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Latest News - August 2012

August 5, 2012
JBS reprimanded by national labor board
Source: Time-Republican (Central Iowa's Daily Newspaper)
By: David Alexander

JBS managers and union officials have not been advising employees - specifically some 800 Burmese and approximately 1,000 Spanish-speaking employees - of their union rights, according to National Labor Relations Board findings.
As part of a settlement agreement, the NLRB has required the plant to post a memo stating union and plant management will not interrogate employees about anti-union activity or otherwise impede their ability to express such sentiments.
John Raudabaugh, staff attorney for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said after an investigation, the NLRB substantiated claims that union and plant leaders were not informing employees of their rights and were punishing union members for perceived anti-union activity.
"People have the right not to be members of the union," he said. "It's just fundamental that all workers should have knowledge of their rights under the law ... you don't even need a law to know that is not right."
The settlement requires plant management to post the notice for 60 days. Raudbabaugh said employees can still report any unlawful or odd activity without fear of reprisal from JBS management or union leaders.
"If there is any retaliation, it will be challenged - all the way," he said. "We in America have the right to stand up."
Complaints of disrespect, misappropriation of money and denying union members their rights prompted the investigation.
"It's like we aren't even part of Swift sometimes," Carl Linden, who spearheaded the campaign against union leaders' behavior, said. "This is about treatment ... what we are entitled to is our opinion, and they are trying to take that away."
In complaints signed by hundreds of union members, many claim Mike Graves, union vice president, and Roger Kail, union president, continually show a lack of respect to members. Many expressed concern that Graves crossed picket lines in the late 90s.
Graves declined comment for this story and other union and JBS officials did not return phone calls and email requests for comment at press time.
James Gorman, who ran a hand skinner for 12 years, said JBS fired him without the union knowing. When he came in a few weeks later to pick up his check, Graves and other union officials were under the impression he had been on vacation.
There was no union steward representing Gorman when the plant fired him.
"The union should know I got fired," he said. "What else is the union there for?"
He said union leaders didn't even send him a letter or call to let him know they would look into his termination, even though the reason for his being fired - missing work - was justified with a doctor's note, he said. They expected him to talk to JBS about getting his job back.
But, Gorman said, since he is no longer an employee, JBS will not allow him in the plant.
"If I can't go inside the plant, how am going to get in touch with them?" he said.
To make matters worse, many complaints read that few members have never even been inside the union hall.
Often, according to complaints, union leaders keep the hall locked and regularly cancel meetings without even telling UFCW members.
Many problems arise because of JBS's unwillingness to accommodate its non-English speaking employees, Raudabaugh and others said.
Bruno Danissan, a kill floor worker, said after JBS fired his wife for not having insurance and he saw how they treated her because she doesn't speak English, he tried to get out of the union.
Administrators kept directing him elsewhere, shuffling him around, he said.
"I tried to get out, but I can't ... they moved me like this, they moved me like that," he said. "Like a game."
He said the union is incapable of doing anything for its members.
"At JBS, I cannot find any difference between a slave and an employee," he said.
Raudabaugh said the notice should bring an end to the problems at the plant, and Linden no longer needs to involve himself. If the plant and union leaders continue this behavior, it's a legal matter.
But Linden said there is plenty the union still has to answer for.



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