Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Instilling Fear in Poultry Processing Workers, Part 2

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about how large poultry processors systematically instill fear in their workers. Step Seven, according to my observations, was this:
Step Seven: And now that other plants have been closed, employees have been arrested, and hours have been cut, have the union present the first set of results of the "discussions" to your worried workforce (Keep in mind that the Union and the plant only recently negotiated a new agreement):

1. Elimination of paid rest periods. Employees currently have two 10-minute and one 45-minute break, for which they are paid. They are being asked to agree to two 30-minute non-paid rest periods.
2. Holiday Pay. Employees currently are paid double-time if they work on a holiday. They are being asked to accept time-and-a-half instead.
3. Insurance Costs. Currently, Employee insurance contribution is 20 percent of total cost. On 1 January 2009, that would go up to 25 percent.
Well, employees rejected the options.

You wouldn't believe the backlash. (continued after fold)

First, on the day of the vote, one employee emblazoned these words on his apron: Vote No! Don't Let Pilgrim's Pride Take Your Money.

He was fired. Now, the Supreme Court is worried about people infringing on employers' free speech (primarily the right to speak out against unions), but this man was fired.

Then came the recriminations voiced in the local paper. In the Eldorado News-Times's July 4 issue, there is an article entitled "Hanging in the Balance"* that begins:
The future of Pilgrim’s Pride in El Dorado continues to hang in the balance, and a vote by members of a local labor union this week added even more uncertainty to the continued operation of the facility and the economic forecast of El Dorado and South Arkansas.

Members of the union soundly rejected concessions that were offered by the company in an effort to improve quality and productivity at the El Dorado poultry processing plant and stave off full closure of the facility.

The union reportedly cast a 5-1 vote on Wednesday, and company officials and community leaders met the action with a resounding expression of disappointment.
I knew it'd be downhill from there. Plant workers, who are trying to protect their interests are about to cause the downfall of the whole city.
The closing of Pilgrim’s Pride would devastate an already sluggish local economy with a loss of more than 1,600 jobs and hundreds of contracts for growers in Union and surrounding counties and northern Louisiana.
Dumas said he believes the vote will prompt “some serious downsizing” of Pilgrim’s El Dorado facility, and he offered a bleak outlook on the results of a very likely shutdown.
Then there are the not-so-veiled threats.
Ray Atkinson, director of corporate affairs for Pilgrim’s Pride, said all of the community’s efforts will be taken into consideration in future evaluations of the performance of the El Dorado facility and decisions about its future in Union County.

Unfortunately, so will the local union’s vote, which Atkinson called a “setback.”
Emphasis mine. And yes, the "objective" reporter did use the word unfortunately.

Then there are the statements that employees took as slights.
“I was hopeful that the company and union officials had explained to union members how important this was, not only for them, but for the community,” [Mayor Mike] Dumas said.
Because they are incapable of deciding what is important for them, their families, and communities. And
"[M]any of those (Pilgrim’s Pride) workers are unskilled, so there’s nowhere to go."
This is just the argument town booster's put forth to attract industries to the South, the promise of cheap, docile, unorganized labor with few options. I guess I just never expected to see an acknowledgement of that in the local paper.
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1 comment:

k8 said...

How thoroughly depressing. I'd like to see the mayor go in and do some of that "unskilled" labor for a couple of weeks - even a couple of days. He might be in for a surprise.

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