Organizing efforts build at Jennie-O, after company cited for unfair practices


The NLRB regional office has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the turkey processor for actions taken at its Faribault plant. Workers there have been engaged in a union organizing drive with United Food & Commercial Workers Local 789.

“There has been a whole pattern of harassment” at Jennie-O, said Bernie Hesse, director of special projects at Local 789. “We’re pleased with the board ruling.

“However, it just points to the difficulty workers have in organizing under the current law – and the need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” he said.

This week, the U.S. Senate is considering the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to join unions and improve their standard of living. Companies that violate worker rights would face stronger penalties under the proposed legislation.

The NLRB complaint says Jennie-O employees were asked to sign anti-union petitions. It also says supervisors gave employees the impression that the company had union activities under surveillance.

The company is expected to appeal, a process that can take months and often years.

Efforts to form a union at the Jennie-O Turkey Store in Faribault intensified this week after the National Labor Relations Board found the company guilty of unfair labor practices. Despite that ruling, Jennie-O managers held a “captive audience” meeting this week with workers to counter the union campaign.

Organizers were ready outside the plant with pro-union leaflets.

“As workers left the plant, a supervisor was at the door handing out flyers that said ‘Union No’ and instructing people to put the signs in their car windows as they left the plant,” said Jennifer Christensen, Local 789 secretary-treasurer.

“When the workers went though the gates, the majority gladly took our handbills and gave organizers the thumbs-ups. They showed us the paper signs forced on them by management and many apologized saying, ‘This is not our idea, they are making us take these.'”

Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc., based in Willmar, Minn., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation and is one of the largest turkey processors and marketers in the world.