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RWDSU Wins Recognition, Union Contract at Alabama Poultry Producer Alatrade

Posted to the IUF website 24-Apr-2009

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For the first time ever, the 550 employees at the Alatrade Foods poultry processing plant in Phenix City, Alabama, will have a union contract guaranteeing annual wage increases, paid holidays and vacation time. The agreement between the company and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU, UFCW) was ratified on April 9. The RWDSU represents 1,000 other Alatrade workers in Alabama

Eric Arrington, who works as processing line-leader at Alatrade, said "The most important things this contract and union membership bring us is job security and a voice in the workplace.”

“Before, we had no say in the way things were done. Now, we have a process in place to speak our minds, and we know that our jobs are secure,” Arrington added, “and it's a great feeling.”

"Mostly the workers wanted the voice that being in a union offers," added RWDSU Alabama and Mid-South Council Representative Jerry Foster, who helped spearhead the organizing drive.

However, the significance of the new contract isn’t limited to the wages and benefits it provides: it’s how the workers won union representation to begin with.

In 2008, a majority of workers at the Phenix City plant signed cards designating the RWDSU as their union. Rather than battle the workers as many employers do, Alatrade chose to respect its employees’ choice and recognize the union.

The approach used by the Alatrade workers to gain union representation, often called “card check,” is sanctioned under federal labor laws when both the union and employer agree to it. A proposal now pending in Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act, would provide workers the ability to gain recognition of their union through “card check” even when their employer refuses.

"Organizing this plant didn't turn into a war,” said RWDSU Alabama and Mid-South Council Secretary-Treasurer Johnny Whitaker. "Instead of the workers fighting to bring the union in, and the company fighting to keep the union out, we have already started working together to make the company more successful. We look forward to helping Alatrade expand and create more jobs for Alabama workers."