Treatment of Immigrant Workers Nationwide in Meatpacking Plants Violates Basic Worker Rights

Immigration Reform is key to Preventing Identity Theft and to End Family Separation Chicago—With recent raids in meatpacking plants in various states, United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 881 protests this treatment of workers and calls upon elected officials to send a message to employers and the Federal Government about its aggressive treatment of workers.

“Local 881 UFCW believes that all workers should have due process when their immigration status is at question,” said Ron Powell, President of Local 881 and UFCW International Vice President. “Certainly, violent and cruel means of intimidating workers is completely unacceptable. Many of these immigrant workers are from Africa, Asia, Central and South America – we are talking about workers coming to the United States from all over the globe who are being treated in an inhumane manner.”

Just recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents marched into plants with military weapons, herding, segregating, and terrorizing workers. Because these violent raids have left families ripped apart, traumatized children stranded at school and denied workers any opportunity to contact their families, human rights and labor organizations are in a position to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Although Representatives and attorneys with the UFCW International and various locals have sought to represent these workers, they have been denied access to the detained workers.

“We should be cautious about what is going on in other states so that we do not allow that same treatment of workers to occur here in Illinois,” said State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) and Chairman of the Illinois Senate Committee on Commerce and Economic Development. “It is cruel and unnecessary for the Federal Government to use these outrageous tactics on many workers who show up to these meatpacking plants to simply do their job and support their families.”

This action by ICE puts additional pressure on the new Congress to address a failed immigration system. The current system does nothing more than create an environment where immigrant workers are caught in a situation where falsifying documents and breaking the law is the only way get work until they are faced by ICE agents. Worksite raids with armed agents are not the answer to the nationwide call for immigration reform. In that spirit, Local 881 UFCW stands with the UFCW International urging Congress to immediately look into how workers in the United States can be provided with a humane, systematic and comprehensive immigration policy that will protect worker rights, prevent identify theft among those who are in the U.S. legally, and allow workers a pathway to citizenship.”

Local 881 UFCW represents 36,000 members employed in retail food and drug stores throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana, as well as a professional division comprised of health and nursing home workers, barbers and cosmetologists, and workers in other retail and service industries. Among the companies under contract with Local 881 are Jewel Food Stores, Osco Drug, Cub, Dominick’s Finer Foods, Kroger, Schnucks, and many smaller chains and independent stores, as well as nursing homes and other business establishments. Local 881 is among the largest affiliates of the United Food Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 1.4 million members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.