Threatening a strike, Sioux Falls Smithfield union members reject newest proposed deal

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 11:00 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Labor negotiations between Smithfield Foods and union employees have stalled.

A Thursday night vote on a proposed four-year contract made no progress in negotiations.

The new four-year contract offered by Smithfield was rejected by 99 percent of the union workers who voted.

The union has threatened a worker strike if they can’t come up with a new contract.

The president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union said a work stoppage is always possible if negotiations go nowhere, but they hope to be able to have further discussions and come to a deal without a walkout happening.

The union says they are asking for more competitive wages and better healthcare for the employees.

“Employees feel they are being unappreciated, for coming in and workday by day, working and the company doesn’t show no kind of loyalty, helping them out with the wages and benefits or anything like that, they just feel like they’ve been let down,” said B.J. Motley, UFCW Local 304A President.

Many workers are worried after the COVID-19 outbreak that happened in Smithfield facilities in 2020 and would like more safety measures to be put in place in case anything similar happens in the future.

“Last year when the Pandemic hit, and the company considered the worker’s essential workers and heroes and all of that,” said Motley. “We’ve been in negotiations for two months and we feel nothing getting done.”

The union said if they are not given a reasonable deal during negotiations, workers would be willing to walk out until a deal can be reached.

“The union doesn’t have outrageous ask, they are asking to be treated fairly, and if Smithfield doesn’t want to treat the workers fairly, its entirely in their right to decide they are not going to go back to work until they are going to be treated fairly,” said Kooper Caraway, South Dakota Federation of Labor President.

Dakota News Now reached out to Smithfield Foods about the labor negotiations.

The company’s Chief Administrative Officer says it is unfortunate that the union has issued a statement that is, quote, “unquestionably inaccurate,” going on to say that “these tactics are a disservice to their many hard-working employees.”

With the latest proposed contract being rejected by the workers, negotiations are planned to resume next week.

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