GREELEY, COLO. – JBS USA announced on July 20 that workers at the beef processing facility in Greeley, Colo., will receive a new base wage rate of $18 per hour, effective immediately. The new top wage rate is $24.60. The meat processor said the new compensation rates represent some of the highest wages in the industry.

The decision comes after continued negotiations with United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 7 regarding ongoing pay and worker safety disputes.

JBS said every other JBS USA facility in the United States allowed union workers to vote on the same wage increase a month ago.

“Every UFCW local union leader from every JBS USA beef and pork facility in America – from Pennsylvania to Utah, Minnesota to Texas – allowed our team members to vote on the same increased wages and benefits offered more than a month ago to the leader of the local union in Greeley,” JBS USA said in its statement. “Given the failure of local union leadership to act in the best interests of our team members, JBS USA has made the decision to independently provide the increased wages denied to our team members.”

Kim Cordova, UFCW Local 7 president, responded to the company saying that pressure from the union members led to the increase for workers. The union also said its contract with JBS USA expires in 2021.

“If the company wanted to increase wages, it could have done so from the beginning,” Cordova said. “Thankfully our skilled union members demanded a well-deserved wage increase since they put their lives in danger every day to help secure America’s food supply.”

Additionally, JBS said it changed eligibility requirements for an additional $1,500 bonus to ensure everyone can receive the bonus and no one is incentivized to come to work sick.

“We have heard concerns from many team members that local union leadership may attempt to increase union dues as they have done with previous wage increases,” the company said. “We urge the union to allow our team members to keep all of the well-earned wage increases and bonuses they were awarded today.”

Local union leadership said it will continue to call for more protection for workers during the pandemic, including improving safety measures inside the plant, removing policies that promote work while sick culture and needed personal protective equipment.

During an early COVID-19 outbreak, Colorado data indicated that six JBS Greeley employees died from the virus and 281 employees tested positive.