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Vol. 71/No. 31      September 3, 2007

Minnesota meat packers
resist company antiunion drive
(front page)
SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minnesota—Members of United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) Local 789, who are fighting for a new contract at the Dakota Premium Foods slaughterhouse here, are standing up to the latest company-backed efforts to decertify their union.

An anonymously written antiunion flyer called an “employees monologue” appeared on tables in the lunchroom when workers went to break August 2. The flyer asked where the union had been for the past five years since the first contract at Dakota Premium was won.

Pro-union workers responded immediately, passing out a statement signed by union steward Miguel Gutiérrez, where he answered a previous flyer that claimed the company treats workers well. Gutiérrez asked who they were talking about. “Those who the supervisor harasses all day demanding that he wants cleaner bones, even when the line speed is extremely fast? Are we talking about the people who ask to go to the bathroom and the answer they receive is “at 8:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.”

A few days after workers distributed his statement, Gutiérrez was sent home for allegedly leaving too much meat on the bones he works on. This attack came just a week after the Dakota bosses, in a company meeting and a subsequent letter to union workers, acknowledged the right of any worker to distribute material in favor or against the union.

This acknowledgement came after management was caught trying to hinder a worker distributing a pro-union flyer. The worker stood up to the bosses, who backed down and later felt compelled to state in the company letter that “management will not confiscate or attempt to confiscate union campaign materials.”

The flyer that bosses had tried to curb was written by union steward Luis Cruz. It urged co-workers to defend the union and support Local 789’s contract demands for a 60 cent per year raise and more limits on line speed.

Union supporters have been stepping up their visits to coworkers in their homes, explaining the stakes involved in the fight to defend the union, whether or not a decertification election is held.

Rebecca Williamson is a trimmer at Dakota Premium Foods.  
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