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Tyson Meat Plant in Washington State Invites In National RTW Foundation; Workers Dump UFCW 6 Years After Organizing

 

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 Tyson Meat Plant in Washington State Invites In National RTW Foundation; Workers Dump UFCW 6 Years After Organizing

Tyson workers toss union at Wallula beef plant

 

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Workers at Tyson's Wallula beef plant ended their union in a vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. The vote was in November but counted this week. Tri-City Herald file

Workers overwhelmingly reject UFCW Local 1439

Wallula part of Tyson network that processes 128,000 head of cattle per week

Tyson spends $51 million on payroll, $900 million on cattle


Read more here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/article61393307.html#storylink=cpy


BY WENDY CULVERWELL

wculverwell@tricityherald.com

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Workers at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant at Wallula ejected the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1439 after a vote counted this week.

In a lopsided decision, 686 production and maintenance workers voted to decertify the union and 129 wanted to retain it, the National Labor Relations Board said. The NLRB counted votes this week after conducting the election Nov. 18.

There is a seven-day waiting period to object before results are certified, a NLRB spokeswoman said. After that happens, plant employees will negotiate their own employment terms. If the union contract featured mandatory dues, employees will no longer pay those.

Calls to the Spokane-based union and its legal counsel were not returned Friday.

With an annual payroll of $51 million and a $900 million appetite for local cattle, Tyson's Wallula plant is one of the Mid-Columbia's most significant operators. It employs 1,400 workers at the beef slaughtering and processing plant in Wallula, and it's Walla Walla County's second largest employer.

Tyson processes 128,000 head of cattle per week at Wallula and its sister plants.

The decertification vote comes only six years after Wallula workers embraced the union.

It is the second time workers have contested the union's presence. Workers retained the union in a November 2010 election conducted by the NLRB and instigated by some workers advised by the anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, which provided free legal counsel.

The foundation was not involved with Wednesday's vote, a spokesman said.

1,400number of employees

$51 millionannual payroll

$900 millionspent on cattle purchases

Tyson Fresh Meats is a subsidiary of Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson (NYSE: TSN), which acquired the plant in late 2001 as part of its $2.9 billion acquisition of IBP Inc.

In booting the union, Wallula workers continue their on-again, off-again relationship with collective bargaining. Tyson's unionization rate has remained steady since the IPB acquisition, with about 32 percent of its global work force covered by unions or collective bargaining agreements, according to annual reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the U.S., about 12.5 percent of American workers belong to unions.

At the time it was acquired, 1,632 workers at Wallula were represented by Teamsters Local 556, its union of about 25 years. Workers booted the Teamsters in 2005.

In 2007, the company announced it would lay off 500 people at the Wallula plant, part of a larger downsizing it said was needed to protect profitability. Workers voted two years later to be represented by UFCW Local 1439.

The plant's safety record was not immediately available. A Washington Department of Labor and Industries spokeswoman said Tyson's accident record is not available without a public records request because it is self-insured and manages its own worker compensation claims.

The plant was fined $3,300 for a serious safety violation in December 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Occupational Health & Safety Administration.

UFCW Local 1439 chiefly represents workers at Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer and other grocery brands in Eastern Washington, Northeast Oregon and Northern Idaho.

UFCW LOCAL 1439 CHIEFLY REPRESENTS WORKERS AT SAFEWAY, ALBERTSONS, FRED MEYER AND OTHER GROCERY BRANDS IN EASTERN WASHINGTON, NORTHEAST OREGON AND NORTHERN IDAHO.

The Teamsters and UFCW have a neutrality agreement that generally precludes the Teamsters from discussing unionization at a former UFCW work site within five years of a decertification.

Beef is a major line of business for Tyson, but a troubled one.

It accounted for 41 percent of Tyson's $40.6 billion in sales in 2015, making it the largest product segment for the company. But a lack of cattle has crimped earnings. It reported a $66 million operating loss in beef last year, relative to overall income of more than $2 billion.

In August, it announced the permanent closure of its beef plant at Denison, Iowa, citing lack of available cattle.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514@WendyCulverwell

RECENT HISTORY OF WALLULA BEEF PLANT

1976 IPB Inc. purchases plant from Columbia Foods

2001 Tyson Foods Inc. acquires IBP Inc.

2005 Workers decertify Teamsters local 556

2007 Plant lays off 500 employees

2009: Workers certify United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1439

2010 Workers seek new election from NLRB

2016 Workers decertify UFCW

 

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50 N. Front St., Memphis TN  38103

901 528 1702    901 949 1144

 

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