SIOUX FALLS, SD. – After extending the previous contract, which expired in May, workers at the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 304A, reached an agreement on June 17.
According to the Sioux Falls chapter of the union, on June 3, members at the plant, which employs about 3,000 workers, overwhelmingly rejected Smithfield’s contract offer and voted to approve a labor strike four days later. Issues being negotiated included wages paid to meatpacking workers, break times and health care costs. UFCW insisted that front-line workers at the plant spent much of the past 15 months working in conditions that put their health at risk due to the pandemic and that the company should be willing to do more.
On June 17, after additional negotiations, the approval of a new contract was announced by the union, which included an increased base hourly pay rate to $18.75, as well as a $520 bonus. The deal also included a 15-minute break and gave workers the option to take up to a three-week leave of absence without risking losing their jobs.
“We are proud that, over the years, our contracts have allowed us to build a team that walks forward together, said Keira Lombardo, chief administrative officer with Smithfield. “These adjustments represent a highly competitive wage and benefits package that address our team members’ needs and demonstrate our gratitude for and appreciation of every member of our Smithfield Family.”
“With this new contract, meatpacking workers are sending a powerful message that it is time for every company in the industry to step up and recognize the incredible sacrifices made and danger faced by these front-line workers who helped millions of Americans put food on the table during this health crisis,” said B.J. Motley, president of UFCW Local 304A. “Today’s new contract for Smithfield meatpacking workers in Sioux Falls provides the strong pay and benefits that these brave men and women have earned on the front lines of this pandemic. In the past year, these South Dakota essential workers put their own health at risk every day to keep our food supply secure.”
During the ensuing negotiations after the expiration of the previous contract, Keira Lombardo, chief administrative officer with Smithfield, said the company was being portrayed inaccurately by some union representatives.
“For instance, the union claims the company is trying to eliminate a 15-minute break. We are not,” Lombardo said. “The proposal would, in fact, ensure there is a second 15-minute break for those employees who work a full, 8-hour day.”