Union for Nearly 3,000 South Dakota Frontline Workers Secure Major Pay Increases, Expanded Benefits for Employees at Sioux Falls Plant That Faced One of Worst COVID Outbreaks Early in Pandemic
SIOUX FALLS, SD — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 304A, which represents nearly 3,000 South Dakota frontline food workers, announced a new agreement with Smithfield for workers at the Sioux Falls plant. UFCW 304A and the union’s members successfully secured pay increases and expanded benefits for workers at the Smithfield plant. The boost to pay represents a strong investment in these workers who are essential to protecting the food supply chain in South Dakota and across the country.
UFCW Local 304A President B.J. Motley released the following statement:
“Today’s new contract for Smithfield meatpacking workers in Sioux Falls provides the strong pay and benefits that these brave men and women have earned on the frontlines of this pandemic. In the past year, these South Dakota essential workers put their own health at risk every day to keep our food supply secure.
“With this new contract, meatpacking workers are sending a powerful message that it is time for every company in the industry to step up and recognize the incredible sacrifices made and danger faced by these frontline workers who helped millions of Americans put food on the table during this health crisis.
“As the union for these South Dakota frontline workers, UFCW Local 304A was proud to stand with our union’s members to secure this strong contract with the fair pay, good benefits, and critical safety protections they have earned and deserve. Ensuring these jobs continue to provide the good pay and benefits working families need is the best way for us to honor our country’s essential workers.”
During contract negotiations and discussions between UFCW 304A and Smithfield, talks focused on wages for meatpacking workers, health care costs, and break times. At this time, UFCW reminded Smithfield that workers have risked their health and lives throughout the pandemic and argued the company should do more for its employees.
On June 3, 2021, the Sioux Falls chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, UFCW Local 304A reported that 99% of union members voted to reject a contract offered by Smithfield. Following the rejection of the contract, on June 7, 2021, UFCW Local 304A members overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization with 98% of the vote total.
UFCW Local 304A then continued bargaining with Smithfield and on June 17, 2021, the union announced their members, who work at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, SD, approved a new contract, which includes a base rate of $18.75; a $520 bonus; the option of a leave of absence of between 1-3 weeks, which many immigrant workers take advantage of to go back to their countries; and keeping a 15-minute break period.
In April 2020, a Sioux Falls Smithfield plant COVID outbreak revealed how vulnerable meatpacking plants were to the pandemic. As a result of the surge of infections, four Sioux Falls Smithfield workers died from COVID and nearly 1,300 were infected. Later that year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Smithfield for failing to protect employees from exposure to the virus at the plant.
UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.