Workers at the JBS slaughterhouse and production facility, located just south of the city of Plainwell, Michigan, ratified their first union contract this week after 9 months of sticking together with their brothers and sister in UFCW Local 951. Congratulations to the Plainwell workers on their first contract! Click here to read more.
Heinz workers in Fremont, Ohio, and Muscatine, Iowa, have ratified two separate five-year deals with the company. Although they were working to negotiate two different contracts, the members (who belong to UFCW Locals 75 and 431, respectively) worked together to make sure both groups left the table with a good deal.
Committee members from each local routinely attended and supported the negotiations of their sister plant, and distributed handbills that let their co-workers and the company know that while the details of their contracts might be different, their priorities – affordable health care, and good jobs with middle class opportunities – were the same.
“We can’t stand alone,” said Bob Bigford from the Muscatine plant. “The consequences are mighty when you stand alone.” Both units were able to negotiate 3% wage increases every year for each year of the contract as well as an increase in their pension contributions. Both units also maintained affordable health care benefits. In Muscatine, negotiations reduced the waiting period for medical, vision, and dental eligibility. In addition, they were also able to add limits to the use of temporary workers, improve tool allowances, shorten and simplify grievance language, and improve language that allows union representatives access to the plant.
Kyle Smith, a member of Local 431, was glad the bargaining committee was able to address the issue of temporary workers. “People want to stay, and they work hard to keep a job at Heinz. They want a permanent job, and I want them to have the same opportunity I did.”
Last week, in response to UFCW members around the country submitting their opposition to a Big Poultry-driven inspection process being considered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Secretary Tom Vilsack agreed to extend the comment period on this proposed rule by 30 days. The rule, which would increase the speed that birds are processed from 70-91 a minute to a maximum of 175 a minute, could put workers at poultry plants in increased danger.
The UFCW has called on USDA to halt this rule until the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts comprehensive studies on the impact it would have on the health and safety of workers in poultry plants. It will use this 30-day extension to work directly with NIOSH to determine a course of action to study the probable effects of increased line speeds on worker health and safety. This extension is a victory for all poultry workers who can rest assured that their safety on the job is being taken seriously. Members can continue to submit their comments online by visiting www.regulations.gov and referencing Docket No. FSIS-2011-0012 “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection.”