In an unprecedented victory for Local 400 members working at Boar’s Head Provisions in Petersburg, Va., they voted on November 3, 2012 to ratify a new four-year agreement that provides for wage increases, maintains health and welfare benefits, and strengthens contract language.

These hard-earned gains were made possible through member activism. The nine-member Bargaining Advisory Committee spearheaded the negotiations, mobilized their co-workers, and let management know they were going to stand for nothing less than a fair contract.

It would take all of that and more. The Bargaining Advisory Committee discovered on the first day of negotiations that they had huge challenges ahead. Each day before the negotiations began, Shop Steward Kevin Belle led the group in a prayer to ask for strength to ensure that the bargaining would benefit all of the Local 400 members in the plant.

Through the hard work of the committee members, the negotiating team was able to overturn several items in the existing agreement, including changing language to ensure that employees will be paid double time for the seventh day worked. This change alone will result in major gains for the entire bargaining unit.

The groundbreaking contract also sets a solid foundation for the next negotiation in 2016.

“This was a healthy agreement, especially considering the contract we had before then,” Belle said. “We made a lot of improvements.

“We stayed united throughout the process,” Belle said. “There’s power in numbers. This shows why we’ve got to stay together, stick with one another.

“Without us having a union here, it would really be bad,” he added. “Our union helps us out a whole lot, keeping management from crossing the line on certain things. Even with our contract, there are times I have to tell management to stick to the agreement. Contract enforcement’s just as important as the bargaining itself.”

This contract is a tribute to all of our Boar’s Head members,” said Local 400 President Mark Federici. “Their solidarity and their activism should be a model for all of our members in every workplace.”

In addition to Belle, members serving on the Bargaining Advisory Committee were Angelina Lara-Perez, Gerald Delbridge, Kenya Jones, Terry Taylor, William “Mike” Tyler, Rhonda Hargraves, Daisy Wyche, and Deborah Talley.

The Boar’s Head plant in Petersburg produces ham and other lunch meats.