GREELEY, COLO. – JBS USA alleged that the union representing workers at the company’s Greeley beef processing plant is violating the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between JBS and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 union.
In a cease-and-desist letter to Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7, Matthew J. Lovell, head of labor relations, health and safety at JBS USA, said the union is trying to gain concessions through activities beyond the grievance and arbitration process detailed in the CBA.
“In addition to the Local’s outright encouragement of unlawful self-help, we are aware of additional statements to the media and directly to employees subverting and otherwise violating express provisions of the CBA,” Lovell said in the letter. “In particular, it seems the Local has adopted a strategy of generating negative media attention and public opinion in an effort to unwind agreements made in the CBA and gain concessions from the company as they relate to employee safety. These efforts, and the Local’s direct encouragement that employees withhold production clearly violate the no-strike commitments set forth in the CBA, among other provisions. I write to demand that you and all other agents of the Local cease and desist this conduct immediately.”
In a response to KDVR Fox 31 News, Cordova said the union did not agree that the Greeley plant is safe because not all the workers had been tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. JBS suspended harvest operations on April 9 and fabrication on April 15.
“After voluntarily closing the Greeley beef facility in an effort to stop potential spread among our workforce and contribute to community containment, we have taken proactive steps to complement our existing COVID-19 prevention efforts in the facility and continue to provide a safe working environment,” Chris Gaddis, head of human resources at JBS USA, said on April 24. “We believe our partnership with the CDC, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and WCDPHE has enhanced our prevention protocols and will give our team members confidence to safely return to work.”
A fifth Greeley plant worker, Way Ler, died on April 26, according to the union. Weld County, where Greeley is located, recorded 1,469 confirmed cases and 82 deaths, according to a status report generated by the Johns Hopkins University.