Slaughterhouse workers back union

Workers at the Dakota Premium Foods beef processing plant in South St. Paul voted yesterday to retain union representation. Employees backed United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789 by a 152-82 margin.

More than seven years ago, the predominantly Hispanic workforce walked off the job to protest dangerous working conditions. A month later they voted to join the UFCW. But negotiating a labor contract proved to be a bitterly contentious process that dragged on for two years. (For the full backstory see "Slaughterhouse Rules".)

The decertification vote was prompted when at least 30 percent of workers signed cards advocating for a referendum on union representation. Local 789 waged a vigorous campaign to preserve collective bargaining--visiting workers homes, leafleting outside the plant, and holding meetings at the union hall.

The slaughterhouse's current labor contract expired in June. Negotiations on a new agreement have gone nowhere. UFCW officials hope to re-start talks immediately.