SIOUX FALLS, SD. – Using the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 304A union, employees in Sioux Falls, SD, lodged complaints regarding working conditions at the Smithfield Foods’ pork processing plant.
BJ Motely, president of the union, said workers at the facility reached their limit on abuse from the company.
Motley stated that Smithfield is speeding up lines of production, verbally abusing employees, taking away essential sanitation measures and not practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“In consequence we are seeing record number of quits, injuries, grievances and overall unhappiness,” he said. “Our members are being forced to come into work on the weekends, even if their department is not scheduled, so they may be outsourced out to other areas. “
Jim Monroe, vice president of corporate affairs at Smithfield Foods, responded with a company statement after the union’s complaints.
"We are disappointed to get this feedback through the media; it is the first we are hearing of these concerns, and we disagree with the portrayal of conditions in our facility," he said. "Worker safety and a supportive work environment are top priorities. We have consistently reduced health and safety incidents below industry averages."
Monroe added the company is in full compliance with all health and safety recommendations and is dedicated to vaccinating Smithfield’s entire workforce.
“Furthermore, we are in full compliance with our collective bargaining agreement in Sioux Falls,” he said. “These claims by Local 304A are inaccurate and unfair.”
Back in June, the two sides reached a new contract agreement that resulted in a 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.
The Sioux Falls plant employs more than 3,000 people with many of them represented by the union.