Last night, workers at the JBS slaughterhouse and production facility, located just south of the city of Plainwell, ratified their first union contract ending the workers' nine-month campaign for union representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 951.
In October 2011, JBS workers elected union representation in an effort to improve their working conditions, authorizing UFCW 951 to represent them in contract negotiations with their employer.
"From the first meeting with JBS workers to discuss unionizing, through last night's contract ratification vote, there has been tremendous support for the union," Chad Pemberton, an organizer for UFCW Statewide Community Development, said. "JBS workers never wavered in their belief that the union is their best option to improve their working conditions and bring a sense of fairness to the workplace."
The union's bargaining committee was able to address many of the workers' primary concerns in the first contract, leading to JBS workers' overwhelming vote to accept the contract, according to John Cakmakci, UFCW 951's secretary/treasurer and chief union negotiator for the talks.
"In addition to a grievance procedure to ensure fairness, the workers were pleased to see the wage increases, reduction in their co-pay for health benefits, and additional paid time off," he said. "Beyond that, JBS workers are happy that they can now go to work with peace of mind and security knowing that all the benefits and protections in their union contract are guaranteed. These were very positive negotiations, and we look forward to continuing to build a productive working relationship with JBS."
The new four year agreement covers approximately 1,000 workers at the West Michigan JBS plant, who join with 28,000 other JBS workers and 250,000 meatpacking and poultry workers across the country who are covered by a UFCW union contract.