The Food & Beverage Processing Industry

Worker’s Organizations

Teamsters Food Processing Division (USA & Canada)

Teamsters for a Democratic Union

IWW Brewery Workers Union (Ireland & UK)

Stories and Lessons

Lessons from the Union Busting at No Evil Foods

Smithfield Foods: A Huge Success You’ve Never Heard About

Red Cap Terror at the Moussaka Line: West London ready-meal workers’ report and leaflet

Films on Organizing in Food Processing

Union Time (2018)

Union Time: Fighting for Workers’ Rights follows the story of workers at the Smithfield Pork Processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, who fought for safe, fair working conditions – and won. It goes beyond hype about unions (from both sides) to show how people standing together can break the cycle of poverty and injustice. It also demonstrates the convergence of labor rights and civil rights, carrying on the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Until Victory (2017)

Film about the struggle of workers organized in SI Cobas in the meat industry in Modena, Italy, in the winter of 2016/17. The material was filmed almost exclusively by workers and supporters themselves with their smartphones. It gives an impression of the physical violence and brutality perpetrated against superexploited workers. 

Murdered Coco-Cola Unionists in Colombia (2004)

Each year unionists are being killed in Colombia. Transnational corporations like Coca-Cola and Nestlé play an important role.

We investigated one exemplary case: On December 5th 1996, paramilitaries entered a Coca-Cola bottling-site and killed Isidro Gil. In succession the paramilitaries forced the complete workforce to resign from the union. The film reconstructs this case in detail and embeds it in the younger history of the region Urabá, a region in the north-eastern part of Colombia.

Then the video draws back to Germany with the question of whether there is really enough international solidarity between unionists. 

Books on Organizing in Food Processing

Cannery Women, Cannery Lives

Women have been the mainstay of the grueling, seasonal canning industry for over a century. This book is their collective biography–a history of their family and work lives, and of their union. Out of the labor militancy of the 1930s emerged the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA). Quickly it became the seventh largest CIO affiliate and a rare success story of women in unions.

Thousands of Mexican and Mexican-American women working in canneries in southern California established effective, democratic trade union locals run by local members. These rank-and-file activists skillfully managed union affairs, including negotiating such benefits as maternity leave, company-provided day care, and paid vacations–in some cases better benefits than they enjoy today. But by 1951, UCAPAWA lay in ruins–a victim of red baiting in the McCarthy era and of brutal takeover tactics by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Song of the Stubborn One Thousand

On September 9, 1985, one thousand mainly Mexican women workers in Watsonville, California, the “frozen food capital of the world,” were forced out on strike in response to an attempt by Watsonville Canning owner, Mort Console, to break their union. They returned to work eighteen months later. Not one had crossed the picket line. A moribund union has been revitalized, and Watsonville’s Latino majority emerged as a major force in local politics.

At a time when organized labor was in headlong retreat, the Watsonville Canning strike was a dramatic show of the power of women workers, whose struggle became a rallying point for the Chicano movement.

Apart from its sheer drama, the strikers’ story illuminates the challenges facing a group of ordinary working people who waged a protracted and ultimately successful struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds.