Agriculture

Foster Farms prepares for possible picketing at Livingston chicken plant

Temporary fences and light fixtures have been installed outside of the Foster Farms plant in Livingston, Calif., as negotiators work to avoid a strike. March 29, 2017 Joe Cortez/jcortez@modbee.com
Temporary fences and light fixtures have been installed outside of the Foster Farms plant in Livingston, Calif., as negotiators work to avoid a strike. March 29, 2017 Joe Cortez/jcortez@modbee.com jcortez@modbee.com

Fencing has gone up at the massive Foster Farms chicken plant in the event of picketing related to labor negotiations.

The company and the United Farm Workers have been discussing a contract to replace the one expiring in October for most of the 2,500 or so employees. The fencing is aimed at keeping people safe, Foster Farms spokesman Ira Brill said Wednesday.

“We continue to hope we can conclude a settlement with the United Farm Workers,” he said.

The union was not immediately available for comment.

The plant is next to the headquarters for Foster Farms, the top-selling poultry company in the West. It processes turkey in Turlock and has chicken plants in Fresno, Porterville and other locations in the West and South.

In 2005, less than half of the Livingston workers staged three strikes totaling eight days. The action led to sometimes tense protests outside the plant over replacement workers. Foster Farms said production did not slow.

The current contract is with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The employees decided to seek the new agreeement with the UFW, best known for its efforts on behalf of field workers.

Livington City Councilman Gurpal Samra said the council remains neutral on any potential strike, but noted past strikes have had an effect on the city. He said police officers would remain near strikers to keep the peace.

“The city took a pretty big financial hit in overtime last time because of the resources we have to put out,” Samra said. “I’m sure it affected the company, too. There were no winners in the strike. Hopefully, they’ll sit down and work things out."

Samra, whose wife works for Foster Farms, said past strikes have had a “pretty big financial hit” on workers as well. After a strike in the late 1990s, he said, the city waived a single month’s water bill to try to help workers who were behind on their payments.

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