Quality control workers join union fight at Ga. meatpacking plant

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Aug 22 06:32:02 MDT 2003

One reason this is significant is that, if this plant is like others I
have worked in, the quality assurance workers are, on a modest scale,
something of an aristocracy relative to the rest, and management
cultivates friendly relations with them.  I'm glad to see this
breaking down further.
Fred Feldman

The Militant, August 22
Workers fight for union
in Georgia meat plant
(front page)

MOULTRIE, Georgia—“I don’t like what I see in the plant. I believe a
human being should be treated with respect,” said Willie Pace, a
quality assurance worker at the National Beef plant here and a leader
of the fight for unionization at this plant of more than 350 meat
Quality assurance workers won a vote for union recognition in the
spring of 2002 and are still fighting for their first contract. The
production workers in the plant lost votes for union representation by
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1996 in the spring of
2002 and 2003. The recent election was hotly contested and saw the
union lose by a whisker—only 16 votes, said Pace.

“I am not fighting for myself, and we don’t plan on waiting,” Pace
said. “In fact, the union met the day after the last election to keep
the pressure on and get ready for a new contest.”

Pace and other union fighters recently won a round against the
company. When he reported for work at the conclusion of a three-day
suspension, the bosses said that their investigation was not complete.
“I knew I wasn’t guilty of anything—they were trying to get me out of
the plant,” Pace said. “But with the union, I fought to get my job and
after seven days I won.”

The quality assurance workers’ request for unionization was challenged
by the company, which claimed that their jobs made them not workers,
but “management support,” said Pace. He testified in the case of the
21 workers before the National Labor Relations Board last year.
Workers here are fighting for a union in response to indiscriminate
firings, increased line speed, timing of bathroom breaks, long hours,
seven-day workweeks, a draconian attendance policy, and other abuses.
“The company said that when the union lost, we would get a raise,”
said a union activist who requested that her name not be used. “Now
they are giving us 15 cents more an hour. If you are late, if you miss
work, if you don’t scan in and out, you lose the bonus.”

The union effort is picking up support. Willie Head, a vegetable and
tobacco farmer in a nearby town, is backing the workers’ struggle. “I
worked at the same facility on the kill floor, when it was a Swift
plant and when it was union in the late 1970s,” he told the Militant.
“I know from personal experience that the question of the union is
urgent—whether your fight is to build a union or maintain one,” Head
stated. He is the vice president of the People’s Tribunal, which
fights against police brutality and around other social questions.
“Every day the bosses push against the union, seeking to make it
 weak,” he said. “Every day the workers must push back. Educating
people—not talking at them—but educating makes a difference in the
strength of the union which affects the quality of our lives
. After
meeting some of the workers at National Beef, I know they can do it”.


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