Poultry workers’ union files complaint against Mountaire

Local representing 1,000 employees says company violated labor laws
May 19, 2020

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 has filed a federal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Mountaire Farms, alleging that the poultry producer violated federal labor laws at its Selbyville plant.

The union, which represents 1,000 workers at Mountaire, alleges Mountaire forced workers represented by the union to attend captive employee meetings held without following Centers for Disease Control social distancing guidelines, excluded a union member from a COVID-19-related visit by agents of the CDC and Delaware Division of Public Health, and engaged in surveillance of a Facebook group maintained to promote acts of mutual aid and protection.

“We have dealt with Mountaire for many years, and the company makes no secret that it is ideologically opposed to its employees exercising their union rights as guaranteed under federal law,” said Local 27 President Jason Chorpenning. “Over the past few months, in the midst of an unprecedented and life-threatening pandemic, our members have been subjected to anti-union propaganda from highly paid outside consultants aimed at eliminating union protections for Mountaire employees. In addition, the company has surveilled employees on social media, excluded union stewards and other officials from meetings and otherwise attempted to put a chilling effect on outspoken workers. Despite the company’s resistance, we are committed to serving our members and protecting their ability to exercise their rights under the law.”

Jonathan Williams, spokesman for sister union Local 400, said, “Our goal is to ensure Mountaire complies with applicable labor laws, and worker safety laws and regulations.”

Representatives from Mountaire did not respond to a request for comment. 

Local 27 and Mountaire have been involved in a protracted legal squabble for months, each side filing complaints against the other. The union is accusing Mountaire of trying to bust the local. 

In March, the union filed a complaint against Mountaire for denying union officials access to the Selbyville plant while granting unabated access to other parties. In April, the union filed another complaint that Mountaire failed to furnish the union information required by federal law and granted special privileges to employees campaigning against the union in the plant.

Mountaire and Local 27 signed a five-year collective bargaining agreement in December 2018 running through 2023. In February, an employee filed a petition with the NLRB seeking to decertify the union. A hearing was held in Baltimore March 10, and the decision went in Mountaire’s favor. An election to decertify will be held Wednesday, June 17. The union has filed an appeal of the decision, thereby delaying the election, while Mountaire seeks to have the election go forward as scheduled.

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