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UNION TRYS TO ORGANIZE WORKERS AT TYSON PLANT

The Teamsters union is trying to organize production workers at Tyson Foods' plant in Buffalo, where two other union drives have fallen short in recent years.

Some 360 workers are eligible to vote in the labor election Nov. 11 and 12 at the plant at 665 Perry St., according to the National Labor Relations Board.

The union election includes full-time and regular part-time production, warehouse, laundry workers and others. The plant makes deli meats, franks and sausage.

Workers at the plant, formerly owned by Russer Foods, voted down one union drive by the Steelworkers in 2003, and another by the United Food & Commercial Workers in 1999.

The Teamsters campaign was prompted by complaints from Tyson workers, said Bruce Leroy, principal officer of Local 449.

"They want to have respect and dignity," he said. Top wages at the plant are about $13 an hour with limited benefits, he said.

Tyson, based in Springdale, Ark., said it hopes workers continue to decide against union representation.

"Our Buffalo plant has operated successfully for many years without a union," spokesman Gary Mickelson said. "We value the direct relationship we have with team members."

Tyson acquired the Buffalo plant in 2001. A relatively small group of about 35 maintenance workers there are represented by the Operating Engineers Local 17.

Two of Tyson's beef processing plants, in Amarillo, Texas, and Pasco, Wash., are represented by the Teamsters, Mickelson said. The Pasco plant is currently working without a contract, he added.

Throughout its U.S. operations, about half of Tyson's 87,000 hourly workers are unionized, he said.

The Buffalo plant, under previous owners, was the site of a year-long strike that ended with the withdrawal of the food workers' union in 1984.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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