At Giant, Safeway, Shoppers and Kroger, you’ll find UFCW Local 400 members performing various duties on the shop floor, including working on the front end and stocking shelves. But what you may not know is that many of their fellow Local 400 members processed and packaged some of the meat that they sell.
In 1978, Local 400 established its charter with Retail Clerks Union before merging with the Washington, D.C.-based Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America Local 593 (AMC & BC) in 1980, to form UFCW Local 400.
Through the merger Local 400 acquired all food processing facilities, many of which have gone out of business due to the economic stresses and competition throughout the years. The remaining facilities include Boar’s Head, Metropolitan Poultry, Inc., A.M. Briggs and Tyson Food Inc.
Local 400 represents two Boar’s Head plants. Boar’s Head established its first plant in New York during the 1930’s. Later, Boar’s Head grew south into Virginia, opening their first plant in Jarratt, Va. in 1983. Another plant, located in Petersburg, Va. opened in 2000. The Petersburg and Jarratt plants process delicatessens that range from turkey to beef and bologna to bratwursts.
In the Petersburg plant, the 211 member bargaining unit includes all production, distribution, shipping and maintenance employees.
In the Jarratt plant, Local 400 represents 319 production and maintenance employees. This plant successfully bargained a four-year contract in February 2011 and the Petersburg Boar’s Head contract is set to expire October of 2012.
Metropolitan Poultry, Inc. has been supplying products to hotels, restaurants, caterers, and retail food stores since 1945. Located in Landover, Md., the plant processes meat, poultry and in recent years, seafood. Today, Local 400 represents 31 warehouse workers at this location. Metropolitan has a four-year contract that is set to expire March 2013.
A.M. Briggs is located in Washington D.C. where all workers under the jurisdiction of Local 400 are union. A.M. Briggs went through an ownership change in 2000 to become part of the Sysco Corporation. They process meat, game, poultry and seafood for businesses throughout D.C., Va. and Md. Local 400 members also work as drivers and warehouse workers to keep the plant’s operation running smoothly. They have been organized for 31 years and today they have a total of 58 workers in the bargaining unit. Their contract expired in August of this year and is currently on extension as bargaining continues.
In 1989, Tyson Food, Inc. bought the unionized company Holly Farms. Local 400 began representing all production and maintenance employees in the Glen Allen, Va. poultry processing plant, a continuation of Local 400 representation that existed with Holly Farms employees. Today, the bargaining unit has grown to 535 total members. Unlike other plants with four-year contracts, Tyson has a three-year contract; the most recent contract is set to expire in November of 2013.
Thanks to unionization, meatpacking and food processing jobs brought a middle class life. As a result, native born and immigrant workers earned decent wages that paid the bills. These workers were able to buy homes, put money aside for retirement, and send children to school. They were able to build a future for their families. United together in their union, workers were powerful enough to win pensions, health care, and safer working conditions. They were able to live the American Dream.
Today these union jobs, like many throughout the country, are under attack. History proves that when unions are strong, wages go up and insurance benefits improve. When unions are under attack, the American Dream quickly diminishes as jobs, communities and working families are put in danger.
That’s why Local 400 and the entire UFCW International Union are working hard to help workers empower themselves through union representation. Local 400 played a significant role in the successful effort of workers to gain union representation at the Smithfield’s Tar Heel, N.C., facility —the world’s largest pork processing plant. Most recently, employees at JBS Packerland –a beef processing plant in Plainwell, Michigan–voted in favor of UFCW representation, continuing a trend of union growth in this critical industry.
Local 400 Meatpacking Plants: By the Numbers
(As of Nov. 1)
Internationally, UFCW represents more than 245,000 members working in food processing, including 192,607 in meat processing.
- Boars Head total members (two plants): 530
- Tyson Food total members: 535
- Metropolitan Poultry total members: 31
- AM Briggs total members: 58
That’s a total of 1,154 members that are represented by UFCW Local 400!