NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio — “We are the poster-child for the Employee Free Choice Act! It even said so on the front page of the newspaper,” said United Food and Commercial Workers organizer Tim Mullins, addressing a rally here this past weekend.
“Case Farms isn’t just about union rights, it’s about community rights and the ability of a community to live,” Mullins said. “It’s also about immigrant rights and about how a company uses one group of workers against another to try to hurt everyone. It’s also about how we can unite to stop the divisions.” More than 95 percent of the workers at Case Farms, a poultry processing plant, are Guatemalan immigrants.
Ken Brown, a 20-year Case Farms worker, cited the long fight for union representation by workers there. “We started this fight in June of ’88, but we lost the first vote, by just a couple votes, but we didn’t give up. The Employee Free Choice Act is about having a middle class. If — when — we win,” he emphasized, “it will help every business in this town.”
The rally, of over 100 supporters of the free choice bill listened to, and cheered, a series of speakers and then broke into teams and went out door-to-door in the community, asking folks to sign cards supporting the bill, now facing a stiff battle in Congress.
“I was surprised at how easy it was to get signatures,” said Chrissie Clark. “Almost everyone we asked signed and nobody was hostile. Especially when you explained how workers joining unions helps the whole community, everyone understood and agreed.”
The Rev. Archie Jackson, of the St. John’s Worship & Praise Family Center in Uhrichsville, was cheered when he told the crowd that he “believes in family values.” He said, “One important family value is being able to actually see your family, spend time with them and have fun, and have the money to provide for them. That is what I understand that unions are all about, so why shouldn’t we have laws to help workers be treated fairly?”
Others attending the rally included workers from nearby Meteor Sealing Systems, who recently organized with the United Steelworkers union, and Sierra Club members and supporters.
“Workers and environmentalists are natural allies,” said Mackenzie Bailey from the Sierra Club. “Others, who make profits from our division, are the ones that say we’re enemies. Workers are the first ones hurt by toxic products and pollutions. Workers’ communities, not wealthy communities, are the ones that are polluted. When we are united, we will be able to live in safe, secure communities and have good, decent paying, safe jobs. That is good for all of us.”
The rally was called by the Tuscarawas County Labor Council, the Hall of Fame Central Labor Council and Jobs with Justice.
“The Employee Free Choice Act is our number one priority,” said Allison Petonic, Columbus Jobs with Justice and UFCW leader. “It is good for workers and winning it will help everyone climb out of this depression. We’re going to keep pushing until Congress passes it.”
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