A petition has been submitted to the Department of Labor on behalf of 2,000 workers formerly employed at the shuttered Plainview, Texas, Cargill meatpacking plant. The petition seeks assistance in the form of extended unemployment insurance, health care subsidies, job retraining, and other benefits for workers who were laid off on February 1, 2013 when the plant closed. The Trade Adjustment Assistant Program provides such assistance to mitigate the negative impacts on workers, farmers, businesses and communities due to increased imports under trade agreements.
UFCW Local 540 workers at the Plainview plant produced boxed beef; tissue pallets; offal; grease; hides; and rendering products such as tallow, bone meal, blood meal. An investigation showed that total U.S. beef imports of these products increased by $99.7 million dollars in 12 months preceding the closure – during which time a severe drought forced packers to import more beef to try to secure enough supply to keep their plants operating at full capacity.
At the time of the closure, UFCW Local 540 worked to minimize the economic disaster to workers brought on by the plant closure, ensuring that Cargill fulfilled financial obligations to workers under their union contract, and under the WARN Act. They also worked together with Cargill to give workers the opportunity to relocate to other Cargill plants, including in Friona, Texas, ensuring that people would not be brought on as “new hires” but would keep their benefits and eligibility for pensions.