The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), announced on April 13 that 1,800 workers at the Equity / Tyson poultry processing plant in Camilla, Georgia, voted overwhelmingly, by 97% of those members voting to ratify their latest contract. The negotiation team at the Southeast Council of the RWDSU worked tirelessly to secure the strongest contract that workers in the poultry industry have seen in years.
The RWDSU represents poultry workers across the Southern U.S., including workers at Pilgrim’s Pride, Wayne Farms, and Tyson locations in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi. This announcement comes among a string of organizing and contract wins in the South for the RWDSU. The union continues to win organizing campaigns in Right-to-Work states, bringing a union voice for workers in previously vehemently anti-union workplaces. The RWDSU has continuously secured strong contracts across the south in food processing and distribution among many other industries. Today’s ratification at Tyson now leads the industry.
“The people of Georgia are fighters, and especially the workers at Equity / Tyson in Camilla, are a strong force for real industry change – and I could not be prouder to work with them to secure this contract,” Edgar Fields, President of the Southeast Council of the RWDSU said. “Absolutely nothing could stop our members from fighting for the critical provisions of this contract that were going to impact so many workers not just at this facility, but for years to come at so many others – they set a new standard for poultry workers.”
The ratification of this contract was conducted in the afternoon of April 12 and was approved by an overwhelming margin. The RWDSU represents over 1,800 workers at this Equity / Tyson poultry-processing center, more than 3,000 workers in Georgia, and over 10,000 poultry workers across the Southern U.S.
The contract will be in effect for three years and includes critical provisions such as:
- A large Reduction in health care costs to members, which makes it affordable for them to cover their families with medical coverage.
- Annual general wage increases over the term of the contract equaling $1.50, an additional $0.20 cents per hour wage increase based on seniority, and additional classification wage increases in some jobs of up to $0.75 cents per hour. For example a senior worker in the live hang job classification could see a first year wage increase of a $1.45 per hour, and up to $2.50 cents per hour over the term of the contract.
- A major victory was that Personal Days now count as time worked for the purpose of computing overtime, when previously they did not. Additionally workers can now use personal days on Fridays, Mondays, and on the weekend, when previously they were not allowed to take personal days on these days.
- There was a major overhaul of the contract language clarifying many articles in the contract, which will help workers on the job, including strengthening seniority, job bidding rights, layoff and recall rights, and many other provisions in the contract as well.
- The employer will post all job promotions and openings in conspicuous places in the plant, and recognize our members’ rights to obtain those jobs by seniority.