More than 7,000 pork ribs are cut in a 4-hour shift –about 30 ribs per minute– at the Farmer John’s pork processing plant in Vernon, California. UFCW 770 member, Rina Chavarria, and her co-workers in the rib conversion department work diligently to meet the production’s fast-paced demand. Despite performing a physical taxing job, Rina still finds energy and extra time to organize and represent her co-workers as a union shop steward. She was recently featured in the “badass women” series of InStyle magazine.
Roughly 1,200 UFCW 770 union members work at the Vernon Farmer John hog slaughterhouse, which is owned by Smithfield Foods. They produce bacon and other pork products, including the famous “Dodger Dog” hot dog that many people enjoy. Rina Chavarria has worked at Farmer John for 5 years. She shares her thoughts about her experience:
“I feel good that I was considered for this story. Very often, people don’t realize that as working women we are on our own working to provide for our children and to be able to help them succeed in life,” says Rina who has two children Cynthia,18 and Marco, 10. “I teach my children to be fighters. I tell them to dream big and fight for those dreams. And to be good people,” she says. For her, being featured in an InStyle article was “an acknowledgment of us women who are hardworking people and who don’t chicken out,” she points out laughing.
“I really enjoyed the experience of doing the photo shoot and the interview. It was a very nice, new experience. I also liked it because I had the opportunity to meet other women from different industries such as farm workers, caregivers, and hotel workers.”
Rina Chavarria has been a member of the UFCW 770 bargaining committee since 2016 when she was actively engaged in contract negotiations. Last year, she became a shop steward within the plant. She was also involved in the bargaining sessions of 2018 when union members won a union contract that included wage increases, affordable healthcare, and union security. The contract also secures protections and other benefits.
“Being a UFCW 770 member represents a great value to me because I have the opportunity to be a voice for my co-workers. I’m involved in the Union to help my co-workers as much as I can. As a shop steward I’m more aware of the problems that my co-workers face in the plant, so I to try to find a way to resolve them. I love helping my co-workers. That’s why I enjoy being a Union steward. And I really like defending my rights and the rights of my co-workers.”
“Being a shop steward empowers me because the bosses look at me differently, and people in the plant look at me differently. I don’t know, you feel kind of important when your co-worker comes to you and asks you for advice or asks you for help. When I’m able to help them, I feel great satisfaction,” she adds.
Last year, Rina completed a 3-day health and safety training and she also represented her local at a UFCW International’s Packinghouse chain meeting in Nebraska. She is always eager to collaborate with her union to make sure her fellow workers at Farmer John have respect, dignity and a voice on the job.