Rockingham Poultry Workers Rally

Oct 16, 2017

Poultry workers and union activists protest Cargill's anti union tactics outside the company's Dayton facility in early October.
Credit David Kreider

In their ongoing effort to unionize, aggrieved poultry workers in Rockingham County rallied again this month, this time outside the Cargill plant in Dayton. They claim the company willfully violates its own Code of Conduct, as WMRA’s Jessie Knadler reports.

The aim of the protest was to deliver a letter to Cargill management. In it, they asked why the company has contracted with Peter List of Kulture Consulting, which has a long history of breaking up unions. Union activists say that is a direct contradiction of Cargills’ own Code of Conduct that states the company is committed to [quote] “maintaining our employees’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.”

MICHAEL SNELL-FEIKEMA: Our interest here is we want Cargill to live up to what they say they believe in.

Michael Snell-Feikema is a local activist who helped draft the letter on behalf of the workers, the vast majority of whom hail from Central America or are refugees.  Poultry work is notoriously dangerous with high rates of injury and amputation.

One union activist who was terminated last year for harassing employees says it was actually because of his union efforts, according to reporting in the Daily News Record. Another employee talked about being pressured to sign papers the company could later use against her.  

SNELL-FEIKEMA: They follow them around everywhere to see if they can find something they’re doing that they can use against them. It’s sending the message we’re trying to fire you. We’re going to fire you when we get a chance.

Cargill emailed a statement saying that it “respects (s) freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain,” but also that Cargill has a right to [quote] “provide facts to our employees about how unions work and what is at stake in a union election.” The company also pointed out that under the law, workers have a right not to join a union.