Earlier this month, workers at the Pilgrim's Pride poultry plant in Russellville voted 2 to 1 to join the Retail, Wholesale, & Department Store Union. The plant's management reacted predictably to the impending union vote: they threatened workers with job losses.
Organizer Randy Hadley said the company held weeks of captive audience meetings during which managers threatened massive layoffs and hinted at the possibility of plant closure if the workers voted for the union. The company also produced anti-union literature and “vote no” T-shirts.
"They tried just about everything they could think of to disrupt this organizing campaign and scare the workers into voting, "No," but they weren’t fooled. The workers at Pilgrim’s Pride wanted a change and they weren’t going to let these threats affect them."
Now, according to the NLRB, this behavior violates the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA expressly forbids the following (among other things):
Examples of employer conduct that violates the law:
- Threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
- Threatening to close the plant if employees select a union to represent them.
I'm not holding my breath to see if the company is even investigated for this behavior.
Still, there's cause for celebration because these workers have decided to stand united together instead of cowering individually hoping to catch a few crumbs dropping from the company's table. The union president, Stuard Applebaum, agreed:
“Unions may be under attack across the country, but working people still desperately need the security and dignity that comes with a union voice,” Appelbaum said. “The workers at Pilgrim’s Pride know they deserve better and have proven there is a better way. This resounding vote will be heard by poultry workers throughout the South as a message of hope.”
Congratulations to the Pilgrim's Pride workers! Let's hope that other Alabama workers learn from their example.