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Union approves contract with Sioux Falls Smithfield plant

Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls (file)
Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls (file)
Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 1:01 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A union representing thousands of workers at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls has approved a contract with the company, staving off the threat of a strike at the meat processing facility.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 304A, which represents nearly 3,000 South Dakota workers, reached an agreement with Smithfield which the union says secured pay increases and expanded benefits for workers at the plant.

“With this new contract, meatpacking workers are sending a powerful message that it is time for every company in the industry to step up and recognize the incredible sacrifices made and danger faced by these frontline workers who helped millions of Americans put food on the table during this health crisis,” UFCW Local 304A President B.J. Motley said via a statement.

The two sides sparred earlier this month. The union voted down a proposed four-year contract, then voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if a deal could not be reached.

Union members cited workers’ role as frontline workers during the pandemic in their effort to gain better benefits. The Sioux Falls plant was a site of an early COVID-19 outbreak, resulting in the facility temporarily shutting down. The outbreak was tied to hundreds of COVID-19 cases, including four deaths, and highlighted conditions for workers at the plant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration later cited Smithfield for failing to protect employees from exposure to the virus at the plant. A CDC report released after an investigation issued a number of safety recommendations.

The new contract agreement was reached June 17, according to a UFCW press release issued Friday. It includes a base pay rate of $18.75 and a $520 bonus. It also includes the option of leave absence for one to three weeks, which the union says many immigrant workers take advantage of to go back to their home countries.

Smithfield Foods has yet to respond to a request for comment from Dakota news Now.

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