of a months-long campaign designed to give a voice to the Mission Foods workers in Mountain Top. This campaign is a piece of the bigger picture that aims to raise wages and benefits for all workers in the meatpacking and poultry industries.

“The goal is to better the lives of working people throughout the country. The Mission Foods workers are a great example of what standing together and making a well informed decision can achieve. These workers will inspire others to speak out for better working conditions and respect,” said Young.

“This is a victory for all of us,” said Benito Tapia, a Mission Foods employee.

The Mission Foods workers will join thousands of UFCW Local 1776 packinghouse and food processing workers in Pennsylvania at plants such as Empire Kosher Poultry in Mifflintown, Cargill in Hazelton, JBS in Souderton and Citterio USA in Freeland.

“Exceptions are primarily in plants that have unions…” 

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Oxfam reports unionized poultry workers have better workplace protection; non-unionized poultry workers in Pampers
 
Washington, D.C. – Yesterday’s Washington Post Wonk Blog post “I had to wear Pampers’: The cruel reality the people who bring you cheap chicken allegedly endure,” highlighted inhuman working conditions within the poultry industry, as documented by a new Oxfam report.
 
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), represents thousands of workers in the poultry industry. UFCWreleased the following statement today in response to the story and subsequent news coverage:
 
“The indignity with which poultry workers are being treated in America has to stop. Workers need to know they have a right to organize and that organized workers have more opportunities to protect themselves from this type of abuse.
 
“The headline is salacious, but the heart of the matter is that unionized workers can speak freely about dangerous working conditions without fear of retaliation. This leads to a healthier and more productive work environment and a safer product for consumers.”
 
BACKGROUND
From the Oxfam Report No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry (page 3):
 
In the course of hundreds of interviews, only a handful of work­ers reported that their bathroom needs are respected. These exceptions are primarily in plants that have unions, which offer important protections, inform workers of their rights, and en­sure they have a voice on the job. Unionized workers report that they feel comfortable leaving or stopping the line when their requests are denied for too long. Roughly a third of the poultry workforce is unionized, leaving most workers without these crucial protections.
 
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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.  Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.