Thursday, May 27, 2010

Strike! Catfish workers in the Mississippi Delta reject company contract and vote to strike

Here's another breaking item from the workers at Delta Pride Catfish, Inc. in the Mississippi Delta. By a 99 percent margin, workers voted to strike rather than accept a contract that would essentially gut most of the changes that their historic three-month strike won them in 1990.

The vote took place last night (May 26), and another vote is expected this evening by the workers at the Isola, Miss., plant of Country Select, a partner firm with Delta Pride. Delta Pride has a plant in Indianola, Miss., and Country Select has plants in Isola and Belzoni, Miss.

The roughly 600 workers are members of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1529. Most of them are black women who live and work in one of the poorest regions of the nation. Their 1990 strike was the largest by black women in the history of Mississippi and a landmark victory in the Southern labor movement, one that brought together the labor and civil rights movements.

The company's contract, coming after a year and a half of negotiations, would have created a seven-day work week, deleted daily overtime, reduced seniority benefits, tripled worker contributions to company health insurance, and eliminated severance pay if the plant closes, among other measures.

See Labor South's earlier story below for a full account of what led to this week's strike vote and for details of the 1990 strike. Labor South broke this story and will continue to follow it.

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