Meatpackers fired for asking for COVID precautions, organize a picket to fight back
Franklin, WI – On the morning of August 7, a crowd of around 80 people marched outside a Strauss Brands meatpacking facility located in the small town of Franklin just south of Milwaukee. In the crowd were workers from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1473 (UFCW 1473) and their families, and members of other unions and community groups; most visibly immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera.
The crowd was gathered to call for justice for 31 line workers who had been fired for organizing for better COVID-19 protections. Strauss fired these Latino workers with Social Security No Match letters from the Social Security Administration, calling it proof that these workers can’t legally work in the U.S.
A no match letter from the SSA is used to let a worker know they may not be filing taxes correctly. It is not legal proof of immigration status, and UFCW’s contract with Strauss protects workers from firing under a No Match letter. This was an obvious racist attack on working class self-defense during a global pandemic.
The rally called for plant human resource director Cheryl Wisman to be fired, for the fired workers to be rehired, for CDC recommended safety measures to be taken, and for any fired worker who chooses not to come back to be fairly compensated and covered with a six-month insurance extension. The workers reached out to Voces to organize the rally on behalf of the workers after the UFCW grievance process failed to win the fired workers their demands.
After marching, the crowd gathered around the plant entrance to hear messages of solidarity from the presidents of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 and Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, endorsements from public officials, and firsthand stories from some of the fired workers. For now, Voces is following up with a public petition built around these demands.