JBS workers in Greeley vote to strike — “More than 99 percent of those who voted supported the strike action …”

June 30, 2014

JBS workers in Greeley vote to strike

Workers at the JBS beef plant in Greeley have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike.

More than 99 percent of those who voted supported the strike action, according to a news release from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union.

A steady stream of JBS employees came and went from the Clarion Hotel, 701 8th St., in downtown Greeley on Saturday as members of the UFCW Local 7 union voted on whether to walk off the job. The two days of voting concluded at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“This significant vote result demonstrates the workers’ determination to maintain a decent standard of living,” UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova said in the news release.

“Health care remains the main issue in negotiations” she said.

“This significant vote result demonstrates the workers’ determination to maintain a decent standard of living. Health care remains the main issue in negotiations.
— Kim Cordova, UFCW Local 7 President, in a news release

The union said more members turned out to vote during the past two days than in any election since JBS acquired the plant. However, they declined to give the exact number of voters, stating they did not want JBS to know how many members had cast ballots.

The roughly 3,000 workers represented by the UFCW have been in negotiations with Brazilian-owned JBS SA, the largest animal protein producer in the world, since August of last year, working on a contract extension.

The union negotiating committee had previously rejected the same deal that the membership shot down on Saturday.

That offer ­— a six-year agreement — included a health plan that shifts millions of dollars of benefit costs onto employees by increasing deductibles, co-premiums, prescription costs and out-of-pocket maximums. It also included the company’s right to change, delete or modify health benefits without recourse or agreement by the union, along with the elimination of additional compensation workers receive when required to wear certain types of protective equipment, according to the union.

Kevin Schneider, the secretary treasurer of the union, said the potential strike action wouldn’t begin right away. In fact, he said negotiations on a new contract could begin again as early as next week, if JBS officials are willing to come back to the bargaining table.

“We hope that happens,” he said.

The contract would cover the working conditions for 3,229 employees, salaried and hourly, at the plant at present. It doesn’t cover the 150 employees with JBS Carriers division, or their 700 drivers, or the 900 administrative employees at their JBS USA headquarters in Promontory in west Greeley.

JBS responded to The Tribune’s request for comment late Saturday night.

“The UFCW has not provided the company with details of a strike vote that concluded Saturday evening at our Greeley, Colorado, beef plant. However, we look forward to continuing to work with the union’s elected officials to reach a resolution. We believe we can reach a negotiated settlement that serves the interests of our team members, union membership, the greater Greeley community and the economic viability of the facility,” said an emailed statement by JBS spokeswoman Misty Barnes. “Toward that end, we have agreed to an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, with retroactivity of the agreed upon first year wage increase, and trust that we can arrive at a solution during this extension period.”