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Wealthy Foster Farms Family Looks to Bankrupt Latina and Black Poultry Workers with Exorbitant Healthcare Costs
(COMPTON, Calif.) – Almost 250 Foster Farms workers represented by Teamsters Local 630 overwhelmingly voted on Sunday to reject the company’s most recent contract offer and authorize a strike against one of the largest poultry producers on the West Coast. The members’ contract with Foster Farms expired on June 14, 2020, and they are currently working under an extension agreement that can be terminated with seven days notice by either party.
The production, sanitation, warehouse and maintenance workers, approximately 70 percent of whom are Latina and Black women, voted nearly unanimously against a contract proposal that would shift thousands of dollars of healthcare costs onto them. Additionally, most of the workers are paid no more than the state minimum wage, and Foster Farms has been charged with allegations of violating federal labor law for refusing to provide its Compton workforce with contractually obligated retroactive wage increases.
The Compton Foster Farms facility manufactures Mexican-style poultry products for a range of retailers, including Costco, Chick Fil-A, Burger King, Walmart, Sysco Corporation, and Smart&Final Supermarkets, as well as public school systems and correctional facilities throughout California.
“Foster Farms makes billions every year; it is the hard work of our members that makes the Foster family very wealthy,” said Lou Villalvazo, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 630. “It is outrageous how the Foster family is treating its frontline employees. Many of them are women of color with families and young children who have loyally worked there for 20 or 30 years. It’s also unconscionable that Foster Farms is trying to force workers to accept a healthcare plan that could easily bankrupt their families. These are our neighbors and community members who came to work throughout the pandemic to keep Californians fed.”
Foster Farms’ current healthcare proposal would increase medical costs by thousands of dollars a year. For example, workers would be forced to pay 20 percent of medical costs frequently utilized by women with families such as labor and delivery, emergency room visits, and mental health services. In addition to this, the company has refused to accept a healthcare proposal made by Local 630 that would save Foster Farms close to $500,000 in the first year and at least $1.5 million over the life of the contract.
“We’ve put ourselves and our loved ones at risk throughout the pandemic to help Foster Farms,” said Leticia Rosales, a thirty-year employee at the Compton facility. “At least ninety of my co-workers have contracted COVID-19 and now Foster Farms is telling us we need to accept a healthcare plan that would make our take-home pay even less than what it is now. We can’t afford this.”
The escalating labor dispute in Compton may be a sign of larger labor troubles for the Foster family’s food production businesses, as well as the food supply chain in California. Several facilities owned by the Foster family are represented by the Teamsters and other unions. These include Crystal Creamery’s facilities in Northern California and a poultry distribution center in Southern California that supplies products to grocery stores owned by Albertsons, Kroger, Costco, and Walmart.
“Over the last year, while our brave sisters and brothers at Foster Farms have been putting their lives at risk, the Fosters have been racking in profits,” said James P. Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “If Foster Farms is not willing to give our members a fair return on their work and honor their contributions during the pandemic, we have thousands of Teamsters across California and the country who are ready to take on that fight.”
Established in 1937, Teamsters Local 630 represents workers in various industries, from clerical, warehouse, professional drivers, food service, liquor, food processing, dairy and more. For more information, go to http://www.teamsters630.org/