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Tyson Workers Stand Strong

by staff |
July 1, 2003
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Jefferson, WI - Workers here are taking a stand against corporate greed, battling one of the most powerful and vicious companies in the meat packing industry, Tyson Foods. Since Feb. 28, the 450 workers have been on strike against the meatpacking giant, refusing to agree to company demands to gut their union contract and drive down their wages and working conditions.

The workers are members of Local 538 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The longstanding local represents workers at three meatpacking plants in the Madison area.

Tyson Foods bought out the Jefferson plant in recent years. Tyson has an agenda of driving down wages in the meatpacking industry. Its stated goal in these negotiations is to bring the wages at the Jefferson plant down to the level of other Tyson plants around the country.

Work in meatpacking is hard. Because of union militancy, it used to be an industry that offered relatively good wages and benefits. Meat packers were organized as part of the communist led organizing drives of the 1930s and 1940s. Times changed, and in the late 1970s and 1980s, large meatpacking corporations, such as Hormel, set out to bust the unions and drive down wages. For the most part, the union bureaucracy went along with this agenda, allowing wages to be driven down to poverty wages. When local unions, such as Local P9 in Austin, MN resisted and went on strike, they were sold out and undercut by the international union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Now the industry is a low-wage industry, mainly employing immigrant workers with horrible safety conditions and poor working conditions.

The UFCW workers in Jefferson, WI are refusing to go along with management's renewed agenda to push down wages. Driving into town, to attend a support rally or walk the picket line, one sees homemade signs stating, "Stop Tyson's greed," and supporting the striking workers. Local businesses are supporting Tyson-free foods, for example, by not putting Tyson pepperoni on the pizza.

The problem the union faces is that employers no longer fear the traditional strike. The government has put so many restrictions on workers that the workers in a traditional strike are fighting with their hands behind their backs. To win this fight will require aggressive tactics in stopping the company from operating with scabs. Whatever tactics the workers choose, however, they will need support from all workers.

For more info on how to support the Tyson workers, check out their website at www.tysonfamiliesstandup.org or send donations to: UFCW Local 538 Strike Fund, 2228 Myrtle St, Madison, WI 53704

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