In February Kadar Yusuf Haji Ali, a worker at the Jennie-O Turkey Store in Faribault, sat down for a cup of coffee with an organizer from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789. He wanted to discuss the possibility of unionizing the plant. Roughly a week later the Somali immigrant was fired from the slaughterhouse.
Local 789 filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations board over the termination, alleging that the company had violated labor laws. In addition, state Rep. Frank Hornstein introduced legislation in March that would bar state agencies from purchasing any Jennie-O products until it “ceases all alleged unfair labor practices.” The bill never passed out of committee, but remains alive.
Earlier this month Jennie-O reached a settlement with the NLRB. It agreed to pay Ali all back wages, plus interest, and offer him his job back. (He declined.) It also agreed to post a sign at the slaughterhouse laying out in explicit detail workers’ rights regarding unionization, and to distribute the missive to employees.
Local 789 hopes to utilize the ruling as a means to jumpstart an organizing campaign at the Faribault turkey processing plant. In the past such organizing drives have not been successful. The union plans to run the NLRB posting as an ad in local newspapers.
“We’ll see what kind of a response we get,” says Bernie Hesse, director of special projects at Local 789. “It’d be kind of neat if all of a sudden we got inundated with interest.”
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