A strike is brewing in Worthington, Minn., where about 1,800 union workers at the JBS USA pork processing plant have voted to authorize a walkout.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) said in a statement that it has been negotiating a new contract with management for 10 months but hasn’t come to an agreement on wages and health benefits.
The vote gives union leaders some leverage in further negotiations with the company. The union gave no indication when a strike might occur.
JBS USA, based in Greeley, Colo., couldn’t be reached for comment. The company is a subsidiary of the Brazilian firm JBS SA.
The union accuses the company of being unwilling to share its profits with workers.
“Over the last few years, JBS’ union workers across the country have negotiated with the company to keep labor costs down, making it possible for the company to thrive,” the union’s statement said. “Together, workers and the company have kept health care costs steady and cost-effective.”
Despite being profitable, JBS USA is offering workers no wage increases and “deep cuts” in their health care coverage, the union said.
The earnings of JBS USA aren’t disclosed. But parent company JBS SA, the world’s largest exporter of animal protein, earned $403.8 million in 2013, up 28.9 percent from a year earlier, on revenue of $40.5 billion, up 22.7 percent.
UFCW Local 1161 in Worthington said it is among the first of the union’s locals at six JBS USA plants in five states to negotiate a new contract for workers this year.
“If Worthington workers go on strike, and the dispute spreads to these other locations, it could affect more than 10,000 workers,” the union said.