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Rochelle Foods Strike!

Record profits for Hormel translate to lower pay and higher injury rates for workers. Go figure!
Hormel posted record profits in fiscal year 2000 but you wouldn't know it if you worked at Rochelle Foods, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hormel. Rochelle Foods, located in Rochelle, Illinois, is one of Hormel's pork processing facilities. Workers at the facility report that in the past several years they've been pushed to step up production, increasing the number of hogs processed per hour from 420 to a current level nearing 550. With such an increase it's no wonder Hormel is doing so well.

But how does this translate to workers? According to several workers who spoke on Wednesday night to the Labor Rights Alliance, an organization made up of NIU students and local activists, the increased production means being required to work more quickly with sharp implements in close proximity to coworkers. And because pay rates are so low workers need to work overtime just to get by, thereby adding fatigue into the dangerous formula.

Consequently injury rates at the facility are high, according to workers. And someone injured by their own or a coworkers knife can expect nothing more than a bandaid, an ibuprofin and return to the production line. "The product is more important than us," one worker says, relating how, during the hottest summer months on the killing floor, fans are directed at the hogs to keep them cool while workers near heat exhaustion.

Despite Hormel's record profits the company offered workers a contract which over the next four years would have left them with 2 percent less family purchasing power than they have now. And wages now are already below standard. According to one official from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Rochelle Foods employees earn an average of $10.15 per hour while workers at other pork processing facilities earn $12.60.

When UFCW Local 1540 voted on the contract, 99 percent turned it down. The company returned, offering only a 10 cent increase in hourly pay. This was again voted down, with 92 a percent margin. Since then management has refused to bargain. The 900 Rochelle Foods employees have been at the picket lines since March 16.

The local community has rallied around the strikers, with some local businesses and individuals donating coffee and food to those manning the picket lines. The Labor Rights Alliance in neighboring DeKalb has begun a drive on campus to gather dried goods for the support of strikers and their families. Meanwhile 26 other UFCW locals have pledged financial support.

What can you do? Call the plant! (815-562-4141) A manager/scab will answer the phone and you can express your support for the striking workers and demand that management return to the bargaining table.

You can also contact Hormel:

Consumer Affairs Department
Hormel Foods Corporation
1 Hormel Place
Austin, MN 55912-3680

(800) 523-4635

(507) 437-9852

And fill out Hormell's online Consumer Response form:

And, if you can stomache it, take a look at Hormel's glowing profit reports for fiscal year 2000:

Demand Dignity for Everyone!



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