Meatpacking workers approve new pact

Published 7:13 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2022

More than 1,000 workers at Smithfield Foods’ local meatpacking plant voted on March 7 to ratify a new contract that will phase in a $4.08-per-hour raise over the next four years.

The agreement, which Norfolk-based union Teamsters Local 822 negotiated on their behalf, includes a $2-per-hour raise upfront. Teamsters Local 822 represents roughly 1,100 of the plant’s workers, of whom 98% voted in favor of the contract.

“The pandemic really illuminated issues within the meat processing industry,” said James Wright, president of Teamsters Local 822 and the union’s chief negotiator, in a press release.

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Speaking to The Smithfield Times by phone March 11, Wright called the contract the largest raise plant workers have ever received. The negotiations with Smithfield Foods took about 2 1/2 days, he said.

According to Teamsters Local 822’s press release, the negotiating committee also secured a $2-per-hour starting wage increase for new employees.

“We are committed to providing good jobs and retaining our Smithfield family members,” said Jim Monroe, vice president of corporate affairs for Smithfield Foods. “Late last month, Smithfield and the union reached a mutual agreement that both parties are satisfied with and has since gone into effect.”

The union’s press release also claims the new contract will require Smithfield’s management to move 75 jobs from a non-union facility to the plant here in town. Company officials, however, say the 75 new jobs aren’t a done deal yet, and wouldn’t necessarily come from a non-union facility.

“While Smithfield is looking into the feasibility of adding more capacity that could bring up to 75 jobs to the location, we have made no final decisions,” Monroe said. “The possibility of adding these jobs was not part of contract negotiations and was shared with the union as a business update only.”

Teamsters Local 822 is affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents 1.4 million workers across the United States and Canada in multiple industries.