MARSHALLTOWN, IA – Today, hundreds of JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking workers conducted a peaceful prayer vigil to demand the right to elect their own representatives in the workplace, and for workers’ rights, safety issues and affordable health care.
Workers want a complete report for a new contract that was ratified two months ago. They have concerns about issues within the contract that pertain to workplace safety rules, paid time off and healthcare benefits.
Working conditions at the JBS Swift plant have declined drastically within the past five years, according to reports from hundreds of workers. Latino and Burmese workers say they perform the most dangerous factory jobs, and as a result, are at a high risk of physical injury.
Worker complaints include no breaks during 12-hour shifts, which have led to injury, and inaction by company officials when injured or pregnant employees seek assistance.
“’Move faster – get production up and out.’ That is all we hear,” said Maria Dolores Sanchez, one of the worker organizers at the JBS Swift plant. “Management and weak union officials have failed to respect our right to a safe work environment.”
She said health insurance benefits also have changed without a vote from workers.
The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa has been assisting workers at the plant with information about civil and worker rights. LULAC National Vice President of the Midwest Joe Enriquez Henry has met with hundreds of workers for the past two months to assess incidents at the facility and has provided a report on the workers’ rights violations to the UFCW in Washington, D.C.
“When workers seek to organize to protect themselves, meatpacking companies sometimes use tactics of fear, intimidation and interference to block union organizing efforts,” Enriquez Henry said. “LULAC stands with the 2,700 workers at JBS Swift to ensure their rights are protected.”
Julie Contreras of LULAC of Illinois’ Immigration Affairs Committee said: “We know there are a lot of companies that will exploit the vulnerabilities of immigrant workers. These workers have limited English, uncertainty about their rights and fear of immigration status if they are undocumented workers.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, D.C. with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit www.LULAC.org, www.LULAC.org/facebook and www.LULAC.org/twitter.
For more information, contact Joe Enriquez Henry at 515.208.7312; or Melissa Walker at 515.681.7731 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.lulaciowa.org.