JBS workers organize at beef plant USA

By Tom Johnston on 10/6/2010

Workers at a JBS USA beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which lauded the company for its cooperation during the process.

The vote -- 788 to 75 -- allows nearly 1,200 workers to begin a collective bargaining process with JBS to negotiate for increased wages and benefits.

“The outcome of this election shows that when workers get a free and fair process, they choose union representations,” said Wendell Young, UFCW International’s vice president and president of Local 1776, in a news release. “The UFCW applauds JBS for taking the high road to allow the workers to have a free and fair process. Having a union makes it better for everyone, workers, the company, and the larger community.”

JBS spokesman Chandler Keys said the local UFCW chapter ran a legitimate campaign.

“We’re happy the Souderton workers exercised their right to organize,” Keys told Meatingplace in an interview. “We look forward to working with them and their new local union. We have a strong, working relationship with our unions not only at a local level but also at a national level.

“We don’t view this as a negative, and we congratulate them on their efforts,” he added.

Keys said that from a company standpoint, one of the benefits of a collective bargaining process is it puts a sense of responsibility on the workers and the union to focus on the job.  He said no timeline has been set for collective bargaining.

Almost all JBS’s U.S.-based plants have union representation, according to Keys.

Souderton’s work force adds to the 27,000 JBS workers already represented by UFCW, the union said.