Packing and Processing


How you can help the UFCW Canada workers at Covered Bridge Potato Chips


The following was originally posted by UFCW Canada:

Members on strike at Covered Bridge Potato Chips are holding strong, as two replacement workers walked out of the factory to join the picket line, and thousands of messages of support continue to pour in calling for a fair first contract.

The members were forced on strike on January 5, after the company continued to refuse bargaining a first contract with a living wage, and basic workplace rights including seniority. The members voted to join the union more than two years ago. Since then, the provincial labour board has ruled the company violated the Labour Act five times, and ordered Covered Bridge to stop intimidating union supporters, and to get back to the bargaining. The employer’s last offer before the strike was worse than the first offer a year ago.

“All we’re asking for is a fair first contract,” said Betty Demerchant, who along with her union brothers and sisters have picketed from sunrise to sundown every day, undeterred by the frigid temperatures. “We’re proud that people like the chips we make,” says Betty, “but for now, we’re asking folks not to buy Covered Bridge potato chips – not until the owners get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair first contract.

Over the last five years, Betty saw a raise of just ten-cents-an-hour, and most of the workers are paid minimum age. Meanwhile, the growing company recently received more than $700,000 in government grants to help the owners expand their factory. But for now, the impact of the strike has cut production at the plant in half.

You can help to bring justice to workers at Covered Bridge Potato Chips. Send a message to the company to get back to bargaining a fair contract. Click here.

UFCW Hosts Workers’ Rights Training Session for Poultry Workers

L1189 Rights Training

Some of the participants in the training pose with their completion certificates.

This past Saturday, UFCW Local 1189, the UFCW Occupational Safety and Health Department and the Greater Minnesota Workers’ Center hosted a workers’ rights training session for unorganized poultry workers in St. Cloud, Minn. The training was focused on giving unorganized workers tools to stand up for a safe workplaces and helping them build common ground with workers of different cultural backgrounds. More than 70 workers from a variety of plants came out for the training, which was simultaneously conducted in English, Spanish and Somali.

“I am really glad I came to this training with the Somali people,” said one Spanish-speaking worker during the comment portion of the training. “I tried to get my friends to come with me but they were too afraid. I am not afraid. I know we can work together to change our workplace and make it better for everyone.”

Two New Reports Show Trans-Pacific Partnership has Major Agricultural, Labor and Environmental Deficiencies


TPP Takes Away JobsWASHINGTON (December 4, 2015) – Several major deficiencies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact (TPP) – including failure to address currency manipulation or set in place adequate labor and environmental standards – are clear evidence that passage of this pact would hurt American food processors, family farmers and ranchers, while also posing serious threats to U.S. domestic beef production and prices, according to two advisory reports submitted today to the USTR.

The minority report to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade (APAC), released today, argues, “passage [of the TPP] will reduce American food processing jobs, labor standards and farm gate prices and result in increased imports and decreased exports of American agricultural products.” The report was submitted by Chandler Goule, National Farmers Union Senior Vice President of Programs, and Mark Lauritsen, United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division.

The authors point out that currency manipulation, which for years has caused American job losses and increased the U.S. trade deficit, is totally unaddressed by the TPP. “This deficit damages the entire economy and has impeded job growth and income gains,” they point out. “Since this is unaddressed, it could nullify the tariff reductions, harming the export potential of many American sectors including and especially beef.”

The report also notes that the TPP would fail, “to place labor and environmental standards on equal footing with economic rights and elimination of sustainability preferences.”

“Regrettably, the labor chapter reflects only incremental improvements over past agreements like NAFTA and will not offset the low labor standards currently existing in many TPP signatories,” note Goule and Lauritsen. “Driven by the attraction of low wages, the U.S. is vulnerable to loss of food processing jobs.”

A similar minority report from the Animal and Animal Products Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade (ATAC), which was also released today, notes that passage of the TPP would pose serious threats both to rebuilding the U.S. cattle herd and to domestic beef production. This is evidenced by:

  • Since the passage of NAFTA, 50 plants have closed taking out 52,695 in daily kill capacity.
  • On January 1, 2014, beef cow numbers fell to their lowest level since 1941.
  • Total commercial cattle slaughter in 2015 will fall below 30 million for the first time since 1963, when it totaled 27.232 million. This year’s total is expected to be down 4% to 5% from 2014.
  • For fed beef packers, 2015 fed steer and heifer slaughter is expected to decline about 3.5%, or 850,000, from last year.
  • Nine processing plants have closed since the start of 2013, representing a slaughter capacity 3.7 million annually.
  • Since 2007 cattle numbers fell by 8.843 million as of 2014. This forced Cargill in February 2013 to close its Plainview, Texas plant costing 2000 high paying union jobs with good benefits. Four other US beef plants have since closed causing the loss of an additional 2500 high paying jobs.

Kurt Brandt, UFCW’s Assistant to the Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division was a signatory to the ATAC minority report.

“Clearly, the U.S. Trade Representative was out-negotiated in this case,” notes Brandt. “The series of NAFTA-style free trade agreement passed over the past two decades has led to increasing live cattle imports that have directly depressed US cattle prices, and impeded herd rebuilding. Increasing beef imports allowed by ongoing trade regulation suppresses US beef prices, and further delays herd rebuilding.”

“The primary beneficiaries of this agreement [the TPP], i.e., global food processing companies, would be further empowered to move more of their U.S. jobs overseas,” Brandt wrote. “This means that claims of increased benefits for U.S. food and agricultural production rings hollow, because much of the increasing foreign demand for food will be met by processing plants being built in other countries – including plants built overseas by U.S.-based companies.”


National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership. 

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We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.    @UFCW