Union Organizers at Poultry Plants in South Find Newly Sympathetic Ears

TENNESSEE - Hour after hour, Antonia Lopez Paz said, her supervisor at the Koch Foods poultry plant here told women on the deboning line that production demands were so great that they could not go to the bathroom.

Sometimes she developed acute pain because she could not go, Ms. Lopez said. And one time when another woman asked for permission, "the supervisor took off his hard hat and told her, 'You can go to the bathroom in this,' " said Ms. Lopez, a Mexican immigrant who moved to this town in East Tennessee three years ago, lured by the company's promise of year-round work.

Out of her solitary complaint has grown a thriving unionization drive that fits neatly into the plans of several insurgent unions that hope to revive the labor movement by focusing on low-wage workers and immigrant workers.

"We believe there is a need for a union to come in and help these workers," said Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which is organizing workers at the two Koch Foods plants here. "The conditions in some of these places are criminal, especially in the way they treat undocumented workers, and it's criminal that they often get away with it."

Source: New York Times
calendar icon 6 September 2005
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